You'd be surprised at how much sexual tension
is contained in that box.
"Most of the actresses I'm required to smooch [are taller than me]. At such times they usually stand me on a box. Sort of keeps your feet on the ground, paradoxically."
If an actor looks too short next to a costar, the easiest thing to do is to have them stand on something to make them taller.
Named for a special box from the production of The X-Files
. Gillian Anderson
was much shorter
than David Duchovny. Consequently, to keep Scully and Mulder on roughly the same plane while shooting them together, they developed a special box for her to stand on. Unlike the traditional movie apple box or trench, a Scully Box can be stacked up, or laid out in a runway. It's very versatile, and used to accommodate large height differences between cast members.
The term "apple box" is prevalent in the industry for an actor-heightening wooden box of a given dimension, typically: 12" x 8" x 20" or 30 x 20 x 50cm. A Scully Box is an 'apple' and a half, and is constructed of aluminum covered with outdoor carpeting for sound-deadening and traction. It is also called a Gilly-board.
See also Hitler Cam
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Films — Animated
- In Toy Story, since Woody was actually much taller than Buzz, in scenes when they had to talk with each-other but their feet wouldn't be in the frame, the animators would actually have Woody's legs dangling below the ground. They called it "Ditching".
Films — Live-Action
- Spoofed in the Monty Python's Flying Circus skits:
- In "Scott of the Sahara," an actress is standing in a trench on her own feet, while the actor with her is on a box. The result is ridiculous height disparity.
- In a skit about horse jockeys, several jockeys are so short that only their hats are visible in frame. Another jockey is so short that he has to stand on a box just to make his hat visible.
- The raised platform holding the desk on The Daily Show serves a similar purpose: observant viewers will note that Jon Stewart, who is 5' 6", always shakes the guest's hand before they step up onto the platform. Despite this fact, Stewart constantly jokes about his height. He used the raised platform on The Colbert Report to briefly make himself look taller than 6' 4" Conan O'Brien during the Mêlée à Trois crossover between the three shows.
Stephen Colbert: That's the magic of television, Jon.
Jon Stewart: Can I have a screengrab of that?
- In his debate with Bill O'Reilly in 2012, Stewart went a step further, using a lifting platform that would allow him to tower over O'Reilly (and every inch in between) - used primarily to diffuse tension and get some laughs.
- In earliest seasons of That '70s Show, the scenes where the 15-year old Mila Kunis (Jackie) and Laura Prepon (Donna) talked alone had either to portray them sitting, or to have Mila wearing platform heels. Not quite a box, but very close.
- Allison Mack (5'5'') from Smallville admits to using either a crate, or a lifted "alley board" so she doesn't look short against "ostentatiously tall" Tom Welling (6'3''). It is the only way they could hug naturally with the 10 inches difference◊.
- Cassidy Freeman uses it a bit as well, despite being 5'9''.
- Parodied in one scene in which Erica Durance kicks a stack of paper next to Tom's feet (on screen) before running to him.
- Oddly, in Upgrade, Callum Blue (6') is somehow shown to be several inches taller than Tom probably due to misuse of boxes.
- Eight Out Of Ten Cats host Jimmy Carr has to have a cushion placed on his seat so he can see over his desk. This led to a fairly hilarious scene when guest David Walliams "outed" him by insisting that he stand up, and then removing the cushion, leaving Jimmy about four inches shorter all of a sudden. Also subverted since Jimmy Carr is a good 6 feet tall, so it's more of an issue with the set (or for entirely comedic purposes).
- Doctor Who
- During John Barrowman's first five episodes, Billie Piper had to stand on a box whenever she was in a scene with him since he is seven inches taller than her. This is an unusual example given that that John Barrowman and Christopher Eccleston are the exact same height, and she never did so with the latter. It probably has to do with the mystique of the Doctor.
- Used In-Universe in the Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned," where Kylie Minogue's character stands on a box to kiss David Tennant. It's Played for Laughs.
- In Get Smart, Barbara Feldon was slightly taller than male lead Don Adams. This led to Don Adams standing on an apple crate or Barbara Feldon bending her knees and/or not wearing shoes so he would appear taller than her in close ups.
- While Angel was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar had to stand on a box just so she can be seen in the same frame as the much taller David Boreanaz. The later seasons had her wear high heels to have Buffy appear taller than Dawn.
- Staging scenes in Glee is often difficult because Cory Monteith is so much taller than anyone else in the cast (even the cast members playing teachers) and he spends a lot of time not only sitting, but also leaning forward with his forearms resting on his thighs (otherwise seated cast members behind him still wouldn't be visible). Other times they actually use his height to their advantage, for example: When sharing a scene with Rachel the camera will sometimes switch to a shot closer to her perspective which only serves to make him look even taller.
