It’s tough to break into showbusiness, so you wouldn’t begrudge an extra their opportunity to get noticed on the set of a big production. However, these guys took it too far, taking their background work to the foreground and committing a cardinal sin: drawing focus from the talent.
Behold: the extras who almost ruined their movies…
When the first teaser for Christopher Nolan’s WW2 epic ‘Dunkirk’ hit the web, many were quick to point out one background artist who’d clearly missed the memo that he was supposed to be scared during this scene.
While all the troops around him are visibly terrified by the sound of a German plane swooping in to rain fire and death upon them, this guy looks like he’s just spotted a giant Spongebob hot air balloon floating by. Somehow we doubt he’ll make the final cut when it comes to cinemas in 2017.
When it came for Batman to make his entrance in ‘Batman Forever’, the occasion was noted the moment Val Kilmer smashed through the ceiling in full costume.
We didn’t need this speccy guy leaning over Nicole Kidman’s shoulder announcing: “Batman! Ehhhhh!”
Possibly the most famous errant extra ever captured on celluloid, the clumsy stormtrooper has become part of 'Star Wars’ lore ever since he bonked his head on the way into the Death Star control room. Famous revisionist George Lucas refused to alter the shot, instead adding a sound effect for the Special Edition in 1997.
'Teen Wolf’ flasher
You have to wait until the very last scene of 'Teen Wolf’ to see her – and you only see it’s a her in the widescreen edition on DVD – but this brave extra managed to damped Michael J Fox’s victory bundle by having her jeans unzipped, briefly flashing her crotch. Notice the guy waving the 'Beavers’ flag for added effect.
'Quantum Of Solace’ weird street sweeper
We can only imagine this broom-wielding extra was told by Marc Forster to lightly glide his brush above the ground so as not to make any noise while 'sweeping’. Unfortunately, he missed by a good foot, making it look like he’s fighting off imaginary dogs with his broom.
'Die Hard 2’ roly poly guy
No one likes being in airports at the best of times, so when there is terrorist activity, it’s understandable the masses would panic. This guy, however, was clearly so afraid that he lost control of his legs, causing him to flop helplessly around on the floor, rolling around like a Portuguese footballer. Yellow card for simulation.
Smiling 'Jaws’ extra
Fear affects people differently. Some people freeze, some people are spurred into action. This extra on the set of 'Jaws’ reacted unlike any other when informed of a killer shark in the area – by playfully romping into the sea with a stupid smile plastered all over his face. Here’s hoping he left a smiling corpse.
'The Last Samurai’ who got kicked in the nuts
Nothing sours a serious period epic like a horse kicking a samurai in the plums. Considering all the extras in the shot and how difficult it is to wrangle horses, we reckon director Ed Zwick saw this and thought “Sod it. No one will notice. Print it!” We noticed.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
There’s no other way to say it: this distracting extra in dance drama 'Breakin’’ is Jean-Claude Van Damme, and he’s dancing like a prat wearing a lycra bodysuit. Just try and focus on anything else.
Frances McDormand’s scene stealer
Fittingly, given the title of the movie she was appearing in, the over-the-top extra who appears over the shoulder of Frances McDormand during the graduation scene in 'Almost Famous’ did find a modicum of fame, when Cameron Crowe pointed her out in his director’s commentary for the DVD, saying she does “exactly what extras shouldn’t do”.
'Star Trek Into Darkness’ smiling extra
Blink and you’d miss him, but the first trailer for 'Star Trek Into Darkness’ contained a split-second shot of a futuristic San Francisco resident staring at the camera and smiling like a goof while two colossal spacecrafts smashed into his city. Hyuk hyuk.
'Mr Nanny’ background extra washes dog
This one is just too bizarre: during one scene of 'Mr Nanny’, as Hulk Hogan rides his motorbike down the street, one cut shows a strange man standing on the waterfront behind him, casually tossing his dog into a lake. Was he washing it? Trying to drown it? Why was it in the movie? How did nobody spot it? Why is Hulk Hogan in a movie again?
'The Dark Knight Rises’… quite easily
Poor Christopher Nolan: all those expertly choreographed fight scenes in 'The Dark Knight Rises’, and this henchman extra goes and spoils the whole shebang by crumpling like a sack of potatoes despite being about six feet away from the 'fatal’ blow. Still, having Anne Hathaway in leather in the foreground will tend to catch people’s attention.
'Cliffhanger’’s smile of death
This one’s a bit of a cheat as it’s not an extra but actor Ralph Waite who flubs a scene in 'Cliffhanger’, by smiling during the film’s most traumatic scene – the bit where Sylvester Stallone’s girlfriend plummets to her death. Could it be a rather unfortunate grimace? Maybe the character of Frank was actually the Grim Reaper? So many theories.
They say 'Never work with children or animals’ but we feel it’s necessary to add 'especially cats, because cats are the worst’. Just look at the furry little critter in 'You Only Live Twice’ trying to escape Blofeld’s clutches: those claws are dug all the way in to Donald Pleasence’s arm. Having a crazed cat scratching you will tend to undermine your evil plan.
The kid who spoils 'North By Northwest’
Kids are dumb. Look no further than this scene from 'North By Northwest’ for proof: the small kid sitting at a table in the background has obviously been told that a gun is about to go off, but sticks his fingers in his ears a good five seconds before it’s discharged. Nice going, idiot. We hope he grew up knowing he ruined one of the best films ever made.
'Back To The Future III’ crotch kid
Doc Brown’s kid Verne certainly made an impression with his minute or so of screen time at the end of 'Back To The Future III’. No sooner has his dad introduced him to Marty, he’s beckoning the camera towards him and pointing at his crotch, like some demented junior swagged-out rapper. Turns out he was just signalling that he needed the loo, but still.
Batman cop super agrees
During a scene in The 'Dark Knight’ which Harvey Dent addresses the Gotham PD, one disgruntled officer yells “No more dead cops!” At this point, the extra in front of him agrees so vigorously, his eyebrows appear to try and escape off the top of his head.
'Gladiator’s smiling extras
Ridley Scott took to his 'Gladiator’ DVD commentary to bemoan these guys – extras smiling like goons in the opening battle as the Romans rush the Germanic tribesmen. Background artist rule number one: if you are appearing in a war or battle scene, don’t smile. Wars and battles are supposed to be sad. Lesson over.
“Hey Malkovich! Think fast!”
Incredibly, one of 'Being John Malkovich’’s funniest scenes was entirely improvised by an extra, who lobbed an empty can of beer at Malkovich’s head and yelled “Hey Malkovich, think fast!” as he chatted to John Cusack on the New Jersey turnpike. The scene wasn’t in the script, and instead of being punished, the extra was paid.