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Enforced Method Acting
Method Acting: (noun): An acting technique in which actors try to replicate the real-life emotional conditions under which the character operates, in an effort to create a life-like, realistic performance.

Enforced Method Acting: (noun): An acting technique in which actors give a life-like, realistic performance because no one warned them what was going to happen.

Enforced Method Acting is a cinematic concept in which the actors and actresses of a work give reactions that are unplanned and unscripted. This can occur for several reasons:
  • The director is trying to make a performance more realistic—the primary form of this trope. The applications of this range from not telling your actor that their love interest is returning to not warning them when the chainsaw-wielding maniac bursts through the door.
  • Another actor does or says something that causes the actors he's working with to react in an unplanned way—usually by trying not to burst out laughing. The directors decide to Throw It In.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot and an unforeseen accident results in a scene that is appropriate to the plot.

Enforced Method Acting does not mean long term method acting the director forces the actors to do.

Compare with Throw It In and Acting In The Dark. This often requires a Jerkass director, or at least one who doesn't mind their actors hating them. Fatal Method Acting is a lethal case of this. Contrast Lost in Character. See also Harpo Does Something Funny.


Examples from Real Life:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • Hideaki Anno, the eccentric director of Neon Genesis Evangelion, infamously told Megumi Ogata to literally try to strangle Yuko Miyamura during the recording of the scene where Shinji tries to strangle Asuka in End Of Evangelion. Allegedly, the results were so realistic that Ogata profusely apologized to Miyamura in the aftermath.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Vic Mignogna was not informed of what lay on the other side of the Gate prior to dubbing the scene in which Edward Elric passes through it. The surprise in Edward's voice upon seeing Zeppelins, therefore, is quite real. Vic wasn't given any more of the script than his own lines in chunks (which were recorded in chronological order) for the last three episodes. Now that's what you call enforced.
    • In a (somewhat) more lighthearted example, according to the commentary on episode 19, they really threw (or pretended to throw) a teacup at Aaron Dismuke's face in order to get his reaction (as Edward hits a teacup and it hits Al in the show). Not sure how much they were kidding, but when asked, Aaron said it bothered him, but was "really inspirational, though."
  • Shinichi Watanabe reportedly required, during the recording of Excel♥Saga, that Menchi's voice actress crouch on all fours to address a microphone 6 inches off the floor, and that the "Excel Girls" actresses actually wear costumes based on those worn by their animated counterparts.
    • DVD extras actually show the "Excel Girls" in said costumes.
  • As part of her voice actress training, an up-and-coming Megumi Hayashibara was once told to focus on the saddest event in her life. She couldn't stop crying even after the exercise was over. Modern method acting explicitly leaves out relying on actual life experiences precisely because it can cause such trauma.
  • During the dubbing of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Kira's voice actor Matt Hill actually asked the vocal director to kick him in the crotch to make his crying sound authentic. Fans more than appreciate his dedication, especially since it worked (and was head and shoulders above Soichiro Hoshi's "dying horse" crying).
  • Code Geass: Yukana was never told her character (C.C.) was gonna die in the first episode. In fact, nobody knew how long their character was going to last throughout the first season, so much of their death cries were probably real (don't fire me!).
  • The casting of the actors for the lead roles of Lelouch and Suzaku was a deliberate case of Playing Against Type with Jun Fukuyama, an actor known for playing more straightforward heroes like Touga Tenkuji and Takahiro Sakurai, known for playing Anti Heroes like Cloud Strife, respectively. Director/co-creator Goro Taniguchi has said that he did this so that both characters would sound strained due to the actors being used to the opposite type of roles in order to show that both characters were trying to be something they're not. He also had a hand in the English version casting Johnny Yong Bosch, best known for being a former Power Ranger and Yuri Lowenthal, best known for playing Sasuke Uchiha, for the same reasons.
  • Writer Gen Urobuchi and director Akiyuki Shinbo went right for the jugular with their cast in Magical Girl Deconstruction Puella Magi Madoka Magica, not telling them beforehand how harsh things would get. It was especially hard for Emiri Katou, who ended up playing the alleged main villain.
    • The English dub did something similar, such as not telling one actress about her character's death scene until she was recording it. The actress recounted how this went, especially her confusion since she knew she was coming in again to record more lines.
      Did I just... Did I just DIE!?
  • Caitlin Glass once told a story about her experience dubbing the Girl of the Week for a Lupin III movie. She couldn't act properly angry in one scene, so right before she was supposed to speak, the director called her fat to anger her.
  • According to Gundam Sousei, Tōru Furuya was having trouble with the iconic "You hit me! You hit me twice! Even my father never hit me!" line. So Tomino Yoshiyuki hit him. Twice. It's unclear if anything of the sort actually happened, but we are talking about a man who got the nickname "Kill 'em All" while making cartoons for a toy company.

