Just like in real life, in movies and TV shows, not everything we see was written in the script. Lines — and sometimes entire scenes — are improvised. Some of the funniest, scariest, and most powerful moments on the big and small screens were never supposed to happen, but once they did, they were just too good to take out.
Kissing scenes aren’t excluded from these unexpected moments. Actors surprise co-stars with kisses because they forget a line, because one actor just thinks it feels right, and sometimes because a co-star just can’t stop themselves. In at least one case, the reveal that an actor was surprised with an onscreen kiss sparked enough audience outrage that if you run a search on "unexpected kiss" you’ll find almost nothing but that story.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. From the tender to the hilarious and the controversial, here’s a look at some onscreen kisses that were never supposed to happen.
Found in translation
One of the most-discussed parts of Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is the tender moment at the end between Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) and Bob (Bill Murray). Murray famously whispered something in Johansson’s ear that he’s committed to never revealing (which hasn’t stopped fans from developing their own theories). The whisper wasn’t the only thing Murray contributed to the scene — according to Coppola, their kiss was never planned either.
When asked about it, Coppola told The Daily Beast, "I remember sometimes [Murray] would spring things on [Johansson], and it was fun to get her reaction."
In 2003, Coppola told indieWIRE Murray was "great at improvising," and that the skill served Lost in Translation well; the sushi bar scene in which Bob and Charlotte first meet is a perfect example. Coppola wrote simply "He tries to make her laugh" in the script, but everything that came out of Murray’s mouth was all his.
A kiss that inspired anger
Disappointing lovestruck nerd Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) share a first kiss in the season 2 finale of Netflix’s Stranger Things. In spite of his heartbreak, Dustin’s response to the smooch was mild compared to the outrage that erupted on social media when the behind-the-scenes story of the kiss was revealed.
In an episode of the aftershow series Beyond Stranger Things, Sink said the kiss wasn’t in the script and that showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer sprang it on her the day of filming. Before adding it, Ross Duffer apparently joked with Sink about having her kiss McLaughlin, and the idea stressed Sink out so much that he decided to do it for real. Duffer joked that it was actually Sink’s fault, implying if she wasn’t "so freaked out" by the idea, it wouldn’t have been added.
It soon became clear a lot of fans were not okay with this, and the fact that the story came out at the height of the response to a long list of Hollywood men accused of sexual misconduct doubtless didn’t make matters easier for the Duffers. In the wake of the outrage, Sink told TheWrap, "I mean, of course I was nervous… But I never objected to [it] or felt pushed into anything."
No one’s ever really gone
Whether they love it or hate it, Star Wars fans are passionate about The Last Jedi. Unfortunately, a lot of that passion turned ugly after the movie’s release. But whatever your feelings about the movie, if you didn’t at least almost tear up when Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) told Leia (Carrie Fisher) "No one’s ever really gone" before kissing her tenderly on her forehead, then your soul and heart are as frozen as the most sunless corner of Hoth. Fisher tragically died one year before the film’s release — a fact that couldn’t help but lend heartbreaking power to the scene.
In spite of how fitting and powerful the moment is, the kiss Luke gives his sister wasn’t part of the script. Hamill told Entertainment Tonight he spontaneously decided "in the take" to do it, saying "it just happened" — and that the crew wasn’t ready for it, but "they said, ‘do that again.’"
Hamill went on to say it was "really momentous" for him, "because Luke was saying goodbye to his sister forever," and as it turns out Hamill lost his friend Fisher before the scene was shown in theaters. Hamill said that because of the loss, he still can’t watch the scene. "She’ll be forever missed," Hamill said, "and she’s irreplaceable."
Taking to the part, chemically
David O. Russell didn’t cast Jennifer Lawrence in his 2013 black comedy American Hustle until "very late in the process." The director told Vanity Fair that even though she was young for the role, Lawrence enjoyed a "timeless quality," and that "she took to the part, chemically." Considering an improvised kiss scene between Lawrence and Amy Adams, it would be interesting to learn exactly which chemicals Russell was talking about.
Lawrence played Rosalyn Rosenfeld, wife to conman Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale). At a pivotal moment in the film, Rosalyn argues with Irving’s mistress Sydney (Amy Adams) in a bathroom, and in the middle of the confrontation Rosalyn aggressively kisses Sydney and — once she breaks off the kiss — bursts into cruel laughter.
Russell said the kiss was improvised, recalling that the idea was pitched to him, but he "didn’t know how it would happen." In a 2013 press conference about the movie, Adams said even though the kiss was her idea, the credit for the moment goes to Lawrence. Adams went on to say the kiss "didn’t just feel like a moment where two girls are going to kiss onscreen — it felt emotional," and called Lawrence’s laugh that followed the kiss "genius."
