As we are fond of pointing out, sometimes the most convicing performances you see in movies aren’t skillful acting at all, but genuine moments of humiliation, terror, and/or insanity perpetrated by actors with varying levels of willingness that’s been captured forever on film for our enjoyment. As the old adage goes: If you want a head injury to look real, you have to convince your actor to cut his own fucking head open.
#5. Channing Tatum Smashed His Face Through A Mirror And Permanently Injured Mark Ruffalo In Foxcatcher
In Foxcatcher, Channing Tatum plays wrestler Mark Schultz, and became so invested in the role that he sustained multiple injuries by the time filming was done. It seems nobody explained to him that “acting” means “pretending,” and does not mean you have magically transformed into another person and are now doomed to recreate the events of their life.
In one scene, Mark Ruffalo, who plays Schultz’s brother, was supposed to slap him in the face, but he was holding back because, well, he was acting (see “pretending” above). After a few bad takes, Tatum lost his cool with Ruffalo and shouted “C’mon man, I’m trying to act here. What is that? Come on! Be a man! Hit me!” Ruffalo didn’t hold back the next time, and slapped Tatum so hard that he broke his eardrum, because that’s what happens when you yell at the goddamn Hulk.
Hearing loss may explain some roles he later agreed to.
In another scene, Schultz loses his temper and smashes his face into a mirror over and over again in an explosion of blood and glass. It was an incredibly intense moment, and it wasn’t in the script at all. Tatum’s character was only supposed to smack himself in the head a few times. But when it came time to film the sequence, Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, sunk her maniacal fangs into his brain, and he headbutted the mirror so hard that he put a hole in the drywall behind it. The blood in this scene is real, because as we mentioned, Tatum put his head through a wall, through a mirror.
Uh … We had a joke, but are too scared to make it …
Tatum blurred the line between actor and psychopath so well that he even wound up injuring Ruffalo, who by his own admission was already intimidated by Tatum’s size, and was given no reason to question his fear after Tatum destroyed a mirror with his face. During one scene in which their characters wrestle, Tatum attacked Ruffalo so fiercely that Ruffalo suffered a permanent neck injury. It is unclear whether this was payback for the eardrum thing, but the scary thing is that it probably had nothing to do with it.
#4. Mickey Rourke Slashed Open His Own Face With A Razor In The Wrestler
Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler briefly brought Mickey Rourke back from the realm of Family Guy reference obscurity to earn him an Oscar nomination for playing washed-up professional wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Part of what made the film so effective was its realistic portrayal of the brutality professional wrestlers inflict upon themselves for the sake of their careers, including chronic injuries, painkiller and recreational drug addictions, and the heart problems that go hand in hand with years of substance abuse.
Not to mention the fashion sacrifices.
There are even several scenes wherein Randy and his fellow performers smuggle razor blades into the ring to cut their faces open after taking particularly big hits in order to make the action in the show more shocking and believable. It’s enough to make you forgive the ridiculousness of characters like Isaac Yankum, DDS, and Doink the Clown, if only for the runtime of the film.
Well, Rourke decided that if he was going to put all of himself into this role, he wasn’t about to smash a packet of ketchup into his forehead and wing it. According to Rourke, Aronofsky was the one who had initially suggested that Rourke cut himself for real, a move that the actor thought was possibly an attempt to scare him off, considering Aronofsky had major reservations about casting him to begin with. Aronofsky never brought the issue up again, but Rourke got himself so invested in the role that when that big scene came up, he pulled a concealed razor blade from his wrist straps and slashed his forehead open like Freddy Krueger popping a zit.
The razor would later win the Golden Globe for Best Blade in a Dramatic Role.
That’s a real gash, with 100 percent genuine Mickey Rourke blood pouring out all over the place. And according to Rourke, it really fucking hurt, to boot. Not only is his expression real, but we assume that he is looking off-screen directly into Aronofsky’s eyes.
“Who’s the wrestler now, Darren? You idiot. Oh god, my head.”
After the scene was over, the real wrestlers who had been hired for the film gave Rourke a standing ovation for treating their industry with respect — a phrase which here means “a willingness to mutilate yourself for money.”
And speaking of bodily fluids …
#3. Nicole Kidman Peed On Zac Efron In The Paperboy
The Paperboy was a nano-budget 2012 film in which Zac Efron has sex with Nicole Kidman, which is a sentence no one ever expected to be written. But it’s a bitter pill for Efron, because it’s also the movie in which Nicole Kidman pisses on him. Literally.
