TV & Movies

'The Usual Suspects': Why Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Spacey Couldn't Stop Laughing During the Famous Lineup Scene

The Usual Suspects turns 26 this year. Despite being one of the most surprising films of all time, fans are still shocked after every re-watch. The fact that interest in the movie hasn’t dwindled over the last two and a half decades is a testament to the craftsmanship that went into making it. The Usual Suspects stars some big names, but it was director Bryan Singer who worked the real magic. He brought the cast together, and in some ways he let them take the lead. One of the best examples of that is the infamous lineup scene. 

‘The Usual Suspects’ is a timeless film

The Usual Suspects starts with a tragedy. There’s been a terrible shootout on a boat, and out of the 29 on board, only two survive. One, a Hungarian crew member, attributes the massacre to the infamous Turkish criminal Keyser Soze. The other survivor is a conman from New York named Roger Kint, also known as Verbal. Played by Kevin Spacey, the small-time New York criminal has cerebral palsy and a long and twisted story to tell. 

The majority of the film consists of Verbal recounting the story of what happened leading up to the shootout on the boat to the FBI. He does so in exchange for immunity. His story starts in an NYPD precinct, during a lineup. The scene is pivotal to the film. It introduces the characters perfectly and establishes their relationships. It’s also funny, and endearing because despite being suspected of a crime, the five suspects in the line up are all laughing and generally having a good time. That wasn’t originally Singer’s intention. 

Stephen Baldwin and Kevin Spacey couldn’t stop laughing during a serious scene

After an armored car is robbed, police bring in five suspects for a lineup. In the scene, all the main characters of the movie are lined up behind a two-way mirror. The problem is that the witness never saw his attacker. He did, however, hear him. So the suspects all have to repeat the phrase “give me the keys, you f**king co********.” But instead of being worried about their possible arrest, these idiosyncratic criminals have fun with the line. Some of the characters laugh and others sound downright silly repeating the line. 

Singer originally intended this part of the movie to be serious. After the lineup, the characters all decide to rip off the NYPD. They’re presumably angry about being rounded up time and time again as the usual suspects. It would make sense that this would be a serious scene, but apparently, two of the actors couldn’t stop laughing. 

The real reason actors laughed during the lineup scene is hilarious 

Stephen Baldwin plays McManus, who is arrested while he’s in bed. He’s the short-tempered one of the group, and he eventually suggests that they band together to get revenge on the police. Along with his partner Fenster, played by Benicio del Toro, he provides some of the comedy in the lineup scene. Gabriel Byrne plays Dean Keaton, a former police officer turned criminal, and Kevin Pollack plays Hockney, a car hijacker. The way the guys are acting in the lineup is funny to the viewers, but the real reason for the lightheartedness of the scene was unknown to audiences until Pollack spilled the beans in some DVD extras. 

Apparently, the real reason Spacey and Baldwin couldn’t stop laughing had nothing to do with how the other actors were reading their line. Pollack claims that Del Toro was constantly farting during the scene, but would not admit it. Pollack estimates his co-star “farted like 12 takes in a row,” which is why none of the other actors could hold it together. 

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