We all know a great movie starts with a great writer and a wonderful screenplay. And honestly, most of the time writers don’t get the credit they deserve. It’s all about the directors and the actors. But what some people fail to realize is that the actors and directors wouldn’t have anything to work on without the writers. It all starts with the writer.
However, there are times when an actor actually improves the script while filming. They are in full character mode, in the middle of an intense (or funny) scene, and something just hits them.
Check out the 10 classic unscripted movie lines below…
No. 10 – “Full Metal Jacket”
When someone mentions Full Metal Jacket, my mind instantly jumps to the brilliant insults being shouted by former real-life United States Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, R. Lee Ermey. His performance in the film landed him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and it’s easy to see why.
Over half the insults you hear in the clip above were R. Lee Ermey originals. In fact, a few of his insults even confused writer/director, Stanley Kubrick. When Ermey said, “I’ll bet you’re the kind of guy that would f–k a person in the ass and not even have the goddam common courtesy to give him a reach-around.” Kubrick had to stop filming to ask Ermey what the hell a “reach-around” was.
No. 9 – “Midnight Cowboy”
This is a perfect example of an actor being completely committed to his character. According to Dustin Hoffman, the actor playing ‘Ratso’ Rizzo in the clip above, the New York City cab driver you see in the video wasn’t supposed to be there. He claims the cab driver really did almost hit him, which caused the memorable reaction, “I’m walkin’ here!”
We should note that the director of the film claims this moment was not unscripted. Who do you believe?
No. 8 – “Shaun Of The Dead”
From the 1:28 minute mark on, actor Nick Frost was completely improvising. The great “cockocidal maniac” line that made Simon Pegg start giggling actually has a hilarious story behind it.
The woman behind him in that scene was actually the director’s mother-in-law, which is probably why Simon reacted the way he did.
No. 7 – “Taxi Driver”
It doesn’t matter how old you are, there is a 95% chance you have either seen this classic scene or heard one of your relatives reciting it. Believe it or not, those famous words were not in the original script. According to director Martin Scorsese, the script simply instructed Robert De Niro to talk to himself while looking at the mirror.
It’s reported that De Niro’s performance was inspired by a comedy routine he saw while in New York City.
No. 6 – “Jaws”
Roy Scheider’s famous line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” was ranked number 35 on AFI’s list of top 100 movie quotes. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider the line was made up on the spot.
No. 5 – “Good Will Hunting”
If you have watched Good Will Hunting, then you’ll know the film is filled with some great dialogue. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home the award for Best Original Screenplay. They deserve most of the credit for this wonderful film, but so does the late Robin Williams. He won Best Supporting Actor for his role, and we have to imagine this scene helped him win it.
The original script said nothing about his wife farting in her sleep. He was supposed to tell a story about how she would turn an alarm clock off in her sleep. That laughter you see from Damon is genuine.
No. 4 – “The Warriors”
Who wants to play? Probably no one. David Patrick Kelly is best known for the improvised scene you see in the clip above. He played Luther in the 1979 film The Warriors, and he says his character was inspired by a bully he knew in downtown New York.
“I wanted to make Luther evil, so he was influenced by this really bad guy who I knew in downtown New York who would make fun of me and say, ‘Daaaaave. Daaaaave. Daaaaave.’ And it was the creepiest thing I ever heard.”
No. 3 – “The Empire Strikes Back”
We all remember this moment, but the truth is it almost didn’t make the final cut. George Lucas was worried fans would have a negative reaction to the, “I know” line.
Harrison Ford remembers how he won the battle…
“It was such a contest between George and I about whether that was appropriate or whether the audience would enjoy that line or not, to the point where he made me go to a test screening to sit next to him, to prove it was going to get a bad laugh. And it didn’t. It got a good laugh. So it stayed in.”
No. 2 – “They Live”
Yes, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper really did ad-lib that famous bubblegum line, and even he admits he has no idea how or why it popped inside his head.
“I couldn’t tell you what it really means either. It was one of those – ‘Roddy, you’ve got bullets on you, you’ve got a shotgun, you’ve got sunglasses, you go into a bank, you’re not gonna rob it, say something … action!’ I’m all out of bubblegum. Lunch! That was it. No more than that. I know, it’s crazy.”
No. 1 – “Caddyshack”
Bill Murray reportedly only worked on the set for six days, but he obviously made the most out of those days. Every line he had in the film was unscripted, including the classic Cinderella Story you see above. He improvised the scene based on two lines of stage direction from director Harold Ramis. He was basically told to act like a child announcing his own imaginary round of golf.