3x3: non-faked physical bits by actors


Okay, this one might take a bit of explanation. I'm looking for physical bits, not grand gestures like losing weight, studying dance, or fight choreography. Just bits. Small bits.

In Sanctum, there's a part when one of the actors is braiding mountain climbing rope during a conversation. It adds to the scene by showing us something about the character because of something physical the actor is doing. And, like our 3x3 of actors playing musical instruments, I'm particularly fascinated by these when they're not faked. For instance, Bishop's knife trick in Aliens is accomplished not by Henriksen learning it, but by Cameron speeding up the film.

So what are you favorite examples of actors doing non-faked physical bits in a movie?

Here are our picks, which we start discussing at the 58-minute mark of our Enter the Void podcast:

3. Kurt Russell's basketball shot in Escape from Los Angeles
2. John Cazale fumbling a gun in The Godfather
1. Vince Vaugn's money exploding from an envelope in Made

3. Colin Farrell handling a knife in The Way Back
2. Hailee Steinfeld rolling a cigarette in True Grit
1. Jim Broadbent folding clothes in Another Year

Tom Chick
3. Alec Guinness' hand gesture for the Jedi mind trick in Star Wars
2. Andrew Garfield dancing in Boy A
1. Mark Borchardt accidentally erasing the whiteboard in American Movie


Oh, and I actually found all of mine on You Tube!

  1. Alec Guinness' hand gesture for the Jedi mind trick in Star Wars
    Unfortunately, it's the remastered one with all the effects glopped over the scene.

  2. Andrew Garfield dancing in Boy A
    This one doesn't read as well without the context of knowing his character.

  3. Mark Borchardt accidentally erasing the whiteboard in American Movie
    The page has to load to a point 8:50 into the clip, or you can just fast forward to that point.



If I was a mod I would totally move this to another sub-forum.


By the way, it looks like we were wrong on the podcast when we said the prequels didn't acknowledge Guinness' hand gesture. You have to look closely, but it's definitely there.


  1. Tom Cruise nailing a window with a peanut butter sandwich in War of the Worlds

  2. Tom Cruise tumbling over a chair in Collateral.

  3. Benicio Del Toro lighting two cigarettes at once and handing one off in The Way of the Gun. Anyone can do it, but not like him.

  1. Scotty bangs his head into a bulhead in Star Trek V. "I know this ship like the back of my hand."

  2. The look on Alan Rickman's face as Hans Gruber falls to his death in Die Hard.

  3. Brad Pitt eats in every scene of Ocean's Eleven.

  1. Jennifer Lawrence rowing the small boat in Winter's Bone.
  2. Natalie Portman falling onto the mattress/padding in Black Swan.
  3. This one was a hard pick for a #1, but I'm going to have to go with Hailee Steinfeld handling a revolver in the river in True Grit. She fumbles and it's clearly too heavy for her, but she makes the scene just come alive.


0: It is impossible to top this. Catinca Untaru in The Fall. She wasn't even aware that she was in a movie, so every physical action was completely real. She also basically dictated the narrative, not knowing Lee Pace's character wasn't really paralyzed, and every reactive moment was hers, and hers alone. This is something that transcends filmmaking, really almost to the point of child abuse. Those tears were real when Lee Pace was grabbing at the curtains. The happiness was real when she finds out that he's actually okay. Again, all of her physical actions weren't dictated; they were her own.


I'll see your basketball shot and at least honorably mention Sigourney Weaver's over-the-shoulder, backward shot, right into the basket, in Alien: Resurrection.


Kellywand specifically mentioned picking the Kurt Russell shot over the Sigourney Weaver shot for reasons that you'll have to listen to the podcast to find out.






Actors in Michael Mann movies have to go through significant firearms training, but my favorite bit is Val Kilmer reloading his rifle during the bank heist shootout.


Yeah, that is a beautiful reload. Val Kilmer looks like he's operating on three glands worth of adrenaline but manages to get that reload to look like muscle memory.


Oh wow, that's a good call. That shot has stuck with me forever. The combination of coldness and a bit of confusion was really something else. It doesn't hurt that he was in an impossible situation, making the quick reload even more effective. It was amazing.

Mann does a lot of great stuff. Miami Vice, for example, while not his best film: Jamie Foxx and the grenade. So taut, so full of tension; and all about the physical reactions of him as well as the rest of the actors in the scene. Absolutely amazing.


What is it with you guys and the whole listen-to-the-podcast thing? Sheesh.

(Okay, Tom.)

Also, I must say, I’m surprised there’s no repeat appearance here for Max von Sydow versus the birch tree. According to this interview, he had to do it twice.


Timestamped YouTube link plz! :)

"Heat val kilmer reload" autocompletes in the search, but it only brings up videos of the entire scene.



Awesome link. I loved the bit about the tree -- it actually makes me want to see a Tarvoksy movie! -- and I look forward to reading the rest of it. Man, it sucks that Sydow is doing stuff like the Robin Hood movie. :(



Val Kilmer reload at About 7:40 in this one:



This & Bill Murray's consumption of food in Groundhog day take the cake for me.


I wanted to include one, but I’m at work and Youtube is blocked. I hope Guido’s link works for you.

  1. Jan Vlasák in Hostel eating with his hands and explaining how we've all lost our relationship with our food.

  2. Vincent D'Onofrio in Full Metal Jacket executing rifle drill commands in the latrine just before entering a world of shit.

  3. David Bowie in Labyrinth manipulating the orb with his hands.