Acting is hard, and directing actors is even harder. Some of the best directors have spent decades mastering their art so they can draw out the precise emotions they're looking for. Other directors, as we have shown you before, just decide that the whole "acting" thing is overrated and that it's easier to get a good scene by genuinely traumatizing someone. Here are some examples of the latter school of thought.
#5. Matthew McConaughey Is as Strange as His Characters
We're assuming that the set of The Wolf of Wall Street wasn't as crazy as the story they were portraying, since, you know, everyone was still alive when the film wrapped (even if a goldfish did take a shit in Jonah Hill's mouth). But there is one behind-the-scenes story that at least gives us insight into the ridiculous world of Matthew McConaughey.
One of the stranger scenes in the film (a statement we don't make lightly) is when Leonardo DiCaprio and McConaughey sit down to lunch and McConaughey's character reveals how utterly insane he is. For DiCaprio's character, this is his introduction to the bizarre, coked-out world of Wall Street traders. It all culminates in McConaughey doing this crazy ritual where he pounds on his chest and hums to produce a song that sounds halfway between a war dance and an intro to a Kanye West track:
It's so weird that it's almost too silly. Who comes up with this shit? Well, nobody. That chest-thumping ritual is something McConaughey does on his own, in real life. DiCaprio saw him doing it on the set and, rather than slowly backing away like most people would, asked him what was up. Apparently it's what McConaughey does to relax and get his voice ready before scenes, and DiCaprio thought it was so weird, he asked to do a take of the scene with McConaughey's little ritual in it.
Pictured: The exact moment DiCaprio realized that McConaughey was off his meds.
So they accurately portrayed a crazy person by getting Matthew McConaughey to be himself. The next time you go back and watch True Detective, imagine him doing that chest thumping song before every shot. You're welcome!
This explains why the True Detective makeup people put his facial hair on crooked.
Oh, and we should mention that this movie also featured a "not-so-fake punch" incident. In one scene, Hill's character freaks out and lectures his drug dealer, who responds by cold-cocking him. Scorsese wasn't happy with early takes of the scene, so he went to Jonah Hill and asked, "Hey, kid, you wanna try one where he hits you for real?"
Now, keep in mind that the dealer was played by Jon Bernthal, who boxes in his spare time and looks like he works out in a prison yard. Hill, meanwhile, is the quintessential "before" picture from a late night weight loss infomercial. But Hill didn't want to look like a wimp in front of his idol, so he gave in to peer pressure and quite literally took one for the team. The punch was so hard, it sent the fake teeth Hill was wearing flying. It almost looks like he gets knocked out cold, but he's just lucid enough to hear Scorsese's concern as he yelled, "His face is swelling! Get him new teeth and let's shoot it!" Oh, no, he wasn't concerned for Hill's health -- he was worried about missing a good shot.
#4. Stallone Got Punched So Hard, He Spent Nine Days in the Hospital
Actors punch each other for real surprisingly often, considering there's an entire profession dedicated to making staged fights look legit. To make it convincing, the blows have to come really close (or even better, actually make contact in a non-lethal way), which means the difference between "fake movie punch" and "actual punch" is a matter of opinion.
For example, basically every fight in Rocky IV contains real punching, and that's saying something, considering that the movie is a Cold War drama told almost entirely through fisticuffs. In one particularly brutal scene, Dolph Lundgren claims that Sylvester Stallone tricked him by saying he'd punch on the count of three, but then swung on two.
"Sorry, I was counting in American."
Lundgren got his revenge, and then some, during a fight where Stallone said, "Fuck this acting shit, let's have you try to knock me out for real" (or something to that effect). Lundgren did as he was asked, probably with glee, and hit Stallone in the chest so hard that he had to spend nine days in a hospital to get his heart working properly again. The insurance company refused to believe it until they broke the scene down frame by frame and were able to pinpoint the exact moment where Stallone's heart breaks.
Ah, there it is.
But like we said, this happens more often than you'd think. One of the most famous scenes in Fight Club, another film known for its brutality, features some good old-fashioned improvised violence. When Brad Pitt insists on having Edward Norton hit him, the script called for Norton to clumsily smack Pitt's shoulder to emphasize his lack of fighting skill. But director David Fincher told Norton to actually give Pitt a good, hard punch to the ear.
After some protest, in which Norton pointed out that he had basically just met Pitt and was being told to punch him in the head, he agreed. Pitt's surprised reaction is genuine, and you can even catch Norton laughing afterward.
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And if you look really closely, Edward Norton actually punches himself in the ear.
Meanwhile, in Goldfinger, Harold Sakata, the actor who played Oddjob, didn't quite understand the concept of pulling his punches, so the look on Sean Connery's face and his video-game-glitch body contortions after Oddjob wallops him on the back of the neck are genuine.
"Ugh, dammit! I didn't even get to do the fourth sex scene yet!"
You've got to respect Sakata, though, because he was as committed to taking pain as he was to giving it. Something went wrong with the special effects during the scene where Bond electrocutes Oddjob, and Sakata badly burned his hands on the metal bars. When the director asked why he never let go despite being in obvious pain, he casually replied, "You didn't say cut, so I just hung on," a line more badass than any of the dialogue delivered by Bond himself.
They made sure his hat conducted electricity for that extra dose of authenticity.
#3. Animals Attack the Cast of The Omen
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In The Omen, a family gradually realizes that their son, Damien, is evil, despite the fact that yelling racial slurs during online games hadn't been invented yet.
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Neither had selfies, which would have given away the creepy facial expressions.
Their suspicions are heightened when Damien and his mother visit a safari park and all the animals collectively lose their shit. Some flee in terror, while others attack, as the animals seem to be able to instantly identify the Antichrist by the same rule that lets dogs sniff out Terminators.
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"Hey, kid, how are ... oh, hey, you're super evil. See ya!"
In one especially memorable scene, the baboons decide they're going to do humanity a solid and attempt to murder Damien. Audiences were impressed by the acting of Damien's mother, played by Lee Remick, as she manages to convince you that she really does have a crippling fear of baboon groins.
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"IT'S LIKE A CHERRY POPSICLE."
But that fear is real -- the baboons really did freak out and attack the car. At first Remick stalled the vehicle because she wasn't used to driving with a manual transmission, and then she was too busy panicking to try to get it going again. Damn, who would have thought that slowly driving a strange contraption through the territory of a bunch of violent and aggressive animals would backfire?
So when you're watching that scene, you're watching a woman who's fully convinced that she and the child actor in her care are about to be beaten to death by angry apes. Eventually the crew managed to shoo enough of them away for Remick to settle down and get the hell out of baboon country. And, as usual, the best take was the one where the actor was in real mortal terror.