Beloved Characters Saved By Actor's Behind-The-Scenes Suggestions
Before a movie character is to brought to life, a lot is usually locked in by the screenwriter or director. To make the role their own, an actor will bring in tweaks and suggestions.
In some cases, these are so massively dumb that they'll have crew members' faces locked in the universally recognized "Was that a shit or a fart?" expression. Other times, the actor comes up with something so drastically different, yet better, that everyone else rolls with it. Like the time when ...
In Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Jason Isaacs Came Up With Lucius Malfoy's Whole Appearance
When the studio's design for Lucius Malfoy reached Jason Isaacs, he got about as disappointed as fans when J.K. Rowling tweets. Lucius was supposed to be sporting a pinstripe suit and short black-and-white hair, which sounds less Harry Potter and more Goodfellas. ("As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a Slytherin.") Isaacs thought that Lucius would be somebody who showers in his wizardry. After all, he's supposed to be a eugenicist who despises Muggles, so why should he dress like one? The guy should be cranking the magic up to 11 3/4.
Isaacs gave Malfoy an ostentatious wizard robe and a long white wig. To keep the hair straight, he had to tip his head back a bit and end up looking down on everyone; Isaacs feels that snooty posture alone was about 50% of the character. To round out the outfit, he asked for a cane to theatrically pull his wand from. Director Chris Columbus approved, feeling sure the toy people would love it (they did).
Isaacs also wanted to make Lucius sound like an insufferable snob, which achieved by combining two people: an English art critic whose voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard to him and an old drama school teacher who was cruel and condescending. The result is Malfoy's trademark wizardier-than-thou drawl. Isaacs wanted the accent to express the total contempt for anyone who couldn't trace their wizarding lineage back to the time of Hogwarts' founding.
At first, Columbus didn't like it as he didn't think anyone actually spoke like that (which is an odd complaint about fictional wizard). Luckily, Daniel Radcliffe thought it was dope, which led to Columbus deciding, "Well, let's try it." Still, though, Columbus wasn't really sold, as on every scene, he'd ask Isaacs to shoot one more take with a weaker version of the accent. He said it was just for safety, and that Isaacs should hold back the accent 80 to 90%. Issacs still doesn't know which takes they actually used.
In Batman Returns, Michael Keaton Made Batman Quiet And Brooding
In the Batman Returns script, Bruce Wayne made so many speeches it read like he was running for President of Batmanning. Michael Keaton thought it was an odd thing to drop on a character who usually speaks by morse-code punching criminal's skulls, so he'd go up to screenwriter Daniel Walters, point to dialogue, and state, "Hey, that's a great line, but you gotta cut it. This is a good speech, but you gotta take it out." He got his way, and the result is that, in the finished movie, Batman has fewer than half the lines he had in the script. For the record, when Walters saw the final product, he completely agreed with Keaton.
We kind of take it for granted today that Batman should be a man of very, very few words, but that wasn't always the obvious choice. Before Tim Burton's movies, the only widely known on-screen Batman was Adam West, who absolutely loved to chat things up.
Making Batman talk less was just part of what Keaton wanted to do, though. He really, really liked the concept of the image of Batman doing the talking -- just standing and walking around in that suit spoke volumes, and he thought it was all that was needed. So when he realized that the costume wouldn't let him move his head, he got around that by making sweeping, powerful turns with his torso -- making Batman look more imposing, and making Batman's image even more eloquent.
Tony Shalhoub Rewrote His Galaxy Quest Character As, Basically, A Stoner
When they started shooting Galaxy Quest, they soon realized that Tony Shalhoub just wasn't a good fit for his character, Fred Kwan. Director Dean Parisot and Shalhoub were pretty much freaking out and going, "There's nothing here, there's nothing here, what are we going to do, what are we going to do?"
Shalhoub came up with something he could base the character on. He remembered David Carradine, who was stoned all the time on the set of Kung Fu, according to legend. Whether it's true or not, Carradine apparently spoke a lot of gibberish, and the people around him had no idea where it was coming from. Since Galaxy Quest was a PG-13, they couldn't explicitly say he was a stoner, but that's the angle they went with.
Shalhoub also thought it'd be fun if Kwan was eating all the time. Actors never know where their next meal is coming from, his thinking went, so Kwan should always be munching on something. To make sure he had a stash of food with him wherever he went, the prop department regularly supplied Shalhoub with food from craft services.
Since they built a new Kwan from the ground up, they had to give him all-new lines. Shalhoub was basically winging it all the time, and his lines were literally changing every day. Miraculously, instead of walking out in frustration over never knowing their dialogue in advance, the other actors in his scenes were cool with it. All in all, it's one of the rare occurrences when turning to drugs saved a troubled production rather than causing it.
Kurtwood Smith Made RoboCop's Clarence An Intellectual Type
Of all the bizarre stuff in the RoboCop script, the thing that most surprised Kurtwood Smith was that his character, Clarence Boddicker, was supposed to wear glasses.
Unless you're also your cartel's accountant, that's not a standard part of cinematic drug lord attire, and Smith really appreciated that. He told scriptwriter Ed Neumeier that he hoped they could keep the glasses in the movie, which they did, making Clarence a pretty unique-looking villain. But that's a minor detail in someone's appearance -- why would it be specified in the script, anyway?
What Smith didn't know, was that the original idea was to make Clarence look like SS commander Heinrich Himmler. In fact, he only found that detail from articles written about Clarence after the movie came out. Which is a good thing, because the lack of context behind glasses inspired him to make Clarence a pseudo-intellectual-looking guy ... who happened to be a drug lord. If he was aware that Clarence was intended to be a Himmler-like type, Smith says he would have played him as way more reserved -- meaning a sheathed Boddicker wouldn't have barked out this legendary line:
He'd probably just be radiating cold efficiency the entire movie.
Think about what a lesser movie RoboCop would be with a villain who's basically a Nazi commander. That version of the film is much weaker as a satire of authoritarianism and police excess, because, well, it's hard for audiences to complain about excess force applied against I Can't Believe It's Not Himmler. Thankfully, Smith never thought to ask why and glasses are now synonymous with drug kingpins.
Top image: Warner Bros. Pictures