    Film-Animated 
  • While doing the voice-acting for The Incredibles, director Brad Bird had Spencer Fox, who played the speedster Dash, run around the studio so he would have a realistic out-of-breath voice.
  • Likewise, during production of Monsters, Inc., Mary Gibbs (Boo) was too young to sit in a booth and record, so they had her in a playroom and captured her lines as she sporadically gave them while playing.
  • Young Thumper's voice actor in Bambi was very young, and couldn't read yet. His lines were fed to him, and he parroted them.
  • Jordan Nagai, the kid who voiced Russell in Up, also was "tricked" by the voice director many times in order to get him away from sounding too much like he was acting and give more a genuine response. For example, he was told to run around before giving lines or forced to memorize his lines on the spot.
    • Likewise, in the scene where Russel, giggling, is being tossed playfully in the air by Kevin, the voice director tickled him. This is actually a pretty common practice (the same technique was used for the French actress who played the young Marjane in Persepolis).
  • When Jonathon Taylor Thomas voiced Young Simba for The Lion King, they tapped his back for the scene where Simba is yelling while sliding down the back of an elephant's skeleton. When they were recording Mufasa's death scene, the director pointed at Jonathon's mother and said "Imagine you just saw your mother fall off a cliff." He got a little too into the mental image and screamed "MOM!"
    • Enforced by real life in the Danish dub: During the recording of the scene where Mufasa has just died, the dialogue director noticed that the kid voicing Simba sounded genuinely sad and asked him if he wanted to take a break. During the break the kid told him that his father had actually just died.
  • For Marge's message to Homer in The Simpsons Movie, Julie Kavner was put through around 100 takes to get the exhausted-sounding delivery they wanted.
  • During voice recordings for the film ParaNorman, there were several times when Kodi Smit-McPhee (while playing Norman) would have to physically shake himself both sitting and standing in order to produce the effect for certain scenes (the bathroom scene and when the Judge zombie tries to break into the car).

