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10 Behind the Scenes Facts about Iconic Kisses in Movies

by Lorna Wallace
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Since the very first onscreen kiss between May Irwin and John Rice, which was filmed by William Heise for Thomas Edison in 1896, there have been thousands upon thousands of kisses captured on camera for films and TV shows. Romance films are, of course, filled with lip-locking couples, but kisses crop up in all genres. Here are 10 interesting behind-the-scenes facts about some of the most iconic movie kisses.

Related: 10 of the Least Sexy Sex Scenes in Modern Movie History

10 Scarlett & Rhett’s First Kiss in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone With The Wind | The Golden Year Collection – First Kiss | Warner Bros. Entertainment

Vivian Leigh was the envy of many when she got to kiss Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, but unfortunately, the experience wasn’t pleasant for her. “His dentures smelled something awful,” she reportedly said. It wasn’t just the dentures that contributed to his bad breath, though, as he also had gum disease and a heavy smoking habit.

Clark Gable isn’t the only Hollywood star whose bad breath made kissing a challenge. Liam Hemsworth said that kissing his Hunger Games co-star Jennifer Lawrence “was pretty uncomfortable” because “if we had a kissing scene, she would make a point of eating garlic or tuna fish or something that was disgusting.” But Lawrence defended herself a few years later, saying, “It wasn’t intentional. It was just, like, what I was eating, and then we’d kiss!”[1]

9 Too Brief Kiss in The Princess Bride (1987)

“A Kissing Book” – The Princess Bride (High Quality)

“Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.” That’s how the Grandpa (Peter Falk) in The Princess Bride describes the final kiss between Buttercup (Robin Wright) and Westley (Cary Elwes). Director Rob Reiner thought that Wright and Elwes nailed the kiss on the first take, but the two actors kept asking to shoot it again.

Reiner ended up with six takes, but it wasn’t because the two actors had feelings for each other; in fact, in a 2014 interview with the Daily Beast, Elwes described kissing Wright as “like kissing your sister! It’s weird.” And in his book, As You Wish (2014), he comments that he and Wright were “so giddy we were giggling like a couple of school kids.” This kiss was the final thing he needed to shoot, and he says, “I could have gone on shooting that scene all day, as I don’t think I wanted the movie to end.”[2]

8 Improvised Kiss in Lost in Translation (2003)

Lost in Translation (10/10) Movie CLIP – A Secret Goodbye (2003) HD

Lost in Translation ends with Bob (Bill Murray) saying goodbye to Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) with a whisper and a kiss. In his typical style, Murray improvised throughout the movie, and this kiss was his idea. Director Sofia Coppola told the Daily Beast that the scene “was always meant to be this tender goodbye where they both knew that they had touched each other in some way. And I remember sometimes he would always spring things on her, and it was fun to get her reaction.”

The kiss wasn’t the only thing he improvised, though; whatever he whispered into her ear was also unplanned. “That thing Bill whispers to Scarlett was never intended to be anything,” Coppola told IndieWire in 2018. “I was going to figure out later what to say and add it in, and then we never did.” This hasn’t made fans any less curious, though. “People always ask me what’s said. I always like Bill’s answer: that it’s between lovers—so I’ll leave it at that.”[3]

7 No Ending Kiss in When Harry Met Sally (1989)

When Harry Met Sally – full ending

Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, When Harry Met Sally was supposed to have a rather less romantic ending. “We had it where time goes by, they run into each other in the street… and then they walk in opposite directions,” Reiner told Entertainment Weekly in 2019. “I’d been single for 10 years after having been married for 10 years, and I just couldn’t figure out how it would work again.”

But then, during shooting, Reiner met his future wife, Michele Singer. “I fell in love, and I said, ‘I see how this works,’” he explained on The Late Late Show. The ending was rewritten, with Harry (Billy Crystal) going to a New Year’s Eve party to declare his love to Sally (Meg Ryan) before they share a slightly late New Year’s kiss. Crystal even came up with the scene’s most iconic line on his own: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”[4]

6 Jack & Rose’s Choreographed Kiss in Titanic (1997)

Jack and Rose First Kiss (Titanic 1997)

Star-crossed lovers Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) share a few kisses throughout Titanic. But none are as iconic as their kiss on the ship’s bow at sunset. Director James Cameron knew this moment would be special, so he choreographed it very precisely during rehearsals.

“I drew little lips on my hands here like this, and I showed them exactly who’s gonna lead, who’s gonna press in,” he told GQ. He described it as “a football play on lips,” but one thing he couldn’t control was the sunset, which didn’t play ball until the very last day of exterior shooting. The clouds parted just in time, and everyone scrambled to get into position. “I’ve never had this happen with an actor in my life before or since,” Cameron says. “Kate gets up there, she takes one look at the sunset, and she turns to me and screams ‘Shoot!’”

