Actors' Hidden Talents That Wound Up Playing A Huge Part In The Movie

Actors do a lot. As early as the Silent Era and the subsequent Golden Age of Hollywood, stars not only acted in pictures, but also danced and sang their way through them as well. Some actors will shed tons of weight, take weapons training, or even learn a new language to land a role. Some actors — think the Marx Brothers or Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's crew — develop comedic timing so unique it becomes their own brand. In other words, the folks acting out stories on screens both big and small are clearly a talented bunch.

All of these unique skills make performances memorable, and most folks aren't shocked to learn their favorite actor can also tap dance a little bit. However, they may be surprised to find out that said actor owns a high dive. So, in the spirit of learning more about all the different ways actors make our favorite movies great, check out this list on actor's hidden talents. It's truly surprising to learn what tricks actors have hidden up their sleeves. It's even more surprising to learn all the different ways these tricks have impacted their movies.

The amazing gymnast-man

Andrew Garfield has been having a bit of a career renaissance recently. Marvel's "Spider-Man: No Way Home" reminded audiences that the British-American actor was fantastic as Peter Parker in Sony's "Amazing Spider Man" franchise. Meanwhile, his lead turns in the musical "Tick Tick Boom" and FX's murder mystery series "Under the Banner of Heaven" showed everybody Garfield's wide range as an actor.

However, his talents don't tend on screen — in fact, they run all the way on to the tumbling mat. In an interview with The Guardian, Garfield revealed he was raised in a "sports household." He went on to say he competed in gymnastics, swimming, rugby and football, but that after years of serious gymnastics competitions, he felt he had to walk away. He simply felt too much pressure to keep going, and decided to put his mental health first.

While Garfield himself may not have had the most pleasant experience in gymnastics competitions, his natural athleticism paid off later in his career. After learning about Garfield's past experience on the mat, it's not hard to see why he made such a great Spider-Man in the suit — he's practically as agile as his comic book counterpart. Hopefully, there could be more "Amazing Spider-Man" experiences down the line.

Crying on command

Daniel Kaluuya first made waves with mass audiences as Chris Washington in 2017's "Get Out." Director Jordan Peele's debut film not only became an instant classic upon release, but also made Kaluuya an A-lister seemingly overnight — and for good reason. Kaluuya shines in the role as Chris. He's vulnerable, subtly funny, and just enough of an everyman to make audiences believe he might not make it until the credits roll.

He's also a master of his own tear ducts — in fact, it's this skill that landed Kaluuya the role as Chris. In his appearance on First We Feast's "Hot Ones" — a show in which celebrities eat progressively hotter wings and answer questions about their lives and careers — Kaluuya explained his ability to cry on command. He confirmed that during his audition for "Get Out," he performed the Sunken Place scene five times. In each run through, he teared up and his tears fell in the same path across his face. If that's not some kind of an acting superpower, what is?

Kaluuya's control over his own waterworks is also responsible for one of the film's most iconic images: the shot of Chris trapped in the sunken place, his eyes welling with tears as his hands remain plastered to the couch. It's riveting stuff, and an enormous credit to Kaluuya's acting talent.

The nose knows (when to bleed)

Crying on cue is one thing, but imagine being able to bleed at just the right moment. While shooting "Emma," actor Anya Taylor-Joy discovered she can conjure up a nosebleed on command. In the movie — an adaptation of Jane Austen's 1815 novel of the same name that also inspired "Clueless" (via Bustle) — Taylor-Joy plays Emma Woodhouse, a plucky young matchmaker. The film follows Emma's misadventures as she attempts to meddle in the love lives of those around her.

In an interview with The Guardian, Taylor-Joy described shooting a scene in which her character suffers a nose bleed during a climactic emotional moment. She said the original plan was to shoot from multiple angles so the blood could be added in between cuts in the edit. However, Taylor-Joy wound up bleeding right on cue, much to the satisfaction of the director Autumn de Wilde and her crew.

Taylor-Joy went on to say she couldn't really explain how she made the nosebleed happen. "I'm like Liam Neeson in 'Taken,'" she joked, "in that I have a very particular set of skills that would render me useless anywhere else other than in the acting world." Useless or not, Taylor-Joy is delightful as Emma Woodhouse. After watching the movie, fans of her work will likely be surprised that blood, sweat, and tears actually went into the production, especially since the young actress makes her performance appear so effortless.

The cool car king

Steve McQueen, aka "The King of Cool," aka Wilt Chamberlain's competition for the World Sex Record, loved cars. However, his appreciation went beyond simple aesthetics. By most accounts he was an absolute gearhead — in fact, regional paper The OC Register even dubbed McQueen "The King of the Hollywood Gearheads." Considering how many movies McQueen starred in where his character operated a classic car — think the 1968 Ford Mustang GT from "Bullitt" or the Porsche 917 in "Le Mans" — it may not be surprising to hear that McQueen loved, worked on, and raced cars in real life.

