Greatest Improvised Moments in Films


Improvised Moments in Films is constantly used while discussing some marvelous performances , but what actually the word, ‘Improvisation’ stands for? Let’s discuss.

The activity of making or doing something that was not planned and using whatever one can find is called Improvisation

Improvisation should always be an embodiment of the character. It might also amuse some how an actor can go ultra wires to the script but still not contribute anything from his personal side rather just adhere to the ideologies of the character. It is as if the actor guzzles the character to such an extent that his subconscious starts responding to the mindset of the character. 

So the question arises, what should an actor do to reach that level and explore such depths that his subconscious also responds to that of the character. The answer lies in the mere understanding of the very popular and often used phrase – “ living the character.” 

The phrase has almost become a cliché today because of the basic misunderstanding of it. We have standardized the meaning of the phrase and misconstrued it horrendously. There is a general perception that living the character means isolating oneself from the people, growing the beard or bringing about a physical change in the body . This is a fallacious and absurd notion that has been publicized somewhat by the PR agencies so as to uplift the image of an actor, whom they are promoting and portray to the general public the seriousness with which the actor approaches his craft. 

But living the character goes way beyond the physical changes. More than the physical it’s a mental game that an actor plays. Even the stimulus of the performer, his knee jerk reactions should be in line with the character. It might be the case that the actor does not agree with the ideologies of his character or might have contradictory views, but still it’s his job to make it his own. This is a challenge that an actor often encounters. A character might have a self destructive approach or might ooze out negativity at such a degree that it hampers with the mental well being of an actor.

There have been a few iconic or noteworthy Improvised Moments in Films, when the improvisations of the actor took the scene to a whole new level. Here’s shedding light on a few of those improvised moments In films which I believe have been cherished by each and every film enthusiast. 

The Godfather (1972)

Greatest Improvised Movie Moments

The opening scene where Don Vito Corleone is sitting with a cat in his lap and talking to Bonessera in a soft tone about the meaning of friendship, was supposed to be done without the cat. The cat was a stray that used to wander in the premises of paramount. Francis Ford Coppola decided to place it in the frame at the very last moment. Marlon Brando improvised with it while speaking his dialogues. The scene almost got spoiled because the voice of Marlon Brando wasn’t clearly audible as the cat was making constant noises. The scene later was seen as metaphor by some critics, as it showcased the hidden claws of the don behind the soft talking spoken tone.

Piku (2015)

Greatest Improvised Movie Moments

The scene where Amitabh Bachchan finds a knife in the car owned by Irrfan Khan, and refuses to get into the car until the knife is thrown , was totally unscripted. Shoojt Sircar was unhappy with the outcome of the scripted scene. He went to Irrfan and told him to improvise. The duo quarrel in the scene until Irrfan reaches his breaking point and throws away the knife. 

Wolf of the Wall Street (2013)

Greatest Improvised Movie Moments

The famous humming scene featuring Mathew McConaughey was not scripted. Martin Scorsese found Mathew practicing some voice exercises before the shot. He told him to incorporate it in the scene. When Mathew started humming even Leonardo DiCaprio was taken aback. He started looking towards the crew for a cue. But Martin Scorsese signaled him to play along. 

Ugly (2013)

Ugly (2013)

The realistic and horrifying police station scene from the film was not scripted. When Rahul Bhatt and Vineet Kumar Singh go to the police station to file a complaint about Bhatt’s missing daughter, their sense of urgency is broken by Girish Kulkarni who plays the cop. It is as if he stops the time and does small talks with them about how casting is done in films and how actors keep a reel name which is different from their actual names. The scene wrapped in dark humor makes you intensely uncomfortable.  It is one of the best and most realistic police confrontation scenes designed in Hindi cinema

Taxi Driver (1976)

Greatest Improvised Movie Moments

One just cannot talk about any aspect of film-making without mentioning this film. The famous scene in which the all time greatest character of Travis Bickle is rehearsing for an impending shootout in front of the mirror was not scripted. Yes, one of the greatest improvised moments in films. Martin Scorsese did not tell Robert De Niro what to speak. He left it up to the actor to improvise. Out of an impulse the actor said the iconic line “ You Talking to Me” . Martin Scorsese signaled him from behind the camera to say it again and  keep repeating it. And soon De Niro entered into a sort of rhythmic loop. Nobody knew at that time that an improvised scene would go into the history of cinema as one of the most studied and talked about scenes. 

Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

Undoubtedly the most realistic and hilarious chase sequence in the history of cinema, could happen only because of an improvisation. 

Greatest Improvised Movie Moments

The scene where Shamsad Alam played by Rajkumar Rao had to chase Definite played by Zeshaan Quadri was not supposed to be like the final cut that appeared in the movie. By mistake Rajkumar went in a different direction while chasing Zeeshan, and the latter followed his cue and improvised. The actors were so engrossed in their characters that they did not realize this and  went on with the shot. The whole chase sequence looked so organic that Anurag Kashyap told Shlok Sharma, his assistant at that time to devise a whole chase sequence around it.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Greatest Improvised Movie Moments

The scene in the police station where Jim Gordon receives the news that he has been made the commissioner of Police, and his attention is drawn towards the Joker who is sitting inside the cell and clapping in a weird manner. The clap was an improvisation from the prolific Heath Ledger. Christopher Nolan liked it so much that he told Ledger to use it in many other scenes as well.

Improvised Moments in Films could lead to such iconic gesture or actions that is remembered by the audience and will be vouched for a long time in the history of Cinema. Health Ledger’s contribution in it, is among the greatest.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The scene in the film where Anthony Hopkins tells Jody Foster, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti” was improvised. It is hard to imagine that such a dialog was not scripted but was an improvisation done by the actor. Post this line Anthony Hopkins makes a hissing sound to scare Jody foster. The hissing sound evolved from  their audition where Hopkins used it to scare her. The scene became one of the most mentally and psychologically disturbing scenes and sort of defined the character of Anthony Hopkins. 

The Shining (1980)

The scene in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece where Jack Nicholson breaks through the bathroom door with an axe and exclaims “Here’s Johnny” was not scripted. 

What the people don’t know is that Jack Nicholson was making a reference to a show that used to air at that time. 

Nicholson is actually referencing Ed McMahon on the The Tonight Show. The scene became one of the scariest and iconic epochal scenes in the history of cinema. 

Good fellas (1990)

The whole sequence where Joe Pesci playing the character of Tommy DeVito in the film asks Ray Liotta playing Henry that “What did he mean when he called him Funny” was improvised. Joe Pesci gets angry and asks Henry “ I am funny how. I mean funny like a clown?”

The whole environment suddenly gets enwrapped in tension and there is complete silence for a moment or two that seems to be never-ending. But then Tommy breaks the silence by laughing again and everybody realizes that he was just taking Henry’s case. 

Joe Pesci told a story to Martin Scorsese which the former witnessed while sitting in a restaurant where a guy took a waiter’s case by asking him how he was funny. 

Martin Scorsese wanted to incorporate the scene in the movie. Without telling the other actors he told Joe Pesci And Ray Liotta to improvise the scene so as to obtain natural reactions from the actors. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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