6 Actors Who Took Their Roles Off-Screen


As any thespian will tell you, acting is Very Serious Work. Asking a performer to recite a famous line of dialogue may get you a glare at best—or a bodyguard pushing you into traffic at worst.

But not all actors are reluctant to reprise famous performances for smaller audiences. Here are six who inhabited signature roles without film cameras rolling.

1. Ron Perlman Raises Hell for Make-A-Wish

Courtesy of Collider

For 2004’s Hellboy and its sequel, Ron Perlman was paid a reasonable sum to endure hours of uncomfortable make-up. For Zachary, a 6 year old battling leukemia, he did it for free.

Zachary’s request for the Make-A-Wish Foundation was to get a visit from the comic book-inspired demon. After being notified by the make-up effects team from the movies, Perlman agreed to undergo the four-hour process and surprise the kid. Spectral Motion, which applied the latex appliances, even got their brushes on Zachary so he could better resemble his hero. Perlman spent the day hanging out and talking shop—horn maintenance, probably—and staked his claim as the nicest hellspawn ever.

2. Gilligan Finally Gets Rescued

Courtesy of SunTimes

Proving that nothing is beyond the scope of the aforementioned Make-A-Wish Foundation, actor Bob Denver agreed to appear in costume as Gilligan in 1992—25 years after Gilligan’s Island had run its course—so he could finally be “rescued” by a group as part of a fundraiser for the venerable charity organization.

Denver stranded himself on an island near the Kanawha River in West Virginia and was picked up by a small cruise ship. Is it canonical? Probably not, but who’s going to argue with fan fiction for a good cause?

3. Johnny Depp Conjures Jack Sparrow

Courtesy of Randomnies

Writing to fictional characters is always a bit of a crapshoot, but 9 year old Beatrice Delap of Greenwich, London, figured she had little to lose mailing a letter to Captain Jack Sparrow to ask for help in a “school mutiny” in 2010. Delap’s class had just visited the nearby set of a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, and a teacher encouraged her to write a letter. She did—addressing it to Sparrow.

During a hastily-arranged school assembly, Johnny Depp appeared in full Captain Jack regalia and led the kids in a pirate song and dance. Addressing Bea’s request, he informed the girl that no mutiny was likely with police waiting outside. While the episode smacks of studio publicity, Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer recently told press that Depp actually travels with the Sparrow costume so he can visit children’s hospitals. Good guy, rotten pirate.

4. Helen Mirren Acts Like Royalty

Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Life hasn’t been particularly kind to Oliver Burton, who was born with Down Syndrome and repeatedly diagnosed with cancer. But the 10-year-old’s wish was to meet Queen Elizabeth II. When the Queen’s representatives were unable to arrange a sit-down, actress Helen Mirren stepped in.

Mirren was playing the Queen for a stage show in London’s West End. After a performance, she had tea with Oliver (a butler served them both) and convinced the boy he was meeting the real thing. Before leaving, Mirren “knighted” Oliver and later told press it was an honor to meet “such a brave young man.”

5. Superman George Reeves Tours the Country

Courtesy of MTV

While much has been made of 1950s Superman George Reeves resenting the typecasting brought on by his popular live-action series, the facts run slightly contrary: he was gearing up for another season at the time of his death and seemed amenable to tour the country, making personal appearances as the Man of Steel.

The live events were a little more elaborate than simple meet-and-greets. Paired with stuntman Gene LeBell as evil “Mr. Kryptonite,” Reeves would engage in wrestling matches in costume, eventually overcoming LeBell and making himself available for pictures. Presumably, the children were too star-struck to ask why Superman had to resort to a grappling match to overcome his foe.

6. Robert Englund Weighs In as Freddy Krueger

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

For their long-anticipated Freddy vs. Jason film, which brought the two horror icons onscreen after a decade of development in 2003, New Line Cinema came up with an audacious publicity ploy: have the two “weigh in” at a Las Vegas hotel to mimic the pageantry of a big-time boxing match.

Robert Englund—who played char-broiled Freddy Krueger in nearly a dozen television and film projects—donned the latex make-up and eyeballed “Jason”; the two had to be pulled apart by officials, then took questions from “press.” For an added dose of realism, longtime boxing announcer Michael Buffer was even on hand to make the introductions. For the record, Freddy was a betting underdog: the film (spoiler alert) had it as a draw.

Disney Enterprises, Inc.
9 Things You Might Not Know About National Treasure
Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Released in 2004 to mixed critical reviews but a positive audience response, director Jon Turteltaub’s National Treasure has grown into a perfect rainy-day film. Stumble upon it on a streaming service or a cable channel and the fable about historian-slash-codebreaker Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) excavating the truth about a reputed treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence will suck you in. Check out some facts about the movie’s development, its approach to historical accuracy, and why we haven't seen a third film.