- Chris Colfer is slightly taller than his on screen love interest, Darren Criss, but, because Criss' character was meant to serve as a mentor type figure, efforts were made to make him him appear taller than Colfer, even in photo shoots promoting the show.
- The Hamster was once seen to be standing on a box so he could see over the bonnet of a Cadillac Escalade.
- Nodded towards in The Big Bang Theory. Bernadette is played by the under 5' Melissa Rauch, but Howard, her boyfriend, isn't that much taller and thus it isn't that big of an issue. In one episode at her apartment she got a ring at the doorbell and in order to look through the peephole she had to use a step stool. Rauch mentioned that most of her family is pretty short and her husband is around 6', so whenever they get together it feels like he is visiting the Shire.
- Both Leonard and Howard are fairly short, which is commented upon frequently in the show. Leonard and Penny are generally the same height but if Penny wears high heels she towers over him. In one episode the group was having a formal cocktail party and Bernadette was complaining about climbing the stairs in high heels and Howard revealed he was wearing heels as well. After a confrontation, Sheldon comments that Howard seemed taller than normal.
- Melissa Rauch also had this taken to new levels when she was on True Blood as she spends most of her screentime with 6"4" Jim Parrack.
- In I Carly, Nathan Kress was very short in the first season, compared to the 2 girls in their power trio. So he had to wear a very visible pair of giant platform boots. By the time season 2 started he'd hit puberty with a deeper voice (mentioned on the show), and he was as tall as Carly. In the current episodes, he's starting to tower over Carly as well.
- In Season 4, Miranda Cosgrove has continued to get taller, while Jennette McCurdy has not, so in episodes from Season 4 onward she starts wearing platform shoes.
- Inversion. In the later seasons of MASH with Major Burns, Burns seems to get shorter, despite Larry Linville being 6'1" to Alan Alda's 6'2", and Mike Farrell's 6'3" (BJ in particular seems to be noticeably taller than Burns, while Trapper, played by Wayne Rogers who is also 6'3", did not). It may have been a nod to the movie, where Burns was played by Robert Duvall (5'8") and Hawkeye by Donald Sutherland (6'4"), and Trapper Elliot Gould (6'3").
- Burns getting consistently shorter was strange. On the other hand, Mike Farrell appearing so much taller than anyone else in the cast including Alan Alda, to the point that BJ had to duck when entering or leaving a tent, can be chalked up to the hunch Hawkeye seemed to develop in later seasons. Rogers also never seemed to stand up straight.
- In Supernatural, both Katie Cassidy (5'7") and Genevieve Cortese (5'4") played the demon Ruby. Since almost all of their screen time was spent in the company of the 6'4" Jared Padalecki and 6'1" Jensen Ackles, tall, spiky heels became a standard of Ruby's wardrobe from the get go. Katie Cassidy has stated these caused her to lose her balance on more than one occasion.
- According to Richard Speight (Gabriel), he had to use four of these while sharing a scene with Jared and Jensen. Without them, he wasn't even in the frame.
- Used in-universe in Veep, where the Vice President's assistant has a folding stepping stool in his bag for her to use during speeches when the lectern is too tall. This is understandable, given that the actress, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, is 5'3.
- Required quite often on Heroes whenever Hayden Panettiere and Kristen Bell, who are both 5'1", share scenes with Zachary Quinto, who is 6'3".
- Inverted in Star Trek: The Next Generation, where due to Jonathan Frakes being significantly taller than most of the cast, Riker was often shown learning forward in a Captain Morgan Pose, simply because it was the only way they could manage to fit him into frame.
- Referenced humorously in the Celebrity Jeopardy episode of February 9th 2001, on which Seth Green was a contestant.
Alex Trebek: We started off the week, ladies and gentlemen, here in Las Vegas with me feeling vertically challenged because one of our contestants was [6'6"/198 cm] Charles Barkley and I felt very short next to him. Seth [who is 5'4"/163 cm] took pity on me.
Seth Green: (points down) I got this sweet box! (steps down and loses about a foot in height)
Alex Trebek: He wants to make me feel a lot better.
- When the Granada Sherlock Holmes replaced David Burke's Watson with the shorter Edward Hardwicke, this trope came into play:
Jeremy Brett: So he watched the previous thirteen films (and) decided to try and look a little like David Burke, as much as he could, bless him. So he put on a rug, I mean a toupee, and put lifts in his heels. And the first film we shot together was "The Abbey Grange". And we were running across a field, and these heels were too high so he was slipping and sliding. And I said, 'Oh, Edward, take them out! I'll bend my knees for the rest of the film!'
- How I Met Your Mother has 6'4 Marshall paired with 5'4 Lily, which is sometimes commented on. But the rest of the male cast is still above 6' and the other female cast member Robin is a fairly tall 5'9, which leaves Lily as often wearing high heels even when lounging around at home.
