The sheer amount of moving parts in any film production is almost unfathomable to consider. No matter how seasoned a production team is, there's really no way to prepare for the vast number of unknowable factors that could bring production to a screeching halt. First off: there are all of the problems that could occur with equipment, talent, set design, lighting, audio, etc., and every take is only seconds away from disaster.
Maybe the location scout didn't spend enough time in the space and didn't account for planes flying overhead that are caught on microphones? Or maybe the room tone wasn't captured enough to help for sound mixing later on, or let's say a Starbucks coffee cup was left on set, like in Game of Thrones and had to be digitally edited out at a later point?
And while all of these "honest mistakes" are easily accounted for and can be chalked up to just "error", there's another variable that's almost impossible to predict: and that is the behavior of extras. If you've ever worked background in TV and film then you'll know that there are a few categories of extras that exist in the business.
You've got the folks who are clearly there who just want to get a paycheck, they try to spend all of their time in the holding area, especially if it's cold and/or raining outside.
Then you've got the peeps who love to talk about all of their acting credentials and how they were classically trained in London and their British accent was so good people honestly thought that they were from there wow! Meanwhile they're walking behind Skeet Ulrich for $85 a day. Then there are the people who are only there for the free lunch - they even brought tupperware.
The most annoying of those are the "big breakers" who think that getting their face on camera behind one of the leads will change their lives forever. Oftentimes they will stretch, manipulated, and contort their bodies as much as possible in an attempt to get in front of the camera so the whole world can see how fabulous they are.
However they stand out, as unfavorable as it may be, there are tons of different ways that extras have managed to steal the spotlight during a scene, for better or for worse.
Sweeping nothing - 'Quantum of Solace'
The highly anticipated follow up to Casino Royale was generally perceived as a major film dud that was light in plot and heavy on action sequences with disastrous consequences for stuntmen and those involved in production. While this movie receives a lot of guff, one of the biggest on-camera blunders viewers pointed out was this one extra who is clearly sweeping nothing.
Existential Smirking Soldier - 'Dunkirk'
Christopher Nolan is known for his mind-bending feats of cinema, so when word broke out that he was directing a war epic starring Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, and tons of other notable actors, people took notice. And while the sobering film contained tons of arresting imagery and epic scenes of large scale destruction showing just how terrifying armed conflict can be, one shot of a smirking extra looking at enemy planes overhead had audiences cracking up.
In fact, his face was digitally altered to look more concerned after the fact, that's how much his mischievous little grin was picked up on by viewers. What was his character's motivation? Was he pretending to be an enemy German spy? "Yes, my plan has come together perfectly."
"Don't look in the camera, don't look in the camera" - 'Goodfellas'
What happens when you tell an extra not to look into the camera as he sits behind Robert De Niro eating to his heart's content? He will look every which way that isn't directly into the lens. However, his eyes do glaze over it a few times in an attempt not to look into it. Sigh. DeNiro might be one of the most celebrated actors of all time, but all some viewers could do during this scene was look at Captain Flannel behind him.
The littlest creep - 'Back to the Future III'
As Doc is aboard his time traveling train there's a little kid right behind him who gestures to the camera man to punch into the frame, then, he points to his own crotch. I don't know what this little weirdo is trying to intone: does he need to pee? Is he tired of constantly doing the same shot over and over again and knows the camera is going to punch in?
He must've won a lot of money - 'Million Dollar Baby'
Million Dollar Baby is the type of flick that tugs at your heartstrings and features fantastic performances from everyone involved: Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, heck even Anthony Mackie and Jay Baruchel bust out the stops with their work in the flick.
And while the movie secured itself a ton of nominations and awards, there was one performer who was overlooked for the "biggest over-acting extra" category, and that's this dude.
Eldo Ray Estes - 'Ghostbusters'
This gentleman was selling his love for the Ghostbusters a little too hard, but it looks like his passion was transferred to other talents: Eldo Ray Estes would go on to become an Emmy Award-Winning costume designer. So this is one extra that didn't just stay an extra.