For context, Efron’s character is swimming at the beach when he gets stung by jellyfish, and a couple of girls nearby come to his rescue, believing that the best remedy is to have someone pee on his wound. (Note: This is a myth. Do not do this if you or someone you love gets stung.) Kidman’s character, Charlotte Bless, boldly steps up to the task, delivering a hot stream of liquid retribution for all three of those High School Musical films.
By recreating a scene from 300 High School Musical fanfics.
And according to everyone involved, there was no tube of prop urine or CGI — they straight-up had her piss on him. According to Kidman, “That was what Lee [Daniels] wanted … I mean, I love Zac. He’s such a great guy and let me just say I am glad it was him. I feel safe with Zac and hopefully he feels safe with me.”
It was probably impossible for Zac Efron to have predicted his career trajectory — that fewer than 10 years after exploding onto the scene as a Disney teen heartthrob, he would have an Oscar-winning actress pissing all over his chest. We imagine it was equally impossible for Kidman to predict that her post-Oscar career would eventually find her rinsing the nipples of a former child star with a steady stream of her own urine.
“When they said I’d be showered in gold for this role, I though they meant awards …”
#2. The Wolf Of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese Paid An Extra To Shave Her Hair Onscreen
One scene involves a female sales assistant volunteering to be shaved bald in exchange for $10,000, which Leonardo DiCaprio’s character assures us will be used to pay for breast implants. That last sentence captures the spirit of the entire movie.
Hell, we’d do it for a Popeye’s coupon.
The scene was not created through some movie magic. Scorsese hired a woman to have her head shorn completely on camera. The woman was Natasha Newman Thomas — who was not an actress, but a hairstylist and costume designer who happened to be friends with DiCaprio.
Being a hairstylist, Thomas naturally had major reservations about having her hair chopped off for the sake of the longest frat comedy ever filmed, but she eventually agreed to it. Rehearsals were done with a wig, but when it came time to finally film the scene, they obviously only had one chance — if someone had coughed at the wrong time, they would either have to wait a year for Thomas’ hair to grow back or run quickly out onto the street and try to find another young woman willing to come inside and have her head shaved by the guy who gets his skull crushed in an acupuncture parlor in Final Destination 5.
They wanted to try a Taxi Driver Mohawk, but couldn’t risk it.
Luckily for the production, the scene went off without a hitch, and Scorsese captured the very real facial expressions of a woman trying not to have a panic attack as her hair is given the Bruce Willis Special.
#1. Terminator 2: Linda Hamilton Beat A Man’s Ass For Real
Linda Hamilton’s role as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 set the standard for badass female characters that every movie will continue to follow until the actual Judgment Day is upon us. Connor was every bit as hardcore as any of her male action hero contemporaries, but what most people don’t realize is that this wasn’t just the result of great acting. Linda Hamilton herself is badass as hell, and she projected that onto her character.
“Come with me if you want to have weird dreams throughout puberty.”
One early scene called for an asylum orderly played by Ken Gibbel to beat the hell out of her, but the actor kept pulling his punches because he didn’t want to really harm Hamilton. But his hesitation was not appreciated — every time he flailed pathetically at Hamilton, she had to fall to her knees on the hard concrete, and the scene had to be reshot again and again, resulting in Hamilton enduring more painful knee drops than Dusty Rhodes. This understandably pissed her off, so she decided to make sure their next fight looked way more real.
In a later scene, Sarah Connor attacks Gibbel’s character with a mop handle. According to director James Cameron, to achieve maximum authenticity, Hamilton opted to simply beat the shit out of him for real. With a wooden stick.
“Looks like I stuck it to the man!”
“Linda, please … I’m in so much pain.”
In fact, Hamilton was so dedicated to her role that she demanded that everything she did be as real as possible, evidently choosing to ignore the fact that she was playing a character in a movie about time-traveling robot assassins. In the sequence wherein she escapes the asylum (which, incidentally, is the same one in which she tattoos the almighty Jesus out of Gibbel with a mop handle), her character had to pick some locks. Rather than allow the director to fake those shots, Hamilton learned how to pick locks and jimmied open the doors in real time. The scene was so genuine that English censors requested that the distributor cut it from the movie because they didn’t want to teach people how to commit felonies.
Which is why England will be the first to fall when the robots come.
In all honesty, it seems like they cast the wrong actor in the role of the Terminator.
A lot of your favorite scenes are, in fact, not scripted. Like how Viggo Mortensen was just going H-A-M all over the LotR set. Or how the Vulcan Neck Pinch was originally supposed to be a punch in the face. See those and more in 6 Iconic Movie Scenes That Happened By Accident and 5 Classic Pop Culture Moments (Actors Made Up on the Fly).
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