3 Epic Moments of Improvisation in Great Films

Everyone needs a solid plan, right? Whether you’re hammering out the logistics to optimize ecommerce fulfillment for your website or making a blockbuster film, sticking to the script is usually a good idea. Well, usually. As it turns out some of the most iconic moments ever put to film have been off-the-cuff, improvised fits of brilliance that no amount of planning could account for. So today, let’s take a look at several amazing moments in film when the playbook went out the window, and improvisation carried the day.

“Here’s Johnny!”

Based on Stephen King’s best-seller of the same name, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” on the surface, had more than enough source material to go around. Yet, the most iconic moment from the film was an ad-libbed remark from Jack Nicholson. Kubrick was a meticulous planner and discouraged improvisation. Indeed, he was described as a taskmaster, and on the day of the climactic “axe scene” he berated actress Shelley Duvall until she was in tears between takes. Furthermore, he had Nicholson and Duvall reshoot the scene numerous times adding to the stress and pressure of the day, until Nicholson busted out his now famous Ed McMahon imitation.

Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

One of the best – and the most quoted line from the 1975 thriller, “Jaws” did not appear in the script. Carl Gottlieb, who was one of the writers on Jaws, said the line seeped into the film because of a real-life problem the crew faced: their boat was too small to fit all the film equipment. Eventually, Roy Scheider incorporated it into his performance and the result was the perfect line that summed up the terror of the great white shark. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Indeed we are.

A Shot in the “Ark”

Another great moment of improvisation from a Steven Spielberg production “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” this time played for big laughs. The situation: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has just endured a sprawling chase scene and battled a plethora of bad guys. Exhausted, he’s confronted by an expert swordsman, who flashes his scimitars at Indy. Now, the script called for Jones to fight the swordsman for roughly three-and-a-half pages in a massive melee. But Ford had other ideas. Beat down from filming all day in sweltering Tunisian heat, and suffering from dehydration (and possible dysentery,) Ford insisted Indy just pull his revolver out and shoot the guy dead. And he did. And so was born one of the greatest movie moments of all time – out of malaise rather than inspiration.

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Jyotsna Ramani is a passionate writer and an avid globetrotter. She had a knack for writing since her early years, though that was mostly letters to her penpals and jotting her thoughts down in her "Dear Diary". Over the years, she realized how her hobby could turn into a full time career and she started writing web content, books and pieces for local magazines. There has been no looking back ever since. Follow Jyotsna Ramani at Google+

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