5 Memorable Movie Scenes Directors Just Stumbled Into
When we say "There was an accident on a movie set," most people either think of a big-time star having a mental breakdown because there weren't any gluten-free snack options at craft services, or else they picture a somber director, hat in hand, having a very difficult conversation with some poor stunt performer's next of kin. But sometimes accidents on a set are good things. Sometimes they even make the movie ...
The Big Shark Attack Scene In Jaws Was A Real Shark Randomly Attacking The Set
Steven Spielberg's Jaws is infamous for the wildly expensive and dangerous animatronic sharks they were forced to use in place of the real deal. (Real sharks don't always hit their marks, you see. Also they eat their co-stars.) Robots, no matter how primitive, were the best option. But Spielberg forgot one important thing: When you're in the ocean, you don't get to decide when sharks show up. The sharks do.
During the climax of the film, our heroes are stranded on a boat that is slowly sinking, while the monstrous shark waits in the waters below. In a last act of defiance, oceanographer Hooper lowers himself into the water inside a shark-proof cage, intending to poison the beast. Clearly, this is the moment when Hooper gets turned into a fine red mist, right? That's how it goes in the novel, after all. And while the script also initially called for the death of Hooper, Spielberg reconsidered after seeing footage of a breakout performance. No, not by Richard Dreyfuss -- by a live shark.
While shark photographers filmed footage in Australia to give Spielberg a realistic underwater cage scene, a wild shark appeared and decided to try its hand (fin?) at the movie business. The shark pounded the hell out of the cage, eventually getting itself tangled in the cables. There was a problem: Neither Hooper or a dummy representing Hooper was in the cage while the shark was going ape in a mess of wires. The footage of a terrifying shark going bonkers was great, but unless Hooper was wearing an invisibility cloak, an empty cage messed up the narrative. So Spielberg rewrote the script, having Hooper swim away in time and thus survive the movie. Even better, he escaped the fate worse than death which claimed Roy Scheider: the sequels.
The Godfather's Cat Was A Stray Coppola Found Wandering The Set
At the beginning of The Godfather, Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone sits in his office granting wishes like a well-dressed genie who just came from the dentist. While a series of Italian goons come and pay their respects, Corleone sits idly, stroking a tiny cat. It's a boss move, and makes for an iconic scene. And it only happened because Francis Ford Coppola has a soft spot for strays.
Neither the script nor the novel it was based on had Don Corleone own a cat. The kitty was a last-minute addition to the scene, made solely because Coppola had found it running around the studio lot and thought it was adorable. One problem: The cat enjoyed the attention so much that its purrs drowned out Brando's dialogue. Still, Coppola refused to cut the cat, even when it got so bad that they had to consider using subtitles. Fortunately, the crew managed to adjust the sound enough to keep Vito's dialogue comprehensible -- as comprehensible as Brando could get during his Big Mac period, anyway.
Woody Allen Actually Sneezed During Annie Hall's Cocaine Scene
In Annie Hall, Woody Allen stars as neurotic comedian Alvy Singer, who sleeps with women far out of his league and generally nerds his way through the druggy intellectual scene of 1970s New York. But when Singer sits down with some of his new bohemian friends to try cocaine, he accidentally sneezes and sends a cloud of good-time dust across the room.
The scene perfectly exemplifies how dorky and out of place Allen's character is, and it only happened because Allen himself is such an actual dork. Whatever white powder they put in front of Allen for the scene genuinely didn't agree with his sinuses, and he had a massive allergic reaction. Allen hung onto the scene, and it got so much laughter from test audiences that he decided to keep the blooper in the final cut. It wound up becoming one of his most celebrated gags. It also taught Allen that real-life mistakes will always be more interesting than the ones you fabricate -- something he has since vigorously applied to his personal life.
The Song During A Clockwork Orange's Darkest Scene Was An Improvisation To "Lighten The Mood"
Stanley Kubrick is the master of layers, seeker of the perfect take, and scourge of gaffers wanting to get home in time for dinner. It should come as a surprise, then, that the very director who allegedly made Shelley Duvall crazy by forcing her to do 127 takes in a row left one of his most iconic scenes completely up to chance.
A Clockwork Orange is about Alex Delarge, a 17-year-old sociopath played by Malcolm McDowell who only lives for violence, sexual assault, and classical music. And in one scene, we get to see all three, when McDowell does a gleeful jig in the midst of a gruesome home invasion and gang rape, all while crooning the lyrics to "Singin' In The Rain".
That part of the scene was improvised by McDowell. Apparently, Kubrick thought that the whole vibe was getting a bit too dark (as rape scenes tend to be), and he asked McDowell to sing a jaunty little something to pick up their spirits. McDowell picked "Singin' In The Rain" because he thought it was "Hollywood's gift to the world of euphoria," and Kubrick agreed.
Of course, they didn't have the budget to license the song, and no way in hell would Gene Kelly ever agree to it, but that wasn't a problem. Kubrick simply didn't pay for it. Besides, merely having your work featured in a Stanley Kubrick film should be more than enough compensation.
No seriously, that's what Kubrick thought.
That Wasn't A Joke -- Ben Stiller Just Forgot His Line In Zoolander
In 2001, Ben Stiller decided to turn a pair of sketches he had directed for the VH1 Fashion Awards years previously into a feature film, presumably to get people to forget about The Cable Guy. The result was Zoolander, starring Stiller as Derek Zoolander, a male fashion model who finds out that being a fashion model isn't all eating disorders and stupid tiny dogs. Male models are in fact highly trained assassins ... with eating disorders and stupid tiny dogs. While on the trail of an evil fashion mogul, Zoolander meets a hand model, Prewett (played by David Duchovny), who knows all about the assassination program. Zoolander asks him why they pick male models to become killers, to which Prewett gives a lengthy and easy-to-follow explanation.
And Zoolander replies, "But why male models?"
It's supposed to illustrate how short Zoolander's attention span is, but it truly illustrates how short Ben Stiller's attention span is, because the line was really a mistake. During Duchovny's long monologue, Stiller had forgotten what line he was supposed to say in response, and accidentally repeated the last one he could remember. Duchovny, always a pro, responded in-character, "Are you kidding? I just told you like a minute ago." Stiller realized the exchange was pretty funny and worked for the character, so he decided to keep it in the movie. And it goes to show: You can feign stupid all you want, but nothing is funnier than the real thing.
Even with a beginner's guide to Celtx, you couldn't write this stuff on purpose. But you can try!
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For more accidental Hollywood magic, check out 6 Iconic Movie Scenes That Happened By Accident and 6 On-Set Mistakes That Led To The Greatest Movie Scenes Ever.
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