Bill Clinton: The Master of Improv

Bill Clinton

The Democratic National Convention sure knows how to put on a good show. Following Michelle Obama’s career-launching speech on Tuesday night, Former President Bill Clinton proved his aptitude in the trade of improv, going off script to deliver a 50 minute-long diatribe on behalf of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

Clinton’s off-the-cuff speech wowed attendees of the DNC, and earned the former pres his spot on the Twitter’s top trending topics list Thursday. It isn’t just anybody who can make the spouting of facts about Medicaid feel like Showtime at the Apollo, but Clinton managed to land himself duly among the ranks of some of the greatest pieces of improv in pop culture history. So what other figures in Hollywood history have wowed the world with well-timed quick thinking? Clinton’s in good company…

Harrison Ford in The Empire Strikes Back

At the very end of the second original Star Wars movie, you may recall Han’s heartbreaking goodbye to Princess Leia as he is doomed to the fate of carbonite imprisonment. The script called for Han to respond to Leia’s profession of love with the standard, “I love you too.” But Ford didn’t feel as though this was in character for Han, and dealt the unforgettable, “I know.”

Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver

One of the most quoted scenes in cinematic history came from actor De Niro himself on the set of Martin Scorsese‘s classic Taxi Driver, thanks to a relationship between the director and his star that bred creativity.

Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs

You know that hissing sound Hannibal Lecter is so famous for making? That was all Hopkins.

Bill Murray in Caddyshack

In this case, it wasn’t just a line or a few odd phrases that were improvised, but an entire scene. The comic grandmaster Murray invented his much beloved “It’s in the hole!” scene all on his own for his pal Harold Ramis’ comedy classic Caddyshack.

Jack Nicholson in The Shining

It’s not surprising that one of the creepiest, most hair-raising moments in the definitively spooky The Shining came from the mind of the manic Nicholson himself. When dull boy Jack Torrance sets out on a violent prowl for his frightened wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall), he spouts the unforgettable catchphrase, “Heeere’s Johnny!” And we never watched The Tonight Show in peace again.

Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca

Perhaps the most memorable example on this list comes from the great Humphrey Bogart, who topped off the unforgettable ending to Casablanca with a line that would make even the toughest viewer well up a bit. When Bogart’s Rick bids his final farewell to Ingrid Bergman’s Isla, that tear-inducing line came straight from the mind of the actor himself: “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”

[Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo]


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