An actor’s job is more than just reciting words from a script. The truly talented can embellish a scene through improvisation, creating a funnier, deeper, or more authentic moment for their character. In the history of cinema, there have been many instances of iconic improv moments turned into a most valuable point of a movie, and MCU is visually flooded with those.
The MCU is blessed with some of the best improvisors in Hollywood, from longtime legends like Robert Downey Jr. to newcomers like Florence Pugh. Some of them appear to be so smooth that you would think the whole line comes from written scripts. Here are 22 iconic MCU scenes that were improvised.
#1 In Spider-Man: No Way Home, Zendaya improvised the scene where MJ tosses bread at Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield).
“At first, Zendaya picks up a candlestick or something to like threaten me within that first scene where I come in,” Andrew stated on a podcast. But then there came the bread basket… ‘Can I just throw bread at him?’ she asked, and director Jon Watts replied, ‘Yeah, throw bread at him.’
#2 The concept for all three Peter Parker versions to reproduce the classic Spider-Man pointing meme came from Andrew Garfield.
On a podcast, he said, “There’s this moment where Jacob Batalon is like, ‘Hey Peter?’ and we all go, ‘Yeah?’ But in the script, it was like, that was that… But then I was like, no, this is the moment where we get to go, ‘Do you mean me?’ Jon was like, ‘That’s it. That’s it. Done.’”
#3 I love you guys, Andrew said spontaneously to the other two Peters.
“That was just me loving Tobey and Tom.”
#4 Benedict Wong and Benedict Cumberbatch completely created the sequence in Doctor Strange where Strange compares Wong’s mononym to Beyoncé.
“He just threw those lines at me.”
#5 Hailee Steinfeld and Florence Pugh improvised the majority of the scene in Hawkeye in which Kate Bishop and Yelena Belova converse over dinner.
According to Bertie (of the directorial pair Bert and Bertie), “We did a rehearsal, but every single thing was just perfect between them, and the improvisation that they brought to it was dynamite. We could just sit back at the monitors and just enjoy every single take and their chemistry.”
#6 After realizing that Hailee despises spicy sauce, Florence came up with the plan for Yelena to pour it all over their mac & cheese.
“There was obviously a script and it was planned, and we knew we wanted Kate to kind of turn and throw something at Yelena. At first, we were just looking around the set and there was one of those lucky cats from Chinatown. So, it was going to be that at one point, but then there was this hot sauce bottle, and we loved that,” Bertie told.
She continued, “Then, Florence was like, ‘Oh, well, this hot sauce now needs to go all over the mac and cheese.’ Florence is hugely into hot sauce, but Hailee not so much. So, the whole thing where Yelena basically says, ‘Are you done? Can I go crazy?’ That was not planned.”
#7 Florence was surprised to realize that none of the superhero’s classic landing stances, including Natasha Romanoff’s, are truly safe for landing during stunt rehearsals for Black Widow. Eric Pearson wanted to include it in the script after overhearing her tell Scarlett Johansson about it.
Florence said, “Now I’ve been so terrified of Yelena’s landing being posey after I made such a joke about Natasha being posey.”
#8 All of Alexei and Melina’s flirtation in the film was improvised by David Harbour and Rachel Weisz.
David said, “I think that’s a credit to Cate Shortland, she saw the chemistry between us and she saw sort of our voracious, you know, appetite for these characters and for this world, and she just kind of let us run with it.”
#9 David also came up with the concept for Yelena’s comfort music to be “American Pie.”
“I felt there’s gotta be something a little more profound and I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if back in America when she was little and was terrified having been taken from her family, the Red Guardian would put her in the car and drive around and play “American Pie”?’ So from then on, she tells daddy to put in the tape.”
He continued, “So for this bedroom scene, I’m thinking, he’s a failure as a father what can he do at the end of this scene? This narcissist who also has a big heart. And so he brings up the song, basically as him saying, ‘I tried.'”
#10 Despite the fact that the growing relationship between Makkari and Druig was not in the original Eternals screenplay, director Chloé Zhao urged Lauren Ridloff and Barry Keoghan to include it after witnessing the “sparks” that flew between them the first time they improvised together.
Speaking with the cast at a press conference, Chloé said, “I don’t know if Lauren, you remember, it was your first time meeting Barry, the two of you started to just riff… You started to improvise. And I go, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait, what’s happening?’ Sparks everywhere.”
#11 M’Baku leading the Jabari men in grunting at Everett Ross for speaking out of turn was solely Winston Duke’s concept in Black Panther.
He also said that it was his idea to investigate and model M’Baku’s speech on Nigerian accents in order to distinguish him from T’Challa’s South African-influenced speech.
#12 Robert Downey Jr. improvised the line “I am Iron Man” at the conclusion of Iron Man, revealing Tony Stark’s secret identity and going against 40 years of comic history.
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said, “That success inspired us to go further in the trusting ourselves to find the balance of staying true to the comics and the spirit of the comics, but not being afraid to adapt and evolve and to change things.”
#13 Adults are talking, Robert improvised in the Avengers: Infinity War sequence where Spider-Man insists on being “backup” to Iron Man and Doctor Strange.
#14 Tom Holland based the words “I don’t want to go” at the moment where Peter Parker is turning to dust on a method he employs to weep on cue.
He told “I’ll say a phrase over and over again. So, for example, if I was in a scene and I was talking to someone and the undertone of the scene was that I love them, I would say in my head, ‘I love you so much, I love you so much, I love you so much, I love you so much.'”
#15 While filming Vision’s Infinity War death scene, Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany were told to improvise.
Paul told, “It was about 100 degrees and we were really, really sweaty, and the Russo brothers ran over to us and went ‘OK, so the entire beating heart of the movie is now on your shoulders’ and then they went off.”
#16 Who is Gamora? was the last line in the original screenplay. Drax’s iconic phrase, “I’ll do you one better: Why is Gamora?” was improvised by Dave Bautista.
#17 Doctor Strange raises his finger to imply to Tony Stark that he is the only one who can undo the Snap, which was improvised by Benedict Cumberbatch.
#18 Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan improvised the majority of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes’ collaborative treatment sequence in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Amy Aquino, who also appeared in the scene as Dr. Christina Raynor said “They had the framework of what had to happen…but the rest of it, it was Anthony and Sebastian, who have this huge history. And they were doing it in character…but they were creating those moments within the framework of what was on the page.”
#19 Chris Hemsworth was joking about on the set of Thor: The Dark World when he hanged Mjölnir on the coat rack.
#20 The camera crew “watched Jonathan Majors start to move, and Autumn Durald, the cinematographer was like, ‘Okay…’ And then you saw the cameras start to move; it was almost like a dance with him” in Loki.
Director Kate Herron told “That was not planned. It just blew us away because it was just so cool. That was the fun thing with him: I love the way he brought the movement to the character in different ways because I think that was really important as well.”
#21 Tom Hiddleston improvised the allusion to Thor during Loki’s drinking sequence on the train.
Director Kate Herron told “That’s the thing with Tom as well, is that he’s the Loki encyclopedia. If you have an actor who’s played a character for a decade and is like, ‘Oh, I’m going to throw in this great line’ — it’s like, ‘Yeah, please.’”
#22 When Tom Hiddleston ran out of choreography for the bridge battle sequence in Thor: Ragnarok, he “simply flipped the knives, and caught them by luck” — and Loki’s knife flip was created.
“Basically, I think I finished my moves before Idris Elba, and he was still rolling, and I didn’t want to just be standing there like a lemon, not doing anything interesting.”