In Ferris Bueller's Day Off there is a scene where Ferris tickles Sloan (played by Mia Sara). Her laughter is real, because Matthew Broderick and Alan Ruck actually did take off her shoe and tickle her foot.
In the film Tears of the Sun there is a scene where the African refugees start to break down and cry while Bruce Willis leads his team of Navy Seals into a village to stop ethnic cleansing. The reason they are crying is that they are actual African refugees who are flashing back to actual ethnic cleansing they had endured.
An offscreen version, but In Chasing Mavericks Geraurd Butler got caught under several big waves and had to be rescued. The actor credits this experience in helping him play the character, as big wave surfers often are in constant danger of being caught in these waves.
For the scene early on where Idi Amin speaks before the cheering crowd of villagers, the filmmakers didn't have to tell the extras to react that way ... because they all believed that Forrest Whitaker really was Idi Amin.
The director decided to use local Ugandan children as extras for a scene where James McAvoy's character is giving vaccinations. Of course, the director did not tell the children or their parents/other adults with them that the syringes were just props. Many of the children thought they were really going to get shots, so their apprehension and nervousness is completely real.
During filming of The Silence of the Lambs, real-life FBI Agent John Douglas, on whom the character of Jack Crawford was based, played audiotapes for actor Scott Glenn to get an idea of the stress of dealing with serial killers. Those tapes were of real young women being raped, tortured and murdered by serial killers Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris. The tapes were so horrific that Glenn broke down in tears, telling Douglas "I didn't know there were people who could do things like that," and he later said that he could no longer oppose the death penalty (which Douglas has strongly supported). Glenn also refused to sign on to the sequels, so his character was cut completely out of Hannibal and replaced by Harvey Keitel in Red Dragon.
In The Expendables, during the fight between Sylvester Stallone and Steve Austin, in the basement of the castle, Stallone was actually thrown at the support beam and hit it very hard, and was pretty badly hurt by the impact. The reaction from that impact was very real.
The scene where the chestburster erupts from John Hurt's chest at dinner. The actors knew in theory what was about to happen but had not been told any specifics. For example, Veronica Cartwright did not expect to be sprayed with blood; her horrified "Oh, God!" is completely genuine. The blood was also not fake. This is all confirmed on the Collector's Edition release of the DVD. This Guardian article has some of the cast and crew reminiscing about the filming of the scene.
Cartwright really slapped Sigourney Weaver. That wasn't just a sound effect, and Weaver's recoil and look of shock is genuine. According to the actress in the DVD commentary, she was fed up with Sigourney, who at that point had acted only on the stage and so was not used to pretending to get hit, instinctively flinching away from the slap and so, after numerous failed takes, faked the first slap and then properly hit her when she flinched.
Director Ridley Scott placed a veiled cage with a German Shepherd in front of Jones The Cat, and unveiled it when he shouted "Action!!" Hence when The Alien rose up behind Brett like a phallic gargoyle, the menacing hissing of fear from the poor kitty cat was real.
Yaphet Kotto did a lot of improv acting. Scott played along with it, and advised him to antagonize Sigourney Weaver, so their conflict later in the film would be more believable. When Ripley yells at Parker to "SHUT UP!" after Dallas's death, Weaver had already had to listen to Kotto talking over her dialogue dozens of times.
Alien: Resurrection: Winona Ryder nearly drowned when she was a child, and the first scene they shot was the underwater through the canteen scene. She had never been in water since her accident. The looks of anxiety before she goes in, and the utter terror on her face when they can't get out the other end? Yeah, those weren't faked. She had an anxiety attack on her first day of filming.
Prometheus: In the scene where Hammerpede erupts from a corpse's mouth, director Ridley Scott controlled the puppet using wires and made sure that nobody on set told actress Kate Dickie about what was about to happen. As a result, her startled screaming reaction was completely real.
In Billy Madison, the director and Adam Sandler asked the kids in the dodgeball scene for permission to be hit with the ball. They didn't say how hard, however, resulting in several understandable jump cuts.
In American Beauty, Annette Bening is having a breakdown rant at the dinner table that Kevin Spacey is supposed to stop by dropping a plate of asparagus on the floor. After a few unsuccessful takes, he unexpectedly throws it at the wall, violently shattering a real glass plate. Bening and Thora Birch react with genuine shock (although you don't see the expressions on their faces in the shot).
William Friedkin used a lot of first takes for To Live and Die in L.A. in order to get across the most natural reaction from the actors, who were a little more casual for what they thought was a rehearsal take.
Knocked Up: Jay Baruchel is terrified of roller coasters and was initially not going to partake in the roller coaster scenes used for the opening montage. When one of the other actors was running late, director Judd Apatow convinced Baruchel to go on the coaster just once for a take. According to Apatow (and the behind-the-scenes footage), Jay's panicked "IWANNAGETOFF!" that made the final cut of the film is a legitimate Jay Baruchel freak-out and not him being in character.
In An American Werewolf in London, one of the extras in the zoo scene was told that the lead, David Naughton, was going to say a few words to her and move on. She wasn't, however, told that he was going to be completely naked when he did that.
In On the Waterfront during a pivotal scene between Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint, Saint accidentally dropped one of her gloves. Without skipping a beat Brando picked up the glove and started toying with it while doing the scene. The glove added both chemistry and romantic symbolism to the scene. The director has stated that the best directing he ever did was not yelling cut the moment she dropped the glove.
In Medium Cool, a film about—well, shot during the Chicago 1968 riots, directed by Haskell Wexler with actors in the middle of real-life events. When the police started beating in the heads of journalists, it prompted the director to later dub in the voice of a man shouting "Look out, Haskell. It's real!"
Robert Mitchum really slapping Jean Simmons in Angel Face may be a borderline case; supposedly, Otto Preminger ordered it not because Simmons's reaction was inadequate, but because Mitchum couldn't produce a convincing-looking fake slap.
In White Heat, most of the actors in the prison dining hall were not warned that James Cagney's Cody Jarrett was about to go ballistic. Their surprise at him running atop the tables and clocking guards is real. Cagney planned out much of this sequence without explaining it to the director. They were having trouble deciding how to play it out and shoot it, and Jimmy apparently said to just keep the cameras pointed at him.
At the beginning of Apocalypse Now, the character of Willard is in his hotel room drunk. During the filming of the whole scene Francis Ford Coppola was telling Sheen he was a worthless actor and father to keep him crying. (Sheen was drunk while filming the scene, but that's just method acting, not Enforced Method Acting.) In the same scene, Sheen started to bleed profusely after breaking a mirror. Coppola told him to work with it.
While shooting At Close Range in 1986, Sean Penn became aware of Christopher Walken's intense fear of handguns. In the midst of filming the climactic confrontation scene between the two, Penn ran off-set yelling to the prop guy, "Give me the other gun!" Walken was unsure if it was loaded and became extremely nervous. Cameras rolling, Penn threatened Walken with it. That take, complete with the close-up of Walken's fear-filled eyes, ended up in the film. He admits to being quite angry with his co-star to begin with, but then realized "what a favor he had done me" and actually thanked Penn later. The two remain good friends to this day. In fact, two years later, Walken pulled the same stunt on Matthew Broderick while filming the scene in Biloxi Blues where a drunken Sgt. Toumey threatens to blow a tunnel through Eugene's head. One must wonder if Broderick carried on the tradition.
In Thor, there is a scene where Loki (Tom Hiddleston) briefly tries to confess something he's done, but his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) shuts him up with a sort of angrish roar that causes Loki to stumble back, blinking and silenced. According to Hiddleston, the roar was "unscripted genius[...] Terrifying. Magnificent." and his startled shrinking away was not acting.
In The Bad Sleep Well, actor Tatsuya Mihashi was nervous and stumbled over his words during the first take of his character's speech during the opening wedding scene. Akira Kurosawa didn't even bother to film the second take. The nervousness and awkward mistakes in Tatsuo Iwabuchi's wedding toast are all genuine.
Actor Lenny Montana, as Luca Brasi, was so nervous about his scene where he gives his regards to Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) that he stumbled and stuttered over most of his lines. Brando compounded the problem by making funny gestures and having message written on his forehead to unsettle Montana. When Brasi apologizes and asks to start again, that's actually an out-of-character moment that got kept in the final cut. Francis Ford Coppola liked the scene as it was and added an earlier scene with Brasi nervously practicing his lines to make his awkwardness more natural.
Also, when filming the severed horse head scene, they used a realistic prop head for the filming. After a few takes, they replaced the prop with a real horse head without the actor knowing. His reaction was completely genuine.
In Don Corleone's death scene, Marlon Brando improvised and placed an orange peel in his mouth. The young actor playing Corleone's grandson didn't expect this, and his reaction is genuine – the kid really was scared.
In The Godfather Part II, director Francis Ford Coppola played a trick on the actor who played Signor Roberto by making it so the door to Vito Corleone's office wouldn't open. Signor Roberto's frantic babbling of "I wish I could stay!" and so on as he jiggles the door handle was all completely ad-libbed.
In Bad Boys 2, when Dennis Greene, who played Reggie, showed up for shooting, he was told by Martin Lawrence's bouncer that he mustn't look into Lawrence's eyes or talk to him, and Lawrence himself was subsequently nasty to him. It was all a ploy arranged by Michael Bay, who wanted the boy to be genuinely scared of Lawrence. Greene also wasn't told about the gun that he would be threatened with by Will Smith.
According to a long-standing but unconfirmed Hollywood legend, during the shooting of the 1959 remake of Ben Hur, scriptwriter Gore Vidal and director William Wyler convinced Stephen Boyd to play the role of Messala as if he and Judah were estranged lovers, without informing Charlton Heston of this—the "enforced" aspect was entirely on Heston's part. This is corroborated by Gore Vidal in the documentary film The Celluloid Closet.
In the movie Date Night, during the Erotic dance scene, in order to make the actors feel as awkward as the characters would, he shouted obscure things at the actors. On a side note, most of the lines from the two main characters were improvised on the spot.
