Comic conventions are big business these days. Believe it or not, as many as 130,000 pop-culture fanatics descend upon San Diego each year for the behemoth that is Comic-Con International. They come to share their love of geek culture and to meet the celebrities who make and star in their favorite projects. What they might not know, though, is that some of the stars may well be closer than they think – donning cosplay disguises so that they too can experience the excitement, while remaining incognito. Here are 20 such examples…
20. Jamie Lee Curtis
Iconic Halloween actress and undisputed Hollywood movie star and A-lister Jamie Lee Curtis has become quite the gaming fan in recent years, due to her son Tom introducing her to Street Fighter. In 2015 she and Tom attended BlizzCon in southern California. This convention is akin to Mecca for fans of Blizzard’s games, including Diablo, StarCraft and World of Warcraft. Curtis wanted to be anonymous for the day, so she embraced cosplay.
“I did a little cosplay for BlizzCon,” Curtis told website DigitalTrends. “I went as an orc, but that was after another costume that I ordered.” Indeed, Tom had told his mom she couldn’t just don the Venetian mask she’d purchased as an intended disguise: she’d stick out like a sore thumb as that wasn’t an actual Blizzard character. She laughed, “So I ended up wearing an orc mask that has purple hair and horns coming out of his head.”
19. Ryan Reynolds
In 2015 Ryan Reynolds was on the promotional trail for his upcoming headline role as Marvel’s wisecracking antihero Deadpool. He was at San Diego Comic-Con that year for a panel and needed to find a way to move through the crowds without being mobbed by fans. So, naturally, he simply put on a Darth Vader mask.
“Late for your panel?” the funnyman posted on Instagram with a photo of himself masked up. “Sometimes ya gotta make a run for it – harnessing the dark powers of Lord Vader.” Deadpool would turn out to be an enormous hit, of course, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film ever. It sent Reynolds’ star even further into the stratosphere than it had been before.
18. Simon Pegg
In 2016 Star Trek star Simon Pegg explained the intricacies of Comic-Con disguises to magazine The Hollywood Reporter. He recalled his experience in San Diego in 2013 when he moved fairly freely around the convention in a Shaun of the Dead meets Star Wars costume. It was all made possible thanks to a New Zealand prop-builder who gave him a homemade Boba Fett helmet.
Referencing his own classic rom-zom-com, Pegg said, “I got this T-shirt with the red tie and the ‘My Name is Shaun’ badge because I thought it would be a bit cheeky. The helmet smelled a bit funny, like resin glue, but I had a nice run of Comic-Con in it.” Someone did ask for an autograph, though, as he forgot he had his pass hanging around his neck, which clearly stated his name in large lettering. D’oh!
17. Jared Leto
In October, 2015 Jared Leto was at New York Comic-Con to sell his upcoming appearance as The Joker in Suicide Squad. Obviously, the real-life rock-star playing The Clown Prince of Crime in a movie wouldn’t have been able to walk around the convention with any kind of freedom. So, he wore a sinister baboon mask and even posed for photos with other attendees in cosplay as his version of DC villain.
An Instagram user named Kristen Corradeno excitedly posted a picture with an unmasked Leto. She was cosplaying as Mister J’s main squeeze Harley Quinn, and Leto reportedly said to her, “Hey Harley. I’m surprised you don’t recognize my voice.” Corradeno was super-excited, posting, “Thanks so much for being so awesome, Jared! It was so cool casually chatting with ya for a few minutes.”
16. Audrina Patridge
Reality TV star Audrina Patridge went all out at San Diego Comic-Con in 2014 when she cosplayed as X-Men character Mystique. The shapeshifting blue-skinned mutant was played by Rebecca Romijn in the original movie trilogy, then by Jennifer Lawrence in subsequent installments. Patridge’s high-quality prosthetic makeup job came courtesy of artist Cig Neutron.
Indeed, it turned out Patridge wasn’t a secret fan of comic books or geek culture. Rather, Neutron’s amazing makeup job was completed for an episode of The Face-Off on SyFy Channel. Either way, though, fans were treated to Patridge documenting the process of becoming the villainous mutant on her Instagram page.
15. Lupita Nyong’o
If you are lucky enough to get a ticket to Comic-Con, half the fun of wandering the halls is looking at all the different cosplays. There’s also the extra frisson of not knowing how many of the costumed ‘fans’ are actually celebrities in disguise. For example, if you were at the convention in 2017 and saw a pink Power Ranger happily dancing around, you probably just saw Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyong’o.