    Music 
  • Bob Dylan is notorious for only giving musicians the barest minimum of instructions (chord changes, tempo) before recording a song, leaving it up to them to work out their individual parts as they go along. Most famously, Al Kooper came up with the "Like a Rolling Stone" organ riff despite not only having never played the song before, but not even being an organist (Kooper was mainly a guitarist and pianist, but those slots were already filled. Kooper asked if he could play organ, Dylan said "sure, why not?").
  • Martin Birch, who produced Iron Maiden's most famous records, asked (then new) singer Bruce Dickinson to do take after take after take for "The Number of the Beast". Bruce was obviously frustrated and annoyed, and that's when Mr Birch told him something like 'now it's time to record the scream', which he of course delivered in a very unhuman way, which Bruce was never able to replicate.
  • Weezer's video "Undone - The Sweater Song" was a one-take shot 20 times. The one that was used was between the 15th and 20th, when the band was tired and simply not caring anymore (things such as a dog defecating on a drum pedal helped).
  • When Miles Davis was recording his groundbreaking fusion album 'Bitches Brew', the session musicians did not know what they were supposed to play beyond tempo and chord changes. You can hear Miles giving instructions during quiet moments.
  • Bruce Springsteen wanted his folk album ''We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" to have an informal sound, so he didn't rehearse with the Sessions band before they started recording. Springsteen can be heard several times on the album giving spontaneous instructions about what instrument he wants to hear.
  • Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band's "Trout Mask Replica" was intended to sound uncomfortable and on the brink of falling apart. That's because the band really was uncomfortable and on the brink of falling apart; they had rehearsed the songs on the album for nine months, and were recording most of them in one single, manic five-hour marathon session with almost no retakes or overdubs. Antennae Jimmy Semens' performance of Pena sounds hysterical, and he probably was at the time. In a similar manner The Blimp, which is recited in a similar voice, over the phone to Frank Zappa.
  • On their album Pooping Like Dogs, The Pennock Bridge Collective had a handful of experimental tracks where they deliberately made sure no one in the band knew how a song was going to turn out: Mainly, they'd have members pull instruments and track numbers out of a hat, then have each member write and record a part based only on whatever had been recorded before they got their turn. The most extreme case of this was "The CCH Pounder Blues", where everyone was instructed to improvise wildly for exactly 30 seconds without being able to hear what anyone else was playing.
  • As mentioned under Film, the call to the operator in Pink Floyd's The Wall is genuine. The character Pink phones his wife, knowing she's with another man, and the other line keeps disconnecting. The operator and their confused reaction ("There's a man answering...") are real. They had to do the call several times before they found one who realized what the situation was. During some tour performances (notably the 1990 Berlin performance), Roger Waters called a real operator and had them dial a stage hand who pretended to be Ms. Floyd's new lover.
  • British hardcore/electronic/everything band Enter Shikari often layer in random bits of talking, which is the band members loitering outside the recording studio, drunk, heckling the member who is singing. For the "Ello Tyrannosaurus" lyric just before the breakdown in 'Hello Tyrannosaurus, Meet Tyrannicide', the producer had Rou run to the back of the room and shout the lyric in order to get the correct sense of distance and shouting in a large space.
  • During Red House Painters' entire album of Rollercoaster is this in spades. It might very well be the largest case of Enforced Method Acting in musical history:
    • Some of the record engineers were ordered by 4AD manager, Ivo Watts to make recording as stressful as possible to put Kozelek under a lot of pressure in order to get a more genuine performance out of him. So that strained, stressed sound present on it that you don't hear anywhere else? Not faked even in the slightest!
    • "Things Mean A Lot" had an unexpected piano riff added in that caught Kozelek by surprise. The song, being about Kozelek finally getting over an old muse of his, always seems to bring a tear to Kozelek's eyes because of this.
    • "Katy Song" was originally supposed to be shorter for the album version, but when the band parts were recorded first, they were told to drag out the second section extra long. Kozelek was not told of this, so when his guitar and vocal parts were recorded he got confused and frustrated when the song was going to end. So that effect of how the guitars and vocals sound progressively more and more exhausted is actually Kozelek trying to keep the song going and getting frustrated.
    • "Strawberry Hill" has the chorus sung by a group of strangers picked up from the street outside of a Los Angeles recording studio. When Mark was doing his final take for the vocal line, the crowd started singing in the background with Mark. He was not expecting this and the frail sound of his voice is actually him trying to hold back tears. The song had a lot of personal meaning to him, since it was about his troubled suicidal and depressed past.
    • "Brown Eyes" was supposed to be a closing track featuring just Mark Kozelek on guitar. As things progressed, however, he was caught by surprise when the rest of the band came in and started playing with him, re-enforcing the theme of "Strawberry Hill" even more.