In a scene where the main actors are sleeping in a tent at night, the tent suddenly shakes violently and they all get scared. This was unscripted and the director shook the tent; they were really scared.
The crackling sounds in the woods heard through the film were made by the director and friends walking up to the camp's perimeter, breaking sticks, and then tossing them in various directions.
To promote discord between actors, the directors deliberately gave them less food each day of shooting. As one of their messages to the cast read: "Your safety is our concern. Your comfort is not."
In Boyz n the Hood, director John Singleton didn't tell the cast when shots would be fired, to ensure that the actors' reactions to the sound of gunfire would feel authentic.
Georgie Henley and Skandar Keynes, the actors playing Lucy and Edmund, had never seen the snowbound set until they walked onto it on camera. Their awe-struck reactions were authentic.
Similarly, Georgie Henley had never seen James McAvoy in his Mr. Tumnus costume before shooting their scenes together.
In a more subtle example, director Andrew Adamson shot the film in primarily chronological order. He did this in order to naturally create a sense of mature development from his young actors, which mirrored their real-life development.
Before and between takes during the scene in which Edmund meets the White Witch, Tilda Swinton flirted with Skandar Keynes (roughly thirteen years old at the time) so that there would be a genuine undertone of discomfort in his performance.
When they were first cast, Georgie Henley and James McAvoy were encouraged to spend a lot of time hanging out to build their friendship. Further into the shoot they were abruptly separated and purposefully kept away from one another so Georgie's tears at seeing his statue depicting him in anguish (and their subsequent reunion) would seem more genuine.
Director Michael Cimino convinced Christopher Walken to actually spit in Robert de Niro's face. De Niro was completely surprised by it, as evidenced by his reaction.
The slapping in the Russian roulette scenes was real as well and genuinely heightened the actors' tension.
Attempted in The Descent. The crawlers were kept hidden from the cast until The Reveal and the actresses were given the sole instruction to stay in the same place for the shot. When it appeared, everyone got such a fright they went running to the other side of the set. At least the effort wasn't a complete waste, they did say that it shook them up pretty bad for the next take...
In the climactic scene of Die Hard where Hans Gruber falls out the building. Alan Rickman was suspended over 40 feet in the air and told that he was going to be let go on a count of 3 where he would safely land on the safety mat...except they dropped him on 2, and the look of panic on his face is definitely not acted; one is not surprised to learn that he was extremely angry with the director after that day's shooting was over.
In El Norte, during the scene in which Rosa is bitten by rats, the panic is real due to the actress' real fear of rats.
In The Elephant Man, John Hurt in playing the title role needed to wear extensive prosthetics. They were extremely heavy, about twenty pounds of weight glued to his head and shoulders. When he tried to lie down and sleep a few hours before going on-set the first time the makeup was applied... Suffice it to say that he was found in the morning sleeping sitting up, in the same manner Merrick was known to.
In Far And Away, one scene has Nicole Kidman peeking under a bowl covering Tom Cruise's genitals. For the first few takes, she didn't look surprised enough, so director Ron Howard had Cruise take off his underwear without Kidman's knowledge.
The kids weren't allowed to see the pirate ship until the filming of the scene in which they see it for the first time. Unfortunately, the first take wasn't used, as several of the cast blurted out an unscripted "Holy shit!"
Jeff Cohen, who played Chunk, was told that the scene where Sloth picks his chair-tied self up would cut before the actual lift occurred; it obviously didn't, and John Matuszak straight-out picked him up easily, leading to the kid's wails and cry of, "You smell like phys. ed.!"
D.O.A. used this. That long sequence where Frank is running through the streets? None of that was planned. They just sat the camera on the back of a car and had the actor run through the streets. Those times where he nearly gets hit by a car and a bus, the actor really could have been hit by a car or a bus. It really adds to how frantic he is.
The scene in Rocky where he runs around Philadelphia was shot on the fly. People are staring at him because they were wondering who that guy jogging was.
In the movie M*A*S*H, director Robert Altman had trouble shooting the scene in which Hot Lips is exposed in the shower when the tent flap is pulled up. On the first take, actress Sally Kellerman knew what was coming and was already lying on the ground during the reveal. For the second take, Altman and Gary Burghoff came onto the set and dropped their trousers in front of her off-camera to keep her distracted until the actual reveal.
At the ebdm the director told the young main actor that they'd killed the kestrel he'd been filming alongside in order to get a convincing performance out of him. In actual fact, they'd got another dead bird from a sanctuary before filming.
The scene where a boy, who is mistakenly thought to have been smoking, is caned across the hand. The caning is real, and the camera, lingering for a long time on the child actor's face, positively soaks up his bemusement.
In Memoirs of a Geisha, according to the director's commentary, in the scene in which Mameha (played by Michelle Yeoh) admonishes Sayuri (played by Ziyi Zhang) for her lack of caution which led to her assault at the hands of the Baron shortly before her virginity is to be auctioned off, Zhang was not told beforehand that Mameha, her character's mentor and one of her only friends, would quickly exit after hissing her final line: "...if you are found to be worthless..." as a vicious threat, leaving Zhang to deliver Sayuri's lines, to declare "I am not worthless. I am not worthless!" to only herself, with no one to hear her. Zhang/Sayuri broke down at this, quite nicely.
Child actor Jackie Cooper was goaded into crying for a scene by a director who threatened to shoot his dog. Cooper was so traumatized by the memory of that event that when he later wrote his autobiography, he entitled it, Please Don't Shoot My Dog.
In The Kid, Jackie Coogan was told he would be sold to an actual workhouse if he did not cry convincingly in the scene where the little boy is taken away from the Tramp. Needless to say, it worked.
While filming Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back, Mark Hamill was only told Darth Vader was Luke's father a few minutes before the scene was filmed. David Prowse, who was playing the physical half of the Darth Vader part, wasn't told at all. In order to make sure that no one on the crew would leak the surprise, Prowse was given the line, "No, Obi-Wan killed your father!" (This pissed him off once he saw the actual film, as he believed that his body language would've been entirely different if he knew what the actual line was.)
In Straw Dogs, to get the perfect "shocked reaction" from the villagers when Dustin Hoffman's character walks into the pub, director Sam Peckinpah had him walk in without any trousers on. It worked. If you watch the reaction shot of the town drunk, his eyes go wide and immediately drop down, apparently to stare at Hoffman's naked lower body off camera. The next shot starts at Hoffman's shoes and pans up to justify the eye motion.
None of the cast, child or adult, was allowed to see or even know about the "candy gardens" room until the filming—the wonder and amazement on their faces at the moment the door opens is genuine.
In the documentary on the same disc, Gene Wilder admits he did not tell Peter Ostrum just how furious he would be when he declared Charlie had violated the contract by stealing Fizzy Lifting Drinks earlier in the movie and thus wouldn't win the lifetime supply of chocolate. Since it was key that Charlie be shocked, Wilder didn't unleash the character's rage until the cameras rolled in order to get the most natural reaction possible.
Similarly, the scene when the Oompa Loompas walk out for the first time was unscripted; all the reactions that the actors have to them are real.
And Gene Wilder's raving on the boat came as a complete shock to the actors aboard, who all genuinely thought that Wilder was going insane.
Paris Themmen (aka Mike TeaVee) mentioned in theDVD Commentary that the reason for his Motor Mouth delivery of his explanation to Wonka about "Wonkavision" sounding so "nasty and pissy" was that the director had deliberately pestered Paris to speak the lines louder, faster, nastier, clearer, etc. until in frustration he delivered the lines with the "visceral reaction" the director wanted out of him.
In the second film, all the actors were told that The Reveal at the end was that of Anamaria, a minor character from the first film. The looks of shock as Barbossa appears are genuine.
Also done when Elizabeth kisses Jack near the end of the same film. Orlando Bloom wasn't told that that would happen, so Will's expression upon seeing the two kiss was genuine as well.
Not to mention the crew's collective looks of confusion at Jack's "Jar of Dirt" song.
The actors were also not told until the moment that the bone cages would actually be swinging.
The documentary The Fear of God: The Making of The Exorcist revealed some of the shocking enforced method acting used by director Friedkin in The Exorcist. He refrigerated the room to make Max von Sydow and Jason Miller shiver convincingly. He assured the actresses that they would be treated gently when hooked up to wires, and then yanked them around so violently that he caused them minor injuries. Firearms would be discharged between takes every once in a while to keep everyone jittery. Jason Miller was not told that he was going to be sprayed in the face during the vomiting scene. And when the actor playing Father Dyer wasn't getting the final scene, where he administers the last rites to Father Karras, just right, Friedkin took him aside, slapped him hard across the face, and then resumed shooting. In the documentary, O'Malley testifies that his shaking hands during that scene are due to fear of Friedkin.
In The Exorcist 2: The Heretic, when Regan is about to walk off the edge of a building, there were no safety measures in place. One wrong step and she would have plummeted.
One scene had Shia LaBeouf's character clinging to the side of a building while above him are the spinning blades of a helicopter with explosions all around him. As admitted by the actor, the fear he expresses is genuine as the copter was real.
When Scorponok attacks the soldiers in the desert the actors were told to run and not to stop no matter what. That was because Scorponok's "tracks" were being made by detonating buried strands of primacord (basically rope with explosive materials in it). So the panic in that scene is quite genuine.
And when Sam's on the hood of a car, and Barricade slams it, demanding to know where the glasses are? One of the first pieces of movie-related video released to the Internet was a clip of that scene being filmed, complete with Shia LaBeouf screaming afterward that they didn't tell him the car was going to jump up.
The very large explosion during Revenge of the Fallen's desert battle climax where all the actors and actual service personnel are running away? That was real panic on their faces. And they had only one take.
When Wolverine first confronts Magneto, the initial look of shock at Magneto's entrance was a result of Hugh Jackman's fear of what was happening around him. He was told Magneto would tear open the train car; he thought this meant ripping off the door, not half of the train being literally pulled apart by hydraulics. He mentioned having to study that shot when doing the reaction shots so he could reproduce all the various twitches and tics he went through.
