What movie scenes were a happy accident?
September 26, 2012 8:48 AM   Subscribe

What famous movie scenes and/or lines were not in the script but happened spontaneously or by accident?

I am looking for scenes like the famous "I'm Walkin' Here" moment from Midnight Cowboy, which allegedly happened spontaneously when a taxicab got past a traffic hold and nearly ran over Dustin Hoffman. As the story goes, Hoffman stayed in character and the director liked it so much he kept it in.

Another is supposedly the Pretty Woman scene where Richard Gere gives Julia Roberts a fancy necklace and snaps the box onto her hand. Her reaction was charming and it became a memorable moment in the movie.

Unless there is something unique about it, I am not as interested in scenes from movies where much of the dialogue was purposefully improvised (e.g. This is Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman), as spontaneity in those movies is the whole point.

What scenes am I missing?
posted by AgentRocket to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Improv section of TV tropes will give you a good start.
posted by Captain_Science at 8:51 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Roman Holiday - the scene where Gregory Peck's hand is "trapped" was planned but not made known to Audrey Hepburn, hence her (very real) shock.
posted by humph at 8:51 AM on September 26, 2012

In On The Waterfront, Marlon Brando is walking with Eva Marie Saint through a playground. After she drops a glove, he picks it up and plays with it through the rest of the scene. She wasn't meant to drop it.

In Blade Runner, when Pris pretends to run away from J.F. Sebastian, Daryl Hannah wasn't meant to skid into the cab window. It was an accident in which she hurt her arm.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, Ian McKellen really does bump his head on the low hobbit ceiling. He remained in character during the shot.

In The Two Towers, when Aragorn thinks Merry and Pippin are dead, he kicks a helmet and cries out. That's because Viggo Mortensen broke his toe during the shot.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:52 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Harrison Ford ad-libbed his classic "I know" response to Leia (Carrie Fisher) telling Han, "I love you" in The Empire Strikes Back.
posted by mkultra at 8:54 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just googled and found this link that mentions the chest waxing scene from 40 Year Old Virgin (although I think they meant to wax his chest, they just didn't edit the dialogue..if it matters).
posted by foxhat10 at 8:55 AM on September 26, 2012

Best answer: The Improv section of TV tropes will give you a good start.

Also Throw It In (for films specifically)
posted by burnmp3s at 8:57 AM on September 26, 2012

Bob whispering something into Charlotte's ear at the end of Lost In Translation. (We don't hear what he says, we just know he's whispering something.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:58 AM on September 26, 2012

When they were filming the scene in Alien where the baby xenomorph bursts out of John Hurt's chest, the rest of the cast supposedly hadn't been told what would happen (just that something would), so their shock is real when his body explodes.
posted by fight or flight at 8:58 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

A lot of the dialogue between de Niro and Keitel in Mean Streets was improvised.
posted by dfriedman at 9:00 AM on September 26, 2012

Jimmy Stewart's wonderful drunk scene opposite Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story.
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:04 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Apocalypse Now where Martin sheen punches the mirror and starts bleeding.
posted by canoehead at 9:07 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Before the filming of Spy Kids 2, Alexa Vega had been taking gymnastics lessons, and had learned to do a round-off back handspring. During the first action scene (the one where all the kids fight off the attacking men) she begged Rodriguez to let her do it. He was afraid she'd hurt herself, but she kept nagging him, so he let her do it once, just once, on camera. Well, it went really well, and he ended up using it in the film.

In Enter the Dragon, there's a fight scene in the tournament where one of the bad guys has taken a broken bottle to use as a weapon and took off after Bruce Lee. Lee ended up kicking the guy in the chest and knocking him flying. That wasn't in the script, and it wasn't fake. The guy had actually cut Lee with the bottle (by accident) and Lee was pissed and kicked him for real. But the camera was rolling, and it looked good, so they used it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:11 AM on September 26, 2012

The marching band / parade scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
posted by fix at 9:13 AM on September 26, 2012

If you've seen Disney's Aladdin, you know that Robin Williams did the voice of the Genie. There's a scene at the beginning of him walking through a bazaar, pointing out stuff.