- Elementary has the 5'3 Lucy Liu with 5'10 Jonny Lee Miller. This results in Joan Watson wearing quite a lot of heels.
- The WWF's André the Giant frequently employed a crate during backstage interviews; he was already incredibly tall and large, but this served to make him truly tower over the interviewer. Sadly, the condition that caused his large size ultimately led to his early death.
- Elliot Morgan and, during the early days, Philip DeFranco, are both significantly taller than the other members of SourceFed, so everyone else has to stand on an apple box in order to look similar heights.
- A similar trick was done in Total Drama World Tour. Since Sierra is just shy of One Head Taller than her crush Cody, the animators had to cheat whenever she employed a Marshmallow Hell, and kept Cody's feet a few inches above the ground.
- An in-universe example in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode "Rondo in New York" when action Hollywood star tours the theater to promote his latest film. The actor is really short and has a crew placing apple boxes as he walks by the crowd looking down on them, much to Michelangelo's disappointment.
- Tom Cruise uses these (apparently it's not just couches he stands on). In his wedding photos, where they couldn't be used, he had Katie Holmes squat down a bit so that she wouldn't be taller than him.
- After divorcing him, Nicole Kidman (who is 6'0") declared "Now I can wear heels again."
- In just about every photo where you can see his feet, Cruise wears shoes with lifts to give him those much needed extra inches.
- Cruise is 5'7". Shorter than average, yes, but not excessively so. He just happens to spend his non-Church of Happyology time around tall actors. Most people nowadays assume he's even shorter.
- A bit of aside trivia, Cruise was the only actor in Top Gun that met the height requirements for a Navy fighter pilot. For comparison, Anthony "Goose" Edwards is 6'2", and was barely able to fit in the backseat of an F-14.
- Tom Cruise's BFF David Miscavige uses a box for nearly every speech he makes. He also surrounds himself with short people, and has regular-sized and tall people stand in the back for group pictures.
- During a debate when Robert Reich was running for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 (against the 6'2" Mitt Romney), a camera pan showed he was standing on one of these behind the podium. Understandable, since Reich is 4'10" due to a bone condition. He's made fun of this in interviews, notably during one with the famously tall Conan O'Brien.
- John Kerry, former longtime Massachusetts senator and current Secretary of State, frequently has this device used by people he's posing with, since at 6'4" he towers over practically everyone. This is especially notable whenever he has to stand next to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick◊ and is a good head and then some taller.
- It's also thought that this is one reason former President George W. Bush was frequently drawn as a midget in political cartoons, since while the real Bush is actually 5'11" – not short by any means – he wound up looking short next to the outrageously tall Kerry (same with Al Gore, who's 6'2").
- During an event where speeches were given by Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, several pictures were taken from the side, revealing the... vertically challenged French president had stood on a box, presumably because he wouldn't have reached the microphone – set up for the 6'1" Obama – otherwise. Sarkozy, who is 5'5"note , even needs one of these when pictured with his own wife, an ex-supermodel.
- CNN reporter Frederik Pleitgen typically ends up with a cameraman on a box. Fred is very tall, and when doing interviews stands with his legs apart to bring himself down to the level of most of his interviewees – this way, they aren't looking up and we don't get a lovely shot of the subject's nostrils. However, when doing a One Shot, to avoid the opposite effect of Fred looking down, the cameraman needs a boost to operate the camera at a suitable height.
- Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright accomplished the same effect by designing many buildings around his own height of 5'8". Tall people find them notoriously cramped.
- Many photographers have boxes in their studios for just this purpose. It really comes in handy for couples with large height differences. Some studios also employ phone books (and other thick literary titles).
- In the BBC's flat racing coverage, Willie Carson, a five foot tall ex-champion jockey, employs one of these to be seen in shot with his much taller co-host Clare Balding.
- Paul McGann (perhaps most notably seen in Withnail and I, being short, and Doctor Who, being less so) shares his thoughts on his height and the Scully Box:
"Five feet nine. Quite little, really. From a squat tribe, you see. My brothers (and sister) are all taller than me, as are most of the actresses I'm required to smooch. At such times they usually stand me on a box. Sort of keeps your feet on the ground, paradoxically."
- President George H.W. Bush made it a personal rule never to be photographed standing next to Ronald Reagan while he was Reagan's Vice-President, because the 6'2" Bush didn't want to overshadow his boss (Reagan was 6'0").
- During a political debate with the 6'3" Bill O'Reilly, a 5'6" Jon Stewart uses an adjustable podium to reach the same eye level as his opponent. Or gain a few feet over him.
- When Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake embarked on a tour together, they did a photo shoot for Rolling Stone to promote the tour where they were eye level. However, because Justin is 6'2 and Christina is just barely over 5 feet tall, he had to bend down while she had to stand on a step ladder in order for them to be at eye level with the camera.