When Sabertooth throws Wolverine off the Statue of Liberty, the next scene is Wolvie slamming his claws into the side of the torch to stop falling. In an interview with Wizard, Jackman says the harness slipped and pinched him in a very uncomfortable place, as a result his screams of rage are actually genuine screams of pain.
In ET The Extra Terrestrial, director Steven Spielberg didn't allow the child actors to see the E.T. puppet until their scenes were filmed. Thus, their screams are genuine. Additionally, the scenes were filmed chronologically, so that by the end, their tears during E.T.'s departure were part of a sincere sadness that the shooting was over.
When Cary Guffey's three-year-old character, Barry, is supposed to be reacting to aliens, Spielberg had two crew members in a clown and gorilla suit appear suddenly and then remove their masks. The boy is at first afraid, then smiles.
And when he is abducted later, Melinda Dillon was not told the extent of the special effects that would be going off around the house, making her panic authentic. In particular, when he looks into the sky and says "toys" (presumably in reference to the alien spaceships), Spielberg had gotten onto a ladder with a large box and opened it up to reveal actual toys.
When Barry is pulled from his mother's grasp through the pet door by the aliens he wants to be with, Guffey's real mother was the unseen "alien" pulling from the other side.
When Spielberg told Guffey to say goodbye to the aliens "like your friends are going away forever", The four-year-old actor misunderstood and thought Spielberg was saying that his real life friends (there were other children on the set) were going away forever. Those tears are real.
In Jurassic Park's scene with the kids in the car, the glass wasn't supposed to break. Those screams were for real.
The commentary track to Jurassic Park III, after describing the machines used in one scene added, "So when the actors look frightened, they're not acting." They were conditioned to react to dinosaurs realistically via someone shoving a dino head on a stick in their face and going "grr" just so they'd be more scared when they actually used real models.
During the scene where the T-rex is pressing its snout against the the pane of glass with the children underneath. The robotic t-rex was being controlled by a puppeteer with a scale model rather than a programmed set of movements. The puppeteer was given plastic stops to tell him how far he could go with the robot before he crushed the actors; needless to say, the pressure being put on both actors was very real.
During the filming of a basic training scene in the movie Stripes, director Ivan Reitman quietly told the actors to pull Warren Oates, who played their drill sergeant Sgt. Hulka, down into the mud with them—when they did so, Oates chipped a tooth. Oates subsequently berated Reitman in front of everyone, shouting, "If you want to push me into the mud I'll get pushed into the mud, but don't pull that kind of shit again!" After that, Ivan Reitman has never attempted to use Enforced Method Acting in any of his films.
In Vera Drake, the director and the actress playing the title role managed to keep the character's big secret from the actors playing her family until the scene where they find out, to get genuine reactions out of them.
Mike Leigh used a similar technique in Secrets & Lies where the actors learn the other characters' secrets in time with the audience.
In The Celebration, Thomas Vinterburg kept the awful revelation during the speech a secret. The shocked reaction of the crowd, who had become quite in-character by that point and saw their host as a cordial, lovable gentleman, was very real.
All of the actors except Tim Curry were left in the dark of the fact that Eddie's corpse was under the tablecloth. Patricia Quinn's hysterical laughter in that scene, and Richard O'Brien subsequently yelling at her to shut up, were also genuine reactions.
Also in the dinner scene, when Susan Sarandon jumps a mile when her fiancé slams his hand on the table—real. He accidentally slammed his fist down on top of her fingers. If you keep an eye on her you can see her mouth 'Ow' and subtly rub her hand as she moves it under the table.
Janet knees Frankenfurter in the groin. Apparently Sarandon wasn't a big fan of Curry's off-set behaviour. She does it again in the swimming pool (watch Frank's face as Janet sings "God bless Lili St. Cyr!"), but that time it really doesn't have anything to do with what's going on.
In Garry Marshall's 1991 film Frankie and Johnny, Marshall wanted Al Pacino to show a genuine amount of surprise when opening a door at a key point in the movie. To get authentic emotion from Pacino, Marshall arranged for William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (who were shooting the sixth Star Trek movie nearby) to make an appearance on the other side of the door just off camera in full costume as Kirk and Spock!
In Monty Python's Life of Brian: The extras who play guards in the "Biggus Dickus" scene were told to stand stock still and look serious, and that if they so much as giggled they would be fired. You can see them genuinely straining not to laugh when Michael Palin gets into his bit. Seriously, you try to watch the scene with a straight face. Another highlight is the Oh, Crap look on the guards' faces when he says, "He has a wife, you know..." The wife's name was improvised with each take, so the extras didn't know what Palin might say next...
In the "burn the witch" scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail when John Cleese held his pause for an extremely long time (far longer than in the rehearsals), Eric Idle had to bite on his prop scythe to stop himself from laughing.
In Monty Python's Meaning of Life, many of the extras in the famous Mr. Creosote scene had no idea what was going to happen, and their disgusted reactions to the scene are genuine. In an interview, Carol Cleveland revealed that her line about bleeding all over her seat was met with particular revulsion—one of the extras screamed "Who the fuckwrotethis?!"
In Star Trek: Nemesis, in the scene where Riker is fighting the Reman Dragon on a catwalk that suddenly collapses beneath them, Riker's panicked cry is for real because they didn't tell the actor ahead of time.
Nicholas Meyer apparently discovered this was the best way to get a real performance out of William Shatner, and pulled this on him multiple times.
In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in the scene where Kirk first confronts Khan, Kirk says "Here it comes" to Khan before transmitting what is supposed to be classified data but is actually a signal to make Khan's ship drop its shields. William Shatner kept delivering the line in his usual acting style, making it too clear that Kirk was tricking Khan, so director Nicholas Meyer had Shatner do the scene multiple times until he was tired enough to do a more appropriately subdued take.
Star Trek VI has this remarkably cold-blooded exchange, regarding peace with the Klingon empire.
Spock: Jim, there is a historic opportunity here.
Kirk: Don't believe them. Don't trust them.
Spock: They're dying.
Kirk:Let them die!
According to William Shatner's Star Trek Movie Memories, this wasn't how he had intended the line to come off. The unedited shot includes Kirk physically recoiling, to provide the impression Kirk had regretted saying something so bloodthirsty. Meyer promised Shatner he'd use the full shot. He lied.
Shatner also often retells the story an early movie he did where he had to do a scene atop a moving train. To allay his apprehension about the safety of this, the director told him he'd have the train run at ten miles an hour. But only after finishing the scene did Shatner learn that, during the course of the take, the director had had the train slowly rev up to forty miles an hour so the scene would be more realistic.
In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the camera was hidden for the scene where Chekov and Uhura stand on a street corner and ask "Where are the nuclear wessels?" Those are real pedestrians, not extras, interacting (or not) with Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols. When one unexpectedly stopped and gave directions, a staffer had to chase after her with a release form.
In the German movie Das Boot, one of the actors (Jan Fedder) fell off the bridge of the submarine set. One of the other actors shouted "man overboard" and the director remarked that it was a good idea and they should run it one more time with the fall as part of the plan, not realizing that Fedder had broken several ribs and had to be hospitalized.
When he made the film version of Rebecca, the story called for Joan Fontaine to be nervous around the other actors. To achieve this, Hitchcock told her that no one else on set liked her. (Which was true in Laurence Olivier's case; he had wanted his bride-to-be, Vivien Leigh, for the female lead and was not pleased when Fontaine was cast instead.)
The climax of The Birds was filmed with five days' worth of live birds thrown at actress Tippi Hedren, instead of the mechanical birds she had been promised. The blood from the birds hitting her and the terror she expresses was genuine, and she was ordered a week's rest after breaking down crying onset, when she reported "nightmares filled with flapping wings".
In Rear Window, one elaborate set involved the outside of a bunch of buildings, and one scene where a man and a woman on the "back porch" were supposed to go back inside through one of two windows, carrying the mattress they had out back in, when it started to rain. Hitchcock told them to go into different windows, so when the scene came, their confusion was real, but it made for a very convincing portrayal of people surprised by the rain and trying to get back inside in a hurry.
Guides at the Universal Studios tour tell the story that when shooting the shower scene in Psycho, Hitchcock switched off the hot water and made it ice-cold, ensuring that Janet Leigh's screams would be real. Leigh, however, has denied this.
In Dracula: Dead and Loving It, when Lucy Westenra is staked after becoming a vampire, "Harker" actor Steven Weber wasn't told the massive amount of stage blood that would come from the dummy. In the movie, he's clearly struggling not to laugh as he delivers his lines. The line "She's dead enough" was reportedly ad-libbed by Weber on the spot.
In the scene from the movie Shine where concert pianist David Helfgott (played by Geoffrey Rush) was jumping on a trampoline naked except for an open trenchcoat, Lynn Redgrave's shocked and amused reaction was genuine because at the last minute, Rush covered his privates with a bouquet of plastic flowers.
When directing Shirley Temple, ruthless Western director John Ford needed her to cry. So he asked the stage manager to inform her that her dog had been killed by a car, right before flipping on the cameras. What is captured on film is one of the best moments of Miss Temple's career.
John Woo reveals on the commentary track of Hard Boiled that, in the scene where Tequila outruns an explosion and leaps out a window holding a baby, Chow Yun-Fat was not given any warning before the pyrotechnic charges were set off behind him.
The scene where James Bond is in a pool with sharks in Thunderball was meant to be filmed with the sharks in a plexiglass tunnel. When it turned out not enough glass was available and there would be a hole in the tunnel, the filmmakers elected not to tell Sean Connery, as he was terrified of the sharks and they knew they would never be able to get him in the pool if he was aware of the problem. Hence the terrified look on his face when the shark comes after him, and then his practically doing a vertical leap out of the water.
