It can take weeks, months or maybe even years for screenwriters to perfect a movie script. Blending all elements together, tying up loose ends and making sure the dialogue is sharp, essential to the plot and engaging is a challenge that sometimes even the most experienced writers agonize over. While there have been countless memorable moments in cinema concocted in the brains of writers, as it turns out some of the most iconic scenes in films were completely unscripted and improvised on the spot.
Check out 10 of the best moments in cinema which were totally unscripted:
1. True Lies
The striptease scene in True Lies may be famous, but what you may not have known was that the sexy underwear worn by Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee Curtis) in the scene wasn't actually from the wardrobe department - they actually belonged to Jamie Lee Curtis! In addition to this 'personal touch,' the dramatic fall that Helen takes in the middle of the striptease was also unscripted - Arnold Schwarzenegger (Harry Tasker) almost gave the whole thing away when he sat up in alarm, but like a true pro Curtis kept going and Schwarzenegger kept in character.
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
In the hilarious scene of The Wolf of Wall Street where Jordan overdoses on expired Lemmons, DiCaprio improvised the part of the scene where, in his 'cerebral palsy' state, he opens the car door with his foot. While it looked extremely fitting and funny on film, DiCaprio ended up straining his back shooting the scene and so ended up doing the take just the once.
There were other unscripted moments in the film, such as an improvised dance scene from DiCaprio, and a very real, but accidental, punch between Jon Bernthal and Jonah Hill. Scorsese loved the realism of the punch so much that he kept shooting even as Jonah's face was swelling from the power packed in Bernthal's fist!
3. Shaun of the Dead
Following Shaun's (Simon Pegg) breakup with his girlfriend Liz in Shaun of the Dead, his friend Ed (Nick Frost) attempts to cheer up his friend by inventing extravagant backstories about the regulars drinking at their local pub, the Winchester. Such backstories include a describing an old lady as a 'cock-a-cidal maniac' ex-pornstar, and a dude as the inventor of the the 'mobile-disco.' The whole scene was improvised on the spot and Simon Pegg's laughter is completely genuine.
4. Crazy, Stupid, Love
During the scene when Hannah (Emma Stone) and Jacob (Ryan Gosling) share a romantic evening together, Jacob woos Hannah by making her partake in the famous Dirty Dancing lift. While it might seem obvious that a 21st century romantic comedy would include something from one of the most famous romance movies of all time, it turns out the lift was completely unscripted! Gosling explained that the Dirty Dancing lift was just something he and his friends try to do when they're out dancing and drinking in real life, so when he and Stone shot the scene it seemed only natural!
5. The 40-year-old Virgin
During The 40-year-old Virgin, David and Cal (Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen) jokingly spar with each other during an immature game called "You know how I know you’re gay?” in which each character spells off a number of reasons why the other character must be gay. The scene is quick and witty, and as it happens the whole thing was just the two comics riffing back and forth, completely unscripted.
6. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
During the director's commentary for Terminator 2: Judgement Day, James Cameron admits that Arnold Schwarzenegger improvised the line "I need a vacation" after he saw a description in the script stating that the Terminator "looks like he needs a vacation."
7. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
As soon as audiences heard Han Solo's famous "I know" in response to Princess Leia's proclamation of love, the line was immortalized. However in the original script for The Empire Strikes Back the smuggler was supposed to have a much more boring response. While the script originally called for Solo to respond "I love you, too," actor Harrison Ford thought that it sounded very un-Han-like, so he changed it to a simple "I know." Thankfully director Irvin Kershner and George Lucas agreed.
8. The Dark Knight
Originally in the scene in The Dark Knight where the hospital explodes, the Joker (Heath Ledger) was supposed to set off the explosion before getting on a school bus during a scripted pause, and then as the bus drove away the explosion was supposed to finish. What actually ended up happening was that Ledger stopped walking during the pause, and instead of getting on the bus straight away, fidgeted with the remote detonator. The improvised moment brought a bit of dark humor to the otherwise serious scene and ultimately ended up in the film.
9. Dumb and Dumber
Naturally when you're making a comedy with professional comedians there are bound to be a few improvised moments in the finished product. Dumb and Dumber was no exception, with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels coming up with many gags in the film while the camera was rolling. The most notably improved moment was in the scene when Harry and Lloyd picked up criminal-come-hitchhiker Mental, and the two actors went completely off script. The famous 'most annoying sound in the world' gag was thought up on the spot and Mental, (actor Mike Starr), had no idea what Jim Carrey was doing. Carrey even almost gives himself away at the beginning of the bit when he gives a sly chuckle before launching into the screech.
10. Django Unchained
Despite having the misfortune of still never having won an Oscar, Leonardo DiCaprio proved himself once again as an exquisite actor during the dinner scene in Django Unchained. During a take for the scene, DiCaprio repeatedly slammed his hand on the table, accidentally smashing a glass and cutting his himself multiple times. However, instead of immediately seeking medical attention, DiCaprio continued the scene with his bloodied hand ultimately adding more intensity to the bit. Director Quentin Tarantino loved the improvisation and opted to use a bloodied hand as a prop. Rest assured however, that while the start of the scene is actually DiCaprio's blood, by the time he wipes his bloodied hand across Broomhilda's (Kerry Washington) face, DiCaprio had had his hand seen to and the blood he smeared on her was fake.