Much to the dismay of screenwriters, movies scripts aren’t always set in stone. They are often like living objects constantly evolving during the filming process. Some films, likeJaws and Annie Hall, don’t even have a finished script when the cameras start to roll.
Gun vs. Sword
While chasing Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) after she’s been kidnapped, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) runs into a large sword-wielding bad guy dressed all in black. Instead of fighting him in what would surely be a losing whip versus sword battle, Indy simply pulls out his revolver, puts the man down with one shot and moves on.
The original script called for a long sword fight but a day earlier Ford got a severe case of food poisoning and didn’t have the energy to film the scene as written. After a discussion with director Steven Spielberg, the scene was changed and became an iconic part of Indiana Jones mythos.
Why Male Models?
In this scene involving former hand model J.P. Prewitt (David Duchovny) and the dimwitted male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), Prewitt – a conspiracy theorist – explains how the fashion industry has been behind every high profile political assassination of the last hundred years.
Zoolander asks, “Why male models?” Prewitt answers with a lengthy explanation, after which Zoolander responds again, “Why male models?” Stiller forgot his original line and just repeated his previous line instead. This prompted Duchovny to ad-lib his response “Are you kidding? I just told you like a minute ago.”
The scene ends up reinforcing the movie’s narrative of the brainless male model stereotype and Stiller turned a gaffe into one of the funniest parts of the film.
Director – Francis Ford CoppolaVito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is more than the cold-hearted head of a powerful Italian mob family. That trait shows when he sentences a man to be beaten as retaliation for the beating of another man’s daughter – all while gently stroking a cat.
Thing is, the cat was never part of the original script. Some reports say that Coppola plopped the feline into Brando’s lap just before filming began. Other reports say Brando found “il gatto” roaming around the set, picked him and gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse (heh).
I Don’t Care
Director – Andrew DavisIn this famous showdown between Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) – a doctor wrongly accused of murdering his wife – and U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), Kimble gets the jump on Gerard in the sewers. Instead of shooting the Marshal and making things worse, Kimble pleads his case to him saying, “I didn’t kill my wife!” Gerard, with a sober tone and intense look on his face, responds with a simple, but brilliant and ad-libbed, piece of dialog, “I don’t care.”
The line wasn’t part of the script but those three words reinforced to Kimble, and audiences, that it didn’t matter to Gerard whether the doctor was guilty or innocent of the crimes for which he was accused. He was going to get his man – no matter what.
Director – Christopher NolanAs the Joker (Heath Ledger) waits quietly alone in jail after having been arrested by Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Mayor Garcia (Nestor Carbonell) shows up to look over Gotham’s latest scourge. While there he also promotes Gordon to the position of Commissioner.
As the officers in the room applaud the announcement Ledger begins, unscripted, to slowly clap – never changing his facial expression. It was just a simple improvisation but one that was unsettling and darkly brilliant.
Director – Paul VerhoevenWhen antagonist Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) is taken to the police precinct after receiving a solid whooping by RoboCop (Peter Weller), Boddicker spits a bloody glob onto the paperwork of the desk sergeant, followed by the line “Give me my f*ckin’ phone call!”
Smith and Verhoeven briefly had discussed the unscripted moment before filming the scene but neglected to inform the extras – which was evident by their real and disgusted surprise as the scene unfolded.
Director – Garry MarshallIn what became one of the most famous scenes from the film, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) presents call girl Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) with a gorgeous and rather expensive diamond necklace. As Roberts reaches out to touch the precious jewels, Gere – in an unscripted playful moment – quickly snaps the box shut genuinely surprising her.
Her laugh was so honest, and the scene so good, that Marshall decided to leave it in the film as is.
Director – Spike JonzeShortly after John Malkovich meets Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) on the side of the road he wanders off mad. As he does, a car passes by with a man leaning out the window. The man throws a can hitting Malkovich square in the back of the head while yelling, “Hey Malkovich! Think Fast!” – causing the Oscar nominated actor to scream out in legitimate pain.
Neither the can throwing nor the reaction were scripted but the drunken extra in the car felt the opportunity was too good to pass up. Jonze thought the scene added to the character’s frustration and left it in.
Instead of being fired, the extra was added to the final cut of the film and given a raise.
The Cinderella Story
Director – Harold RamisOne of the best and most quoted scenes from this film is “The Cinderella Story” where groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) mutters a story to himself about an unknown golfer winning The Masters.
This entire scene was developed by Murray on the spot saying in his 1999 book Cinderella Story: My Life in Golf: “The Cinderella Story was a spur-of-the-moment idea. ‘Get me some flowers,’ I said. ‘Four rows of mums.”
Most Annoying Sound in the World
There are many scenes in the film that show how moronic and simple-minded best friends Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) can be but this one showed how annoying they can be on car trips – and it was entirely unscripted.