However, this secondary skill set did impact one of his most famous films, "The Thomas Crown Affair." Famously, in one scene, McQueen's wealthy Thomas Crown drives Faye Dunaway's Vicki Anderson around in a custom Meyers Manx dune buggy. According to Petrolicious, the Manx was supposed to be outfitted with a standard Volkswagen engine. However, McQueen the car be customized with a more powerful Chevrolet Corvair engine. Without getting too into the greasy weeds of auto mechanics, this decision gave the car more speed and allowed McQueen to better rip around the beach in the iconic scene from the film. 

Tattoo you

From her first major box office appearance in "The Wolf of Wall Street" to her franchise-making turns as DC antihero Harley Quinn, each new performance makes it clear that Margot Robbie has serious acting talent. However, her interests don't lie exclusively in the realm of the thespian — Robbie is also a tattoo enthusiast. 

In a 2016 New York Daily News feature on the actress, reporter Nicole Bitette explained that Robbie first became interested in tattoos while living in London with a pack of housemates. She got a tattoo gun on set of "Suicide Squad" — her first appearance as Harley Quinn — and begin giving tattoos to the cast and crew.

In an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," Robbie revealed she gave out "SKWAD" tattoos on set in the spirit of the movie. But as she explained it, she retired from tattooing almost immediately due to some humorous mistakes and misspellings. Even though she's retired, ink work inspired by Robbie wound up on screen in James Gunn's 2021 follow-up, "The Suicide Squad." In the movie, Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flagg can be seen sporting a "SKWAD" tattoo. Even though a 2016 Instagram post from Kinnaman confirms Will Smith inked Kinnaman's arm, Robbie's tattoo interest inspired some of the body art that eventually made it onto the screen.

Walken: A lion tamer's story

With his unmistakable voice, singular delivery, and a cadence so unique he gives Jeff Goldblum a run for his money, there's no mistaking the one and only Christopher Walken. While Walken's status as Hollywood's most lovable weirdo may make the idea of him having a hidden talent a bit of a far-fetched proposition, he does have one skill many fans might still find astounding. What skill could it possibly be? The answer: lion taming.

Yes, lion taming. In a 2021 interview with The Guardian, Walken revealed he spent a summer as a lion tamer when he was 16. He worked for a circus, and called the experience of working with Sheba the lion "blissful." While a laundry list of Walken's other talents might have cropped up on screen over the years — including his ability to sing, dance, deliver jokes with effortless comedic timing, and even cook — lion taming has yet to make an appearance. A note to producers everywhere: Please make the Walken lion taming movie happen. 

A real-life action hero

Starting with 2001's "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," actress Angelina Jolie carved out a nice lane for herself as leading action star in the 2000s and 2010s. While Jolie gets through these physically tougher roles like anybody else — with the help of stuntmen and crash pads — fans may be surprised to learn that she has a particular set of skills suited to the characters she portrays on screen.

For starters, Jolie is a licensed pilot. She began flying in 2004, and told People Magazine she was inspired to learn because her son Maddox liked planes. What a cool mom. Plus, she used her skills to fly and land a plane in the ITV documentary special "The Queen's Green Planet."

However, piloting isn't the actress-activist's only extracurricular skill — Jolie is also very nifty with knives. In an interview with Conan O'Brien, Jolie explained that she's always been interested in knives and weapon collecting. Then, she proceeded to whip around a butterfly knife on Conan's set like an old pro. It's not only extremely cool, it's also very, very fitting for the actress who played Lara Croft, Mrs. Smith, and Thena.

One man, many licenses

In recent years, Tom Cruise has become something of a real-life Wile E. Coyote. Each new project he takes on seems designed to see if he's capable of walking over the edge of a cliff without looking down. Unlike his Looney Tunes counterpart, though, Cruise never blinks. In the last decade or so, he's done everything on screen from run down the face of the world's tallest building to scuba dive to fly jets and helicopters. He's also done a lot of it in real life, too.

While being a daredevil isn't necessarily a hidden talent, Cruise has quietly been amassing licenses and certifications to ensure he can do his own stunts on screen. During a 2022 appearance on "The Late Late Show with James Cordon," Cordon asked Cruise to name all of his licenses. The list includes: a commercial airplane license, jets, helicopters, motorcycles, boats, parachutes, and a scuba diving license for good measure. That's a ton of applications and certification tests to squeeze between some fairly grueling shooting schedules. But like Wile E. Coyote, Cruise just keeps right on going. The silver screen has been enriched by his obsessive talents and interests. Whether he's flying jets in "Top Gun: Maverick" or crashing helicopters in "Mission Impossible: Fallout," it's always entertaining. Cheers to you, Maverick.

