Hang around theater types and you'll hear the expression, "acting is a noble profession." You'll hear talk of "finding your character" and being "moved by the spirit." And if my college's theater program is any indication, you'll hear people offer you sex in exchange for weed. Or just offer sex in general. Actors like sex is my point.
"To be or not be . . . engaging in an orgy with three other unsightly dramatic people over at Derek's place?"
Perhaps I've gotten distracted by sex. (Again). My main point is that lots has been said about the challenges and difficulties of acting, and no one doubts that being a truly great actor takes talent and training. But as we've pointed out many times before, sometimes directors get performances out of actors by tricking them. By putting the actors in certain situations and getting reactions from those actors who aren't necessarily in character, no one notices because -- as fate would have it -- actors look exactly like the characters they're playing! Here are five times when directors decided the best way to help an actor capture a moment was by recording them out of character.
#5. Glory: Hey. Let's Whip Denzel Washington More Than We Said We Would!
OK, this one is messed up -- seriously messed up, even if it led to arguably one of the finest moments in Denzel Washington's career. In Edward Zwick's 1989 Civil War film Glory, Denzel Washington plays a very proud and defiant runaway slave who has volunteered to fight in the union army. Due to his military insubordination, he is flogged pursuant to military discipline dictates. But, after the order is given, his commanding officer (Matthew Broderick, who probably should have faked a sick day from the army that day) realizes he is essentially having Denzel whipped in the way Denzel has been abused by slave owners so many times before. It is, without question, the most provocative scene in the movie. Watch Denzel show all of this on his face. A fierce display of defiance giving way to an angry tear when confronted with the loss of control.
Now, as you can imagine, it's quit a mindfuck to be a black actor working for a white director and taking directions on how to be whipped. I mean, anyone with a modicum of sensitivity would probably want to address this. That's why when Steven Spielberg made Amistad, he had strict rules about how the black actors portraying slaves were to be treated. And one of those rules was that black actors could only be shackled by black personnel. Well, Edward Zwick wasn't sweating that on the set of Glory because he had a great idea for how to get a performance out of Denzel Washington. What if he told the guy off camera to just keep whipping Denzel? Like more than Denzel expected? Great! Zwick had the camera loaded with extra film and instructed that Denzel should keep getting flogged until he "found it."
Now, when you watch it again, you will realize the expression you might be seeing is,
"OMG, I am so kicking your ass in three seconds."
It may be a great performance, but before subjecting Denzel to wildly insensitive psychological torture, do you wonder if Zwick at least gave one of the greatest actors of our a time a chance to get the performance right?
#4. Pretty Woman: Hey, Let's Just Make Julia Roberts Laugh Because Laughing Is Hard!
Julia Roberts wasn't always the big star she is today. Scratch that. Julia Roberts wasn't always the big star she was 15 years ago. She used to be a far less visible actress. (Kind of like today). I guess the point is, 1990's Pretty Woman made Julia Roberts a star. The world fell in love with this actress's ability to look incredibly hot in sexy hooker clothing and her lovable girl-next-door quality. The world also fell in love with a movie where streetwalkers are disease-free, millionaire-suitable mates, with adorable girl-next-door qualities. It was the '90s. It was a crazy time -- you wouldn't understand. There was a Democrat in the White House, and Fox News was calling him Un-American. Things were totally different.
No, seriously, I turn nonstop $10 tricks, but I don't have chlamydia.
Anyway, two of the most famous scenes in the movie are of the Roberts' character laughing. That's when America said, "ZOMG, that woman is adorbs!" (Again, it was the '90s, don't judge us.) And the thing is, both laughing scenes in the movie are of Roberts laughing for real -- not in character. First, there is arguably the most iconic moment from the movie. The whole snap-the-jewelry-box-on-her-hands gag:
Turns out, that scene wasn't even supposed to be in the movie. Director Garry Marshall was just upset with Roberts' lack of energy on set, due to her late-night partying. Intending only to use it for a gag reel, Marshall asked Richard Gere to slam the jewelry box just to wake her up.
But, wait, the real Pretty Woman/Julia Roberts laughs don't end there. There was another scene where Roberts was supposed to be laughing at old "I Love Lucy" shows and she couldn't. Because acting is tough, y'all. I mean, laughing? What is she, Meryl Streep or something? (Wait for entry #1 on that). Purportedly, in order to get laughs out of Roberts, Marshall tickled her feet off camera. Even though that's all over the Internet, I know it can't be true because her feet are in the shot. But, on Inside the Actors Studio (not available online), Roberts said Marshall made her laugh by cracking jokes. So, say what you want about Roberts' acting ability, she sure can laugh naturally when she's actually laughing and not in character.
#3. The Turning Point: Hey, Let's Really Throw A Drink In Shirley MacLaine's Face!
Before there was Black Swan, there was The Turning Point. Sure, when I think of big movies from 1977, my first thought is Star Wars, but The Turning Point, about a hatred between rival ballet dancers, starred Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine and holds the dubious honor of being the film to be nominated for the most Oscars without winning a single one.
So, long story short, Bancroft and MacLaine really hate each other. That's all you really need to know. There's a fight scene where the two really go at it, and, in this outtake, their fist fight devolves in these two lauded actresses spanking each other and giggling. Yes, what you thought as a 14-year-old boy is apparently true: Put two ladies together, and all they want to do is touch butts and giggle. I include it here because I feel bad there is no publicly available clip of the scene I really want to show you and because I know you get off on MILF spankfights, you twisted little pervert.
But, there's another famous scene in which Bancroft throws a drink in MacLaine's face. The movie's on Netflix, and, if you really want to see it, it's at one hour and 37 minutes in. Alternatively, I was going to ask that each of you send in your home addresses so I could make and mail you a printed flipbook of the scene, but, apparently, there are these things called GIFs and I love you all enough to make one, free of charge!
It seems this scene was rehearsed repeatedly, and, in each take, Bancroft put the drink back down on the bar. What MacLaine didn't know is that director Herbert Ross had colluded with Bancroft to actually throw the drink in MacLaine's face in the final take, so that look of shock you're seeing is real.