D'oh Stormtrooper - 'Star Wars: A New Hope'
It' bad enough that these nerds can't shoot straight to begin with, but this clip highlights a whole other level of incompetence when it comes to the Empire's grunt program when a tall extra tries walking through an automated door and his helmet bumps it. The clip was used in the final edit of the film and has been enjoyed by Star Wars fans for decades.
Stilldren - 'Everything Must Go'
Will Ferrell doesn't usually delve into dramatic roles but when he does, he actually ends up doing pretty darn well - Stranger Than Fiction and Everything Must Go are some great examples. The latter flick featured a very strange sequence, however, where Ferrell and actress Laura Dern are speaking as children in the front yard sit motionless. Guess they took direction too literally.
I'm gonna be seen by the camera no matter what. 'Gladiator'
This extra from Ridley Scott's Gladiator was trying very, very hard to be on camera, so it must've been a bummer for them that they were seated behind a pillar. They did everything in their power to get in front of the lens, even following the camera as it moved.
Student who doesn't really care. - '10 Things I Hate About You'
10 Things I Hate About You features a hilarious backdrop scene where an archery instructor ends up with an arrow in their butt. There's commotion in the background as the slick, black-haired dude puts the moves on Alex Mack, and a P.E. student is presumably asked to go and fetch help. She runs off camera but then slows down, probably because she thought she was out of frame. She wasn't.
The actress talking to no one - 'The Room'
You don't really need to dig too deep to find unintentionally hilarious stuff in The Room. In fact, there's so much ridiculousness going on in this flick that seeing an extra having a full blown conversation with nobody is kind of normal by this flick's standards.
"I'm invisible" - 'King of Queens'
Patton Oswalt isn't an extra - the man's an accomplished stand-up comedian and actor. But he called himself out for the way he behaved during an opening sequence of The King of Queens. He doesn't move, at all during an opening segment and even tweeted out the little tidbit to let everyone know about the gag. Was it a gag? Or did he just reboot while the camera was on him? Watch it unfold below.
Maybe this is where Bautista got his inspiration for that hilarious Drax "I'm invisible" moment?
The Amazing Race Changing Football Player - 'Wildcats'
Wildcats is a football centric sports comedy starring Goldie Hawn. It also features a tremendous gaffe where one athlete, number 89, is apparently tackled so hard he loses his gloves and changes skin color. Did they think audiences wouldn't notice?
"LOL! Kung Fu!" - 'Enter the Dragon'
Bruce Lee's Enter The Dragon is considered the Citizen Kane of martial arts movies. Tons of other flicks have borrowed and re-told this story dozens if not hundreds of times, and it's greatly considered a cinematic masterpiece. It also features a hilarious sequence of Bruce Lee kicking a dude in the face and blocking out an extra's face while doing so. When his leg returns, the extra's cracking up at the butt-whopping Bruce lee is delivering to his foes. It's undoubtedly makes the movie better.
This guy who's really stoked to see Batman - 'Batman Forever'
"Batman! YEAAAAAHHH!" This dude must have drank some of the "over-doing it juice" that Joel Schumacher was handing out to Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones for Batman Forever, because he's extremely jazzed to see the Caped Crusader crash this party. How Nicole Kidman didn't win an Oscar for giving this dude the stink eye is an absolute travesty right up there with The Artist winning best picture.
Fall down for what - 'The Dark Knight Rises'
Christopher Nolan is an extremely exacting filmmaker. Which is why it came as a huge surprise to viewers of The Dark Knight Rises when one of Bane's goons falls backwards without so much as a bat-shove.
The best extra of all time - 'Being John Malkovich'
This completely ad-libbed moment ended up making it into the movie and became what is quite possibly the most memorable part of the movie. It eclipses everything else that happened. Malkovich is walking along a Secaucus, NJ highway when an extra drives past him and says, "Hey Malkovich, think fast" and tosses a crushed can at his head.
There's still a growing debate over whether or not the line is actually ad-libbed, but it's still pretty great regardless.