Forever flexible

Actress Lucy Liu starred in not one but two of the great female led action franchises in the early 2000s: "Charlie's Angels" and "Kill Bill." During an appearance on "The Late Late Show with James Cordon" while promoting the show "Elementary," Corden asked Liu about her time in action-heavy roles.

Specifically, Corden wanted to know if Liu can still do her own stunts, as she did at her action peak. She answered in the affirmative, and immediately did the full splits on stage. Consider her turn as O–Ren Ishii and how intimidating she is when she squares off with Uma Thurman's Beatrix Kiddo in the last act of "Kill Bill: Part 1." Or think about the incredible work she does as Alex Munday in 2000's "Charlie's Angels" and 2003's "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle." She even throws down alongside Jackie Chan in "Shanghai Noon."

While Liu isn't the only actor to do her own stunts, she may be one of the few her age still able to surprise fans by doing the splits. Any project she shows up in is clearly better for having her there. Here's hoping she winds up bringing her own unique set of skills back to action movies sooner rather than later.

Diving into roles

Jason Statham, all growls and an ongoing penchant for punching dudes in the face, is one of the great action stars working today. Seriously, does anybody else pull off ridiculous scenarios as well as Statham? He's utterly believable in everything from the "Crank" movies to the "Fast and Furious" franchise to "Death Race."

Statham's grace in precarious scenarios may be a side effect of his time as professional diver. Per LADbible, he even competed in the 1990 English Commonwealth Games, an international competition that's really only a few rungs down from the Olympics in terms of skill and competition. While Statham hasn't done a ton of diving on screen, he did get the opportunity to show off his skills in 2018's "The Meg." 

In the film, Statham plays a rescue diver named Jonas Tyler. Naturally, Tyler has a checkered past that haunts him, but he eventually winds up redeeming himself by helping a group of scientists fend off an enormous megalodon shark. In a New York Times "Anatomy of Scene" video segment, director Jon Turteltaub explained that Statham's strong swimming ability really helped with the shoot, which required the actor to be the water for long periods of time. Not many people ever get the opportunity to compete in international contests, and even fewer than turn around to star in blockbuster franchises. It's testament to Statham that he's managed both.

Barker's got hands

Bob Barker has had an astounding career. He's likely best known for hosting "The Price is Right," but Barker also appeared in various bit roles and cameos over the years as well. While many movie fans remember his legendary fisticuffs cameo in the Adam Sandler sports comedy "Happy Gilmore," many probably don't know that Barker's a master of karate.

Yes, Bob Barker knows karate. In fact, in 1995 The Sentinel Sun (via Grunge) reported Barker had been trained by a living legend and the only man time waits for: Chuck Norris. According to The Washington Post, Barker specializes in a form of Korean martial arts called Tang Soo Do and is such a dedicated student he attained a red belt. (For reference, a red belt comes just before a black belt.)

Given Barker's level of expertise, it's no wonder his iconic smackdown in "Happy Gilmore" looks so convincing. In fact, he was so sure of his own abilities he only agreed to appear in "Happy Gilmore" if he won the fight. In an appearance on the IMDb podcast "That Scene with Dan Patrick" (via The Independent), Sandler revealed that Happy won the fight in the original script. Sandler went on to explain that Barker insisted he should win since he actually knew how to fight. Lucky for fans everywhere, Sandler agreed, and Barker turned in one of the funniest movie cameos of all time.

Nothing puzzles the prince of Bel-Air

Will Smith — the international superstar, rapper, and funnyman — wields enough talent to stock a warehouse retailer. Even with his plethora of showman skills, fans may be surprised to learn Mr. Smith does have a hidden talent of his own: he's a Rubik's Cube wiz. Smith honed his puzzle solving speed on the set of 2006's smash hit "The Pursuit of Happyness."

"The Pursuit of Happyness" recounts the real life story of Chris Gardener (via BBC News). In the 1980s, Gardner overcame homelessness and poverty by independently studying to become a stockbroker, all while raising a toddler. The movie is extremely uplifting, and Smith's performance earned him a Best Actor Nomination at the 2006 Oscars. In one iconic scene, Smith as Gardener solves a Rubik's Cube in under two minutes while riding in cab, an unconventional plan to get the attention of a potential employer. 

In a 2007 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Rubik's Cube prodigy Tyson Mao — the world record holder for solving the puzzle blindfolded — told the Tribune he'd been brought to set to fake the scene (via BuzzFeed). He went on to explain that Smith insisted on doing the scene for real. In the end, Mao worked with Smith for ten hours until Smith could solve a Rubik's cube from "any configuration." It goes to show just how far the man who gave us "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" will go to deliver for his audience.