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16 Actors Who Read Their Scripts And Then Said, "Wait, I Have A Better Idea"

Meryl Streep definitely put in the work for her first Oscar!

An actor's job is more than just memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera. A good actor knows how to bring their characters to life, which includes making key decisions about the way they'll look, speak, and move.

NBC / Via

However, the director almost always has final say. For a lot of actors, bringing a character to life onscreen is a collaboration with the director, but sometimes they have to fight for the changes they think are best.

ABC / Via

Here are 16 actors who fought for major changes to their characters and won:

1. Initially, Mike Myers recorded his dialogue for Shrek using a slightly more pronounced version of his natural Canadian accent, but after watching the rough cut, he decided to record his lines using a Scottish accent to contrast with Lord Farquaad's English accent.

Shrek raises a glass
Dreamworks / © DreamWorks / Courtesy Everett Collection

He also thought that having a Canadian accent made Shrek sound less relatable because it was more scary and less vulnerable than he wanted the ogre to be.

However, changing Shrek's accent also required the animators, who were already a third of the way finished, to redo certain scenes. According to DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg, the edits cost between $4 million and $5 million — 10 percent of the movie's total budget!

2. As soon as she was cast in the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, Emma Watson was determined to make Belle an "active heroine," which including forgoing corsets so that she could move around and ride horses easily.

Belle twirls in her iconic ballgown
Walt Disney Co. / © Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran told the Hollywood Reporter, "Belle would not be wearing a corset, and she had to be comfortable ... It was a conundrum incorporating these elements.” 

3. In the original arc written for Michelle Rodriguez's character Letty Ortiz in The Fast and the Furious, she cheated on Dominic Toretto, but Michelle refused and threatened to quit unless it was changed — and costar Vin Diesel had her back.

Letty stands in front of her car
MCA / © MCA / Courtesy Everett Collection

She told the Daily Beast, "Is it realistic for a Latin girl who’s with the alpha-est of the alpha males to cheat on him with the cute boy? I had to put my foot down. I basically cried and said, ‘I’m going to quit’ and ‘Don’t sue me, please — I’m sorry, but I can’t do this in front of millions of people. ... Vin was the first one to pull me to the side while I was crying, and he just looked at me and said, ‘I got your back. Chill out and let me handle this, and you’re right — it makes me look bad anyway.’ And there you go. That was the beginning of the Letty fairy tale.”

4. Jason Isaacs was "slightly horrified" when the Harry Potter wardrobe designers gave him a pin-striped suit and short black-and-white wig to wear, declaring that Lucius Malfoy "was a racist [and] eugenicist" and there was "no way he would cut his hair like a Muggle or dress like a Muggle." Instead, he suggested that he wear a long, white wig and a flashy wizard outfit.

Lucius glares at the other Death Eaters
Warner Bros. / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Jason told Entertainment Weekly, "In order to keep the hair straight, I had to tip my head back, so I was looking down my nose at everyone. There was 50% of the character." 

5. Samuel L. Jackson asked director George Lucas to let Mace Windu have a purple lightsaber to help him stand out from the large crowd during the final battle in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Mace Windu battling with his purple lightsaber
20thcentfox / © 20thCentFox / Courtesy Everett Collection

At first, George wasn't on board with the idea, but during reshoots, he broke the good news to Samuel.

6. At first, Crispin Glover turned down the role of Thin Man in Charlie's Angels because he thought the dialogue was terrible, but he took on the project after director McG agreed to let him play the character silently.

Thin Man holds up a hand to stop someone
Columbia Pictures / © Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Crispin told the Guardian, "The dialogue was just expositional."

7. When Meryl Streep was offered an audition for Kramer vs. Kramer — which was based on a novel Avery Corman wrote to counteract what he perceived as "toxic rhetoric" coming out of the feminist movement — she insisted that they needed to rewrite the lead character, Joanna Kramer, to be a better reflection of the struggles of a modern American woman going through a divorce, instead of “an ogre, a princess, [and] an ass," if they wanted her for the role.

Joanna takes the witness stand
Columbia Pictures / © Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Meryl's deep understanding of the character is what won her the role. Director Robert Benton even asked her to rewrite Joanna's final courtroom speech.

