First Try
April 17, 2015 6:41 AM   Subscribe

The famous "pizza on the roof" throw in Breaking Bad - Bryan Cranston got it on the first try. Same with Sigourney Weaver and the basketball in Alien Resurrection. These tickle me. I'm looking for other times when an actor pulled off some ridiculous unlikely thing on film, ideally on the first try.

I am amused by both "person wins $100,000 by making a goal from 100 yards" and "college kid makes basket from the top of the stadium," but I am specifically NOT looking for those sorts of things here. Films and television.
posted by dirtdirt to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
 
Maybe this doesn't qualify as a "ridiculous unlikely thing" (he WAS playing a super-good basketball player, after all) but Jimmy Chitwood hit the winning shot in Hoosiers on the first take.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:03 AM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]




This is not exactly the same thing, but Robin Williams' improvising the "Idiosyncrasies" scene from Good Will Hunting was done on the first take. You can tell how hard the cameraman is laughing because the shot shakes.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:18 AM on April 17, 2015 [10 favorites]


In Batman Returns, Michelle Pfeiffer used a whip to decapitate several mannequins - and did so successfully on her first try, surprising even her trainer.
posted by Telpethoron at 7:28 AM on April 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


In the famous SNL Samurai Delicatessen sketch, I was always impressed with the way John Belushi was able to slice the tomato in the air with his sword so effortlessly.
posted by Melismata at 7:44 AM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is second try luck, but is referred to as a "pizza moment" by the Breaking Bad folks: On the Better Call Saul Insider podcast for the episode "Mijo" (cued link to discussion), they discuss how Michael McKean had to throw a cell phone with a set of tongs to land right in front of the camera. On the first try, the throw went wild. On the second it was perfectly in frame.
posted by joan cusack the second at 8:29 AM on April 17, 2015


Mads Mikkelsen cracked an egg on his spatula, apparently not only once, but twice.

He was less successful with the potato.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:17 AM on April 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I like that the final scene of The Big Lebowski is one continuous shot that ends with a guy throwing a strike. They would have had to shoot the whole thing over if he had missed.
posted by substars at 9:45 AM on April 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


First season, episode three of "Twin Peaks."

Kyle MacLachlan/"Dale Cooper" has to hit a bottle with a rock. He hit it and broke it, and in the background, you can see Kimmy Robertson/'Lucy Moran" squealing and clapping in the background.
posted by hmo at 11:13 AM on April 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't link on my phone, but Luke and Leia's swing across the chasm on the Death Star in the original Star Wars.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 11:17 AM on April 17, 2015


[Multiplicity (1996)] In filming the shot in which Doug #1 introduces Doug #3 to Doug #2, Doug #2 tosses a beer to Doug #1. Michael Keaton catching the beer (tossed by a body double) was shot first. Keaton tossing the beer (this time *to* a body double) was filmed later. Keaton's toss so perfectly matched the body double's original toss, that the planned special effect of digitally erasing the tossed beer can then adding in a digital beer can was not needed, thereby saving the production quite a bit of money. This was referred to by the special effects crew as "The Million Dollar Miracle Beer Can Toss".
posted by komara at 12:03 PM on April 17, 2015 [20 favorites]


In the first Hobbit film, one of the dwarves is thrown a boiled egg from across the room and has to catch it in his mouth. Apparently, the actor did it perfectly on the first try but couldn't repeat this in any of the subsequent takes.
posted by badmoonrising at 12:07 PM on April 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


In the first Hobbit film, one of the dwarves is thrown a boiled egg from across the room and has to catch it in his mouth yt . Apparently, the actor did it perfectly on the first try but couldn't repeat this in any of the subsequent takes.

Ahh this is the one I was trying to remember! Apparently all the reactions from the other actors are 100% genuine glee.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:24 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


In Poolhall Junkies Christopher Walken's character makes a trick shot on a pool table (possibly to win a bet? It's been a while since I've seen the movie). He made the shot himself, and did so on the first take.
posted by VeritableSaintOfBrevity at 5:49 AM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


This isn't quite what you're asking for, but in this outtake from Parks and Rec Chris Pratt nails a light switch with a briefcase from across the room.
posted by maryr at 7:08 AM on April 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


I can't help adding this total opposite moment from Scott Pilgrim.
posted by sixswitch at 8:16 AM on April 18, 2015 [7 favorites]




Nicholas Brothers in Stormy Weather. The stairs in particular (2:27). Apparently it was just intended to be a test take to figure out any difficulties they'd need to face but the boys nailed it, and they decided there was no need for a second.
posted by Peregrine Pickle at 9:23 AM on April 18, 2015 [29 favorites]


"Singing in the Rain" has two good ones. Apparently they nailed "Good Morning" on the first take, but Gene Kelly thought they could do it better, so they kept trying unsuccessfully for hours. They used the very first take in the final cut.

