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14 Movie Moments Where Actors Weren't Acting

Updated August 18, 2020 40.6k votes 6.8k voters 692.8k views14 items

List RulesVote up the honest reactions that created classic movie moments.

There's a lot that can go wrong on a movie set. Actors are professionals, but they're still human beings. At times, real actor reactions, such as fear, pain, or nervousness, work their way into a scene. Although these performers work hard to entrench themselves in their characters, their real personalities occasionally manage to shine through. 

Even though these actors are technically breaking character, that's not always a bad thing. In fact, certain movie scenes are specifically staged to elicit the most natural response. Fully embracing a role has its advantages, but sometimes only the real actor reactions provide the genuine impact a scene needs.

Take a look below at memorable movie moments where actors weren't acting, and vote up the times when an honest reaction made the movie that much better.

  • In one emotional scene in Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon's title character talks about a recent date. While telling his shrink that he doesn't know if he wants to see the girl again, Dr. Maguire (Robin Williams) launches into a story about how his wife used to fart in her sleep. Both Damon and Williams break down into laughter as Williams continues talking about his deceased partner. 

    The memorable moment and turning point in the film was completely improvised by Williams. There was nothing about farting in the script, so Damon's laughing response Williams' story was absolutely authentic.

    Movie magic?
  • Gene Wilder was known for his off-the-wall antics during filming of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Both his tuck-and-roll while first greeting children when they arrive at the factory and his speech during the boat scene were entirely improvised and a complete surprise to the rest of the cast. Although these scenes were surprising, they were all in good fun. At the end of the film, however, Wilder confronts Peter Ostrum's character, Charlie, about swiping Fizzy Lifting Drinks.

    In that scene, Wilder unleashed his fury on Ostrum without any warning. His screaming tirade about his disappointment in Charlie was a complete surprise to the young actor. The shock and fear that shows on Charlie's face was entirely genuine because Wilder's emotions felt so raw and real. Ostrum remarked later that he was just playing himself and that his natural reaction made it easier to pull off the scene.

    Movie magic?
  • In one of the most well-known moments in Pretty Woman, Richard Gere snaps a jewelry box shut on Julia Roberts's fingers. According to director Garry Marshall, the moment was originally intended to be a practical joke

    According to Marshall, Roberts would occasionally show up on set a bit sleepy and out of it. To wake her up, Marshall suggested that Gere snap the soft jewelry box shut on her fingers. When the box shut, Roberts emitted a gasp of surprise followed by a loud laugh. Since she didn't expect the prank, her reaction was completely real.

    Movie magic?
  • The key early turning point in The Usual Suspects involves a police lineup of five well-known crooks. As each character steps forward to give their take on the provided dialogue, they break down into laughter. 

    According to actor Gabriel Byrne, the laughter wasn't initially part of the scene. Byrne explained that the five men filmed it after lunch and all felt rather goofy and giggly. The director yelled at them to get serious and they tried to quell their laughter.

    Unfortunately for the crew, Benicio Del Toro kept farting during the scene, causing fits of laughter in his castmates. Although the director was frustrated at the time, he ultimately decided to keep that take in the movie.

    Movie magic?