It just felt right
In 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow, United Defense Force Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is arrested by a superior officer for insubordination during an alien invasion and — after his records are deliberately altered to make it look like he’s a private — is forced into action, where he quickly dies in battle only to discover he’s trapped in a time loop where he repeatedly relives the day leading up to his death. His only ally is Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a highly regarded sergeant who’s also the only person he’s able to convince of his time-looping dilemma.
Speaking to Film School Rejects, screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie said the filmmakers struggled to find a place in the film for Cage and Rita to kiss, but nothing they tried seemed genuine. "[I]t always felt false," McQuarrie said. "It always felt like they weren’t focused on what was really important."
McQuarrie and his colleagues gave up on the kiss completely, but apparently Blunt hadn’t. McQuarrie said as they shot a scene in which Rita says goodbye to Cage, "[Blunt] just kissed him goodbye in the moment. And it was not in the script. It was not even discussed." According to McQuarrie after the scene was filmed, Blunt said, "It just felt right. It felt right and I did it."
Upon the home release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, Woody Harrelson told Entertainment Tonight his kiss with Elizabeth Banks in the film had nothing to do with the script. "She didn’t know I was even going to do it," Harrelson said, "I just kissed her." While he never explicitly said this was the reason for it, he also made a point to tell ET that kissing Banks wasn’t exactly his least favorite thing in the world.
"I have a crush on Elizabeth Banks. I’m not going to lie," Harrelson said. "I think she’s a beautiful woman, I think she’s a marvelous actress, and I just love her as a person." Harrelson joked later, "hopefully, you know, once we do the sequel to this that no one’s expecting — including the author — you know, something will pick up with these two."
When Harrelson spoke to the Associated Press, he talked again about his attraction to Banks: "I, personally, always wanted to kiss her. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do." Though Harrelson denied knowing anything about it, the AP reporter said she’d heard Banks intentionally flubbed takes during the scene so she could keep locking lips with Harrelson.
Krakens, snakes, and stunt doubles
Because of the realities of making a big-budget television show, in at least one case when two actors improvised a kiss, it turned into an uncomfortable kiss of three.
Before the airing of the Game of Thrones season 7 episode "Stormborn," fans speculated wildly about the glimpse of a kiss between Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) they saw in trailers. Whelan and Sand told Entertainment Weekly the kiss was improvised. "It just seemed like something we should do," Whelan said. "It was meant to be a suggestion [of flirting] and then it became more sexual than we expected because it seemed right."
The unplanned kiss took place on a ship just before an attack by Euron Greyjoy, and their smooching was interrupted by the assault. Whelan’s back was injured and she couldn’t perform all of her stunts, so Whelan’s stunt double also had to kiss Varma.
"I had to start kissing this poor stunt double and she was so terrified," Varma told EW. "I don’t think she’d ever been put in that situation before. She’s used to falling over and being attacked and all the stunts, but to be kissed by an actress was a bit beyond her."
Pratt finds a way
In the script for 2015’s Jurassic World, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) didn’t kiss. Howard told Out Magazine the kiss — set amidst park visitors screaming and running in panic — was "spontaneous," and wasn’t shot until the final day of filming. "We had shot the scene in the way that it was written — there was no kiss," Howard said. "And then on the last day, that happened — what you see in the movie."
According to a behind-the-scenes discussion between Pratt and director Colin Trevorrow on the Jurassic World Blu-ray, the kiss was only half spontaneous. The director took Pratt aside and talked to him about kissing Howard, but never told Howard. "The idea was we’re just going to have Chris Pratt surprise [Howard] in front of 200 people," Trevorrow said. "And that’s the take that’s in the movie."
We’re all still here
As any fan of the American version of The Office knows, if you want Michael Scott (Steve Carell) to blow something out of proportion, just ask him to be discreet about it. Such was the case in the classic Office season 3 premiere episode "Gay Witch Hunt." After Michael learns his employee Oscar Martinez (Oscar Nuñez) is gay and hasn’t appreciated some of Michael’s humor, Scott characteristically makes things worse while trying to prove to everyone how tolerant he really is. The episode ends with arguably the most awkward kiss in the history of television, when Scott kisses Oscar on the lips. In spite of how perfect it was and how difficult it is to imagine the episode without it, it wasn’t in the script.
"We were just supposed to hug," Nuñez said, "and he kept hugging me. And that particular take he came in really close, and I’m like, "Where is he going with this?" Oh, dear, yes, here we go." Nuñez told IGN he was worried someone in the cast or crew would laugh out loud and ruin the take, but it survived to likely cause as many cringes as it did guffaws in American living rooms.
As to whether Dwight’s (Rainn Wilson) subsequent attempt to lip-lock with Oscar was likewise unplanned, there’s no word. Maybe some things are best left to mystery.