Her performance earned her her first Oscar win

8. In Jurassic World, Claire refused to give up her heels because Bryce Dallas Howard refused to give them up during filming in order to counteract "this idea with [her] parents’ generation that in order to find equality, a woman would need to behave like a man."

Claire stands in heels in the wreckage
Universal / © Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

Bryce told the Daily Beast, “The thing that would have been considered the biggest [weakness] for her ultimately ends up being her strength. And that’s those heels. I really liked that.”

9. After telling his friends that the screenplay for Robin Hood: The Prince of Thieves was terrible, Alan Rickman added more dimension to his Sheriff of Nottingham by adding his own lines and playing them to the campy, comedic extreme.

The sheriff riding a horse
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

Some of the sheriff's most famous lines, including “Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas," were Alan's work.

According to director Kevin Reynolds, no one else on set knew what Alan planned to say ahead of time, so his costar's onscreen reactions were genuine.

10. During production of The Mummy, Tom Cruise brought on two extra screenwriters to redo the screenplay, ensuring he had more screentime than the titular mummy did.

He stares down the mummy
Chiabella James / © Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Originally, Tom's character and the mummy were supposed to have equal amounts of screentime. His rewrites also gave him a more dramatic character arc, and although the Universal executives weren't completely on board with these script changes, they agreed to go along with them.

11. While filming Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy invented the Vulcan nerve pinch as a nonviolent way for Spock to end fights because he thought the originally proposed method — having him hit someone on the back of the head with the butt of his phaser gun — was too "archaic" and "Western."

Spock administers the Vulcan nerve pinch
Paramount / © Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

According to CBC, Leonard told the director, "We can say anything we want; we can make the audience believe anything we want about an alien ... The man could have a very special knowledge of the human anatomy that hasn't been discovered yet, or he may have some special power that only Vulcans have."

12. Halle Berry said she would only return for X-Men: The Last Stand if the script gave her character, Storm, a bigger role to play.

Storm gets ready to fight
20thcentfox / © 20thCentFox / Courtesy Everett Collection

On her personal website, Halle said, "If they have, in fact, written her closer to the comic book, then I'm in. If not, then I'm out. I hope I'm in though. I love Storm and really want to be a part of the last film."

13. For Stranger Things seasons 2 and 3, Dacre Montgomery wanted to humanize Billy more, so he pitched ideas for scenes, including about the character's parents, in order to reveal more of his backstory.

Billy in the dark
Netflix / © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection

Speaking specifically about Season 3, he told Vulture, "The main element was Billy’s biological mother. That was something I was insistent of having included, to add to his backstory and to see the pain his mother caused him by leaving."

14. While reading the script for The Usual Suspects, Benicio del Toro realized that his character Fred Fenster's only purpose was to be the first to die, so he convinced director Bryan Singer to let him deliver his lines in a made-up accent.

Fred poses for his picture in prison
Gramercypictures / © GramercyPictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

On Inside the Actor's Studio, Benicio said, "Every line that [Fred] said didn’t really affect the plot. So I sat down with Bryan Singer and I said, ‘It really doesn’t matter what this guy says. And if you allow me to, I think that we should allow me to do something with it.’ And he said, ‘Go ahead.’"

15. At first, Reese Witherspoon was reluctant to play Annette in Cruel Intentions because she found her to be "too demure and too much of a woman influenced by a guy’s manipulations," but she worked with director Roger Kumble to transform Annette into a more well-rounded character by rewriting her lines.

Annette at the patio table
Columbia Pictures / © Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Roger told Entertainment Weekly, "Annette was the character most removed from me. There’s no way the movie would have its success if it weren’t for [Reese's] talent as a writer."

Reese said, "I was starting what I guess became my bigger mission in life — of questioning why women were written certain ways on film."

16. And finally, following the less-than-stellar response to Thor: The Dark World, Chris Hemsworth advised Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige that Thor needed to be "funnier" and "unpredictable" in Thor: Ragnarok.

Thor in full battle armor
Null / © Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

Chris told Vanity Fair that he said, "Tonally, we’ve just got to wipe the table again.”

So Thor: Ragnarok took a more comedic approach to his character than the previous two films.