Surprise! Movie Scenes Where The Actors Weren’t Acting

For the perfect shot, directors will sometimes play tricks on actors to achieve a genuine reaction, or an actor may accidentally break character, with the scene working even better than planned. Having an actor show true emotion beats out even some of the best dramatics. Little did audiences know that many of their favorite shots in movies were actually made using the element of surprise. Take a look to see what they are!

Not A Fake Knock On The Head In The Princess Bride

Picture from The Princess Bride
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

In The Princess Bride, there is a scene when Count Rugen hits Westley over the head with the butt of his sword and knocks him unconscious. However, to really make it convincing, Cary Elwes (Westley) told Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) to hit him in the head for real, which he did.

Although they succeeded in their goal of realism, the film’s production had to be shut down for the day because Elwes was actually knocked unconscious and had to go to the hospital.

Shelley Duvall Was Tormented On The Set Of The Shining

Picture from The Shining
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

While The Shining may be regarded as one of the most iconic horror films of all time, the actors paid for it, especially Shelley Duvall. Over the course of the extensive filming process, meticulous director Stanley Kubrick was intentionally cruel to Duvall.

He was verbally abusive and would make her do countless takes until she was in real tears of fear and frustration, as seen when she is defending herself with a baseball bat from Jack. According to Vivian Kubrick in The Making of the Shining, this was done on purpose to make Duvall’s character convincingly meek and frightened.

Michael J. Fox Almost Hung Himself In Back To The Future Part III

back-to-the-future-part-iii_ba73288b
DrrnHarr/MovieStillsDB
DrrnHarr/MovieStillsDB

When Michael J. Fox’s character Marty travels back in time to the Wild West in Back to the Future Part III, there’s a scene when he’s strung up on the clock tower. Strangely, Fox insisted on actually putting the rope around his neck and using his hand to prevent it from strangling him.

He wasn’t able to get his hand in the noose in the right position, and he was actually being strangled. The crew assumed he was just acting until he lost consciousness.

Filming The Blair Witch Project Was No Picnic

Picture from The Blair Witch Project
Artisan Entertainment
Artisan Entertainment

Considered to be one of the godfathers of found-footage movies, filming of The Blair Witch Project was as real as it seemed. For the most part, the film was unscripted, and the actors were given clues as to where they were supposed to go next in the foreboding forest.

Furthermore, the “actors” were frequently harassed by the crew, including the scene in which they find human teeth (which turned out to be real, courtesy of a dentist). So, if the actors seem really scared, tired, and hungry, it’s because they are.

An Improvised Scene Made It Into The Trailer For Pretty Woman

Picture from Pretty Women
Touchstone Pictures
Touchstone Pictures

In Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts plays a woman in a questionable profession who falls in love with a wealthy gentleman, played by Richard Gere. in one scene, Gere’s character presents Roberts with a necklace in a box.

When Roberts reaches for it, Gere closes it just before he touches it as a joke. The whole thing was improvised by Gere and produced a genuine laugh from Roberts, who was taken off guard. Incredibly, the scene made it into the trailer for the movie.

Viggo Mortensen Was Screaming In Pain In The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers

Picture From Lord Of The Rings
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas are in hot pursuit of a pack of Uruk-hai that have kidnapped the Hobbits Mary and Pippin. Yet, they find the Uruk-hai slaughtered and assume that Mary and Pippin died along with them.

In frustration, Aragorn kicks a nearby helmet and screams in anguish. As it turns out, actor Viggo Mortensen’s yell seems so authentic because he was actually in pain after breaking his toe on the helmet.

Bill Skarsgård Horrified The Child Actors In It

Picture from It
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

While Tim Curry may have set the tone for what it means to play the fear-hungry cosmic entity in It, Bill Skarsgård was nothing short of chilling in the 2017 film remake. To ensure that the kid’s reactions to the clown were real, Skarsgård was kept separated from them during filming until the very first scene when they saw the clown on the projector.

Of course, the kids were freaked out, with producer Seth Grahame-Smith commenting, “It is authentic to how kids should be reacting, and that was one of [director] Andy’s things in terms of scaring the kids.”

Steve Carrell Did Some Serious Improv In The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Picture from the 40-Year-Old Virgin
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

In the comedy film The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Steve Carrell’s character is convinced by his buddies to get his extremely hairy chest waxed to be more physically attractive to women.

To shoot the scene, Carrell agreed to actually get his chest waxed to get a real reaction. So, the pain he’s showing is totally real, and all of the obscenities he is yelling out as the waxing is happening was improvised on the spot. Now, that’s commitment!

The Whole Cast Was Fooled In Alien

Picture from Alien
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

As terrifying as Ridley Scott’s Alien is all the way through, one of the film’s most iconic scenes comes from when one of the crew members keels over in stomach pain and the rest hover over him to investigate.

When blood, guts, and a small alien burst from the man’s stomach, the actors’ reactions are not fake by any means. They weren’t told about what was going to happen, so when fake blood splattered all over them and a creature emerged, they were all genuinely shocked.

A Surprise Attack In Jaws

jaws_5pla1W
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

To set the tone for Jaws, director Steven Spielberg opened the film with the horrifying scene of a young woman being attacked just before sunrise. It’s absolutely frightening, and to make it seem real, Spielberg never told the actress when she was going to be yanked under the water.