Even hitman Joe Mentalino’s (Mike Starr) hissy fit reaction to the scene was unscripted, which makes the scene that much funnier.
Know How I Know You’re Gay?
Director – Judd ApatowCrafting a good and funny insult is one of the hardest things to do but Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd are two of the best – proving it in this scene of put down jokes.
This entire exchange between Pete (Rudd) and Ben (Rogen) while in the car was completely ad libbed by the two actors. The scene is only a few seconds long on the final cut but as an extra on the DVD, the scene goes on for over six minutes.
Director – Gus Van SantIn this scene between therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) and math genius Will Hunting (Matt Damon), Williams proves that comedic-minded actors usually give the best ad libbed scenes.
The entire story about Maguire’s flatulent spouse was made up on the spot by Williams and not a part of the original script.
Director – Christopher NolanOriginally, the Joker (Heath Ledger) was supposed to walk down the street while the explosion at the hospital began, get on the school bus during the scripted pause, and the bus would drive away while the explosion finished.
However, Ledger stopped walking during the pause and in a moment of improvisation began fidgeting with the remote detonator in a very Joker-esque manner – bringing a slight amount of dark humor to what would have just been a serious scene.
Game Over Man
Director – James CameronChaos and confusion are everywhere after the first attack by the xenomorphs decimate the Space Marines and their drop ship crashes. As the crew tries to get their bearing and fully understand what just happened, Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) – ever the pessimist – laments “That’s it man, game over man, game over! What are we going to do now?”
The original line didn’t include the “game over” part and was ad libbed by Paxton.
Director – Sydney PollackDuring this scene, aspiring playwright Jeff Slater (Bill Murray) was required to appear to be talking throughout the entire party; however, there was no dialog written for the character.
As a natural entertainer and comedian, Murray improvised the entire scene.
The Line Up
Director – Bryan SingerChristopher McQuarrie wrote only one line for this scene –“Give me the keys, you f*cking c*cksucker!” – it was up to the individual actors to deliver it however they wanted. McQuarrie actually plays the cop speaking with the suspects and both his line to Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro) “In English please?” and Del Toro’s reaction were unscripted.
According to interviews on the DVD, the laughing during Del Toro’s delivery was due to his constant farting while filming – boys will be boys.
Come Out to Play
Director – Walter HillIn this scene, the script called for Luther (David Patrick Kelly) – leader of the vicious New York gang the Rogues – to drive up and provoke rival gang The Warriors to a fight in the streets by clinking bottles together.
Kelly spontaneously added the now famous line “Warriors, come out to play!”
Take the Cannoli
Director – Francis Ford Coppala
Corleone family capo Peter Clemenza (Richard Castellano) orders his henchman Rocco Lampone (Tom Rosqui) to carry out a hit on Paulie Gatto (John Martino) for his betrayal of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando).
Castellano’s original line was “Leave the gun” but drawing from an earlier scene where Clemenza’s wife reminds him to bring home some cannoli, he improvised the now famous line“Take the cannoli.”
Mein Furher, I Can Walk
Director – Stanley KubrickNuclear scientist Dr. Merkwürdigliebe or Strangelove (Peter Sellers) was confined to a wheelchair for the entire film – but Sellers decided to spontaneously stand at the very end of the film, take a couple of steps and proclaim, “Mein Führer! I can walk!”
In a process known as “retroscripting”, Kubrick changed much of the script he co-wrote with Terry Southern to incorporate much of Sellers’ improvised dialog, including this now famously unscripted scene from the end of his black satirical comedy.
Remembering the Brothers
Director – Steven SpielbergDuring a brief break from fighting, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) sits with Private Ryan (Matt Damon) swapping stories about what it was like back home for them both. The story Damon tells about his brothers and the barn was made up entirely by him during filming.
None of the story was part of the original script.
You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
Jaws (1975)Director – Steven Spielberg
While chumming the waters in an attempt to lure the deadly great white shark within range, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) gets his first look at exactly how massive the killer shark truly is.
Stunned, startled and filled with fear he stands up and utters the now famous line to Orca Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) completely off-script, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
Turns out, he was right.
Director – Irvin KershnerAs smuggler-turned-hero Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is about to be encased in carbonite, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) reveals her love for him. The script called for Leia to say “I love you” to which Solo was supposed to respond with “I love you too“.
Ford decided that Solo wouldn’t say something like that and instead, changed the line to simply “I know.”
Can You Hear Me Now?
Here’s Looking at You Kid
According to reports, Bogart said the phrase “Here’s looking at you kid” multiple times to Bergman while teaching her to play poker between takes.
Like Tears in the Rain
I’m Walking Here!
Singing in the Rain
You Talking to Me?