  • The Lou Reed song "The Kids" ends with children screaming and crying. Producer Bob Ezrin allegedly told his children that their mother left and is never coming back, and he recorded their reaction.
  • J-pop group Perfume's music video for I Still Love U is a one-shot film that features a minute of the three grimacing, supposedly in emotional pain, toward the end. However, in actuality, they are being given a painful foot massage during the shot, and their occasional laughter gives it away.
  • The face Wendy Melvoin makes when Prince literally gets in her face during Prince's video for Kiss, is made of this trope. She was simply expecting to play the guitar on a stool while Prince danced around her.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • During the 2008 WWE Draft, none of the draftees were told that they'd be switching shows until just seconds before the announcement was made. Most notably seen with the announcer switch between Smackdown! and RAW... the looks of confusion and anger on Michael Cole and Jim Ross' faces as they switched chairs following the announcement of the change were completely real, and Jim Ross actually considered retiring the day after it happened.
    • Speaking of Jim Ross, he intentionally did not read the set notes for the shows he was announcing in order to make his on-air calls more realistic. His pleas for trying to get someone to stop the famous Mankind vs. Undertaker Hell in a Cell match is one of the many legitimate results of this practice (moreso because some of the damage Mick Foley took in the match was unintentional and damn near killed him.)
  • Also draft-related - in order to properly keep up the air of shock (as well as downplay spoilers) in the 2005 draft's opening pick, John Cena apparently arrived at the arena very late and stayed in his car until it was time for him to come out at the start of the show. Only Cena and the people he had a segment and a match with that night - Chris Jericho, Christian, and Tyson Tomko - were informed of it in advance.
  • Rumor has it that the ring crew for June 7, 2010's RAW were only told that Wade Barrett would come down to the ring to interrupt John Cena vs. CM Punk... not that he'd then get the other "rookies" from the recently-concluded NXT show to jump and beat down John Cena, then attack Matt Striker, Jerry Lawler, (Michael Cole promptly fleeing), the ring announcer Justin Roberts and ringside crew, and literally wreck the ringside and even tear at the ring itself.
  • Then there's WCW which, per its usual, managed to screw this up. They had backstage segments aplenty, but at one point decided that to increase spontaneity the announce team was not allowed to see and were not told about. This naturally led to plenty of segments that occurred for no apparent reason and led to nothing and the commentators looking like a bunch of morons. Most notably, a fan dressed as Sting jumped a barricade and ran into a match and the commentators, so used to not being told about changes to shows, assumed it was the real Sting.
  • WCW once had a whole PPV based on this, WCW Starrcade 91. This show introduced "The Lethal Lottery," a Dusty Rhodes creation. The idea was that the show would be made up of tag team matches where the participants (partners AND opponents) would be drawn at random, with the winners going on to compete in the two-ring "Battlebowl" battle royal at the end of the night. This resulted in some very odd combinations. In one match, Sting, the company's #1 Face, was paired up with legendary monster heel Abdullah the Butcher, and Sting had been feuding with Abby and Cactus Jack up to that point. The opening match had Jimmy Garvin of the Fabulous Freebirds and rookie Marcus Alexander Bagwell vs. Michael Hayes of the Fabulous Freebirds and Tracy Smothers. WCW would revisit the "Lethal Lottery" concept on three more PPVs, Starrcade 92, Battlebowl in November 1993, and Slamboree 1996, though they'd rig the drawings for those later shows.
  • No one knew Eric Bischoff was coming the night he joined WWE. Similar to the John Cena example, he kept hidden in a limo. Supposedly Booker T, one of the few to spot Bischoff summed it up by saying, "Tell me I didn't just see that".
  • Even Hall and Nash weren't told who third man was at the Bash of the Beach. The two struggle to not look confused as Hogan goes Hollywood.
  • On a 2009 episode of Raw, Triple H is in the ring (in DX without Shawn Michaels) and decides to phone HBK. His music starts... and then his voice comes out from the other end of the phone... singing a voicemail message to the tune of his own theme music. Hunter apparently had no idea that this was Shawn's message and he promptly proceeded to completely lose it.
  • The Rock's return in 2011 was hidden even from the scripts of that episode which all told that Justin Bieber would be the host. (The Rock briefly alludes to this in his monologue.)
  • Unfortunate example: Sting's obvious anger as he crushes Jeff Hardy at TNA Victory Road 2011? Real anger - Jeff was so strung out on drugs that Eric Bischoff had to come down and tell Sting to get it over with fast. Jeff can be seen trying to escape Sting's winning pinfall, and as Sting walks out, he answers a fan's "THAT WAS BULLSHIT!" with a loud (and on-camera) "I AGREE!"
  • In an interview on WWE.com following the one-night return of Jake "The Snake" Roberts, he declared that as far as he knew, only Vince, Triple H, a woman in charge of the transportation and a talent executive were aware of his return and presence at the venue, which would make the reactions of the commentators and The Shield this trope.
  • Although pro-wrestling is mostly planned out and rehearsed, there is still quite a lot that can go on unexpectedly.
  • The Undertaker's loss at Wrestlemania XXX to Brock Lesnar was only known by the 'Taker, Brock, Triple H, Vince and Stephanie McMahon. Everyone's reaction, even Brock's manager Paul Heyman's reaction, is all out genuine shock.