They managed to get two takes, but unfortunately, one was completely out of focus. The other was half out of focus but made it into the movie. While some of the sunset is real, the film’s cinematographer, Russell Carpenter, explains that due to time constraints, some of the close-ups had to be filmed indoors against a painted backdrop.[5]

5 Suffocating Upside-Down Kiss in Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man Movie (2002) – Upside-Down Kiss Scene (6/10) | Movieclips

The rain-soaked upside-down kiss between Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) in Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man stands out as one of the most iconic superhero movie kisses. Aside from the unpleasantness of being soaked by the cold rain, it wasn’t much of a problem for Dunst, but Maguire described it as “torture.”

“There was rain pouring down my nose,” he explained. “And then Kirsten pulls the mask up to [my nose], and it’s blocking the air passage there, so I couldn’t breathe. And then she’s kissing me, blocking the air passage there, so there’s nowhere else to breathe.” Although the kiss looks romantic in the movie, he was “practically suffocating” and gasping for breath each time the director called cut.[6]

4 A Rough Kiss Led to Near Broken Noses in Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain (6/10) Movie CLIP – Reunited (2005) HD

Tobey Maguire isn’t the only actor to suffer through a kissing scene. The romance between Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) in Brokeback Mountain is far less sweet than is typical of romance films, and their rough kissing style reflects this. Director Ang Lee said that the two actors “almost broke each other’s noses” after he encouraged them to kiss passionately by saying, “You could never kiss a woman that hard, so give me the most heroic western kiss.”

Gyllenhaal also commented on the injury-inducing kissing: “He grabs me, and he slams me up against the wall and kisses me. And then I grab him, and I slam him up against the wall, and I kiss him. And we were doing take after take after take. I got the sh*t beat out of me. We had other scenes where we fought each other, and I wasn’t hurting as badly as I did after that one.”[7]

3 Wanting Viggo’s Kiss in Sixteen Candles (1984)

Sixteen Candles – Ending

John Hughes wrote Sixteen Candles with Molly Ringwald in mind for the part of Sam, but the casting of her love interest, Jake, was up in the air. It came down to Michael Shoeffling (who eventually won the part) and future Lord of the Rings star Viggo Mortensen. Ringwald recalls that “Michael Shoeffling did not kiss me during the audition—Viggo Mortensen did.” Ringwald was rooting for Mortensen to book the role, saying, “He made me weak in the knees.”

A few years later, Ringwald and Mortensen worked together on Fresh Horses (1988) and had the chance to talk about the audition. “I brought up the thing about how he kissed me, and the other guy didn’t. He said, ‘I always thought that’s why I blew the audition!’” However, casting director Jackie Burch says it wasn’t the kiss that counted against him: “I remember saying to him, ‘I hear an accent.’ He was so quiet. He didn’t want me to hear his accent. I just didn’t think he was right.”[8]

2 The Spaghetti Kiss in Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Lady and the Tramp Bella Notte – Spaghetti Scene

The scene where Lady and Tramp unknowingly slurp up the same spaghetti strand and then accidentally kiss in the middle has been recreated by countless real-life couples. Given its iconic status, it may be surprising to learn that when the film was first being storyboarded, Walt Disney actually decided to cut this canine kiss.

“Walt wasn’t convinced that that would be a very clean-cut scene,” Steven Vagnini, studio archivist and official Disney fan club D23 curator, explained to Yahoo Movies. “As you can imagine, if you have two pets and they eat a plate of spaghetti, it’s hard to envision that being too graceful.”

Animator Frank Thomas disagreed with Disney and so drew up concept art to prove that the spaghetti smooch would be charming. Thankfully, Disney was convinced. The scene ended up being the first piece of animation that newly hired animator Willie Ito took a crack at. “I had no idea that the scene I worked on initially would turn out to be so iconic,” he said in 2018.[9]

1 The Incestuous Kiss in The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The Empire Strikes Back | Leia Kisses Luke | 1980

Back before it was revealed in Return of the Jedi (1983) that Luke and Leia are actually siblings, they shared a kiss in The Empire Strikes Back. Although this unknowingly incestuous kiss is brushed off as a mere attempt by Leia to make Han jealous (rather than as an expression of actual desire), their romantic connection was far stronger in earlier versions of the film. Episode V’s original script had Luke declaring his love for Leia, while the second draft saw Leia returning the sentiment (but then picking Han anyway).

This more explicit love triangle even reached the filming stage. A deleted scene—which takes place right before the kiss in the infirmary that made it into the film—shows Luke and Leia almost kissing. Luke attempts to confess his feelings for Leia but, lost for words, decides to lean in for a kiss. She doesn’t pull away, but the pair are interrupted by R2-D2 and C-3PO just before their lips touch. Thankfully, these more explicit moments of attraction were deleted from the final cut, making the revelation of them being twins slightly less awkward.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen