Film Scenes Where Cast Is Unaware Of Plot

I remember reading somwhere, source unavailable, that during the scene in Alien where the eponymous hero bursts out of Kane’s stomach, the other cast members present didn’t know exactly what was going to occur after John Hurt began convulsing.

Does anyone know if this is true (I’m having a problem with search terms) and furthermore are there any (other) mainstream movies in which some or all of the cast are not totally privy to the plotting of a scene?

I’m going to exclude anything Improvisational and porn films.

Thank you.

I heard that in “Mary Poppins” the kids didn’t know about the medicine turning different colors or the stuff coming out of her bag, so their shock and awe is real.

And in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” Pink throwing the beer bottle at his wife was unexpected (for her).

Are you excluding “Vera Drake”? Most of the cast had no idea what the movie was about even during filming, so when

Vera is arrested, it’s a shock to everyone.

Supposedly the little girl who played Lucy in the 2005 version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe hadn’t seen the set for the winter-bound land of Narnia until they filmed it, so her delighted reaction is genuine.

(Not quite a plot point though, is it?)

For a TV example I have read that the cast of the TV show MAS*H were not told that the character of Henry Blake was going to be killed so their in-character reactions when they heard the news were spontaneous. IMDB doesn’t confirm this though.

In the scene in Tommy DeVito’s (Joe Pesci) mother’s kitchen in Goodfellas, Catherine Scorsese had no idea what was in the trunk or where everyone was going after they ate.

In the opening scene for Full Metal Jacket, apparently none of the actors playing the privates had ever met R. Lee Ermey before, nor did they know what he was going to do or say. I believe Kubrick just told them to remain in character as recruits and react appropriately to whatever Ermey did. If you look at their reactions, esp. Matthew Modine, you can detect geniune nervousness and shock, if not anger. When Ermey yells at him after he punched Modine’s character Joker in the stomach, he almost jumps out of his skin. When the guy playing Cowboy flubs a line, just saying “Sir…” and not finishing the line, R. Lee just goes with the flow and says, “Sir WHAT? Are you about to call me an asshole?”

If Burt Reynolds is to be believed (semi dubious!), John Boorman never told Ned Beatty just how far Bill McKinney was going to go in his famous rape scene in “Deliverance.”

I’ve heard that Kubrick also played with his actors on the set of Dr. Strangelove – Slim Pickens was only given the script for the scenes in which he appeared, and was never told that his role was supposed to be played for laughs. It’s all the more hilarious because he’s playing it deadly serious throughout.

When Rosemary makes the phone call to Donald Baumgart in “Rosemary’s Baby,” Mia Farrow didn’t know that the voice on the other end of the line was that of her good friend Tony Curtis. He had been visiting the studio that day, Mia hadn’t seen him, so director Roman Polaski asked him to do it. The puzzled look on Rosemary’s face is quite genuine, and it’s really Mia wondering why the voice sounds so familiar.

No, but perhaps ‘not totally privy to the plotting of a scene’ from the OP is a little restrictive.

Any reaction by an unknowing cast member to events in a particular scene is more than relevant.

The script for Casablanca was being revised during the shooting and some of the actors didn’t know where their characters would end up. Ingrid Bergman didn’t know if Ilsa was going to end up with Rick or Lazlo; Humphrey Bogart didn’t know if Rick was going to run off with Ilsa or lose her; Claude Rains didn’t know if Renault was going to be a hero or a villain. So their performances had to be ambiguous enough to support different endings which strengthened the movie overall.

Bit of an obscure one for you. During filming of the danish television series Matador, the cast were given their own lines only, and were unaware of what their opposite in any scene would be saying. Apparently, it resultet in quite genuine shock and horror at times.

I heard the same thing happened during LOTR, when the hobbits first beheld the elven kingdom.

I’ve heard this too, possibly on some TVland retrospective interview show. It’s a brilliant scene, and I’d be inclined to believe it.

I heard that in Schindler’s List, Spielberg didn’t tell his actresses what was going to happen in the scene in the showers at the concentration camp, so when the blackout happens, their screaming is genuine shock and fear, and the tears of relief when only water comes out of the shower heads is a genuine reaction as well.

Heck, if it ain’t true, I guess it oughta be…

Not to nitpick. EJ, but that doesn’t sound quite right. First off, it’s a movie, so it’s not like they’re going to be really killed. Second off, if “gas” were going to come out of the nozzles, the actresses would need to know that so they could act accordingly.

Unless you meant the sudden blackout is what startled them into screaming.

Maybe that’s what it was- it’s been a long time.

That strikes me as unlikely. My understanding is that pretty much any sexually explicit movie scene is blocked very, very carefully, with the actors going over exactly who’s going to do what, when. The idea is that you want to avoid making the actors uncomfortable with a part of acting which is, after all, fairly awkward stuff. This scene’s a little different, but I’d be surprised if the general rule didn’t hold true here.

The Descent. None of the girls knew what the mutants looked like until that scene when they first get attacked in the dark.

In Close Encounters, when at one moment Barry (the little boy) is supposed to react with delight upon seeing the (off-camera) alien visitors, Spielberg surprised the child actor by dressing up in a bunny suit and then popping out at the appropriate moment. The puzzled, then happy, expression on the kid’s face is genuine.

On BBC Radio 4 just the other day, they were talking about the movie Oliver. According to the programme, at one point the director needed to capture a look of absolute wonder from Mark Lester, who was playing Oliver. At the requisite moment, the director, behind the rolling camera, produced a white rabbit from behind his back; the child’s expression was kept from the first take.

Also, according to books by both Bruce Robinson and Richard E. Grant, the scene in Withnail and I where Withnail drinks lighter fluid to try to get drunk: during rehearsal they filled the bottle with water; but the first time the cameras rolled, they replaced the water with vinegar without telling Richard E. Grant. His reaction (retching, followed later by vomiting) was genuine.