     Tabletop Games 
  • In Paranoia, combat is intended to be portrayed as fast, confused, and entertainingly deadly, rather than tactically optimal - so the GM is encouraged to give the players only a few seconds to decide what their characters are doing each round.
    • The rulebook contains an example of play that runs something like this:
      GM: Suddenly some hairy guys jump up from behind the gray things and shake sticks at you. Fred, what do you do?
      Fred: Wait, what?
      GM: Right. John, how about you?
  • Extending this beyond combat, some games even suggest in the guidebook that in order to keep the players on their toes, the GM should make rolls for no reason at all, and occasionally pass private notes to players saying things like "just smile and nod".
    • Then that player knows what's actually going on. A note saying "Make a perception roll, but don't tell the others" makes everyone paranoid.

    Theater 
  • In the original production of The Phantom of the Opera, at one point the Phantom is underground, having kidnapped Christine. He loads her into the boat. On stage, the boat needs to be pushed out to the front, as though he was pushing it into the water. Not knowing that the boat was so heavy, it took a lot out of the Phantom and he was severely out of breath. The rendering of the next song, "slowly, gently, in anticipation" is so affected that the director decides to keep it like that.
  • In fact, during Shakespeare's time, it seemed perfectly common to be cruel to the actors like that, not telling them when they were going to be slapped, etc. Then there is one scene where a character tries to get a word in but can't manage to interrupt someone. Since the actors weren't given the full script, only their own lines and the key lines before them so they would know when it was their turn, the previous actor would say a phrase similar to the key line three times, each time causing a false alarm, making the actor after him think it's his turn to speak, only to be cut off by the first character's continued talking. This very convincingly created the illusion of the second character trying in vain to get a word in.

     Theme Parks 
  • Supposedly, when creating the soundtrack for Great Moments with Mr Lincoln for the 1964 World's Fair and then Disneyland, Walt Disney kept having voice actor Royal Dano redo the entire speech, complaining about small things that made it "not quite right," until Dano was absolutely exhausted, and could barely make it to the end, at which point Disney said it was perfect, that it was what a weary Lincoln would have sounded like. He may have had a point, as the speech still induces shivers half a century later.

     Video Games 
  • During the scene where Big Boss meets Granin in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Hideo Kojima had Granin's motion actor drink real whiskey to the point where he was absolutely smashed and kept forgetting his lines.
    • He also deliberately switched the casting of Big Boss's two motion actors - the man who played him during talking scenes was a motion actor who specialized in acrobatics, and the man who played him during action scenes was a motion actor who specialized in talking scenes. This resulted in a lot of serendipitous responses, particularly during the love scenes with EVA - for instance, when EVA leans in to kiss him in the mountaintop bolthole, his motion actor, unused to doing love scenes, froze up and pulled back nervously. It was very in character for Snake, so it was kept and Kojima later said it was one of his favourite touches.
  • For the recording sessions of Spec Ops: The Line, the actors playing Walker, Adams and Lugo recorded all their lines together in one room, in hopes that a realistic character dynamic would develop between them. They also recorded all their lines in chronological sequence in long, tiring sessions, such that by the end of the recording sessions they were tired, angry and eager to go home - just like the characters themselves.
  • This happens a lot in Lets Plays, especially blind Lets Plays. Most lets plays of horror games (usually with a facecam because Pewdiepie did it.) are also this way, so the viewer will hear all the screams.