In Tomorrow Never Dies, in the Saigon scene where Bond and Lin steal a motorcycle, the director instructed each of the actors separately that they would be driving the bike, resulting in the desired scuffle over who would sit in front.
During the boat chase on the Thames at the beginning of The World Is Not Enough, two traffic cops writing a ticket and attaching a parking clamp to a car at the riverside get a lot of water splashed onto them when Bond slams his boat round a corner. Apparently the actors were told they would get a bit wet and the rest of the crew was worried to get the scene right the first time, because the reaction just wouldn't be the same in the second take. What a lot of people tend not to realize nowadays (or are from non-British audiences) is that this was actually an Easter Egg. The two men involved were the stars of a BBC documentary series that was showing at the time named Clampersthat followed a team of London wheel clampers - and they had garnered quite a hate following for their relentless enthusiasm at making drivers lives a misery. Needless to say that whoever was piloting that boat may have derived a certain amount of pleasure from it.
When James Bond electrocutes the Mook by dropping the fan in the bathtub right at the start of the film, the special effects included high-pressure steam jets, which scalded the leg of the actor, unable to escape due to the way the cable of the fan had wrapped itself around his leg. The look of pain was real.
When Oddjob knocks Bond to the floor by smashing the back of his neck, Bond is thrown sideways, contorted in pain. Being an athlete and not an actor, the blow was genuine, as the actor playing Oddjob hadn't yet mastered the art of pulling blows. Apparently, Sean Connery was quite badly hurt.
When Bond electrocutes Oddjob on the bars of the gold depository, Oddjob was getting badly burned by the spark effects, which were wilder than initially planned by the special effects department. The look of pain on his face and concern on Bond's face were real.
The laser scene. The scene was shot with special effects technicians crouched under the table, burning through it with a blowtorch. There was a mark to show where they needed to stop burning. They didn't. Sean Connery's distress is extremely obvious and he was apparently furious once filming was over.
In the scene where Major Amasova couldn't drive stick, Barbara Bach, Anya's actress, actually couldn't drive stick: Moore's snarky responses were unscripted!
Roger Moore decided last minute it would be much more dramatic if he was sitting in the chair instead standing behind it when the gun underneath the dining table was fired. The special effects team had only reinforced the back of the chair for the original planned shot, which meant Moore risked serious injury if he didn't leap away in time.
According to production designer Ken Adam, that was a look of real panic on Barbara Bach's face in the scene where the tunnels of Atlantis are flooding because she didn't expect such a powerful deluge of water.
In Dr. No, Sean Connery's reaction to the tarantula crawling over him is entirely genuine, as he hates spiders, even though it didn't actually touch him (he was beneath a sheet of glass, and the shot of it crawling up his leg used a body double).
During the filming of the scene where Alex (the young fireman) falls from the stairs, not a single actor knew that was going to happen, so the reactions we see on the films were the real reactions of the actors themselves.
They didn't know that Jennifer (the little girl) was going to be infected either, they thought she really was just sick.
Manu didn't act as if he hurt his ankle, that actually happened during the filming, and he didn't stop.
The young actors playing Michael and Jane weren't told that it was Dick Van Dyke playing the elderly Mr. Dawes. In an interview included on the Mary Poppins DVD release, Karen Dotrice said that she didn't find out until seeing the credits of the finished movie in the theater.
Also, in the scene where the children are to take their medicine, a bottle with several internal compartments is used to dispense several colors of elixir. The children were not informed of this, so when Jane shrieks in shock at the changing color, it's real.
Roman Holiday features a moment where Gregory Peck's character pretends his hand has been bitten off by a statue. Peck didn't tell co-star Audrey Hepburn beforehand and her reaction is genuine.
From an article on the making of the film The Journals of Knud Rasmussen: "The way (filmmakers Norman) Cohn and (Zacharias) Kunuk work, the scene starts, everyone gets into character and the camera rolls. It was a challenge for the Danes, (producer Elise) Lund Larsen says. She mentions a scene of a party, when Kunuk unexpectedly pointed the camera at (actor Jakob) Cedergren and urged him to drum dance. That's not in the script. The point is to get a reaction that matches how Mathiassen must have felt. "
When filming his adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining, he verbally abused Shelley Duvall and notoriously made her do numerous takes of a single scene in order to render her performance as Jack Torrance's meek and increasingly terrified and hysterical wife Wendy more compelling. He similarly made Scatman Crothers do hundreds of takes of scenes until eventually Crothers broke down crying and yelled "What do you want from me, Mr. Kubrick?" As Crothers's character has comparatively little screen time this might be less an example of this trope and more of Kubrick just being his usual Prima Donna Director self.
Also, as the film's making of explains, Jack Nicholson's Ax-Crazy performance is partially influenced by the infinite reshoots, given how after 20 takes an actor gets tired and reallyhams up.
He wanted a "cowboy" actor to pilot the Leper Colony nuclear bomber, but all the ones he contacted refused because of the anti-war source material. So he finally decided to contact Slim Pickens, show him nothing but his parts, and never told him he was making a comedy, implying that his character was the hero of the film, "heroically" delivering the bomb that ends the world. Pickens was okay with it in the long run, spinning the publicity into a highly successful career.
A mild case took place during the filming of The Sound of Music: the reconciliation scene between the children and Captain Von Trapp was filmed last, ensuring that the tears were genuine. One story has it that Christopher Plummer deliberately enhanced the effect by deliberately distancing himself from the actors playing the children so they all thought he didn't like them. But then, he somewhat infamously didn't like them. He even insisted a stand in be brought in when he carries one of the children on his back because the real actress was "too fat".
When the kids fall out of the paddle boat and the oldest daughter drags the youngest to the surface by her collar, she had to do that because the youngest kid couldn't swim.
In order to get the appropriate fear reaction from Drew Barrymore, director Wes Craven reminded her of a story she had read about a man who got rid of a litter of unwanted puppies by lighting them on fire.
In the scene where Sidney dresses up in the Ghostface costume and stabs Billy with an umbrella, the stunt woman in the costume couldn't see very well and ended up stabbing the actor who played Billy in the chest - right where he had a wire from heart surgery. The screams of pain from him are real.
In Scream 3, Scott Foley (Roman) is really screaming from being struck with an ice pick as Neve Campbell (Sidney) missed the protective pad.
Frankie Laine was not informed that the film was a comedy, so he sang the theme song straight, which makes it even funnier. According toMel Brooks, Mel was looking for a Frankie sound-a-like, and when the genuine article came in, he just didn't have the heart to tell the guy that it was a parody movie after hearing his effort.
Another enforced method acting moment was when Cleavon Little can't keep a straight face after Gene Wilder delivered the "You know... morons" line. Little was not told about the line in advance.
As early as the first Terminator crew members wore T-Shirts emblazoned with "You can't scare me. I work for James Cameron."
While filming The Abyss, Cameron kept the cameras rolling after Ed Harris had run out of oxygen, capturing the actor's real panic. When he got out of the tank, Harris went up to Cameron and punched him. Harris has said he would never work with Cameron again. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was forced to go through the resuscitation scene so many times she got angry and stormed off the set at one point. The casts nervous laughing at her revival was genuine as a result of dealing with the stress.
Linda Hamilton tried to get the orderly to really hit her during one scene, but he refused, which meant numerous retakes of one scene in which Hamilton had to fall hard onto her knees. In revenge, when she hits him in the face with a broomstick, she really hits him. The look of pain on his face as he crumples to the floor is very real.
In Titanic the water was much colder than any of the actors expected it to be, causing genuine reactions.
In the Adam Sandler remake Mr. Deeds, there is a scene where Sandler invites John Turturro's character to hit his foot with a fireplace poker to prove he has no feeling in it. While Sandler doesn't even shrug at the first two strikes, at the third Deeds screams in pain before revealing he was joking to get a rise out of the butler. As you might have guessed, the scream wasn't in the script, Sandler and the director threw it in at the last minute to get an amusing reaction out of John Turturro. The end of the movie involves Sandler using that foot to save Winona Ryder from drowning. See the entry for Alien: Resurrection above to see why this is significant.
In his memoir Lucky Man, Michael J. Fox recounts that while filming the scene where Marty is lynched in Back to the Future Part 3, he actually didn't get his hand in the right place on one take and actually blacked out. The director soon realized that the swinging was too realistic.
Marty's gasp in part 2 when Biff kicks him in the gut is real. Robert Zemeckis is apparently big on real reactions, and runs the mantra "Pain is temporary, film is forever" with his actors.
A Hilarious Outtakes version happened during the first film. In one take of the scene where Marty drinks Lorraine's liquor, there was actual liquor in the bottle, which made him do a real Spit Take.
In Empire of the Sun, there was a scene where a maid smacks Christian Bale's character across the face. They had practiced the scene with a fake slap, but Steven Spielberg told the actress playing the maid to really slap him for the real take. Christian Bale's shocked reaction was completely real.
In the scene in Withnail and I where Withnail drinks lighter fluid, the liquid in the bottle was vinegar, not water as previously rehearsed. The look on Richard E. Grant's face is completely unfeigned.
Between takes in The King Of Comedy, Robert De Niro made antisemitic comments around Jerry Lewis in order to make Lewis's anger toward DeNiro's character more real.
In The Thomas Crown Affair, the 1999 remake, the director told Pierce Brosnan to keep kissing Rene Russo even though she was pulling away, during a kissing scene near the end of the film. Rene was not told of this, so during the scene, she was really trying to stop the kiss.
In the comedy Run, Fat Boy, Run!, director David Schwimmer said that in the scene where Simon Pegg and Hank Azaria are talking in the locker room, Simon's shocked reaction to Hank dropping his towel was very real. Apparently, Hank was supposed to wear a modesty patch over his genitals, but it didn't fit, so he did the scene without it.
In the 2009 remake, actress Riki Lindhome has a brief topless scene near the beginning when the girls first see her character, as she quickly changes shirts ripping off her old one in plain view. Sara Paxton was not informed that this would happen, causing her shock to be more genuine.