Her initial shock and immediate choking on water was her true reaction. There are also rumors that her screams are real because she injured her ribs during filming, although this has never been confirmed as true.

Ellen Burstyn Was Injured Filming The Exorcist

Picture from The Exorcist
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Although the actors were surprised by many things during filming of The Exorcist, one scene shocked both the audiences and actress Ellen Burstyn. This was when Burstyn’s character is thrown across the room.

To make her fear convincing, director William Friedkin had the apparatus that Burstyn was hooked up to yank her much more violently than agreed upon. The end result was a breathtaking scene, and a hurt Burstyn was not very happy with the director afterward.

Making Children Cry On The Set Of The Champ

Picture from The Champ
MGM
MGM

When filming the 1931 sports drama film, The Champ, child actor Jackie Cooper had trouble crying on cue, which was necessary for the role. So, to get the waterworks going for the 9-year-old boy, director King Vidor took matters into his own hands.

For one scene, Vidor pretended to fire his assistant director, whom Cooper really liked. When the boy began crying, they started filming the scene and got exactly what they were looking for.

Diane Kruger Let Tarantino Choke Her In Inglourious Basterds

Picture from Inglorious Basterds
The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company

During the climax of director Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Diane Kruger’s character is strangled by the film’s antagonist (played by Christoph Waltz). Tarantino was convinced the only way to sell the scene was for Kruger to actually be strangled. Kruger agreed and Tarantino used his own hands to choke Kruger to the point that she was red in the face, crying, and had blood vessels visibly bulging.

On filming the movie, Kruger noted, “I would like to say that my work experience with Quentin Tarantino was pure joy. He treated me with utter respect and never abused his power or forced me to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with.”

Real Punches In Fight Club

Picture from Fight Club
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

In Fight Club, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton’s characters form a close bond after having a friendly fistfight behind a bar near the beginning of the movie. Because the fighting isn’t all that intense in this scene, the actors actually hit each other at first.

There’s a scene where Norton’s character punches Pitt in the ear and Pitt asks, “Why the ear?” This was unscripted, with the director instructing Norton to hit Pitt in the ear without letting him know beforehand.

“I’m Walking’ Here!” Was On The Spot In Midnight Cowboy

Picture from Midnight Cowboy
United Artists
United Artists

A now-famous line in 1969’s Midnight Cowboy comes from Dustin Hoffman’s character when he yells, “I’m walkin’ here!” to a taxi that almost hits him on the sidewalk. Not only was this line not in the script, but the taxi cab definitely wasn’t supposed to be there either.

Apparently, the taxi had managed to get through the filming blockade, almost hitting Hoffman in the process. Instead of breaking character, Hoffman decided to roll with it, turning a meaningless moment into one of the most iconic scenes in the film.

Martin Sheen Was A Little Too Intoxicated In Apocalypse Now

Picture from Apocalypse Now
United Artists
United Artists

At the beginning of Apocalypse Now, Martin Sheen’s character, Captain Willard, is shown alone in a hotel room drinking himself into oblivion. To get into character, Martin Sheen, who was struggling with his own substance abuse problems at the time, insisted that he actually get drunk.

Well, Sheen definitely ended up getting drunk, to the point that he smashed his hand in a mirror, cutting himself. He then resumed to strip down and roll around while covered in his own blood.

Leonardo DiCaprio Stayed In Character In Django Unchained

Picture from Django Unchained
The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company

In 2012’s Django Unchained, Leonardo DiCaprio plays the despicable Calvin Candy, a slave-keeping sadist who is the owner of Django’s wife. During an intense dinner scene, DiCaprio slams his hand down on the table, breaking his hand on a glass and cutting himself.

DiCaprio plays it off so smooth that it looks like it was supposed to happen, although it wasn’t. But DiCaprio kept acting as if it was scripted, even rubbing his bloody hand across an actress’s face. Needless to say, it was shocking.

Tippi Hedren Was Attacked By Real Animals In The Birds

Picture from The Birds
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

Somehow, Alfred Hitchcock managed to make birds frightening in his 1963 film The Birds, starring Tippi Hedren. To make it seem like Hedren was actually afraid of the animals, Hitchcock did something that Hedren wasn’t expecting.

Although he told her that she was going to get swarmed by animatronic birds, Hitchcock pulled a fast one and switched them out with live birds, sending Hedren into a frenzy that was caught on film. Needless to say, Hedren was not very appreciative of what happened.

Potential Abuse On The Set Of Kes

Picture from Kes
United Artists
United Artists

In 1969’s Kes, directed by Ken Loach, the film follows the life of a bullied child named Billy Casper, played by David Bradley. In one scene, a group of boys, including Billy, is disciplined by a teacher by being hit with a cane.

Although Loach promised that they would cut before the boys’ hands were actually struck, he didn’t keep this promise and also kept the cameras rolling. Loach later admitted, “You can’t imitate that expression, the point at which the cane strikes the hand. So we just caned them, really.” According to one account, the boys were paid extra for their “troubles.”

Drew Barrymore Was In For Quite The Surprise In E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Picture from E.T.
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

If you didn’t know the movie and how heartwarming it is, the alien E.T. is arguably a pretty scary creature. This was the way child actress Drew Barrymore felt, which is obvious in the scene where she discovers E.T., the first time that she had ever seen the puppet.

Although it may have taken some time for her to get used to, Barrymore eventually got over her initial scare. Luckily, Steven Spielberg didn’t scar her for life!