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14 Movie Moments Where Actors Weren't Acting

Updated August 18, 2020 40.6k votes 6.8k voters 692.4k 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.

  • Toward the end of Die Hard, Alan Rickman's character Hans Gruber falls to his demise from Nakatomi Plaza. In order to evoke real fear on Gruber's face, the film's director played a dirty trick on Rickman. 

    Director John McTiernan told Rickman that he would be dropped on the count of three. However, McTiernan and his crew privately agreed to drop him on one. Since Rickman wasn't expecting the drop so soon, the utter shock and terror on his face was 100% real. Rickman wasn't a huge fan of the trick, but his shocked expression did make it into the final cut, and has gone down as one of its most enduring images.

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  • In The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Andy Stitzer's (Steve Carell) coworkers find out he's never gone "all the way." Shocked by this revelation, they set out on a mission to help him finally lose his virginity. Unfortunately for Stitzer, that journey involves waxing his chest. 

    In order to make the scene more genuine, Carell agreed to have his chest waxed for real. His screams of pain and anguish were authentic, as was the blood on his chest. The lines - i.e. "Kelly Clarkson!" - were improvised on the spot, bursts of physical response and comic impulse firing at the same time. While Carell wanted a true comedic effect for the movie, the chest-waxing may have been more than he bargained for.

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  • Midnight Cowboy was made on an incredibly low-budget. While the final product is impressive, the cast and crew had to cut corners to put the film together with their limited supply of money.

    For the iconic scene in which Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight walk down Sixth Avenue in New York, the film just didn't have the budget to shut down the street and fill it with extras. Instead, the filmmakers decided to film the scene live on the street. The actors had radio mics on and they were filmed with hidden cameras. In order to keep the dialogue running smoothly, they had to try to time their words with the signals on the street.

    While the actors believed they had the timing perfect, a cab tried to run the light during one take, prompting Hoffman to yell, "Hey, I'm walkin' here!" His famous line was a result of of genuine anger and frustration - as well as a bit of fear, since the cab almost ran him and his co-star over.

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  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Viggo Mortensen's character, Aragorn, finds what he believes to be the remains of his Hobbit friends. Sad, upset, and hopeless, Mortensen reacts in anger, kicking a helmet sitting on the ground before letting out a scream of anguish.

    As it turns out, the tormented scream was entirely real. When Mortensen kicked the helmet, he managed to break his toes. His resulting scream of total suffering - and his dramatic fall to the ground - were his genuine reaction. Thankfully, Mortensen's real pain fit perfectly with the emotion of the scene.

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