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16 Times Actors Were Intentionally Caught By Surprise For The Sake Of Getting A Scene

TLDR: directors can be a sneaky bunch.

1. The director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would privately tell cast members to do things that the others weren't expecting. In some scenes, Kate was encouraged to play up the comedy, while Jim had been told to be serious.

Focus Features

According to director Michel Gondry, although he warmed to the process eventually, the mind games really frustrated Jim – everyone but him was encouraged to improvise, and there are a few moments where he seems genuinely caught off guard.

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2. ET was filmed in chronological order and none of the kids had seen the puppet before filming, so their first impressions were totally real.

Universal Pictures

Steven Spielberg had a few ways to get the best out of the kids– a screenwriter took notes when they chatted during takes, and they were also encouraged to improvise.

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3. The makers of IT had a similar idea – the kids were kept away from Bill Skarsgård as much as possible so their terrified first reactions could be caught on film.

Warner Bros. Pictures

While they were obviously freaked out by his clown get up and the intense scenes, none of the kids seem to have been as terrified as Bill worried they'd be.

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4. Everyone on Titanic knew that the water was gonna be cold, but they weren't prepared for just how freezing it was. The water was so icy that Kate Winslet couldn't stop shaking during the axe scene.

20th Century Fox

Despite filming in some extreme conditions and even getting hypothermiaher dress was a drowning hazard and she had to film tank scenes while on her period – Kate said she wouldn't have wanted it to be heated because then she'd never really know what it would have felt like.

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5. In The Office, Oscar Nuñez had no idea that Steve Carrell was going to kiss him on the lips, and the rest of the cast's shock was completely real.

NBC

In the script for "Gay Witch Hunt," Michael was meant to hug Oscar, go in for a kiss then chicken out, and kiss him on the forehead, but Steve went rogue and decided to improvise.

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6. In Mockingjay Part 1, the director filmed and edited test footage of Peeta’s interviews to be played during Jennifer Lawrence’s scenes. Jen was missing working with Josh Hutcherson so he knew showing him on-screen during her scene would provoke an emotional response.

Lionsgate

According to Francis Lawrence, the interview scenes only took a few hours to film and while it was tough for Jennifer to only see Josh on screen, it helped her tap into some authentic painful emotions.

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7. The actors hired for the Blair Witch Project were given a 35-page script and were told to improvise. They were taken into the woods, and as you can imagine, the results were terrifying.

Artisan Entertainment

If you don't know the story, the film was presented as "recovered footage" from three filmmakers who'd disappeared after searching for the Blair Witch. For eight days, the actors worked pretty much 24/7 and were even deprived of food. Their realistic performances and some extreme promotion techniques led to loads of people thinking they'd actually died.

8. To recreate the revolutionary spirit, the cast of Les Miserables were told to build a barricade in 10 minutes. The cameras were rolling and what they made ended up being used in the final film.

Universal Pictures

The actors didn’t know where the cameras were placed and it looked like complete chaos, but the structure turned out to be quite realistic and just needed a bit of drilling to remain held together.

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9. In the episode of Glee where Santana thought Finn was the one who outed her, the director had privately instructed Naya Rivera give Cory Monteith a real full-forced slap.

Fox

Naya said she felt awful about the slap and worried that Cory was mad with her, but he took it so well that he even encouraged her to hit him again when they filmed it a second time.

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10. In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, no one was warned about the boat scene, the creepy tunnel, or Gene Wilder's song, so the children's alarmed faces make a lot of sense.

Paramount Pictures

This isn’t the only surprise – Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie had no idea that Gene was planning to get so angry in Wonka’s office, and you can see how heartbroken he is.

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11. To prepare for Saving Private Ryan, all the main cast members were sent to a harsh 10-day boot camp, except for Matt Damon, who stayed in America. Matt's character was resented by everyone, and he was purposefully excluded so that the on-screen hostility would be as realistic as possible.

Paramount Pictures

Camp may be the place for bonding, but this boot camp was really tough, and the fact that Matt was at home relaxing definitely created a divide. It was so horrible that after day four, everyone wanted to quit, but Tom Hanks encouraged them to stick it out. Matt said that when he eventually showed up on set there some resentment from the guys, and it translated onto the screen.

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12. When Alan Rickman was filming the end of Die Hard, the director told him he’d count him down from three, and let Hans fall to his death after one, but told the stunt team to let him drop on one.

20th Century Fox

Effective? Yes. Nice? Not at all. He was only dropped a second earlier than he expected, but you can almost feel the fear in his eyes. Alan (obviously) wasn’t too happy with the trick, but the final result was great.

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13. During the filming of The Exorcist, director William Friedkin fired a gun on set as a way to get authentic scared reactions from some of the actors

Warner Bros. Pictures

This sounds like a major HR issue, but Friedkin said he only ever fired blanks because he found it difficult asking actors to portray certain emotions without them looking corny or unbelievable. According to Friedkin, he got the idea after reading an article about George Stevens and didn't think it was that big of a deal.

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14. Jay Baruchel was so terrified of rollercoasters that he made a deal with Knocked Up director Judd Apatow – he would appear naked in the earthquake scene as long as he didn't have to get on any of the rides. If you've seen the film, you'll know that Judd went back on the deal.

Universal Pictures

Jay was under the impression that he and Judd had an understanding (Jay told him he'd have a panic attack) but on the day of shooting, Jonah Hill wasn't there and Judd talked into doing. The screams in the film are very, very real.

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15. Steven Spielberg hired a stunt actor to play the first victim in Jaws. She was attached to a harness and there was a diver ready to pull her underwater. After the first few takes weren't cutting it, he decided to have her pulled under the water when she wasn't expecting it – the shark wasn't real, but her spluttering was.

Universal Pictures

The scene was so believable that many people thought she'd actually been injured. There were rumours that she broke her ribs and her hip, but apart from being caught off guard, she was fine.

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16. And finally, this one is more a case of actors being kept in the dark than being caught off guard, but still. Four out of the six main cast members weren't told about the huge twist at the end of the first season of The Good Place.

NBC

Spoilers for The Good Place, so skip this if you're saving it. The finale of season one revealed that while the gang thought they were in The Good Place, they were actually in The Bad Place the whole time. Ted Danson and Kristen Bell were told beforehand, but to make sure their characters seemed really convinced they were in The Good Place, the actors playing Tahani, Chidi, Jason, and Janet were kept clueless. Watch the moment they found out below!

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