As artists, actors are given the liberty to interpret a scene and prudently judge pertinent omissions and additions to be made. These improvised scenes are generally obscure to the public eye, and at times even to the crew of the film who remain flabbergasted during and after the shooting of the scene. The great thespians of the industry have forged a reputation for themselves to have this element of surprise and improvise lines and actions in the scene. When you improvise, Newton’s third law of motion duly implicates: that a certain amount of improvisation has an equal and opposite amount of reaction. The vagaries of such uncalled for transgressions are an exciting and an enjoyable prospect for audiences and crew members alike. The unbridled descent of the actors in the contours of their characters has become a phenomenon in recent times. This article canvasses the best improvised lines in cinematic history.
7. 40 Year Old Virgin
Improvised banter is a common association with comedy movies. The emergence of stalwarts like Steve Carell, Will Ferrel, Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer etc. has seen a torrential growth of improvised acts on reel. ’40 year old Virgin’ turned out to be the breakout role for a lot of actors in the film, including Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd. What people don’t know is that the witty “You know how I know you are gay?” exchanges between the two were completely improvised on the spot. The two actors often played video games in between the takes and even before the camera started rolling, they started crap-talking each other which was cleverly taped on reel by the director.
‘Goodfellas’ saw actor Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese reunite for a fourth time on screen. The film was critically and commercially acclaimed and received six Oscar nominations, going to win one. One of the most memorable moments of the movie had Joe Pesci, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, engage in a barrage of improvised accosts directed towards Ray Liotta’s character in the restraint scene. The reactions you see on screen are totally unfettered and had the cast barely holding on from bursting into laughter. Martin Scorsese allowed the cast to improvise in the rehearsals and took the best lines and put them in the script. The tirade not only gave us a peek into the character’s psyche but also added to the dark-humor in the movie.
‘Zoolander’ emerged as a sleeper hit and was very well received by the critics. Directed by Ben Stiller, the movie was a satire on the fashion industry and its preposterous condiments of narcissistic-dimwitted male models. The movie had its fair share of improvised acts, particularly from Stiller, but one stood out for its sheer bizarre circumstance and the awesome reaction of the other actor in the scene. The story behind it was hilarious and baffling considering Stiller was the director. Stiller forgot his dialogue, and then innocuously replied “What?” which was enough for David Duchovny who improvised a chunk of dialogues until the original exchanges were prompted to Stiller.
4. A Clockwork Orange
Steven Kubrick was a visionary dystopian and an extremely meticulous director. The pains and efforts he took to detailing every scene in his movies are baffling. A Clockwork Orange turned out to be a career changing film for Malcolm McDowell, who went on to feature in many blockbusters thereafter. One of the most disturbing scenes on the film is the famous ‘Singing in the Rain’ scene, in which Malcolm was given an absolute liberty by Kubrick to use the set and improvise the rape scene with Adrienne Corri. What followed not only disturbed the actress but was equally shocking for the audiences. Malcolm’s improvised crooning of the title song-track with a blissful crescendo sent shock-waves in the industry.
3. Dumb and Dumber
Jim Carrey is a name you usually associate with slap-stick comedy and physical humor. He often goes out of his ways to not only create iconic dialogues for himself, but inspires others around him as well. In this 1994 flick, Carrey and Jeff Daniels star as the dim-witted pair of Llyod and Harry, on the quest to find the former’s dream girl in Aspen. During a particular scene, the two characters are on the road, accompanied by a hired muscle to track down the girl, Carrey and Daniels engaged in an improvised banter, with the actor between them caught totally unaware. The reaction to “the most annoying sound in the world” is cent percent natural!
2. Full Metal Jacket
There have been quite a few interpretations of drill sergeants of the US Army in the industry, but none other than the brutal 4 minutes tirade by R Lee Ermey. Helmed by none other than Steven Kubrick, the scene involved Ermey improvising almost all of his dialogue. Interestingly, Ermey is a retired veteran, who served as a US Marine drill sergeant in the Vietnam War. Kubrick offered him the chance to ad-lib and vetted the other actors to play along, and the result turned out to be a hilarious affair.
1. Taxi Driver
There have been a lot of pieces written about Robert De Niro’s performance as the troubled Travis Bickle in the Scorcese helmed ‘Taxi Driver’, with the mirror scene featuring most prominently. Paul Schrader, the writer of the film, simply wrote the scene as “Travis talks to himself in the mirror”. And the following scene, improvised in totality by De Niro, has now achieved cult status and has been thickly used in modern culture references. “You talkin’ to me?” tops almost all charts of the best dialogue in cinematic industry and profusely dwells into the character psyche, representing Bickle’s vulnerability and loneliness to the audience. It also cemented De Niro’s position as the greatest actor to have ever graced the silver screen.
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