On the original movie's special edition DVD actors commentary track, the actors playing Krug and Weasel boast about how they terrorised the actresses playing Mari and Phyllis, right down to hinting during the filming of the rape scene that they'd go ahead and actually commit the act if they didn't think the actresses' performances were convincing enough. They seem to think this is awesome.
The first punch in the first fight between Edward Norton and Brad Pitt was supposed to be awkward as neither character had fought before. It was agreed beforehand that Norton would punch Pitt in the shoulder, but the director changed it at the last minute. Brad was not informed.
Tyler Durden: Ow! Christ, why the ear, man?!
Helena Bonham-Carter is British and didn't know what Marla's "I haven't been fucked like that since grade school" line meant, since England has a different education system. When she found out that grade school was the American equivalent of primary school, she was not happy.
For the film When Harry Met Sally, director Rob Reiner often encouraged Billy Crystal to improvise his dialogue to evoke more realistic reactions from Meg Ryan. The most noticeable example is in the famous "too much pepper in my paprikash" scene. At one point, while trying to figure out what Harry is saying, Sally laughs and looks away. This was Ryan looking to Reiner for some idea of what to do, but Reiner decided to keep it because it makes her character more endearing and lovable (at the exact moment in the film when the characters' love relationships starts).
Akira Kurosawa did this in Throne of Blood, in the climactic sequence where his Macbeth analogue is being fired upon by dozens of archers. The arrows that actually hit Lord Washizu, or miss narrowly, were pulled by strings behind the walls; the ones that miss by a larger margin were actually shot at him by expert marksmen on the set. Needless to say, Toshiro Mifune's display of blind terror is not entirely acted.
Using expert marksmen was standard practice in Japanese cinema at the time. If the character was supposed to be struck by the arrow, the actor wore a wooden block under his costume and prayed really hard that the archer was having a good day.
When filming the pie fights featured in several The Three Stooges shorts, directors such as Jules White would avoid anticipation or flinching with misleading timing; e.g., telling an actor they would be hit with a pie on the count of three, while secretly instructing the person hurling the pastry to throw it on two.
In the film Tora! Tora! Tora!, a radio-controlled aircraft was supposed to roll down the runway past a bunch of extras, and then blow up. It went out of control and swerved toward the extras, who then really did start running for their lives. They are wire-controlled replicas of P-40 fighters, but with real Allison engines in them. Both takes are seen in the finished movie. One where the plane runs into a row of parked planes, and the other that explodes and spins to a halt in the middle of the runway.
During the fascist dream sequence in Pink Floyd's The Wall, actual neo-Nazis were employed as extras. Thus the intensity and brutality shown is as real as it can get.
At one point, the character Pink phones his wife, knowing she's with another man. The phone call? Real. The operator's confused reaction ("There's a man answering...") is genuine. They had to do the call several times before they found one who realized what the situation was. The exact same phone call was originally featured on the album of the same name (See under Music.)
In the scene where Pink trashes his hotel room, the actress playing the groupie had just been told to watch him. She got genuinely shocked when he started throwing things at her.
Tommy Lee Jones hated the script to the first Men In Black movie so much, he re-wrote all of his own lines. Of course, he didn't tell Will Smith of any of his changes, so Smith had to constantly ad-lib to keep up.
In Fellowship of the Ring Billy Boyd was not aware that Gandalf's firework actually was going to flare. Pippin's scream is real. He admitted in the film's commentary that he got so freaked out by the firework that he peed his pants. Dominic Monaghan actually called him 'Pissylegs' for the rest of the production because of it.
When Merry is given the orc brew in The Two Towers they used all sorts of ill-matched ingredients for the brew and since Merry is unconscious when it's given to him it was more or less forced down the actor's throat. Apparently it made him actually vomit in a few takes (like the one used in the film).
Also, while filming the scene where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are examining the pyre of Uruk-hai bodies, believing Merry and Pippin has been burned along with them, Aragorn kicks a helmet lying on the ground and screams in anguish over his hobbits friends most likely being dead. The intensity of the scream was due to Viggo Mortensen (who played Aragorn) breaking two toes when he performed the kick, but Peter Jackson liked the shot so much that it was left in the movie.
There was something of a rivalry between the extras playing Elves and the extras playing Uruk-hai. The Uruks coined the nickname "cupcakes" for their Elven counterparts. This apparently started because the Elven extras (who were largely local college students) weren't getting into character as soldiers, so the Uruk-hai decided to start taunting, jeering, and otherwise acting like actual members of an opposing army. This got the Elven actors riled up enough to be in character.
David Wenham mentions on the commentary for the third film that his horse often refused to cooperate, and after a while he found out it had been bought for $200. He ponders that this might have been done on purpose - give Faramir the lousiest horse, no oneloves him anyway.
Lee Pace spent twelve weeks in a wheelchair pretending to be unable to walk while filming so the child actor he was working with would deliver a more realistic performance. An extra on the DVD shows the moment where he and the director admitted to the crew that he could actually walk and got up out of his wheel chair. Also, most of the girl's lines were only loosely scripted and she adlibbed most of her lines in reaction to what was happening in the scene, and everyone referred to Pace by the name of his character, Roy.
The scene when five year old Alexandria, hysterical already, comes to find that Roy is alive after he attempts suicide with what he thinks are morphine pills Lee Pace was frustrated by the number of takes it had taken to get the scene, Tarsem's insistence on repeated takes and the actress' inability to get her physical movements quite right. Tarsem had infamously been calling CUT right before Roy was supposed to react to waking up meaning Pace had by the 30+ take built up quite a lot of tension. When Tarsem finally let the scene continue after Alexandria draws the curtain back, Lee unleashed Teh Rage and lost his f** ing mind, screaming hysterically (in character). The child actress was totally terrified and genuinely wet herself in fear. Tarsem, in the commentary described her as being like a giraffe; when scared she goes very still and pees. He also cast her after meeting her, at which point she barely spoke a word of English and telling a fellow crew member 'We have to make this film now, in six months she'll be a different person' All the hospital scenes were shot in sequence so that Alexandria's grasp of English developed naturally, taking her from one or two confused words a scene to complete English language conversations with Pace.
Also, in the scene depicting the finale, where Roy tries to kill off the hero of the fairytale he has been telling Alexandria They had another difficult day of shooting and Pace, once again, got quite wound up. His frustrated, angry telling of the story is fuelled by quite genuine anger not to mention, in the moment when he lifts his hand to mime punching someone as in the story, the child actress once again flinched totally realistically as she genuinely thought he might hit her.
To get the appropriate reaction from Wil Wheaton and Jerry O'Connell, who were children at the time, for the train scene, director Rob Reiner yelled at them until they cried.
In the movie, Kiefer Sutherland's character is a bully who terrorizes the younger boys in the town. Sutherland is a method actor himself, so he picked on the boys off-set to scare them.
A gentler example from the film: during the scene where River Phoenix breaks down, he was having trouble. Rob Reiner got him to remember a time when an adult had let him down, allowing him the appropriate level of emotion.
Fritz Lang utilized this often, though it's hard to say where this trope ends and outright abuse begins. The best-known example was while filming the cellar scene of M; star Peter Lorre was kept working to the point of exhaustion while suffering real physical blows in order to increase his pain, fear, and desperation. The shot where he is kicked with an iron boot was filmed dozens of times in succession.
A cannon was fired to start the First Task. When the scene was filmed the director had the cannon fire on the line before the prompt from the rehearsals so the actors jumped for real.
Harry was supposed to be rubbish at the big Yule Ball dance scene. So the director had the rest of the cast practice that sequence during the month Dan Radcliffe was shooting the long underwater Second Task, and then gave him a week to learn the dance.
Dustin Hoffman tells a story that when they were filming Marathon Man, Laurence Olivier's acting was way too big and theatrical for the scene, but the director was unwilling to tell SIR LAURENCE OLIVIER to tone it down. So Hoffman went back over and told Olivier that they already had all the film of him they needed, but they wanted more of Hoffman's half of the scene, so could he do a few takes just reading his lines, as if they were in rehearsal. Apparently Olivier saw through it, but appreciated his tact. And when Hoffman's character was supposed to be exhausted by being kept awake for three days, Dustin, being a method actor, stayed awake for three days before shooting — to which Olivier remarked "Try acting, dear boy...it's much easier."
In Soylent Green, just before the shooting of the euthanasia scene, Heston was told by Edward G. Robinson (playing Sol Roth, the character dying) that he was dying of terminal brain cancer. Heston was the only one in the cast that had been told. The crying that Heston gives in the scene (while he watches Robinson's character die, appropriately enough) is thus quite real. Robinson died 12 days after shooting finished.
In Twilight, when Carlisle bites Edward, he whispers in Edward's ear. The in-character "I'm sorry" failed to get the right terrified reaction, as did the equally in-character "My son", but when he whispered "You're sexy", RPattz actually breaks into a broad smile as if he's about to laugh. But that's the take they used.
During filming of the climactic dinner scene, the stench of the food got to everyone so much that some of them (including the man playing Leatherface) started to hallucinate that they were really their characters. One actor, who had fought in the Vietnam War, describes filming that scene as the worst experience of his life.
The dinner scene was a 24 hour shoot, so the actors' exhaustion and bloodshot eyes were real.
Marylin Burns' finger was cut for real when the prop blood sprayer wouldn't work properly. The obvious cut immediately afterwards is so the actor playing the grandfather wouldn't have to suck on a real bleeding finger.
When James Woods and Sean Young starred in an otherwise forgettable movie, The Boost, the off-camera tension between the two of them got so bad that when the script called for Woods' character to slap Young's, Woods slapped her for real.
According to the interviews in the BONUSVIEW content of the Ghostbusters Blu-Ray (known as "Slimer Mode") the actress who played the maid at the hotel was only told of a "bang". She had no idea that there were pyrotechnics in her cart, so when they went off (in the scene where the Ghostbusters fire their proton guns for the first time), her "What the hell are you doing?!" was genuine.
