Background actors, or extras as they’re more popularly known, serve a largely thankless, albeit important role in film production. The whole purpose of an extra is to make scenes more believable, so the best background actors are the ones you never notice (which feels like the antithesis of wanting to be on camera in the first place). And while extras have an easier job than the main players in the foreground with actual lines, acting “normal” while the camera rolls is still a difficult skill to master … so it’s no surprise that there have been many instances of background actors completely blowing it. Here are 15 of our favorite instances of extras forgetting how to do their job.
15. Goodfellas – Distracting Diner Extra
In Martin Scorsese’s Academy-Award winning 1990 gangster flick Goodfellas, there’s a pivotal scene involving Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill and Robert De Niro’s Jimmy set in a diner, in which Henry figures out that his fellow mobster and longtime friend is about to have him killed. The scene is supposed to be focused on the two lead actors having an important conversation, but a husky extra sitting at the next table becomes more and more distracting as the scene goes on. We all know that extras are supposed to function as window dressing, in that you’re not supposed to notice them, but this gentleman constantly draws attention to the fact that he knows he’s on camera with his not-so-subtle attempts to NOT look at the camera. If you watch him closely, you can see his eyes constantly darting around to not stare directly into the camera, which of course leads to him doing just that at one point. The whole thing is made even worse by the use of Scorsese’s trademark freeze-frame, as you can see the man looking off into space when the camera freezes on De Niro at the 1:47 mark in the video below: