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Every once in a while you come across a performance in a movie that leaves you in awe of the star's acting abilities and makes you wonder where they learned to perform like that, or what type of drugs they are on. In some cases, the answer is that they're not really acting at all -- sometimes they're being manipulated by sadistic directors, and sometimes they end up inflicting real damage on themselves to get a little closer to that Oscar. Or death, whichever happens first.

6
Back to the Future Part III -- Michael J. Fox Was Nearly Hanged for Real

Universal Pictures

In the third installment of the Back to the Future trilogy, the Tannen family's genetic predisposition toward assholery is confirmed when Marty McFly travels to the year 1885 and is almost immediately murdered by the notorious outlaw Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen (the great-granddaddy of the McFly family's manservant). In this scene, Marty is dragged behind a horse, then hanged from his neck until Doc Brown heroically saves his life.

Man, Michael J. Fox really pulls off that "I was just nearly hanged" look and voice at the end, doesn't he? Well, this was somewhat aided by the fact that he was seriously nearly hanged while shooting this scene. Most of the "Marty's almost killed" shots in this movie were done with a stuntman, but obviously they needed to show the actor's face at some point or people would ask for their money back, so for this sequence they had Fox stand on top of a box and put a noose around his neck.

Universal Pictures
They tried a close-up of his face, but it looked like he was masturbating.

However, director Robert Zemeckis just could not get this to look realistic, so Fox offered to do it without the box, relying entirely on careful hand placement on the noose to keep himself from asphyxiating. This worked for a few takes, but on the third one, Fox missed his hand placement and was really strung up by his neck, like a common pig burglar.

Universal Pictures
Fortunately, Zemeckis still had Eric Stoltz on speed dial in case they needed another Marty.

Fox actually passed out and hanged there for a moment until someone noticed that the movie's star was dying in front of everyone and took him down. Here's how Fox himself put it in his autobiography Lucky Man:

This was the shot that they ultimately used, which made for an impressive albeit a little too realistic scene. But hey, it's not like the director intentionally strangled an actor until he lost consciousness. Who would even do that?

5
Inglourious Basterds -- Quentin Tarantino Strangled an Actress Until She Lost Consciousness

The Weinstein Company

In Inglourious Basterds, the Inglourious Basterds recruit spy/German film star Bridget von Hammersmark, played by Diane Kruger, to infiltrate a movie premiere in an attempt to kill Hitler and other top Nazi officials, and thus give birth to the Tarantino Universe. SS officer Hans Landa discovers her as a spy, lures her into a private room, and chokes her to death.

However, Quentin Tarantino was unimpressed with choking scenes in other movies, in that actors are rarely in any considerable danger while shooting them, and convinced Kruger to be strangled for real in order to get the scene just right. Fearing that actor Christoph Waltz would choke her too much or too little, Tarantino decided to take matters into his own hands. Literally, his own hands.

The Weinstein Company
"Trust me, I've strangled at least 30 hobos. I got this."

In this interview, Tarantino tells us, "What I said to her was, I'm gonna just strangle you, alright? Full on, I'm gonna cut off your air, for just a little bit of time. We're gonna see the reaction in your face and I'm gonna yell cut." Kruger went "Yep, that sounds like a reasonable thing a director would ask of me" and let Tarantino sit on top of her and choke her to the point of unconsciousness.

The Weinstein Company

While wearing a Nazi outfit.

The Weinstein Company
"Well, I wasn't prepared for this, but ..." (Tarantino tears his suit and this is underneath)

OK, at this point we seriously have to question if Tarantino wrote this entire movie to justify choking a beautiful woman while dressed as a Nazi, because the entire budget was probably still cheaper than hiring one of those high-end Hollywood hookers. Fortunately for Kruger, they got the shot in one take and that's the one that appears in the movie. Tarantino then reportedly gave the crew 15 minutes and had to take a long bathroom break.

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4
Enter the Dragon -- Bruce Lee Actually Power Kicked a Dude

Warner Bros. Pictures

Everyone knows Bruce Lee was a badass. He was such a badass that, even after he died, he came back from the dead (through the power of bad editing) to kick more ass. This was clearly not a man you would want to piss off ... which is exactly what his co-star Robert Wall seems to have done while shooting Enter the Dragon, and you can see the painful consequences in this scene:

That last part, where Lee's kick propels the other actor like the stream of an anti-riot van, dispersing the crowd behind? That wasn't in the script, unless you count the script Lee apparently had in his mind to get revenge on the dude.

You see, earlier in the fight between Lee and Wall, there was a part where real bottles were used. While filming the scene, Wall smashed two bottles together and slashed at Lee, accidentally cutting his arm.

Warner Bros. Pictures
A move that failed to impress Mr. Yellow.

After Lee's arm healed and he went back to reshoot the scene, rumors started going around the set that he was planning to kill Wall for real. Clearly, he wasn't; he simply wanted to cripple him. So for the part where he was supposed to take out Wall with a kick, Lee gave it some extra oomph and sent the guy flying into the extras behind -- Wall landed with such strength that when one of the extras tried to catch him, he actually broke his arm.

Warner Bros. Pictures
If you watch frame by frame, you can see that Wall actually goes around the world and comes back.

That's right: Bruce Lee once kicked that dude so hard, he broke another person's bones. Now, Wall still insists that he and Lee were good friends and that the death plot rumors were started by the director, but that only makes us fear Bruce Lee even more -- this is how he kicks someone he doesn't want dead.