Director Ivan Reitman thought Bill Murray did his best improv comedy when he was agitated. So he had more weight added to Bill's proton pack prop without Bill knowing.
Apparently on a day when Zac Efron was filming a scene that involved him being angry for 17 Again, the movie's director decided to be a total dick to him in order to make the emotions more real in the scene.
American Pie Presents Band Camp. While filming the scene where Matt Stifler strips naked during a trivia game with some girls, actor Tad Hilgenbrink actually did just that on the set. As he had not informed the actresses that he would be naked (they had assumed his bits would be covered in some way), their surprised reactions are genuine.
For a brief scene in Shattered Glass where a woman runs away crying from a crowd of harassing Young Republicans, director Billy Ray instructed the actors to glare at the actress silently before filming and not respond to her attempts at conversation. The look on that poor woman's face is all real.
John Ford reportedly abused Victor McLaglen to no end on the set of The Informer - he would change the shooting schedule without warning, tell him they were rehearsing when they were actually doing a take, make him perform drunk, and for the climactic scene he promised McLaglen the day off only to wake him up early and have him act through a raging hangover. The result: one near-homicidal Irishman, and one brilliant, Oscar-winning performance.
In Mystery Men, The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) touches the hand of the recently-killed hero Captain Amazing in an attempt to get his pulse. When the hand breaks off, her shriek of surprise sounds entirely genuine — no one told Garofalo the prop was designed to fall apart when touched.
In the film adaption of the novel Eragon, there is a scene where Eragon (Ed Speleers) is snooping around in Brom's house, looking for information on dragons, when Brom himself (Jeremy Irons) comes out of the shadows and shouts at him to get out. According to the DVD commentary, Speleers didn't know that Irons was there until he appeared, to produce a suitably startled response.
During the run-on-the-bank scene, George convinces most of the Bailey Building and Loan clients to only withdraw a small amount to tide them over instead of taking their money from Potter's banks. After a few people ask for twenty dollars, one lady asked for an odd amount, $17.50. Turns out that Frank Capra had asked her beforehand to ask for an odd amount instead of the twenty that everyone else said in order to surprise Jimmy Stewart and get a reaction from him. His reaction was, after a moment's surprise, to hug her.
The famous telephone conversation was the first take of the scene and the first scene that James Stewart had recorded since returning from WWII (in which he flew something like 50 bombing missions). Apparently the scene wasn't even rehearsed and the outpouring of emotion from Stewart is quite genuine; you can see how nervous and uncomfortable the actress playing Mary was and this flood of emotions apparently scared the crap out of Frank Capra too, who didn't even try to film the scene a different way and of course it is one of the most famous scenes in the film.
The film Lucky Number Slevin features a scene where Lucy Liu accidentally stumbles in and sees Josh Hartnett completely naked as he adjusts the towel he's wearing. In the original script, that bit wasn't supposed to happen, but as a practical joke Josh took off the towel just as Lucy walked in, flashing her. Lucy's giggle and quiet "sorry" were genuine before she continued delivering her lines.
In Goodfellas, in the scene where Paulie admonishes Henry and tells him to stop selling drugs, Paul Sorvino (Paulie) slaps Ray Liotta (Henry) for real, in order to really elicit a scared and cornered reaction.
In the circus scene, Kate Winslet was asked to suddenly disappear without Jim Carrey's knowledge. The result was poignant; in the final cut, Jim can clearly be seen saying "Kate?" with a very saddened expression on his face.
When Mark Ruffalo scares Kirsten Dunst, Mark was asked to hide in a different spot for each take to genuinely scare her.
In Sommers' The Mummy, Jonathan Hyde (the Egyptologist in the rival expedition) was genuinely surprised when his donkey took off full tilt in the race to reach Hamunaptra first.
Although hopefully not intentional, Brendan Fraser gave Kevin J. O'Connor some genuine bruises when Rick roughed up Beni for information in the doomed Egyptologist's office; likewise, Fraser was able to bodily lift O'Connor uncomfortably close to the spinning ceiling fan. Apparently, he doesn't know his own strength.
Also not intentional: Brendan Fraser's performance during the aborted hanging is...not a performance.
In The General, director Buster Keaton did not tell leading lady Marion Mack what was going to happen when he pulled the spout off the water tank during the return chase. He wanted her reaction when she got drenched by a torrent of water to be authentic.
In the scene where the bridge collapses under a locomotive, the face of the Confederate officer is genuine: he was not informed of this event. The bridge and the locomotive were real, not just models.
Buster practically built a career around these; In one film he's being washed down a lake, but Buster had a hidden harness on which kept him from actually being washed towards the rapids and waterfall. The harness broke, naturally, and it's glaringly obvious when Buster's waves and swimming to safety suddenly become faster and more pronounced. He actually looks and shouts at the camera several times. He had to cling on to rocks before he was rescued.
In the same film Buster swung into a waterfall to rescue 'the maiden'. He inhaled enough water to need resuscitation efforts.
In yet another film, Buster leaps from one building to another, misses by a hair and slams into the side of the building before falling. Buster performed this stunt, for real, slamming at speed into a solid brick wall. He took a hot rub down then an ice bath and was back at work within two hours.
He inverts it a lot, too, by not flinching when he KNOWS a hit is coming; when the house famously falls on Buster in Steamboat Bill, Jr., the wall was a real, incredibly heavy part of a house. Crew members had walked off the set, refusing to be part of what they KNEW would be the actor's demise. The stunt went perfectly and Buster managed to act not even a little bit scared or aware the wall was about to crush him TO DEATH.
In the scene when Tuco severs the handcuffs by lying on the train track, Eli Wallach got almost decapitated by the low, sharp metal steps jutting out of the side of the train, and his expression of terror as he realises this is real.
In the first hanging scene, the horse got significantly more spooked than anyone besides Leone expected, and it galloped for literal miles, Wallach tied helplessly to its back, before any of the crew went out to get him. He was understandably furious when they found him again.
In Escape from New York during the boxing ring fight, the professional wrestler Ox Baker, who never acted before, got a little too intense and struck Kurt Russell very heavily with some of his blows. So Snake Plissken's expressions of fears you can see are genuine. At the end, Russell had finally had enough and asked Baker to take it easy, tapping him in the groin to let him know he was serious. Baker then calmed down.
In 1968's Oliver!, there is a scene where Oliver discovers Fagin's hidden cache of pilfered treasure. The director, Carol Reed, was not getting the right results from his young star when he was shown a box of fake jewelry and gold. Instead, Reed produced a white rabbit from the pocket of his coat, offscreen, just as the reveal happened on camera. Thus, young Mark Lester's reaction of surprise and delight is genuine.
Oliver Reed, playing Bill Sikes, always appeared in full costume and makeup before the children in the cast and maintained a distance from them during filming; Mark Lester later reported that all of the kids were legitimately terrified of him. He lightened up after filming was complete. (Despite his reputation, Oliver Reed was a true Mean Character, Nice Actor; the dog playing Bullseye liked him so much that, late in the story when the dog is supposed to have turned on him, they had to tape the dog's tail to his leg to keep it from wagging whenever he saw Reed.)
In Looking For Eric, Steve Evets (who plays Eric Bishop) had not been told that Eric Cantona would be here - they smuggled him on set while Evets was smoking a cigarette and hid him. However, they didn't use his enforced take. Other scenes of enforced method acting include an armed police raid omitted from the actors' scripts, and the gangsters' first reactions to seeing dozens of United fans in Cantona masks raiding their house.
In Andrzej Wajda's French Revolution film Danton, he created distance between the two different factions by having Robespierre's supporters all be Polish actors, and Danton's all French, so that they came from different backgrounds and could barely even talk to each other off-set.
While shooting School Daze, Spike Lee had all his lighter-skinned actors in better accommodations than his darker-skinned ones to increase the tension between the two camps on set. During one scene, a unscripted fight broke out and Lee had the cameras keep shooting.
Charlie Chan actor Warner Oland was an alcoholic; his director. "Lucky" Humberton, at times encouraged his drinking, because he found the actor's slightly slurry speech better conveyed the sense of one struggling with a foreign language, as well as mentally groping toward the solution of a crime.
Meet the Parents. Ben Stiller once described de Niro making him uncomfortable off-camera to this end: "Whenever I made it clear I didn't want to go to first base, he made sure he went to second."
In The Monster Squad, Ashley Bank had not seen Duncan Regehr in his full Dracula costume and makeup (complete with eerie red eyes) until they shot the famous "Give me the amulet, you bitch!" scene. Cue a Blood Curdling Scream from the young Miss Bank. Upon completing the shot, Regehr grew very upset about how badly she'd been frightened and flatly refused to do so much as one more take.
Back in the silent film era, G.W. Pabst had two characters in his film Pandora's Box who are attracted to each other, but one character keeps screwing the other's life up and it gets messy. The actor apparently had some disdain for the actress playing the other character and would not even speak to her. Director Pabst let the awkward, antagonistic undercurrent fuel their tonally uncomfortable scenes.
Also in Pandora's Box (which is by the way still a good and complex film, even compared to modern sound movies), there's a lesbian character. The actress was adverse to playing a lesbian (this was the 1920s, after all), but Pabst cast her anyway, resulting in this character who almost always looks uncomfortable at everything even when showing affection - looked strangely authentic from here.
The actress Louise Brooks reported that Pabst deliberately destroyed her favorite dress to ensure her look of dejection during the final scene with Jack (the Ripper).
The movie Starship Troopers has several examples. Key cast members participated in a pre-production 'boot camp' to prepare them for the film's training sequence. Verhoeven stood in for the CGI aliens during filming, running at the actors and screaming like a madman to get more realistic reactions (footage is included on the Special Edition DVD extras). And to make the cast feel more at ease during filming, Verhoeven himself stripped down for the co-ed shower scene (footage is not included on the Special Edition DVD extras).
