Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
As Indiana Jones chased a kidnapped Marion through the crowded streets of Cairo, he stumbles upon a sword wielding foe. In the original script, Indy was slated to scuffle with the swordsman and ultimately come out on top. However, due to a serious struggle with real life food poisoning, actor Harrison Ford was too weak to film the fight scenes. After several attempts that didn’t look or feel right, Ford suggested “how about I just shoot this sucker?” and that’s the scene that made the final cut.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
If you’ve ever seen Bryan Singer’s 1995 crime thriller, The Usual Suspects; you will recall the introductory police line-up scene where we meet each of the key players. At the request of the police, each character delivered a line of dialogue in their own respective fashion and you’ll notice the suspects laughing at each other. While this scene was scripted to be serious in nature; after several takes of the actors delivering an increasingly more dramatic performance, like a Jimmy Fallon sketch out of SNL, the actors couldn’t contain themselves and were openly laughing at each other. The serious takes were dropped and the comical shots made the final cut.
Ever wonder how they get cats to act in movies? In Ridley Scott’s 1979 Sci-Fi Horror flick “Alien”, we meet the lovable housecat Jonesy. On more than one occasion, the cat is more perceptive of the looming alien threat than his human counterparts but how did they get the cat to hiss and spit? The crew placed a screen in front of the cat and on the other side, a German Shepherd. When it was time to start filming, the screen was removed and the reaction from the threatened cat is the one you see in the film. Poor Jonesy.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
As her journey down the Yellow Brick Road continued, Dorothy came across a poppy field and was attacked by the Wicked Witch of the West. Traditionally, movie set snow has been made of soap flakes, instant potatoes or…you know…shaved ice. Not in the 1930’s. In this famous scene, Dorothy and the gang are revived by magic snowflakes churned up by Glinda. Magic snowflakes…made of real life asbestos fibers.
The thematic element that made Jaws such a terrifying film that still instills fear of the ocean in most people was simple: the shark was always present by rarely seen. The real reason the shark was rarely shown was because Bruce (the crew’s nickname for the Great White Beast) was always broken. Mechanical failures caused significant filming delays and almost financially sank this deep water movie. Ultimately, the shark’s screentime was significantly cut back and his absence ended up being a defining theme in the movie and is one of the reasons why this movie still fuels more nightmares compared to the modern day shock and awe tactics.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
In a tense moment where the key villain realizes his damsel in distress was actually double crossing him, Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz) strangles Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) in a fit of rage. However, during filming, director Quentin Tarantino wasn’t satisfied with the performances and stepped in to demonstrate. With Kruger’s permission, he actually strangled the actress for a few moments in order to capture her fear and in the final cut, the hands you see are actually those of Tarantino.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
After stumbling across a smoldering battlefield, one of the film’s protagonists, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) finds evidence that leads him to believe that two of his hobbit friends were killed in the battle. Out of remorse, he kicks a steel helmet and lets out a shattering cry of defeat as he drops to his knees. After the shot ended, the crew realized that the actor actually broke two of his toes during the kick and the cries of remorse were actually cries of pain. Because the performance was, indeed, so realistic, these are the shots that make the final cut of the movie.
In the final scenes of the movie, we see weasel EPA agent Walter Peck (William Atherton) covered in melted marshmallow which, in real life, was actually shaving cream. During filming, the actor stood under the bag containing the shaving cream but called filming to a halt to ask how much shaving cream he was about to endure. When the crew replied that it was 75 pounds of cream, the actor got cold feet. To prove that it was harmless, the crew asked a stunt actor to stand in for the first barrage. The stunt actor got leveled by the force of the shaving cream coming down on him and it was decided to cut the amount in half which is what we see in the final cut.