It turns out that Disney put a table full of random objects in the sound stage, and they put Williams in there and let him just riff on what he saw. It was entirely ad-lib. They took that recording and edited it, and then animated the genie to match the voice.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: It's fine to address specific documented misconceptions or whatever but the question's a request for examples and a general pet-peeve rant about the general case is kind of a derail. Please try to stay focused on constructively answering the question.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:22 AM on September 26, 2012

Supposedly the "chew bubblegum and kick ass" line from They Live was ad-libbed by Roddy Piper -- though it looks neither spontaneous nor accidental. (I share Sara C.'s skepticism of most of these claims, though I have nothing but gut instinct to back it up.)
posted by BurntHombre at 9:26 AM on September 26, 2012

For the scene in MASH (the movie) where Hot Lips is showering and the curtain drops, they counted out "One, Two," and dropped it before "Three." Her reaction is real. (That's more of a trick than something ad-libbed, but it fits in with the Alien comment.)
posted by cereselle at 9:28 AM on September 26, 2012

The scene from Star Trek IV where Chekov and Uhura were looking for the "nuclear wessels" wasn't ad-libbed in the final version. However, during rehearsal, when Chekov asked the crowd at large "Where is the naval base in Alameda?" a fluffy blonde answered "I think it's across the bay. In Alameda." They liked it so much they got her to sign a release form and they filmed it that way.
posted by cereselle at 9:33 AM on September 26, 2012

TVTropes: Throw it in
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:44 AM on September 26, 2012

The Godfather: "When character actor Richard Castellano (Clemenza), orders his henchmen to whack Paulie Gatto in the parked car, he said the words, “Leave the gun,” and was then struck with an inspired improv and added, “Take the cannoli.” "
posted by JanetLand at 9:44 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Bringing Up Baby, Cary Grant finds himself wearing a skimpy ladies' robe and says:

Mrs. Random: But why are you wearing *these* clothes?
David Huxley: Because I just went gay all of a sudden!
Mrs. Random: Now see here young man, stop this nonsense. What are you doing?
David Huxley: I'm sitting in the middle of 42nd Street waiting for a bus!

That line was ad-libbed, and it's likely that Grant actually was using "gay" to mean homosexual. At the time, effeminate gay men were known to dress in women's clothing and hang out on the streets near Times Square looking for sex partners- and since this was illegal, if a cop approached them they'd give some excuse for hanging out on the street, such as waiting for a bus. It was pretty new slang, so most people wouldn't have realized it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This Youtube video has 25 of them, with explanations.
posted by Gortuk at 10:54 AM on September 26, 2012

Hey Malkovich, think fast!
posted by churl at 11:34 AM on September 26, 2012

Response by poster: Well, that was fast. I should have guessed that these would be collected somewhere. Thanks everyone.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:52 AM on September 26, 2012

Raiders of the Lost Ark - as I understand it, a lot of the tent drinking scene between Marion and Belloq was improvised.
posted by alchemist at 11:56 AM on September 26, 2012

My favorite is the 'Pepper in my paprikash' scene from When Harry Met Sally... You can even see where Meg Ryan looks off camera like Billy's nuts.
posted by ApathyGirl at 12:22 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rutger Hauer improvised the Tears in Rain soliloquy at the end of Blade Runner.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:39 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

The scene in The Fugitive where Tommy Lee Jones Says: I dont care.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:48 PM on September 26, 2012

You're going to need a bigger boat.
posted by jbickers at 2:05 PM on September 26, 2012

Ben Stein says the "Bueller, Bueller, Bueller" bit from Ferris Bueller's Day Off was his own on-the-spot inspiration.
posted by cartoonella at 2:30 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jay taking a hit from the bongsaber in the middle of his fight with Mark Hamil in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back; Jason Mews came up with the idea for that during the shoot.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:36 PM on September 26, 2012

When the slum landlord comes to Vito Corleone's olive oil business in The Godfather: Part II, they nailed the door to the office shut without telling the actor playing the landlord, so his nervous struggling to open the door was unscripted. Danny Aiello also ad-libbed his line "Michael Corleone says hello."
posted by kirkaracha at 10:26 PM on September 26, 2012

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