Top 10 improvised lines in films
#10 The Necklace Scene – Pretty Woman
Ok, so whilst it isn’t strictly a spoken line, it is still an iconic moment. When Richard Gere’s not casually putting gerbils up his rectum (this is apparently a thing. Look it up) he is busy giving Julia Roberts expensive necklaces and making single, middle-aged women’s hearts sigh. This little moment in the film was a snap (see what I did there) decision made by Gere whilst shooting, and Robert’s reaction is one hundred percent real. Now everyone say aaaah… Unless your mind is still on the gerbils, in which case say eurghh…
#9 ‘Why male models?’ – Zoolander
So, this improvised gem doesn’t really show Ben Stiller off in the best light as the truth of the matter is… he forgot his real line. Whilst trying to show how dumb models are, Stiller may not have done the actor image any favours either. But then again it is a masterclass of quick thinking, comic timing and sheer spur of the moment brilliance. Kudos too to David Duchovny whose response is entirely made up as well. It stayed in the final film. Clearly it works.
#8 The Line up – The Usual Suspects
Oh Keyser Söze you naughty scamp, too busy killing people to remember your lines? This glorious scene from the even more glorious The Usual Suspects shows just how good Kevin Spacey, Benicio Del Toro, Stephen Baldwin and Gabriel Byrne really are. Initially intended to be a very serious moment in the film, director Bryan Singer spent so long faffing about getting ready to shoot that the actors decided to go nuts with it. Each of them improvised the line ‘hand me the keys, you fucking cocksucker’ in their own individual way and the laughter that emerges is genuine as none of them knew what the other was about to do. Man, how much do you wish you were Kevin Spacey?
#7 ‘Take the cannoli’ – The Godfather
Cannoli. A Sicilian dessert that is somewhere between brandy snap and a pastry. They’re good. So good in fact they are worth robbing murdered men for. The line in the script for The Godfather actually just reads ‘Leave the gun.’ This little beauty comes from the inspired mind and hungry tummy of Richard S. Castellano. In case you want some cannoli I’m sure Mary Berry has a recipe. It’s probably a lot easier to do than commit first degree murder…
#6 Gun vs Sword – Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Now, I didn’t actually want to include this moment here. I was instead going to put in Sean Connery’s ‘she talks in her sleep’ ad lib from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Alas no proof exists to show that was a real improvised moment (only the belief in my heart). Instead there is this. Apparently Harrison Ford had the shits on the day of filming and instead of doing a long action scene asked Spielberg instead if he could just casually shoot the douche with the sword to prevent himself from exploding. Just a nice little image there for you all.
#5 ‘Here’s looking at you kid’ – Casablanca
Such a great line that it is hard to imagine that it was made up on the spur of the moment with the cameras rolling. An amazing line for a mundane film (sorry, but it is). The story goes that Bogie between takes would teach Bergman how to play poker and this line was something he used to say to her then. Either way it does not appear in the actual script and brings the house down every single time. Interestingly the line ‘play it again, Sam’ doesn’t appear either. It is a misquotation of Bergman’s line: ‘play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake’. But you all probably knew that anyway.
#4 ‘You talkin’ to me?’ – Taxi Driver
‘Bickle speaks to himself in the mirror’. That is all that appears in Paul Schrader’s brilliant script for Taxi Driver. This moment shows not only how good Robert De Niro is as a improvisational actor, but how good a director Scorsese is too. Allowing De Niro the space and creative freedom to do what he wanted with this inconsequential line of scene direction, De Niro came up with one of the best and probing looks into the mind of a psycho killer. Genius. I doff my hat to you both.
#3 ‘Hisssssssss’ – The Silence of the Lambs
There seems to be a bit of a rule in Hollywood that if you only appear in a movie for a very short period of time you tend to win an Oscar. Judi Dench is only briefly in Shakespeare in Love and Penelope Cruz only has forty minutes in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. As Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins only gets just under twenty five minutes of screen time. Hard to believe eh? His performance is so strong his presence seems to ooze its way through every scene. Hopkins has actually admitted that when he did the ridiculously freaky ‘hissss’ he didn’t realise just how frightening it was. No one even thought it would make the final cut. Thank god it did.
#2 ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat’ – Jaws
Steven Spielberg had a big problem whilst shooting Jaws – the script was too severe. Yes, it is right to say that maybe people being nibbled to death by sharks isn’t a joke-a-minute affair, but Spielberg knew that in order for the film to be a success it needed to be a bit lighter in tone. Cue Roy Scheider (not Rob Schneider) who, along with all of the cast, was given permission to ad lib as many lines as possible. The beauty of this creation is that it manages to be funny whilst making you wet yourself out of fear simultaneously. A legend was born and this is one of those immortal lines that just seems to crop up all the time in everyday life.
#1 ‘Here’s Johnny!’ – The Shining
Well it just had to be the number one spot, didn’t it? Like the Jaws line this is probably one of the most quoted lines in cinema ever. After a day doing take, after take, after take smashing through that bloody door, Nicholson eventually stuck his head through and uttered two momentous words. Apparently Kubrick was a bit or a brute to poor Shelley Duvall on set to get her terrified performance just right and it is rumoured that she cried so many times in retakes that Duvall had to keep a bottle of water to drink nearby to stay hydrated and ensure the tears kept flowing. Stephen King must be royally pissed off. The best line of all time… and it wasn’t even one of his.