The Story of GWAR’s Insane ‘Empire Records’ Cameo

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The nineties were a beautiful time for record store culture in film. 

Despite the magic of vinyl fully succumbing to the advent of compact discs (until the great vinyl resurgence/fetishization of the past decade or so that has led to our current pressing plant apocalypse, but that’s a different article), the idea of the record store itself, the sometimes whimsical / sometimes lunatic eccentrics who employ them, and the poor, witless customers who were dumb enough to ask for a music recommendation held full sway of the gen x masses. This love affair was on full display in two popular movies of the time that have gone on to become cult classics: Empire Records and High Fidelity.

The nineties were also an amazing time for heavy metal cameos in film. Nobody will ever forget Cannibal Corpse’s head-splitting appearance in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective or White Zombie tearing up the club while Chris Farley rips out some poor sap’s nipple ring in Airheads. These moments have become institutional staples of metal culture that will never leave our collective consciousness.

Arguably the best band cameo of the nineties happened in one of its beloved record store flicks when Gwar made an appearance in Empire Records. In their scene, record store clerk Marc (played by Ethan Embry) eats a weed brownie and is magically transported to the stage of a Gwar concert in full swing. Tripping face and heading straight to hell, Marc is rightfully fed to the World Maggot.

It’s a beautiful scene, and one that we have Ethan Embry himself to thank for. He said the following to Complex around the time of the film’s 20th-anniversary celebrations:

“We came to him [director Allan Moyle] with the idea that Gwar was in town and how rad it would be if we worked them into the movie in some way. He came up with this: Mark eats some brownies that throw him into a psychedelic fantasy. We filmed at the Gwar show. He was game. He gave me a camera operator and a camera and said, ‘Yeah, go do it!’ And it ended up in the movie.”

If that isn’t movie magic, I don’t know what is