Then, for the famous "Singing in the Rain" song/performance, Kelly was sick with a fever. He waited until everything was set up, went in and did the scene, improvising the dancing around a rough framework, then he went back to bed.
posted by DGStieber at 11:32 AM on April 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Then, for the famous "Singing in the Rain yt " song/performance, Kelly was sick with a fever. He waited until everything was set up, went in and did the scene, improvising the dancing around a rough framework, then he went back to bed.

The DGA Quarterly did a interview with director Stanley Donen on this. There was no improvisation or a single take. He says it took them 2.5-3 days of actual shooting, but everything was meticulously planned first to the point that they dug out depressions in the concrete for the steps where Kelly splashes water. That interview doesn't mention a fever, though I've heard it elsewhere.
posted by zachlipton at 3:20 PM on April 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I remembered another: Bill Murray really bowled three strikes in a row, in front of a huge crowd, for the climax of Kingpin.
posted by dirtdirt at 5:34 PM on April 18, 2015


I can't remember the movie, but there was this old (1960s?) film with a train wreck, where they had a camera dug halfway into the ground to catch the wreck, and the director had to pull the cameraman out of the way as the train was crashing because it landed just short of the camera. The shot ends with one of the engine's big wheels turning right in the foreground. It's a hell of a shot.
posted by nushustu at 9:35 PM on April 18, 2015




In this scene in the first Lord of the Rings film, the orc Lurtz hurls a dagger at Aragorn, who knocks it away mid-air with his sword. This was successfully filmed on the first take, and with a real knife:
Viggo did this incredibly well. There’s a shot coming up where he had to hit the knife that gets thrown at him with his sword, and he did it first take. That was a real knife that was being thrown, and he literally did bat it away with his sword for real: it wasn’t anything fake about it.
posted by nicodine at 10:38 AM on April 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


I can't remember the movie, but there was this old (1960s?) film with a train wreck, where they had a camera dug halfway into the ground to catch the wreck, and the director had to pull the cameraman out of the way as the train was crashing because it landed just short of the camera. The shot ends with one of the engine's big wheels turning right in the foreground. It's a hell of a shot.

That sounds like the train wreck from Lawrence of Arabia. One of the featurettes on the DVD set talks about that shot.
posted by teponaztli at 3:17 AM on April 20, 2015


Russian Ark? The whole film was said to be a single (85-ish minutes) Steadicam take.
posted by epo at 6:08 AM on April 20, 2015 [9 favorites]




In the movie UHF, Weird Al tosses grapes to his friend Bob, who catches them with his mouth.

Al says on his website says of David Bowe, who played Bob: "We only did a couple takes, and David didn’t miss once."
posted by foldedfish at 11:08 AM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Russian Ark? The whole film was said to be a single (85-ish minutes) Steadicam take.

From your link: "Three attempts were made to complete the shot; the first two had to be interrupted owing to technical faults, but the third (and final chance to complete the shot owing to time constraints) was completed successfully." so not quite the first try...

(Another classic "would have been the first try if not for technology" is this scene from Tarkovsky's last film, The Sacrifice. That 6-minute clip is the second take, the camera jammed the first time.)
posted by effbot at 7:11 PM on April 20, 2015


I can't remember the movie, but there was this old (1960s?) film with a train wreck, where they had a camera dug halfway into the ground to catch the wreck, and the director had to pull the cameraman out of the way as the train was crashing because it landed just short of the camera. The shot ends with one of the engine's big wheels turning right in the foreground. It's a hell of a shot.

I remember this. It's actually called The Train. It's directed by John Frankenheimer and stars Burt Lancaster.
posted by jonp72 at 7:19 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nicholas Brothers in Stormy Weather. The stairs in particular (2:27). Apparently it was just intended to be a test take to figure out any difficulties they'd need to face but the boys nailed it, and they decided there was no need for a second.