3
The 40 Year Old Virgin -- The Painful Chest Waxing Scene Is Totally Real

Universal Pictures

One of the most memorable scenes in The 40 Year Old Virgin is the one where Steve Carell's character, Andy, gets his ridiculously hairy chest waxed. The process is so unexpectedly painful that he starts yelling out insults at the waxing lady.

There are many hints that what you're seeing isn't real, like the aforementioned rug on Carell's chest (probably an unused Chewbacca suit from Star Wars), or the fact that the waxing lady apparently attempts to wax his nipple right off without taking any precautions (surely a professional wouldn't do that). Also, that amount of pain would probably be worth it if you're doing, like, an intense art film with Kubrick deep in the jungle, but not for a three-minute sequence in some dumb, largely improvised comedy.

Universal Pictures
Which would explain why they used a "serious emoticon" on his torso.

But nope: The waxing is completely real, as is the pain -- director Judd Apatow and Carell himself decided it would be fun to do an actual chest waxing and film that shit. They put four cameras around Carell, since he couldn't re-grow his hair if they needed to repeat any shots, and captured every second of his delicious suffering.

Universal Pictures
Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd's barely concealed arousal was also not acting.

In the behind-the-scenes video, you can see Carell jokingly saying he doesn't think the scene is gonna hurt, and later confirming that it totally fucking did. A lot. So, yeah, that's Carell's real hair (or was before they tore it off), and as for the nipple ... well, apparently the waxing lady didn't have so much experience removing hair from that particular part of the anatomy. There's an interview where Carell says you can actually see blood in some of the shots.

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2
Oldboy -- The Vegetarian Actor Ate a Real Live Octopus

Show East

In Oldboy, the 2003 Korean remake of Spike Lee's upcoming joint (when are you going to get your own ideas, Asia?), a drunken businessman called Oh Dae-su is locked away in a room with nothing but a TV to keep him company for 15 years and goes somewhat crazy.

Show East
"And now, we continue our special 15-year marathon of The Lawrence Welk Show."

After being released from the room, he seeks bloody vengeance on all who have wronged him ... but before that, a nice meal. Since Oh Dae-su wants to eat something completely different from the same food he's eaten every day for the last 15 years, he goes to a sushi restaurant and we see him eat a live octopus in what has to be the second most disgusting thing involving tentacles to ever come out of Asian cinema.

You've probably guessed by now that this wasn't CGI, or a rubber model, or Warwick Davis in a squid suit or anything -- that's a real, live, squirming squid that the actor Choi Min-sik ate, and what makes it even worse in his case is that Choi is actually a Buddhist and devout vegetarian in real life. Before the scene, he even told the squid he was sorry ... and apparently the little guy forgave him, because look, in this part it's totally trying to hug him:

Show East
Awwwww. Ewwwww.

Swallowing even a dead animal would have been disgusting enough for the actor, let alone one that you can feel fighting you as it goes down your throat. On top of that, he had to do it twice, once for the camera rehearsal and then again for the actual shooting. So you could say that, yes, this guy definitely is acting (you can tell because he's not screaming through the whole thing), but in a sense he isn't, since he's performing the actual bodily function of eating a live squid. We're gonna go ahead and say that counts.

1
Every Sly Stallone Movie -- Stallone Acts by Breaking His Body

Orion Pictures

Sylvester Stallone's acting method is pretty simple. Step 1: Roll the camera. Step 2: Do something terrible to his own body and record the results. Case in point:

Remember that scene in First Blood where John Rambo jumps off a cliff and uses a tree to break his fall? While most actors would throw this at a stunt double and sip a cappuccino in their trailer, Stallone said "fuck it" and decided to jump off a real cliff and into a tree to break his fall. The result? He broke his ribs on impact ... and kept filming the rest of the day.

Orion Pictures
The tree went to the emergency room and later sued the producers.

The craziest part is that Stallone actually did that jump three times before he decided his insides hurt just enough to call it a success. Then there was the scene where Rambo gets smacked in the back by a cop and collapses -- that one took 19 freaking takes, and according to a crew member, "Sly was black and blue by the time it was over." We'll remind you now that Stallone wrote this movie and was the one insisting that the cast and crew inflict real pain upon his body.

Orion Pictures
Stallone ended up fine, but the cop has traumatic flashbacks to this day.

But this was when Stallone was still an eager young actor trying to make an impression in Hollywood; by now his movies are probably all full of boring stuff like CGI, stunt doubles, and "safety regulations," right? Apparently not: While shooting a fight scene with Stone Cold Steve Austin in The Expendables, Sly kept pushing Austin to hit him harder and harder until the guy threw him against a wall and broke his freaking neck. Stallone ended up requiring surgery and metal plates to fix the damage. This despite the fact that, as a former wrestler, Austin is specifically trained to look like he's beating you while not actually doing shit -- he has said he "takes a lot of pride in not hurting people."

Geez, no wonder Stallone has been calling Bruce Willis lazy -- he probably found out Willis just pretended to jump out of an exploding building in Die Hard, like some sort of pussy.


Matthew's Twitter can be found here. Aaron has a movie-based blog where he talks about Nicolas Cage. A lot. You can read more from Amanda at Mannafesto or follow her on Twitter. Davidb is a terrible playwright for The Contemporary Theater Company. Miles DuBonnet sometimes does stand-up comedy and sometimes plays kooky characters!

Related Reading: Actors don't need to do their job to do their job. For further proof, check out this additional collection of incredible performances that weren't acted at all. You know the first Alien chestbursting scene? All those shocked reactions to it were genuine. With directorial trickery so rampant, it's no wonder Wesley Snipes tried to strangle the director of Blade 3. Before we spend too much time talking about how creative Hollywood can be, let's take a moment to remember the actors who look identical on every poster they do.

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