Originally planned for a summer 2000 release, National Treasure—based on a concept by Disney marketing head Oren Aviv and DreamWorks television executive Charles Segars—had a Byzantine plot that kept it in a prolonged pre-production period. Nine writers were hired between 1999 and 2003 in an attempt to streamline the story, which sees code-breaker Benjamin Franklin Gates (Cage) pursuing the stash of riches squirreled away by Benjamin Franklin and his Freemason cohorts. Filming finally began in summer 2003 when Marianne and Cormac Wibberley got the script finalized. Turteltaub, who spent three years in development before finally starting production, told Variety that “getting Cage was worth [the wait].”


Nicolas Cage and Justin Bartha in 'National Treasure' (2004)
Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Fact and fiction blur considerably in National Treasure, which uses history as a jumping-off point for some major jumps in logic. While it’s not likely the Declaration of Independence has a secret treasure map written on it, Franklin and other Founding Fathers were actually Freemasons. Of the 55 men who signed the document, nine or more belonged to the society.


It can be tricky to secure permission to film on government property, which is why producers of National Treasure probably considered themselves fortunate when they discovered that Walter Knott of Knott’s Berry Farm fame had built a perfect replica of Independence Hall on his land in Buena Park, California back in the 1960s. The production used it for a scene requiring Cage to run on the Hall's roof, a stunt that was not likely to have been approved by caretakers of the real thing.


One of Cage’s cryptic clues in the film is reading a time of 2:22 on the clock depicted on the image of Independence Hall on the $100 bill. Bills in circulation at that time really did have an illustration that pointed to that exact hour and minute, although it was changed to 10:30 for the 2009 redesign. There’s no given reason for why those times were picked by the Treasury Department, leaving conspiracy theorists plenty to chew on.


Speaking with The Washington Post in 2012, guards and escorts for the National Archives reported that the National Treasure films have led visitors to ask questions that could only have been motivated by seeing the series. One common query: whether or not there really is a secret map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. “I call it ‘that’ movie,” guard Robert Pringle told the paper. “We get a lot of questions about the filming.”


Both Cage and director Jon Turteltaub attended Beverly Hills High School in the late 1970s and shared a drama class together. While promoting a later film collaboration, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Cage revealed that Turteltaub had actually beat him out for the lead in a stage production of Our Town. Cage was relegated to two lines of dialogue in a bit part.


Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger in 'National Treasure' (2004)
Disney Enterprises, Inc.

On a press tour for the film, Cage told reporters that he and co-star Diane Kruger bonded by going out at night and singing karaoke. “We’d go and karaoke from time to time and sort of blow it out and be completely ridiculous, which helped, I think,” he said. “I think it was some Rage Against the Machine, AC/DC and some Sex Pistols.”


Popular films often have the residual effect of drawing interest to the real-life locations or subject matter incorporated into their plots. Mackinac Island, site of the 1982 romance Somewhere in Time, has become a perennial tourist spot. The same influence was true of National Treasure and its 2007 sequel, both of which apparently contributed to an uptick in attendance at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.


It’s been over a decade since National Treasure: Book of Secrets hit theaters, but Cage is still optimistic fans of the series could see another installment. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in 2016, the actor said a third film was in development, with the convoluted writing process slowing things down.

“I do know that those scripts are very difficult to write, because there has to be some credibility in terms of the facts and fact-checking, because it was relying on historical events,” Cage said. “And then you have to make it entertaining. I know that it’s been a challenge to get the script where it needs to be. That’s as much as I’ve heard. But they’re still working on it.”

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How Accurate are Hollywood Medical Dramas? A Doctor Breaks It Down
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

Medical dramas like Grey's Anatomy get a lot of things wrong when it comes to the procedures shown on the screen, but unless you're a doctor, you'd probably never notice.

For its latest installment, WIRED's Technique Critique video series—which previously blessed us with a dialect coach's critique of actors' onscreen accents—tackled the accuracy of medical scenes in movies and TV, bringing in Annie Onishi, a general surgery resident at Columbia University, to comment on emergency room and operating scenes from Pulp Fiction, House, Scrubs, and more.

While Onishi breaks down just how inaccurate these shows and movies can be, she makes it clear that Hollywood doesn't always get it wrong. Some shows, including Showtime's historical drama The Knick, garner praise from Onishi for being true-to-life with their medical jargon and operations. And when doctors discuss what music to play during surgery on Scrubs? That's "a tale as old as time in the O.R.," according to Onishi.

Other tropes are very obviously ridiculous, like slapping a patient during CPR and telling them to fight, which we see in a scene from The Abyss. "Rule number one of CPR is: never stop effective chest compressions in order to slap or yell words of encouragement at the patient," Onishi says. "Yelling at a patient or cheering them on has never brought them back to life." And obviously, taking selfies in the operating room in the middle of a grisly operation like the doctors on Grey's Anatomy do would get you fired in real life.

There are plenty of cliché words and phrases we hear over and over on doctor shows, and some are more accurate than others. Asking about a patient's vitals is authentic, according to Onishi, who says it's something doctors are always concerned with. However, yelling "We're losing him!" is simply for added TV drama. "I have never once heard that in my real life," Onishi says.

[h/t WIRED]


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