During a dinner scene from Finding Neverland, the boys are supposed to be laughing — what the audience doesn't hear is the fart machine in the background, garnering genuine laughter from the young actors.
To make the actors more at ease during a love-making scene in Mannen som slutade röka (The Man Who Quit Smoking), director Tage Danielsson as well as the whole production team were naked during the shooting.
In the remake of The Amityville Horror, Ryan Reynolds stayed up late all night, on several occasions, to accurately capture the insomnia and mental break down his character was going through. In one particular scene when he tortures his stepson by making the boy hold chunks of wood Reynolds is chopping with a huuuge axe, he has a close confrontation with the boy and ends up giving him a fairly hard slap on the face. Reynolds has since admitted this wasn't scripted, at all, and came to him naturally through the character. He has expressed shock and some disturbance at his own actions as he never thought he'd be the type to hit a child, but here, in the heat of the moment, he did. Makes the scene A LOT more intense knowing that.
In the film adaptation of Starsky & Hutch, there was a scene which called for Huggy Bear (played by Snoop Dogg) to get slapped. Nobody told the Doggfather about this in advance, so when he got slapped... Let's just say that he was about to go OG LBC on dat foo'...
When the ceiling of the burning library collapses on Jorge, it is actually solid oak that hits the actor, the 81-year old Feodor Chaliapin. The set people had overlooked that part of the script and hadn't obtained lightweight balsa wood to hit the actor, and were only reminded of it on the morning of the shoot by director Jean-Jacques Annaud. So, not having any balsa wood on hand, they set up the ceiling collapse using solid oak. The scene was filmed, and this enormously heavy piece of wood lands on Chaliapin. Annaud realizes what has happened and shouts "Cut!" and everyone rushes to see if Chaliapin is all right. Chaliapin's first words were, "Is the take OK?" Annaud asks, "Never mind that. Are you all right?" Chialapin replies, "I'm 81 years old. I can die. Is the take OK?", which probably counts as a real life Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
Annaud had apparently not warned Christian Slater of what would happen during the scene where the girl more or less rapes his character, and let the actress decide what to do for this scene (Slater may also have had a crush on her).
The director has also previously implied that the sex scene may not have been simulated. Given the fact that Slater was 15 at the time, and the actress was 21, even if it's true "implied" is probably the only legal way to say it.
While filming the first Predator, most of the cast and crew caught a severe case of diarrhoea from drinking unpurified water. This resulted in very tense performances on film as the cast members were trying to hold it in until the scene was done and they could run to the toilet.
In Predators, Oleg Taktarov received a minor head wound after accidentally hitting his face against a steadicam. However, he decided to keep filming because the bleeding helped add to the film's atmosphere.
According to the director's commentary on the Sleepy Hollow DVD, in the scene in the church where the doctor is killed by a blow to the head, they accidentally hit Ian McDiarmid so hard that he ended up having to go the hospital.
In the first Phantasm movie, after Reggie is stabbed to death by the Tall Man, he is seen writhing on the ground shivering as his lifeblood ebbs out. The scene was filmed on a very cold night in the middle of winter, with a airboat engine blowing on the actors to simulate the Tall Man's space gate collapsing, so the uncontrollable shivering was real.
In the credits roll, there's a bit where Maureen O'Hara whispers in John Wayne's ear and he gives her a quick, shocked expression before they stroll back to the cottage. Director John Ford gave O'Hara a line to shock the Duke in an unscripted moment. His facial expression is real.
Only three people ever knew what was said: John Ford, Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne. O'Hara is the only one still alive, and she won't say.
Furthermore, the scene where John Wayne is dragging her off to see her brother, Ford and some of the crew scattered sheep dung on the ground, and some of the crew cleaned it up at the request of O'Hara. This went back and forth until shooting, at which point there was sheep crap scattered around the field. O'Hara was really trying not to fall in that scene.
John Wayne's final film, The Shootist, involves an aging cowboy dying of cancer. Sadly, this required no acting on Wayne's part.
During the filming of Black Swan, Director Darren Aronofsky would try to pit Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis against each other to make their antagonistic scenes together more authentic. Unfortunately for him, both of them caught on to what he was doing very early and instead sent congrats to each other by phone when Darren told one of them the other was doing great.
Alejandro Jodorowsky considered his film-making to be a sort of magical ritual in and of itself, and as a result, used this approach to an alarming degree. For example, it was not uncommon for him to instruct actors to take psychedelic drugs. In the course of this interview he claims that the scene in El Topo where Mara hits El Topo, and then he rapes her was not acted.
In the scene where Richard Gere's character gives Roberts' character a diamond necklace, he snaps the lid of the jewelery box on her fingers, causing her to jump, then shriek with laughter. The lid-snap was spontaneous on Gere's part, and Roberts' reaction is real.
The director of Somewhere In Time did not show Christopher Reeve the photograph with which his character falls in love until it was time to film the scene, ensuring that the enchanted look on his face would be genuine.
In The Fabulous Baker Boys, when real-life brothers Beau and Jeff Bridges have a fight, Jeff very nearly actually broke Beau's hand. They planned to come up with a "safe word" in case things went too far, but Jeff forgot himself and Beau went to the hospital directly afterward. When he yells "my hand, my hand!", it's totally genuine.
During the production of A Walk to Remember, the actors playing Mandy Moore's popular classmates were told to distance themselves from her for a period of time, so she would feel unpopular and disliked. According to Mandy Moore, it didn't go as planned, as they caught up and became close when they were told they could be civil to her.
During the filming, actors Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams actually shared a home and lived more or less as a married couple, like their characters. They have both stated that they tried to pick fights with the other, as their characters' marriage is falling apart, but had a hard time of it due to their mutual fondness for one another. Director Derek Cianfrance even encouraged Gosling to go into Williams' bedroom and try to make love to her. It didn't work.
In the scene where Dean and Cindy are on the bridge, and Dean climbs up the railing, Williams was told she had a secret and to keep it under lock and key, while Gosling was instructed find out this secret by any means necessary
Sam Raimi did this in Drag Me to Hell, purposely neglecting to tell Alison Lohman that a dummy animated corpse was going to vomit in her face.
Averted in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. During filming, much care was taken to ensure that Danielle Harris, who played Jamie, was not frightened, most notably by the actor playing Michael, who repeatedly removed his mask in order to reassure her that he was not going to hurt her.
A scene in TRON had Bruce Boxleitner performing a difficult 'behind the head' frisbee catch while expressing defiance and anger. The director got Bruce riled up by accusing him of not practicing, saying he was unable to do the required shot and finally picking up the prop frisbee and challenging Bruce to prove it. He did, and the director yelled cut, having filmed the whole thing.
While filming Carrie, Sissy Spacek deliberately did not fraternize with the rest of the cast. Also, during the prom the actors are really being shot in the face with the fire hose (one even ruptured her eardrum and passed out when the water entered her ear).
During the famous chase scene in The French Connection, prior permission for filming wasn't obtained, which meant that the panicked reactions from passers-by were genuine.
An early scene in Holiday Inn shows Bing Crosby drunk at a party, stumbling around in the crowd. Before each take he snuck a shot of whiskey - The film used take seven.
According to actor Sean Patrick Flanery, David Della Rocco's reaction to the gunshot on the table in the first The Boondock Saints is real. He'd purposely been told by Flanery and director Troy Duffy that it would make no sound and that he would have to improvise his reaction. It's stated that on the original take, which ended up being used in the film, he panicked because he thought something went wrong.
In Come and See, director Elem Klimov fired live gunshots over the heads of the actors to get genuine looks of terror in the battle scene.
The Giant Claw: Be sure to check out the furious look on Jeff Morrow's face when huge chunks of flaming debris land inches from his head.
The Laurel and Hardy shorts have a Running Gag where Ollie reacts to Stan's stupidity by looking exasperated into the camera. Apparently these shots were always filmed as the last shots of the day, when Oliver Hardy was dead tired and just wanted to get out on the golf course. They rarely needed more than one take.
In Grand Prix, director John Frankenheimer was not satisfied with the crowd's reaction to a dramatic on-track incident and realised that they were looking forward to their tea break. He reshot the scene and at the critical moment had the special effects man blow up the tea van. Result: a convincingly shocked and stunned crowd.
Another one for Frankenheimer: In Seven Days in May, the script called for a shot of Col. Jiggs Casey (played by Kirk Douglas) entering into the Pentagon. The problem was, the film was not Backed by the Pentagon due to the major plot thread of a rogue United States Air Force general and so they had no clearance to film near the Pentagon. So, Frankenheimer had Douglas go in full Marine uniform up the main steps of the Pentagon, while he had a hidden camera in a car filming. Coming down the steps at the same time were two junior officers were exiting the building. Their salutes? Absolutely completely genuine.
The three lead actors in Project X were sent to Disneyland together and spent a weekend up at a cabin in Big Bear City so as to make a more believable friendship between them. Also, during filming of the party scenes, the music kept playing even when cameras weren't rolling so as to maintain the party atmosphere among the extras.
There's an iconic scene in Casablanca where the Nazis at the bar start singing "Die Wacht am Rhein," a German patriotic song, but are drowned out by a singing of "La Marseillaise," the national anthem of France. To make sure the bar was authentic in the film, actual French refugees were cast as extras, and the song ends with some very real crying that wasn't in the script, but was left in the film. Keep in mind this was filmed in 1941, when the Nazis had the upper hand and French refugees were unsure if they'd ever see home again.
J-horror director Koji Shiraishi (of Noroi The Curse fame) shot the entirety of his 2010 MockumentaryShirome this way. It purports to be a collection of shelved footage from a Most Haunted-style TV program, in which real-life Idol Singer group Momoiro Clover are sent to a supposedly haunted location and apparently encounter genuine supernatural phenomena. None of the group were told the real nature of the shoot until filming finally wrapped, and the bad case of nerves exhibited by the cast throughout most of the film is real. (The Reveal was filmed, too, but is only shown in the end credits — followed by a Mind ScrewStinger suggesting that some of the phenomena were real.)