     Web Original 

    Western Animation 

  • Nathan Ruegger, the voice of Skippy Squirrel in Animaniacs, would often be tickled by his father while he was recording to make his laughter sound more genuine.
  • The earliest Peanuts specials were done this way - since Charles Schulz and Bill Melendez insisted on real child voice actors, some of whom couldn't yet read, dialogue was fed to the kids line-by-line or sometimes word-by-word, and the lines we hear are often spliced together from the kids reciting the words or lines back. Arguably the best example is Sally's confused speech ("All I want is what's coming to me! All I want is my fair share!") in A Charlie Brown Christmas. This unique "sound" quickly became such an expected element of the specials that it continued to be followed, even when mixing software and better techniques could have smoothed things over a bit.

In-work Examples:

    Anime and Manga 
  • "Skip Beat!: Kyoko does this when she gets into her character for Dark Moon. Everyone's shock is real because they didn't know how Kyoko would present her character. It was so unexpected and shocking that Director Ogata falls to his knees.
  • The first chapter of Gundam Sousei (a Dramatization of the production of Mobile Suit Gundam) does this with the infamous 'Bright Slap' scene by having Yoshiyuki Tomino punch Tōru Furuya in the face after several unimpressive line reads.
    • Another chapter shows Shuichi Ikeda going for drinks with cast members after each day of recording finished, except Tōru Furuya, who he was distant towards, to reflect the uncomfortable relationship between Char and Amuro. Once the final episode wrapped up, Ikeda invited Furuya out for drinks, which began a friendship reflected in Char and Amuro's interactions in Zeta Gundam. This worked largely because of the Japanese concept of "social drinking", which is an extremely important side of work interaction. Ikeda inviting everyone but Furuya would be considered as one of the most rude things he could do to a fellow co-worker.
  • In Bleach episode 298, Ichigo is filming a movie directed by Abarai Renji, with special effects provided by Kuchiki Byakuya. Said special effects include Byakuya attacking Ichigo with his Bankai. Ouch.
    Ichigo: Why am I the only one whose getting beat up?! The explosions are too powerful, the attacks are precise, and I get shoved down from crazy places without warning!
    Renji: You did some great acting in every one of those scenes.
    Ichigo: I wasn't acting!
  • Ten Little Gall Force is a Super-Deformed OVA that reimagines the cast of Gall Force as actors making a movie. At one stage, they're shooting the scene where Catty fries herself acting as the conductor for a broken power cable. Catty asks the director if he's sure the wire's not live, and the director shrugs, so she grabs the wire... and then the director activates it, electrocuting her for real. He seems thrilled with the "reality" of the scene.

    Film 
  • The fictional director in Bolt ran Bolt's life this way. The words "method acting" are even mentioned by the exec who came to evaluate the show.
    Director: And if the dog believes it... the audience will believe it.
  • In Superman Returns, Lex Luthor cuts the brakes on his assistant's car so that her screams for help will be authentic. When she confronts him later, he explains that if she hadn't really been terrified, Superman would be able to tell.
  • Tropic Thunder uses this trope in the plot, which involves a director filming a movie about The Vietnam War dropping his five actors into the Golden Triangle of Asia while riddling the jungle with hidden cameras as advised by Shell-Shocked Senior Four-Leaf Tayback.
  • The Truman Show takes this concept, and runs it into the ground.
  • In Epic Movie, while trying to escape a prison cell, Captain Swallows stabs Edward in the abdomen to ensure his pain is realistic enough to get the guards in.
  • Just the basic concept of Bowfinger is an extreme version of this, where the main lead, Kit Ramsey, doesn't even know he's in a movie, and all his scenes are filmed in secret because the titular film director couldn't afford to actually hire him.

