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15 Times Movies Took The Actors Completely By Surprise

Updated September 29, 2020 315.1k views15 items

List RulesList includes movies where actors were genuinely surprised by an element of the film - the script, special effects, a prop

Films cost a lot of money to make. With the possible exception of the comedy, most films tend to stick to the script in order to finish production on time. But sometimes a director or an actor doesn’t adhere strictly to the script. For a variety of reasons, they go rogue. Here are 15 movies where actors were surprised.

Most of the time these surprises are a direct result of a director simply wanting to get an honest reaction. Sometimes the best acting is not acting at all but reacting to something that is totally unexpected. For example, Ridley Scott wanted his actors to be truly terrified when an alien suddenly burst out of John Hurt’s chest in the sci-fi movie Alien. Scott did not tell any of the actors except Hurt about his master plan, so the fear and shock we see on their faces in the film is totally authentic.

Unfortunately, Veronica Cartwright was so shocked by the alien that she fainted. There are a few items on this list that feature a director going way over the line in the name of art. Tippi Hedren had to go to the hospital during the filming of The Birds because Hitchcock suddenly decided to use real birds instead of mechanical ones. Three extras died during the filming of Noah’s Ark when director Michael Curtiz failed to tell the actors that gallons of water were going to be poured on them during the film’s climatic flood scene.

Most of the time, the surprise works for the benefit of the film and nobody gets hurt. Check out these actors who were surprised by movies and let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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  • Alien
    Video: YouTube
    What's the most famous scene in the Alien franchise? The scary and grotesque scene where an alien jumps out of John Hurt's chest in the first film is definitely up there. If it was a shock to the audience, imagine what the actors who were in the scene felt. Director Ridley Scott wanted to see true and honest fear from his sci-fi cast, so he opted to only tell John Hurt about what would happen. Yes, the shocked, petrified faces the audience sees in this scene are totally authentic. It was so terrifying that Veronica Cartwright fainted during the scene. 

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  • The Goonies
    Video: YouTube

    The Goonies (1985) director Richard Donner wanted the child actors in the film to be in complete awe when they first set eyes on One-Eyed Willy's. The crew built an actual pirate ship on a sound stage, but the kids were denied access to the set. The ship was called The Inferno and was 105 feet long, taking two and a half months to complete.

    The cast finally saw the ship for the first time during actual filming - meaning their jaw-dropping reactions are 100% genuine. The only issue was that some of the kids were so amazed by the spectacle that they dropped a few curse words. The scene needed to be re-shot a second time without the profanity.

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  • Die Hard
    Photo: 20th Century Fox
    Hans Gruber's (Alan Rickman) iconic fall from the Nakatomi Plaza at the end of Die Hard is certainly one of the most memorable images from the action film. However, there is a story behind Gruber's legendary expression. Rickman agreed to fall 25 feet onto an airbag on the count of three. However, the stunt coordinators felt that they would get a better expression from the British actor if they dropped him on the count of one instead. Their plan worked, and his expression is truly one of total surprise.
  • Good Will Hunting
    Video: YouTube

    Robin Williams may have won an Oscar for his drama chops in Good Will Hunting, but it's his comedic genius that puts him on this list. While Will (Matt Damon) and his therapist Sean (Williams) are chatting one day, Sean decides to tell a story about his deceased wife in order to break the ice with Will. Instead of a bittersweet anecdote about life, Sean tells Will about how his wife used to fart in her sleep. 

    Will responds with laughter, and not because it's written in the scene. In fact, nothing about flatulence was in the script. Williams ad-libbed the story mid-scene. Matt Damon is surprised by the made up story and his laugh is absolutely real. Director Gus Van Sant used the take in the film, and you can even see the camera shake just a little bit, from the camera operator chuckling as well.

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