Attending the convention to promote her starring role as Nakia in Marvel’s Black Panther, Nyong’o was able to film herself checking out the geeky sights while the crowd was none the wiser. Dressed as the Pink Ranger, she posted the video to Twitter. It featured her excitedly finding a Maz Katana action figure, the character she voiced and provided motion capture for in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
14. Bryan Cranston
Following a particularly excellent piece of Comic-Con disguise tomfoolery, Aaron Paul was effusive in his praise for his Breaking Bad co-star Bryan Cranston. He said Cranston was “the most professional man I’ve ever worked with, but also the most immature man I’ve ever experienced, as you can tell. Which is a beautiful combination.” But what prompted this amusing description?
Well, Cranston had managed to enjoy the pleasures of San Diego Comic-Con 2013 as a fan and, like other celebrities, he accomplished the feat by wearing a mask. His true genius, though, was that he wore an extremely lifelike Heisenberg mask, meaning he cosplayed as his own character from the show. Fans only realized that they had been interacting with the real Cranston when he walked out on stage for a panel, still wearing the mask. Brilliant.
13. Peter Jackson
On a day-to-day basis, Peter Jackson can likely walk around the streets without being hounded by eager fans. He might have directed two legendary film series in the shape of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but for the most part, it’s probably fair to say that the average Joe is unfamiliar with the way he looks. Do you know who would know Jackson to look at, though? The Comic-Con crowd. And they’d descend upon him like excited vultures.
Hence, it only made sense that Jackson would dress up to avoid something like this happening. When attending Comic-Con in 2014 for a Hobbit panel, he cosplayed as a mischievously sinister jester. He then revealed all on Facebook, writing, “I had a fun day at Comic-Con walking among you all. Did anyone see the Evil Jester? Some of you did because you asked him to pose for pics!”
12. Daniel Radcliffe
Despite playing geek icon Harry Potter for many years, Daniel Radcliffe had somehow never visited Comic-Con until 2014. Ostensibly there to talk about his horror-comedy Horns, the star wanted to secretly soak in the sights and sounds of the convention. “You don’t go to Comic-Con without going down on the floor and seeing it all,” Radcliffe told MTV News.
Radcliffe continued, “And the way I came up with doing it was Spider-Man. It’s a great superhero and covers the face, so it was perfect.” Radcliffe also told The Guardian newspaper that his ruse went even further. He revealed, “I did an American accent for the whole time. I even took a rucksack, so I look like I’m just coming to Comic-Con.” He’s a clever wizard, that one.
11. Maisie Williams
Then 17-year-old Game Of Thrones star Maisie Williams went for a lo-fi option when she wanted to mingle with the public at Comic-Con in 2014. Why go to the trouble of wearing an entire Spider-Man bodysuit, when all you really need is the mask? She just threw that baby on and looked like any other teenager walking the halls of the convention.
Williams later posted a photo collage on her Instagram page, which revealed that at one point she had also opted for a Guy Fawkes mask to hide her face from the crowds. Comic book geeks will know that the Fawkes mask has special significance, as that’s what the main character in Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s iconic graphic novel V For Vendetta wears. Both masks were good choices from Arya Stark.
10. Ben Schwartz and Lin-Manuel Miranda
At Comic-Con 2019 Ben Schwartz and Lin-Manuel Miranda were representing the new version of Disney’s DuckTales in which they were starring. To allow them to check out the convention floor in peace, they donned some nifty costumes. Miranda chose a Deadpool cosplay, which covered up every inch of skin, and Schwartz wore the mask of WWE superstar wrestler Sin Cara.
Schwartz tweeted some photographs of the pair having the time of their lives. He wrote, “Lin and I walked the Comic-Con floor this morning and soaked up all the creativity, love and smells everyone put in the air.” As anyone who has ever been to a comic book convention can safely attest, he’s not wrong about the smells. Yeesh.
9. Jacob Anderson
Jacob Anderson starred as Grey Worm in TV epic Game Of Thrones and is also a recording artist under the moniker “Raleigh Ritchie.” When the young star traveled to San Diego Comic-Con in 2019 for a Thrones panel, he made sure he could see the convention as a fan. He did this by dressing up in an excellent Miles Morales Spider-Man costume.
Anderson walked the halls and took pictures with other costumed fans. He seemed to have a great time, as he later tweeted, “I love SDCC so much. I feel like I’m amongst my people.” In fact, when he appeared on-stage for the Thrones panel with his co-stars, he was still wearing his Spidey mask!
8. Adam Savage
Mythbusters host Adam Savage is a cosplay connoisseur. Over the years, he has made super-elaborate, gorgeously designed costumes for attending Comic-Con, including a movie-accurate Hellboy get-up and No-Face from animated classic Spirited Away. But his piece de resistance was his 2014 effort, Kane from Ridley Scott’s classic Alien, complete with facehugger. And it cost him over $15,000 to make.
Savage told TV show CNBC Make It in 2019, “My most expensive costume build – that’s going to have to be Kane’s suit from Alien.” Savage took 14 years to painstakingly assemble the costume, as he wanted all the details to be exact. At the convention, though, he was only able to wear the massive spacesuit for 20 minutes as it was unbearably hot inside. Still, it made for some awesome pics.