    Literature 
  • Sherlock Holmes: Holmes does this to Watson several times, each time with the explanation that he needed Watson to behave as though something was absolutely true when it wasn't.
    • In the Dying Detective" Holmes appears to be dying of poison. Of course, it turns out that he's perfectly fine and was only acting so that Watson's reactions to it (and subsequent conversation with the suspect who had tried to poison him) would be genuine enough to convince said suspect.
    • A far crueler example is when Holmes fakes his own death for three years, leaving Watson alone even though his wife has died. Upon Holmes's return, Watson is quick to reprimand him for this. Holmes states that it was essential the world believed him dead, and Watson's behavior wouldn't be convincing enough if it was an act. The cruelty is mitigated by the fact that Holmes was laying low to protect both his life and Watson's, and explaining that the death of Watson's wife was the reason he ended his isolation.
  • The desperate haphazard plan Fisk comes up with in the first book of the Knight and Rogue Series, to drug the Mad Scientist Ceciel they're escaping from and pretend that he and she are going out to perform some sacrifice or another with Michael, nearly falls apart when a guard see's Ceciel's rather vacant face and bad actor Michael's fairly unconcerned expression. There's nothing to be done about the drugged look, so Fisk gets Michael to panic by beginning to talk about how they're sacrificing his 'fertility'.
  • In The Hunger Games, this happens repeatedly with Katniss. She can't act, and so is never warned about Peeta's interview strategies so her reactions will be genuine. By the third book, this has escalated to dropping her into a war zone in order to film propaganda because the studio shoots never work. At first they just stick to a hospital with real victims, but no one was expecting bombers to turn up. And when they do, they try to keep her out of the fighting, but she goes in anyway and they keep the camera rolling.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Search the Seven Hills, a troupe of girls playing nymphs is entertaining a Roman banquet when a troupe of actors as satyrs burst out on them. Marcus notes that either the girls were consummate actresses, or they had not expected to be actually molested by the satyrs.
  • In-universe example: In The Wizard of Sunset Strip, a special-effects adept conjures a real demon onto the set during the filming of a Human Sacrifice scene. The actress playing the "victim" freaks out for real, but the crew assume it's an illusion and keep on filming, only realizing she's genuinely terrified when she faints.
  • Reserved For The Cat: When Jonathan and Ninette are practicing a new illusion for Jonathan's act, he doesn't bother to tell Ninette that the flames she's about to see (while she's locked in a box) are magically-created fake flames. He then learns that you don't want to get kicked by a ballerina.

    Live Action Television 
  • The "Conspiracy Theories" episode of Community: Jeff, Annie, the Dean, a police officer, and the theater professor all shooting each other with fake guns in order to prove a point. Each time, someone thinks that the gun is real and freaks out.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle Reese breaks a leg when he sneaked out in the minibike Lois had under lock. They try to make it look like Craig ran over his leg with the car. When Reese's screams don't sound very believable Dewey proceeds to punch him in the bump that is his broken bone.
  • The opening-night production of Macbeth in Slings and Arrows includes an In-Universe version; Slings and Arrows is a story about a theater company, and director Geoffrey Tennant is not above manipulating his performers to get results. In order to get the performance he wants out of his recalcitrant Macbeth, Geoffrey changes all the blocking at the last minute, inserts a small tree at a strategic location, and gives secret instructions to Macbeth's opponents in fight scenes.
  • In Breakout Kings, Ray forces this upon Lloyd when he enacts a plan that involves letting their captive crook swipe his keys and his (unloaded) gun so that she'll take them straight to her partner as hostages. Needless to say, Lloyd is less than thrilled.
  • Inverted in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "School Hard", where Angel brings Xander with him and pretends to have captured food in order to get close to Spike. Xander, not liking or trusting Angel, is somewhere between believing it and not. Apparently, though, it was Angel's performance that was suspect, as Spike pulls away at the last moment to cheap shot Angel. Afterwards, Xander asks what would have happened if Spike had bitten Xander.
    Angel: Then we would have known he bought it.
  • In an episode of Stargate Atlantis, the heroes need a telepathic enemy army to believe that they've been beaten...so they create a failed rescue attempt to feed false information to a captive Jack O'Neill and Woolsey, then allow them to be interrogated. Jack's been around long enough to know something's up, but Woolsey believes he's going to die and predictably freaks out, fooling the enemy completely.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Liberty pays her next-door neighbor to be the Heel in her wrestling matches. Joy stuffs the neighbor into the trunk of her car, puts on the costume, and proceeds to try and sabotage Liberty's performance. (It ended up making her performance better, as well as helping both women air their grievances towards one another.)
  • In An Adventure in Space and Time, William Hartnell is thinking about his grief over the departing producer, Verity Lambert, while performing a scene in which his character leaves his granddaughter stranded on a post-apocalyptic Earth in the year 2150, and his acting is notably better than the usual Stylistic Suck it has been shown as. This is Rule of Drama - in real life, Verity Lambert stayed on the production for almost a year after the scene was made.

