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Films are complex beasts with so many moving parts that mistakes are unavoidable. Even the blockbusters with the biggest budgets and most sets of eyes on them routinely make it to cinemas with a few errors, especially when it comes to continuity.
From fluffed lines to errant extras, numerous mistakes have to be corrected on set (or, increasingly, in the editing suite) but occasionally they can bring a new and welcome quality to a scene.
Here we look at some of the unplanned and unwanted events that directors decided to keep in the final cut.
“I’m walkin’ here!” – Midnight Cowboy‘s taxi cab was a real one and nearly ran Dustin Hoffman over
One of cinema’s most iconic lines was the result of an accident on set. Midnight Cowboy didn’t have a permit to close down a busy New York City street for Jon Voight and Hoffman’s long walk down the sidewalk, so they tried to shoot it “on the fly” using hidden cameras stationed in a van across the street.
After 15 takes, they finally had one going that wasn’t upset by pedestrians or other real world elements, but then a taxi ran a red light, very nearly knocking Hoffman and Voight down as they crossed the street.
“I guess the brain works so quickly,” Hoffman recalled to Vanity Fair, “It said, in a split of a second, ‘Don’t go out of character.’” Thus Hoffman managed to get out the now iconic words “I’m walkin’ here,” when what he meant was “we’re shooting here”. Seeing how Hoffman handled the near collision, Voight managed not to break character too. “[Director John] Schlesinger started laughing,” Hoffman continued. “He clapped his hands and said, ‘We must have that, we must have that,’ and re-did it two or three times, because he loved it.”
Leonardo DiCaprio actually sliced his hand open during Django Unchained's tense dinner scene
There are countless examples of actors’ unfortunate injuries making it into the final cut (Apocalypse Now, Foxcatcher, The Godfather, Nightcrawler, The Lord of the Rings...) but this one really added to the menace of its scene.
A masterful exchange – vintage Tarantino – sees a cordial dinner turn sour as DiCaprio’s villain Calvin Candie slowly lets on that he knows the true reason for Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr Schultz’s (Christoph Waltz) visit to his plantation.
Frustrated by his guests’ denials, Candie begins banging the dinner table. “Leo had slammed his hand on the table countless times and he moved his hand further and crushed a crystal glass,” Django producer Stacey Sher told Variety. “Blood was dripping down his hand. He never broke character. He kept going. He was in such a zone. It was very intense. He required stitches.”
“My hand started really pouring blood all over the table,” DiCaprio recalled in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. He was fascinated to see how his scene partners and director would react, and Tarantino was only too happy to roll with it.
DiCaprio suggested his character might then smear the blood on Kerry Washington’s character’s face, so Tarantino quickly had some fake blood mixed up for the next shot. DiCaprio received a standing ovation from the crew once the cameras stopped rolling. Both bandaged and non-bandaged versions of scenes were shot for the remainder of the movie, so Tarantino that had options. “I’m glad Quentin kept it in,” DiCaprio said.
James Bond wasn’t supposed to stride magnificently from the ocean
In the original scripted version of Casino Royale‘s now infamous beach sequence, Bond was down to merely observe the villain’s wife Solange while floating in the sea.
“It was actually by accident,” he told The Telegraph of his saunter in a Speedo. “Where we filmed, off the Bahamas, it’s just one of those places where there is a sand shelf and the sand shelf happens to be three feet deep. Because the idea was, I was supposed to swim in and sort of float off, but I swim in and stand up. And it was just one of those things.”
He realised too late that the new version of the scene would be compared to Ursula Andress’ famous exit from the sea in the first James Bond film, Dr No.
“It was going through my mind... as I did it, I went, ‘Oh f***.’ But I didn’t realise the repercussions of it,” Craig continued, adding with a trademark sense of discomfort about his own fame: “I had no idea I would be haunted by it for the rest of my life.”
Rain Man‘s “uh oh, fart” scene was indeed a case of spontaneous flatulence
Hoffman has a history of turning mistakes into improvisational scene stealers. Durian an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1984, he and co-star Tom Cruise confessed that the “farting in the phone booth” moment in Rain Man only happened because Hoffman actually broke wind.
“Uh oh fart, uh oh fart” Hoffman’s Raymond Babbitt kept repeating. When Cruise improvised as his brother Charlie, asking “How can you stand that?” Hoffman, hilariously replied: “I don’t mind it.” Hoffman told Oprah it was his favourite scene ever.
The Usual Suspects had a similar wind problem
The police line-up scene, in which members of the gang step forward in turn and say the line: “Hand me the keys, you f**king c**ksucker,” was originally intended to be a serious one.