Sorry, but no. Anyone with film production knowledge watching this scene (or the ones from Singing in the Rain) can tell immediately that these are not single takes. They are multiple setups and takes. These scenes would have been shot with a single camera -- if multiple cameras were used, the angles chosen would reveal the other cameras. A new angle from the same camera necessitates a second take. There's no way around it.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:26 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


This train crash from the film The Train?
posted by isnotchicago at 7:37 AM on April 22, 2015


This was referred to by the special effects crew as "The Million Dollar Miracle Beer Can Toss".

I doubt John Malkovich was as positive about the ad-libbed beer can toss in Being John Malkovich. It wasn't a planned shot so it doesn't exactly qualify here, but it was perfect in so many ways.
posted by CaseyB at 1:54 PM on April 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Buster Keaton had standing orders for his cameraman to keep rolling no matter what was happening, any time they were doing stunts. In a lot of cases the stunts were absurdly dangerous (and, back then, Keaton did his own) and didn't always go the way they were expected, but afterwards Keaton often decided to use film of mishaps instead of what the script said.

In a sense, then, these fit your question; they were the results of single takes and couldn't possibly be duplicated.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:06 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I doubt John Malkovich was as positive about the ad-libbed beer can toss in Being John Malkovich . It wasn't a planned shot so it doesn't exactly qualify here, but it was perfect in so many ways.

This is an infuriatingly persistent internet prank lie. In brief:

-- The can toss was in the script
-- That's not Spike Jonze
-- There's no commentary on the DVD
posted by EmGeeJay at 3:40 PM on April 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


Kind of the opposite of getting it "right," but in The Usual Suspects, Peter Greene (Redfoot) was supposed to flick a cigarette at McManus (Stephen Baldwin) and hit him in the chest. Instead, he hit him in the eye, and Baldwin's "FUCK!" Is legitimate.
posted by Etrigan at 3:15 AM on April 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I like that the final scene of The Big Lebowski is one continuous shot that ends with a guy throwing a strike. They would have had to shoot the whole thing over if he had missed.

That long shot actually begins with the same guy hitting a strike, so there's two in one take. He hits the first strike, walks off to the left, the camera pulls back to Sam Elliot at the bar and the scene plays, then it pushes back in over Sam's shoulder to watch the guy line it up and hit the second strike.
posted by carsonb at 2:07 PM on April 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Can't watch youtube here but I thought it cut away just as the ball hit the pins? Or is it obvious that it's going to be a strike anyway?
posted by ddd at 3:13 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]




I guess there is a sub-category to your question - which concerns movies where a stand-in expert was used to help achieve the tricky shot (possibly as was the case with Barry Asher above). Anyway - the stand out guy in this respect has to be Howard Hill who did the archery scenes in The Adventures of Robin Hood - and who has been covered previously in the blue. This shot he made at about 1.54 in this clip - splitting the bulls eye arrow of his opponent - was done in one take and is further described in this documentary.
posted by rongorongo at 3:09 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


not sure if this qualifies, and also from the LOTR films - in the second film, the Two Towers, after believing Merry and Pippin to have been mistakenly captured and burnt in the Rohirrim's orc pyre near Fangorn Forest - I don't recall now what the actual direction was (it's in the special features) but Viggo Mortensen ad-libbed this helmet kick, broke his foot doing it and yet staunchly remained in character throughout the end of the scene. His (genunine!) collapse and outcry read so well as grief/fury and frustration that Jackson & Co left it in.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:32 AM on April 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


A slight tweak on this: in Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, there's a scene where a drum rolls in from off-screen and is supposed to land in a particular spot. From what I read a while back, it worked perfectly on the first test attempt, without the cameras rolling.

They then spent hours trying to get it to happen again on camera.
posted by tocts at 6:05 PM on May 6, 2015


More information on the scene from Being John Malkovich

1. It was scripted

2. The thrower hit it on the first take
posted by craniac at 8:29 PM on May 7, 2015


I don't recall now what the actual direction was (it's in the special features) but Viggo Mortensen ad-libbed this helmet kick , broke his foot doing it and yet staunchly remained in character throughout the end of the scene

That was the fourth or fifth take, though. And if memory serves it wasn't ad-libbed by Mortensen, Jackson asked for it. They did multiple takes because each take he was getting it closer and closer to the camera. Fourth or fifth take was when he broke his foot, that's the take that wound up in the final edit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:08 PM on May 13, 2015


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