     Video Games 
  • The Avatar in Fire Emblem Awakening hears about how Walhart will kill Basilio after he and Flavia attack the conquerer. Knowing that the Fire Emblem might be stolen by the Grimleal (Namely Validar) s/he and Basilio devise a plan for Basilio to fake death to the Conqueror, and not actually tell Flavia so her cries when catching up with Chrom are legit. Later on, The avatar proves correct - the Fire Emblem is stolen, but the green gem was replaced with a fake and Basilio was not actually dead. Just as Validar (and Lucina) had thought, Grima tries to possess the avatar... but the avatar attacks Chrom anyways and weakens the attack so Chrom survives... but s/he does not tell Chrom or Lucina that they'll do that, so their Big "NO!" and reactions will genuinely fool Validar. Cue Basilio walking in talking about how they fooled them all.

    Webcomics 
  • In one of the bonus strips from The Order of the Stick, Elan is trying to gain roleplaying XP by bemoaning a light wound. Belkar decides to help him with his motivation. Injury and Stabbing Ensue.
  • This trope is a running gag in the commentary of ''The B-Movie Comic". It's almost always Lee, the actor who plays snuka on the receiving end, but not always.

    Web Original 
  • In-universe examples for the animated band Gorillaz: according to their biography, Rise of the Ogre, the band weren't told by their director Jamie Hewlett about the 300-foot elk that appears at the end of the "19/2000" video, so they'd look appropriately surprised. Also, the Groin Attack Murdoc suffers at the hands of the zombie ape in "Clint Eastwood" was apparently real, and caused his genitals to "swell up like big purple melons".

    Western Animation 
  • In the Futurama episode "My Three Suns", Bender tries this in order to make Fry cry to free the emperor trapped inside of him. Bender loudly exclaims about seeing Leela being captured and killed by rioters. It works, but only just so. Then Leela breaks the illusion by showing up in the room, entirely unharmed. They eventually get Fry to cry by beating the crap out of him.
  • In The Simpsons, when filming the Radioactive Man movie, the director informs Rainier Wolfcastle at the last second that the acid being used in one of the scenes is real. What follows is one of the most memorable moments in Simpsons history.
    • In "The Great Money Caper" the entire town sets up a hoax on Homer and Bart to teach them not to con people, by creating a trick where Groundskeeper Willie is apprehended and found guilty for stealing Homer's car. The only person not in on the hoax? Willie himself, presumably to make his behavior more realistic.
  • King of the Hill has Dale try this in one episode, and it actually backfires spectacularly: He tries to sue a tobacco company on the grounds that cigarette smoke made his wife Nancy uglier, and doesn't tell her his plan so she won't have to lie under oath. He overdoes it though, and endangers his marriage by insulting Nancy too harshly. He then spends his entire courtroom appearance establishing that he loves his wife, saving his marriage but destroying his case in the process.
  • In the Teen Titans episode "Masks", Robin doesn't tell his teammates that he's disguised himself as Red X because he wants their reactions to be believable in order to fool Slade.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Green Isn't Your Color" features this in the form of Photo Finish boosting Fluttershy's Moe appeal by taking pictures of her natural reactions to harsh criticism.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars had an arc where Obi-Wan faked his death and disguised himself as his supposed killer, with Anakin and Ahsoka kept in the dark in order to make the ruse more convincing. Unfortunately, their reaction was to seek out his "murderer" and it almost derailed the entire plan.


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