Helena’s Magic Moment
The critically acclaimed romance A Room with a View was filmed when Helena Bonham Carter was only 18 years old, and according to an interview at Criterion.com, she hadn’t kissed anyone all that much at that point — in front of the camera or otherwise — which made it even more difficult to take the last-minute direction to kiss co-star Julian Sands.
According to Carter, the film crew was waiting for a "magic moment" to get a kiss with her and Sands. Carter said when the moment finally came, it was hard enough to just stay on her feet (and not necessarily because of Sands’ romantic skills). "It’s very hard to walk across a plowed field in high heels," Carter said. "I just knew I had to get to him without falling down. And then not laugh when he kissed me." Thankfully for Carter, Sands, and audience members, neither gravity nor Carter’s sense of humor pushed too hard that day.
Carter went on to say that other kissing scenes were equally challenging. She said it was "really hard" to not laugh while kissing Daniel Day-Lewis. She also said Sands was uncomfortable kissing Carter when her mother visited the set, and that Sands had to ask her to move out of his line of sight.
According to Jake Johnson, a.k.a. New Girl‘s Nick, co-star Max Greenfield (a.k.a. Schmidt) has kissed him more times "than any girl [Johnson has] ever dated." The pair talked about it as guests for On Air With Ryan Seacrest.
The first time New Girl fans saw the bro-mancing pair kiss was a little over halfway through the first season in the episode "Injured," when Schmidt (Greenfield) — worried about medical news he’d learned about his friend — kisses Nick (Johnson) on the mouth twice. Nick called it a "Fredo" kiss, referencing the aggressive kiss Michael Corleone gives his doomed brother in The Godfather Part II.
Greenfield told Ryan Seacrest that while it may have been the first time a kiss made it to the screen, it was hardly their first. "We’ll do a lot of improv on the show and I’ll just go in and kiss [Johnson] sometimes," Greenfield said. He said before the "Fredo" kiss, the crew was telling him the kisses were inappropriate. "They usually don’t put it in," Greenfield said. "And finally they put it in after about the seventh time I’d done it."
Greenfield also said Johnson’s initial reactions to the improvised kisses were "really aggressive," and that Johnson would push Greenfield away or hit him. Since the success of the "Fredo" kiss led to smooches being put in the script, Johnson was less surprised and more relaxed with the kisses.
The origin of Stydia
One unexpected kiss not only made it to the screen, it actually created a relationship.
In early 2017, Celebeat reported that Holland Roden — the actor who played Lydia on MTV’s Teen Wolf — was at the Showtime Con 2 in Madrid when she shocked fans with the revelation that co-star Dylan O’Brien created what fans called "Stydia" (the coupling of Teen Wolf characters Stiles and Lydia) with an improvised scene earlier in the series. Roden said O’Brien surprised her by kissing her on the cheek at the end of a scene, and the kiss survived the editing process. All it took was that little peck for fans to start "shipping" the pair (i.e., making them a couple in their own fan fiction), which in turn helped bring the two characters together in the official series.
As one Teen Wolf fan aptly tweeted, "The real reason why Stydia happened: Dylan O’Brien’s inability to just stick to the script."
On Riverdale, Hedwig wouldn’t be stopped
In season 4 of Riverdale, CW’s teen drama paid tribute to Hedwig and the Angry Inch — a stage musical later adapted to film — about an East German trans rock singer in the ’80s. In "Chapter Seventy-Four: Wicked Little Town," Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) decides it’s time for Riverdale High to host variety shows again. When Principal Honey (Kerr Smith) warns Kevin not to perform any numbers from Hedwig, Kevin and his friends fight back by performing multiple numbers from the musical. During the Hedwig original "Tear Me Down" Kevin and Archie (K.J. Apa) lock lips, and according to Cott even though the kiss was never planned, it absolutely had to happen.
Cott shocked TV Insider when he revealed the kiss was an "incredible, unscripted moment." Cott explained that there’s a part of the Hedwig stage musical when the titular hero goes into the audience and kisses an audience member. Inspired by this, while filming his performance of "Tear Me Down" — with Cott’s Kevin Keller playing Hedwig — Cott kissed Apa on the cheek. But then, as Cott explained, "the next take I went in to do the same thing and [Apa] turned his face and we just kind of laid a big one on each other. And then after that, we were like ‘This is exactly what it should be. This is, like, perfect for this number.’" Thankfully, everyone agreed, and the kiss made the final cut.
On Person of Interest, two characters share a kiss before tragedy
From the beginning of the sci-fi crime drama Person of Interest, fans noticed romantic tension between CIA operative John Reese (Jim Caviezel) and NYPD Detective Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), but it takes until the third season for those feelings to find any kind of physical expression. In season 3’s "The Crossing," Reese and Carter finally share a kiss while they’re hiding from the bad guys in a morgue; sadly, it’s destined to be their first and last. At the end of the episode, the corrupt cop Patrick Simmons (Robert John Burke) ambushes them and shoots them both before running away. They’re both hit, but Carter is mortally wounded and she dies in Reese’s arms.
