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8 famous movie moments that weren’t in the script

Some of the most enduring scenes in cinematic history come from unscripted moments when directors or stars dared to veer off-book and go with the flow of spontaneity. Here are eight such moments that weren’t part of the original plan, but unquestionably turned into movie magic for appreciative audiences.

"You Talkin’ to Me?” in Taxi Driver

While Robert De Niro had a pretty good idea of how to play troubled veteran Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, he was unsure of how to approach a part in which his character "looks in the mirror and plays like a cowboy, pulls out his gun, talks to himself." Ultimately, the actor locked himself in a room with director Martin Scorsese to figure out how to tackle the scene. "He kept saying, 'You talkin' to me?'" Scorsese later remembered. "He just kept repeating it, kept repeating it. … It was like a jazz riff. Just like a solo." The end result was one of Hollywood’s most iconic scenes and, for De Niro, a lifetime spent listening to well-intentioned and less-talented imitators throw the line back at him.

The Necklace Scene in Pretty Woman

It's a small and relatively unimportant moment in Pretty Woman, yet nonetheless provided a hint that its fresh-faced female lead was going to become a huge star. Intending to shoot footage for a gag reel, director Garry Marshall told Richard Gere, as businessman Edward Lewis, to snap a jewelry box shut as Julia Roberts, playing call girl Vivian Ward, reaches for the necklace inside. Roberts responded with her now well-known whopper of a laugh, drawing a sheepish chortle from Gere, and Marshall was so happy with the sincerity of the interaction, he wound up leaving it in the movie.

The Quickly Dispatched Swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark

One of the funniest moments of Raiders of the Lost Ark comes when Indy, facing off with a fearsome sword-fielding foe on the streets of Cairo, simply pulls out his gun to shoot the guy. As originally conceived, this was meant to be "the most definitive 'whip against the sword' fight," in the words of director Steven Spielberg. However, after coming down with a case of dysentery that all but kept him tethered to the nearest restroom, star Harrison Ford began examining whether an extended fight sequence was really necessary at this point of the story. Ultimately, Spielberg agreed that the narrative would be better served by a quick, physical punchline, with the added bonus that the change suddenly left his production ahead of schedule.

The Uncredited Cat in The Godfather

The opening scene of The Godfather, in which Vito Corleone opines on the meaning of friendship to a justice-seeking Amerigo Bonasera, was part of the script. The friendly cat nestled into star Marlon Brando's lap? Not so much. Director Francis Ford Coppola recalled he "saw the cat running around the studio, and took it and put it in [Brando’s] hands without a word." But while the feline's presence helped magnify the tension of the scene, its incessant purring reportedly drowned out much of Brando's distinct mumbling, forcing sound editors to redub the dialogue.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat” in Jaws

Well before Jaws set the standard for summer blockbusters and scared a generation of vacationers away from the beach, it was a production marked by logistic challenges that threatened to sink the fortunes of everyone involved. One of its problems was an overloaded equipment barge, and the way-too-small support boat that failed to adequately steady its larger companion. Eventually the phrase, "You're gonna need a bigger boat," became a running gag among the set workers, inspiring co-star Roy Scheider to slip the line into a few of his takes. Although they were mostly excised in the final cut, editor Verna Fields wisely kept the line when Scheider's Chief Brody (and the audience) gets the first good look at the underwater killer.

Willy Wonka’s Introduction in the Chocolate Factory

When we finally meet the titular candy kingpin of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, he inches toward the crowd with a pronounced limp and falls over, before somersaulting back to his feet with a burst of joyous energy. This was entirely the brainchild of star Gene Wilder, who devised the dramatic entrance of his character after sensing "something missing" from the original script. When asked for his motivation behind this particular introduction, Wilder explained that it would serve to keep audiences on their toes: "I knew that from that time on no one would know if I was lying or telling the truth."

The “Cinderella Story” in Caddyshack

The juvenile humor of Caddyshack isn't for everyone, but even the harshest of critics can applaud Bill Murray's improvised performance in the "Cinderella story" scene. Provided minimal instruction — the script simply reads, "The sky is beginning to darken. CARL, THE GREENSKEEPER, is absently lopping the heads off bedded tulips as he practices his golf swing with a grass whip" — Murray proceeded to narrate an imaginary broadcast about an underdog who wins golf's prestigious Masters Tournament with a miracle finish. If not quite as powerful as, say, Sidney Poitier's "You don't own me" speech from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, the monologue encapsulates the delightfully goofy mindset of Murray's minor but memorable character.

“I’m the King of the World!” in Titanic

Yet another entry on the list of "endlessly quoted movie lines that were made up on the spot" comes courtesy of Titanic, when Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack gazes over the doomed ship's bow, throws out his arms, and declares, "I'm the king of the world!" This time, it's director James Cameron who takes creditfor the last-minute addition; after shooting the scene several times with alternate lines that didn't seem to be landing, Cameron finally told the actor, "All right, I got one for you — just say, 'I'm the king of the world.'" DiCaprio allegedly was puzzled by the choice, but he committed to its delivery, producing an indelible moment in the record-breaking film that transformed him into a bona fide movie star.

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