The cast were in a giggly mood however, and kept giving more and more theatrical and over-the-top performances of the line. Mature adults that they were, this atmosphere was created after, at least according to actor Kevin Pollak, Benicio del Toro “farted, like 12 takes in a row.”
Director Bryan Singer was initially angry with the actors, but their humorous takes went in – the line-up ending up one of the film’s more memorable scenes.
A Clockwork Orange‘s “Ludovico Technique” proved a little too real
Stanley Kubrick was known for pushing his actors to extremes, and Malcolm McDowell came off perhaps worst of his collaborators, presumably the only actor who can say he scratched his corneas for a film role.
In one of A Clockwork Orange’s most disturbing scenes, poor old droog Alex has his eyes forced open while violent and sexual footage is screened, backed by “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
McDowell’s eyes were anaesthetised in order to minimise discomfort, but his corneas were repeatedly scratched and he was fortunate lasting damage wasn’t done to his vision. Unsurprisingly, a second attempt at the shot wasn’t made, and the take with the injury went in.
Ben Stiller made a joke about air-headed models in Zoolander by being air-headed himself
In a crucial moment in Zoolander, David Duchovny’s JP Prewett reveals to Derek Zoolander the plot to use male models as assassins.
“So why male models?” Derek asks him, to which JP says they are perfect for the role as they “don’t think for themselves and do as they’re told.”
When he later couldn’t remember his next line, Stiller just repeated: “But why male models?” His fluffed line gifted Zoolander one of its best jokes.
DiCaprio’s Freudian slip in Titanic couldn’t have been more apt
When Rose (Kate Winslet) disrobes for Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio), for a spot of life drawing, he directs her to pose on the chaise longue.
“Over on the couch,” was the line in the script, but DiCaprio said: “Over on the bed..uh, the couch.”
The Freudian slip made perfect sense, with a naked Rose standing in front of the wide-eyed boy and obvious chemistry between the pair (they would have a steamy sex scene soon after), and director James Cameron chose to leave the line in.
A Stormtrooper suffers an embarrassing head bump
Star Wars‘ Stormtroopers are pretty tragic figures. Nameless and faceless, they go about their henchman business thanklessly, and really ought to think about unionising.
When an actor playing one of them accidentally struck his head on a doorway in A New Hope, it created an unanticipated moment of pathos. Three perfectly good takes were also captured, but George Lucas went with the one with the head bump. In a 1997 remaster of the film, a comedic “bonk” sound effect was added to the moment, and as a homage to it in Attack of the Clones, Lucas had Jango Fett suffer a similar injury.
Star Lord drops a precious orb because Chris Pratt is just clumsy
In a more self-serious superhero movie, having the protagonist drop one of the most powerful artefacts in the universe would be cause for an instant cut.
But the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise takes a more light-hearted approach, and likes to play with the fact that Peter Quill is a bit of a goof who doesn’t comfortably go by the grandiose name of Star Lord.
As such, when Chris Pratt accidentally fumbled the Infinity Stone-housing Orb when presenting it to the Collector, it was a no-brainer for director James Gunn to keep the comedic moment in.
Jamie Lee Curtis awkwardly took a fall during her True Lies striptease
True Lies’s Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) isn’t used to posing as a femme fatale spy, so when she has to seduce a mystery man by performing a lingerie striptease (it was the 90s) it felt in keeping with the character that she slip on a bedpost and tumble onto the hotel room floor.
She wasn’t supposed to though, which you can tell by a) the straight-faced manner in which the rest of the scene is shot and b) the mystery man – who was supposed to be icy and, well, mysterious – jumping out of his seat briefly when Lee Curtis falls.
In Being John Malkovich, the actor was pelted with a half-full beer because an extra snuck some onto set
Having a beer thrown at his head added insult to injury for the character, and was the result of some lax security on set.
“That was not in our script at all,” director Spike Jonze said of the moment in a DVD commentary. “We had some extras that had snuck some beer onto set, and it had gotten pretty lit.
“Fortunately it wasn’t the driver, just the passenger, and he throws the can at Malkovich and has the famous line “Hey Malkovich, think fast!”. He now has his SAG [Screen Actors Guild] card because of it and we had to bump his pay from about $100 to $700 a day – he has Mr Malkovich’s reaction to thank for that.”
When Count Olaf asks the children for a line prompt in A Series of Unfortunate Events, he was actually talking to the crew
“Wait, let me do that one more time,” Jim Carrey says, clearly glancing behind the camera – possibly at an assistant director or script supervisor. “Quickly, while it’s fresh in my mind.”
Carrey stayed in character however, the cameras kept rolling, and his eye line was close enough to Klaus’s that director Brad Silberling was able to use the moment, as during the scene Olaf had been trying to show off his acting skills to the children.