5 Amazing Performances by Actors Who Weren't Acting (Part 3)

#2. The Actors in Easy Rider Were All High as Balls

Columbia Pictures

If every decade gets one film that perfectly encapsulates the era (like, say, Wall Street did for the 1980s), Easy Rider would be the film for the 1960s. It's Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, and Peter Fonda on a drug-fueled road trip across America. So how would the filming of something like that stray into "dangerously realistic" territory? What, were the stars smoking real drugs? Yep!

In the famous scene where Nicholson, Fonda, and Hopper sit around a campfire smoking weed and talking about UFOs, the unfocused stares, word stumbles, and "Far out, mans" were all legit. The actors were, in fact, as high as a sophomore in gym class at the time. Which is probably why Hopper sounds like a man just learning to speak here:

According to cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, "There were a lot of drugs around the set ... we can't make any secret about it ... and they were high, you know? And they enjoyed it, it was part of the scene, part of the characters." The director, Hopper, didn't even like smoking weed because it made him too paranoid. But if you're shooting for authenticity, there's no substitute for the real thing. Way to take one for the team, buddy.

Columbia Pictures
Though some say he rebelled without cause.

Oddly, despite being high as a kite, Jack Nicholson was able to recite his lines from the script verbatim without stumbling or forgetting a single word. That's especially impressive when you consider that Jack Nicholson was never supposed to be in this scene, or even this movie. He was hired to replace Rip Torn at the very last second and had to do his first scene in his big break while higher than a Colorado pizza delivery driver. And all while sitting next to Dennis "I May Bite You in the Face at Any Time and for Any Reason" Hopper, who was already both stoned and paranoid.

#1. Spielberg Almost Broke an Actress's Back in Jaws

Universal Pictures

Jaws is the movie that made us so afraid of the water that we stopped surfing, swimming, and even bathing. At least that's the story we're going with. And it all started with the very first scene in the film, in which a hippie girl named Chrissie went skinny dipping in shark territory and wound up food.

The scene is visceral, disturbing, and extremely physical: Chrissie screams for her life while being jerked violently back and forth by some massive, unseen force beneath the waves. She really sold the hell out of the pain and distress in that scene. Probably because the actress, Susan Backlinie, was in a hell of a lot of pain and distress.

The filmmakers had to use practical effects to make the girl's body rag-doll around like that, which meant rigging up a series of ropes that stretched from Backlinie's torso all the way to the shore, where two large groups of men were yanking her about like a dog with a chew toy. The filmmakers were warned that they could cause the actress serious injury if too many people on either side yanked at the same time. But then again, the more authentic the distress they could inflict on the actress, the more convincing the scene would be. History knows which way the filmmakers erred:

Universal Pictures
They nearly snapped her backlinie.

When Backlinie crawled up on that beach, she probably thought her ordeal was over. Not so: The sound of Chrissie's screams still had to be added later in the studio, and to make her shrieks more convincingly like those of a drowning woman ... they went ahead and waterboarded her while she did it. Remember: waterboarding -- lying back, restrained, while an assailant pours a constant stream of water into your airways -- is so inhumane that the practice violates the Geneva Conventions. So technically, Steven Spielberg is guilty of crimes against international law.

But hey, Jaws was an awesome flick, so what's a little torture between friends?


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Related Reading: Funny story- Michael J. Fox was almost hung filming Back to the Future 3. Likewise, that infamous vomiting scene from The Exorcist was 100% acting-free. For a look at the great background performances of all time, watch this Cracked video.

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