7. Tessa Thompson and Florence Pugh
Comic-Con 2019 saw a huge Marvel Studios panel take place in Hall H, with a massive array of actors and other talent unveiling Phase 4 of the cinematic universe. Tessa Thompson, who played Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok and Florence Pugh, who will star in the upcoming Black Widow, were part of the festivities. Fans were mega-excited.
Thompson posted a video on her Instagram page that showed the two actresses trying to keep their heads down. She wore a red Stormtrooper helmet and Pugh a V For Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask as they posed for the camera. In the end, it seems they simply went out on-stage for the panel and didn’t venture into the convention itself, but it was still a fun video.
6. Andrew Garfield
This 2011 Comic-Con disguise gave the attendees in Hall H a giddy moment of surprise that then turned into a sincere, heartfelt moment of appreciation. Before a panel about the upcoming movie The Amazing Spider-Man, a fan in a low-rent Spidey costume got up to the microphone to ask a question. He then took off his mask, revealing himself to be none other than Andrew Garfield, the star of the movie.
Garfield gave a touching speech about how much the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man meant to him growing up. He said, “I needed Spider-Man in my life as a kid and he gave me hope. He was living mine and every skinny boy’s fantasy.” Garfield added, “He saved my life,” and signed off with, “This is my first Comic-Con and this is the coolest moment of my life!” Aww.
5. Henry Cavill
At Comic-Con 2016 Henry Cavill was part of the panel discussion for Justice League. He didn’t want that to be the entirety of his experience, though, so he decided to play a little prank on some fellow DC Extended Universe actors. Donning a V For Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask, he began by mingling with fans on the convention floor. Despite being the buffest fan around, no one seemed to notice Superman himself was among them.
Cavill then made his way to a signing session with the cast of Suicide Squad and posed for a picture with star Will Smith. It led to a brilliant moment where he unmasked as the photo was taken and Smith did a comedy double take when he realized who it was. Cue lots of laughter, plus the cast all signing Cavill’s T-shirt. We love it when a plan comes together.
4. Matt Smith
When Comic-Con took place on July 18-21, 2013 Doctor Who star Matt Smith had already announced a few months earlier that he would be leaving the show in December of that year. This meant his appearance at BBC America’s 50th Anniversary panel would be many American fans’ last chance to see him in person before he rode off into the sunset. It was a big deal.
Smith would have been too famous to simply walk around the event, so he donned a big rubber Bart Simpson mask to hide his face. He told the BBC cameras following him, “It’s been the first year I can properly do this. I’ll just pretend to be American to people.” After being snubbed by a host of convention-goers, though, he said, “No one wanted to talk! Everyone’s like, ‘Who’s the weird guy talking to me as Bart Simpson?’”
3. Mark Ruffalo
Worlds collided at New York Comic Con in 2018 when Mark Ruffalo surprised Jason Momoa and received a burly bear hug for his trouble. Ruffalo, who plays The Hulk/Bruce Banner in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was hiding in plain sight by wearing a mask of the Gravity Falls character Grunkle Stan. When he approached Aquaman star Momoa for a picture, fans were treated to a delightful moment.
Momoa grinned widely when he realized it was Ruffalo and the pair hugged and postured for the cameras. It was the Marvel/DC crossover we never knew we wanted. Both men marked the moment on social media, with Momoa Instagramming a video along with the caption, “I love this man. Legend.” Ruffalo tweeted, “Incognito at NYCC. Grunkle Stan had some fun today.”
2. Stephen Colbert
Late-night TV host Stephen Colbert had a whale of a time at Comic-Con 2014. A long-time Tolkien fan, he had a cameo in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as a Lake-town spy. Therefore, it only made sense that, when he was enlisted to host a panel about the next Hobbit movie, he cosplayed as his on-screen character. In fact, even his son cosplayed too.
Colbert didn’t stop there, though. He knew that Tolkien-themed costume would get him fan attention for the rest of the weekend, so he needed a different disguise if he wanted to check out the convention. He created Prince Hawkcat, a bizarre homemade superhero, and only revealed two months later that he had used the get-up to move around unseen.
1. Jack Black
When he hit San Diego in 2014 comic dynamo Jack Black was there to promote Goosebumps. But he wanted to have a look round the convention too and buy some The Lord of the Rings statues. Because even movie stars are as nerdy as the rest of us. Naturally, he bought a Stormtrooper helmet to disguise himself and went on his merry way.
It didn’t exactly go to plan, though. Black lamented to MTV News, “I put it on, and I’m walking around trying to buy some more things at the Comic-Con, and somehow, the word got out. And everybody’s just like, ‘Jack Black, you in there?’ And I’m like, ‘No, it’s not me. I don’t know what you’re talking about.’” A noble failure of a disguise.