According to the show’s producers, even though the kiss was a landmark moment for the characters, it was a decision the actors made completely on their own. Person of Interest executive producer Greg Plageman told The Hollywood Reporter "the kiss was not scripted. We never wrote it in … It wasn’t in every take; there were takes where they didn’t do it and there were takes where they did." Plageman went on to say that when they looked at the takes without the kiss, it felt like something was missing and that the kiss "deepened the level of their relationship."
In Woo, a kiss almost started a fight
Sometimes, an unplanned kiss in a TV show or a movie will get a response a bit more extreme than simply having the editors decide to leave it in or take it out, and that’s something Tommy Davidson learned while filming the 1998 romantic comedy Woo.
Jada Pinkett Smith played Davidson’s love interest in the romcom, and in his 2020 memoir Living in Color: What’s Funny About Me (via People), Davidson writes neither he nor Smith were satisfied with the script’s ending. He says he pitched the idea of ending Woo with he and Smith dancing in the middle of a city street, and apparently everyone liked the idea. While dancing with his co-star in the new scene, Davidson kissed Smith without warning. Though he said Smith flinched when he kissed her, at the time he "didn’t think it was all that big of a deal."
But there was someone who thought it was a big deal — Jada Pinkett Smith’s husband, Will Smith. According to Davidson, after the scene was shot, Will Smith followed Davidson into his trailer and things got very heated between the two. Davidson explained "There was a moment there when we might have come to blows. My reactive fight-or-flight instinct was triggered and I could have exploded." Thankfully, Jada stepped in and helped to calm things down, and Davidson and Will remained good friends afterward.
In The Persuaders!, Valerie Leon and Roger Moore shared an unscripted kiss
Between the ’60s and ’80s, Valerie Leon made a name for herself playing young beauties, particularly in James Bond flicks — she appeared in both 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me and 1983’s Never Say Never Again. In a 2017 interview with WestEndExtra, Leon named one of the Bond actors — Roger Moore — as one of her favorite actors to work with. Along with The Spy Who Loved Me, she worked with Moore in the TV series The Saint and the 1978 war film The Wild Geese.
But Leon said that one of her favorite collaborations with Moore was on the early ’70s action comedy TV series The Persuaders! She appears as Space Queen in "The Long Goodbye," as one of a number of women claiming to be heiress to a dead scientist. "Roger gave me an unscripted kiss," she recalled. "I just closed my eyes and enjoyed it. They kept it in."
On Grey’s Anatomy, Jo couldn’t help but give Arizona a kiss
There have been plenty of steamy moments on the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, but in the show’s season 14 finale, there was one that was less steamy but plenty surprising for almost everyone involved.
Early in "All of Me" — even though she’s about to get married to Alex (Justin Chambers) and everyone insists they can’t see one another — Jo (Camilla Luddington) rushes to see Alex and her other friends because she has news she can’t keep to herself. She’s just learned she’s been tapped for a hotly sought-after surgery fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Ignoring all the protests about not seeing her fiancé, Jo announces it to her fiends, predictably kisses Alex, and then much less predictably kisses Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) before giving her fiancé a second kiss.
It’s just a quick kiss but Capshaw is visibly surprised, and the moment didn’t go unnoticed by the audience. Asked about the kiss on Twitter, Luddington responded, "Ha!!! It was unscripted but I thought hello?!!! Who wouldn’t want to also smooch Arizona Robbins." Fittingly, you could interpret it as a kiss goodbye, as "All of Me" was Capshaw’s final appearance on the series.
While trying out for The Edge, Elle Macpherson surprised her co-star
Model Elle Macpherson hasn’t done a lot of acting work, and when she starred in 1997’s The Edge, she’d done even less. Macpherson plays Mickey, wife of billionaire Charles Morse, played by Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins and co-star Alec Baldwin — who plays photographer Bob Green — have the lion’s share of screen time. Early in the film Morse suspects Bob is having an affair with Mickey, and this is confirmed at a particularly inconvenient time — when Morse and Green are trapped in the wilderness and fighting for their lives against a massive Kodiak bear.
In a 2011 episode of the Graham Norton Show, Macpherson said her unexpected kiss with Hopkins took place during the auditioning process for The Edge rather than during the filming; and it wasn’t so much that the kiss was unexpected, but the type of kiss was a shock. She said that during the audition the casting directors emphasized that — in spite of the 27-year age difference between her and Hopkins — it was important that they feel "connected" and "intimate with each other," so it was suggested they kiss. Macpherson explained to Norton that, having not done much acting work, she wasn’t sure if she should "kiss with the tongue, without the tongue," and she erred on the side of, well… the side of tongue.
"He went so red," Macpherson recalled, laughing. "He was flustered — I got the job, though."