We know that actors sometimes improvise on set. For better or worse, they get to know their characters and think they might have a better idea than the script just how they would act.
Some directors love it, others would rather everyone just stick to what’s written, but either way, there’s no denying these 14 actors influenced their characters in irreversible ways.
14. Still a questionable choice.
In Jurassic World, Claire refused to give up her heels because Bryce Dallas Howard refused to give them up during filming in order to counteract “this idea with [her] parents’ generation that in order to find equality, a woman would need to behave like a man.”
Bryce told the Daily Beast, “The thing that would have been considered the biggest [weakness] for her ultimately ends up being her strength. And that’s those heels. I really liked that.”
13. Because we all know they’re natural enemies.
Initially, Mike Myers recorded his dialogue for Shrek using a slightly more pronounced version of his natural Canadian accent, but after watching the rough cut, he decided to record his lines using a Scottish accent to contrast with Lord Farquaad’s English accent.
He also thought that having a Canadian accent made Shrek sound less relatable because it was more scary and less vulnerable than he wanted the ogre to be.
However, changing Shrek’s accent also required the animators, who were already a third of the way finished, to redo certain scenes. According to DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, the edits cost between $4 million and $5 million — 10 percent of the movie’s total budget!
12. A prince among men.
After telling his friends that the screenplay for Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves was terrible, Alan Rickman added more dimension to his Sheriff of Nottingham by adding his own lines and playing them to the campy, comedic extreme.
Some of the sheriff’s most famous lines, including “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas,” were Alan’s work.
According to director Kevin Reynolds, no one else on set knew what Alan planned to say ahead of time, so his costar’s onscreen reactions were genuine.
11. A modern heroine.
As soon as she was cast in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, Emma Watson was determined to make Belle an “active heroine,” which including forgoing corsets so that she could move around and ride horses easily.
Costume designer Jacqueline Durran told the Hollywood Reporter, “Belle would not be wearing a corset, and she had to be comfortable … It was a conundrum incorporating these elements.”
10. I mean we can’t have that.
During production of The Mummy, Tom Cruise brought on two extra screenwriters to redo the screenplay, ensuring he had more screen time than the titular mummy did.
Originally, Tom’s character and the mummy were supposed to have equal amounts of screentime. His rewrites also gave him a more dramatic character arc, and although the Universal executives weren’t completely on board with these script changes, they agreed to go along with them.
9. Good for her, sticking to her guns.
In the original arc written for Michelle Rodriguez’s character Letty Ortiz in The Fast and the Furious, she cheated on Dominic Toretto, but Michelle refused and threatened to quit unless it was changed — and costar Vin Diesel had her back.
She told the Daily Beast, “Is it realistic for a Latin girl who’s with the alpha-est of the alpha males to cheat on him with the cute boy? I had to put my foot down. I basically cried and said, ‘I’m going to quit’ and ‘Don’t sue me, please — I’m sorry, but I can’t do this in front of millions of people. … Vin was the first one to pull me to the side while I was crying, and he just looked at me and said, ‘I got your back. Chill out and let me handle this, and you’re right — it makes me look bad anyway.’
And there you go. That was the beginning of the Letty fairy tale.”
8. Spock would never.
While filming Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy invented the Vulcan nerve pinch as a nonviolent way for Spock to end fights because he thought the originally proposed method — having him hit someone on the back of the head with the butt of his phaser gun — was too “archaic” and “Western.”
According to CBC, Leonard told the director, “We can say anything we want; we can make the audience believe anything we want about an alien … The man could have a very special knowledge of the human anatomy that hasn’t been discovered yet, or he may have some special power that only Vulcans have.”
7. I think he was probably right.
Jason Isaacs was “slightly horrified” when the Harry Potter wardrobe designers gave him a pin-striped suit and short black-and-white wig to wear, declaring that Lucius Malfoy “was a racist [and] eugenicist” and there was “no way he would cut his hair like a Muggle or dress like a Muggle.” Instead, he suggested that he wear a long, white wig and a flashy wizard outfit.
Jason told Entertainment Weekly, “In order to keep the hair straight, I had to tip my head back, so I was looking down my nose at everyone. There was 50% of the character.”
6. She knew what she was capable of.
Halle Berry said she would only return for X-Men: The Last Stand if the script gave her character, Storm, a bigger role to play.
On her personal website, Halle said, “If they have, in fact, written her closer to the comic book, then I’m in. If not, then I’m out. I hope I’m in though. I love Storm and really want to be a part of the last film.”
5. He would never blend in.
Samuel L. Jackson asked director George Lucas to let Mace Windu have a purple lightsaber to help him stand out from the large crowd during the final battle in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.
At first, George wasn’t on board with the idea, but during reshoots, he broke the good news to Samuel.
4. One of the best parts.
For Stranger Things seasons 2 and 3, Dacre Montgomery wanted to humanize Billy more, so he pitched ideas for scenes, including about the character’s parents, in order to reveal more of his backstory.
Speaking specifically about Season 3, he told Vulture, “The main element was Billy’s biological mother. That was something I was insistent of having included, to add to his backstory and to see the pain his mother caused him by leaving.”
3. It wouldn’t have been the same otherwise.
At first, Crispin Glover turned down the role of Thin Man in Charlie’s Angels because he thought the dialogue was terrible, but he took on the project after director McG agreed to let him play the character silently.
Crispin told the Guardian, “The dialogue was just expositional.”
2. This is hilarious.
While reading the script for The Usual Suspects, Benicio del Toro realized that his character Fred Fenster’s only purpose was to be the first to die.
So he convinced director Bryan Singer to let him deliver his lines in a made-up accent.
On Inside the Actor’s Studio, Benicio said, “Every line that [Fred] said didn’t really affect the plot. So I sat down with Bryan Singer and I said, ‘It really doesn’t matter what this guy says. And if you allow me to, I think that we should allow me to do something with it.’ And he said, ‘Go ahead.’”
1. We love her for it.
When Meryl Streep was offered an audition for Kramer vs. Kramer — which was based on a novel Avery Corman wrote to counteract what he perceived as “toxic rhetoric” coming out of the feminist movement — she insisted that they needed to rewrite the lead character, Joanna Kramer, to be a better reflection of the struggles of a modern American woman going through a divorce, instead of “an ogre, a princess, [and] an ass,” if they wanted her for the role.
Meryl’s deep understanding of the character is what won her the role. Director Robert Benton even asked her to rewrite Joanna’s final courtroom speech.
Her performance earned her her first Oscar win.
Some of these kind of surprised me!
What’s your favorite improvised moment on television or film? Share them with us in the comments!