In Miracle, to make the scene where coach Herb Brooks drills the team all night (after their 3-3 tie with Norway) as realistic as possible, the director filmed the real actors skating the drills for three 12-hour days. Their reactions (including collapsing from exhaustion and experiencing dry heaves) were genuine.
In Apollo 13, the scenes where the spacecraft had become very cold were shot on a soundstage that was actually made freezing cold via the use of massive fans and refrigeration units. The visible breath onscreen is real. And a few of the space scenes were actually shot in NASA's KC-135 'Vomit Comet' to depict weightlessness.
In Planet of the Apes (1968), Charlton Heston's famous 'get your stinking paws off me' line was made all the more realistic because Heston was suffering from a nasty cold-the director liked it because he felt it made Heston's voice sound more authentic.
Speaking of Heston, his costume in The Ten Commandments resulted in many of the local extras thinking he *was* Moses...they were heard saying "Mosiah! Mosiah!".
Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Werner Herzog wanted Aguirre to be the epitome of Tranquil Fury, but actor Klaus Kinski wanted to produce a raving madman more akin to his actual personality. To get his wish, Herzog would intentionally provoke Kinski into unleashing all his fury off-camera. By the time shooting began, Kinsky was exhausted, creating the performance that Herzog desired.
An accidental case in Saw. In Saw 4, when Riggs (Lyriq Bent) is exploring the school and finds the man and wife suspended from the ceiling with spikes poking through their major (the man) and minor (the wife) arteries, they're still with their heads down. When Lyriq approaches, the woman jerks her head up and begs him for mercy, to which Lyriq admitted in the commentary a genuine shocked reaction occurred. Lyriq hadn't expected her to do that.
In Disney's animated Alice in Wonderland, Kathryn Beaumont once admitted to an interview that her laughter during the scene where Alice is tickled by the flamingo wasn't believable. So during one later take, the director tickled Kathryn at the moment and the resulting fit of giggles during that scene is entirely genuine.
In Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas intentionally put extra weight into the Darth Vader helmet, so that when Hayden Christensen first walks around in the Vader suit, he almost stumbles, since Anakin/Vader's not used to the suit yet.
In The Diamond Arm, a scene was being filmed where a man pushes a boy into shallow water. Since during the rehearsals the boy was seen to visibly brace himself, he was told next time the adult will only pretend to push him, but the adult himself was told to push for real. The ensuing unscripted exclamation "Hey, what are you doing?" was good enough to Throw It In.
When she met Anne Hathaway for their first scene in The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep congratulated her on getting the part and then told her that this would be the last time they talked as equals until the wrap party ... she kept her distance to make Miranda all the more intimidating. And for the scene in question, where Andrea brings The Book over to Miranda's apartment, her anxiety and tenseness isn't acting. According to the DVD commentary, Hathaway was nervous to the point of being terrified about working with Streep.
Adrian Lyne supposedly did this to great effect in Nine And A Half Weeks. He kept Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke isolated from each other off the set, gave Rourke performance notes but not her (not an easy thing for Basinger, who was newer to film acting than he was and craved the feedback), and then filmed the movie in sequence so that Elizabeth's distressed emotional state later on was more real. Basinger does not recall the experience fondly despite the movie's cult success, and refused to ever do any sequel to it.
The scenes with Michael Dorsey arguing with his agent in Tootsie reflect the tensions that had grown between Sydney Pollack and Dustin Hoffman during filming, tensions that were resolved somewhat by creating the part of the agent for Pollack to play so he could berate his star on camera.
When Mapache says "You want Angel? I give you Angel" and then cuts his throat, setting off the climax of The Wild Bunch, the tube delivering the fake blood to the actor's throat malfunctioned, spouting much more fluid than expected. Peckinpah kept the take because of the horrified and shocked reactions it got.
The actress who played the peasant girl who is tied up on a bed and tickled on her feet by Fyodor in The Brothers Karamazov said that she got the job because she was tickled at her audition and her reactions were the best. The scene took eight hours to shoot and her reactions are 100% real.
In Out of Africa, Meryl Streep was falsely told that a lion would be tethered so it couldn't attack her. It came too close for her comfort, generating real fear.
In The Fifth Element: Bruce Willis' reaction at the end of the Diva's performance was real. Even though the actress playing the Diva had practiced her scene 30 times a day every day for 3 months before filming, nobody told Bruce what was going to happen, and that the actual filming was the first time that both actors had met each other.
Bruce Lee occasionally performed his fight scenes "stiff," ie actually punching and kicking the stunt men playing his adversaries.
In Being John Malkovich, after Schwartz and the title character walk up the hill from the drainage pipe (and Malkovich threatens to take the former to court for planning to exploit it), Malkovich angrily walks away. As he does so, a car passes by and a drunken passenger yells, "Hey, Malkovich! THINK FAST!" and lobs a beer can that hits him squarely in the head. The passenger who threw the can was an extra who got drunk and inadvertantly intruded on the shot. Malkovich's anguished cry and reaction (gripping his head in pain and swearing) was real. Spike Jonze loved the shot so much that he put in the film, bumped the extra's salary and gave him a credit for the scene.
In Young Frankenstein, in the scene where Dr. Frankenstein accidentally stabs himself in the hand with a scalpel, Gene Wilder accidentally did it for real. That look of pain on his face is genuine.
In The Beguiled, there's a scene where Clint Eastwood's character kisses a twelve-year-old girl to keep her quiet. According to the actress, the script had it written for him to cover her mouth with his hand and it had been rehearsed that way. The director suggested the change without telling her about it.
In Django Unchained, Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) smearing blood on Broomhilda's face was apparently ad-libbed. DiCaprio actually injured his hand on broken glass while pounding the table. He just kept on going and bloodied Kerry Washington's face without her knowledge. Her look of horror is quite real, as are the "is somebody going to say anything about this or are we all seriously pretending it's okay?" looks the rest of the cast are shooting each other.
In District 9, the vox populi segments where local South Africans complain about the prawns were not done with actors. The filmmakers asked random South Africans about Nigerian immigrants, then edited their most xenophobic comments into the film.
Take Shelter: The extras in the lunch scene at the Lion's Club were only told they would get a free lunch and be in a movie, so their stunned and horrified reaction to Curtis's fight with Dewart and subsequent freak out was dead real.
Child's Play: According to a commentary omitted from the 20th anniversary DVD, director Tom Holland roughed up Alex Vincent in order to get him to emote properly for the scene in which Andy, locked in his asylum cell, is crying about Chucky coming for him. Producer David Kirschner felt that Tom went too far and caused an actual fistfight on set. Alex's parents were apparently fine with Tom's treatment of Alex.
In This Is the End, Michael Cera asked Rihanna if he could grope her behind, which she allowed if she got to slap him in return. She hit him in the face so hard, he had to lie down from the dizziness. Jason Segel's reaction to it is genuine.
Averted in Gone with the Wind: Melanie is giving birth: the slave Kissy panics; Scarlett slaps Kissy; Kissy screams and helps the midwifing work. Director wanted real slap and real scream. Kissy actress refused "I will not scream at a real slap, I will only scream at a fake movie slap." Director agreed to fake slap and real scream.
Christopher Lee's stiff movements as the eponymous character in The Mummy (1959) were partiable caused by all the injuries he suffered through the filming; he dislocated his shoulder in the scene where he crashes through the door, hurt his back when he carried Yvonne Furneaux in his arms and and he hurt his legs on various pipes in the tank that was used to create the swamp in the ending.
During the filming of the fountain scene in Mamma Mia!, Meryl Streep, for some unfathomable reason, decided to rip Pierce Brosnan's shirt off — without telling Brosnan. His enthusiasm was absolutely genuine.
An accidental case of this occurred during the filming of the original Godzilla. The original suit that the actor wore in filming was so stiff and inflexible, that the suit could, quite literally, stand upright by itself. This forced the actor wearing the suit to move in ways which were not like those of a human, making the monster that much more real and terrifying.
In Mothra vs. Godzilla, When Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla's suit actor) slammed into the Pagoda during Godzilla's attack in Nagoya, some teeth from the Godzilla suit fell out. Also, the impact of slamming into it also dislocated the jaw on the Godzilla suit, giving it the wobbly muzzle that is seen throughout the movie. SFX director, Eiji Tsuburaya liked the outcome of the shot so much that he keep it in the film.
In two separate movies, Mothra vs. Godzilla and Terror Of Mecha Godzilla, due to a combination of malfunctioning pyrotechnics and the actor not being able to see where he was going, the Godzilla costume actually caught fire during filming. Both scenes made the final cut of the films.
According to the Japanese-only "The Art of Godzilla" art book for the 1998 Godzilla, the scene where one of the baby Zilla's head bashes right through the elevator door and Matthew Broderick's character Nick Tatopoulos is freaking out in response was because the puppeteers had mistimed the closing of the doors. The baby Zilla had already had computer reactions programmed into it, and "could care less if the puppeteers mistakenly closed the doors early - it went through the steel-framed aluminum doors, ripping them apart as if they were made out of paper!"
In Super Mario Bros., Dennis Hopper's performance as Koopa legitimately scared Mojo Nixon during the scene where Toad de-evolves. Toad freaking out as he's strapped into the chair wasn't acting.
In Attack the Block, they attempted this with the child actors who played Probs and Mayhem by not showing them the aliens until the scene where their characters first encounter them. It didn't work; the two boys burst into laughter instead of being scared. They settled for a take of the two boys staring at the aliens in awe.
In-universe in Exit Smiling. Violet holds an onion under Jimmy's eyes to get him to cry when Jimmy is auditioning for the theater troupe.
Betty Buckley says the terrified look on her face right before she gets killed at the climax of Carrie is real, since they hadn't been able to test the falling backboard to make sure it would stop where it was supposed to before hitting her and no one knew for certain whether it would work.