‘The Holiday’: Was Jack Black’s Blockbuster Scene — and That Surprising Cameo — Improvised?

“The Holiday” is among those Christmas classics many rewatch every year in December. The ’00s romantic-comedy features an all-star cast, plenty of funny one-liners, and, naturally, a wholesome plot that wraps up happily. And one scene involving Jack Black, Kate Winslet, and a significant cameo has become a fan-favorite. Was it improvised?

‘The Holiday’ is 1 of the most popular Christmas movies

The Holiday premiered during the 2006 holiday season. The film stars Winslet and Cameron Diaz as Iris and Amanda, two women who are both at a romantic crossroads in their lives. They decide to switch homes for Christmas, with Iris staying in Amanda’s Los Angeles house and Amanda at Iris’ cottage outside London.

Both women unexpectedly find love. Amanda, fresh off a breakup, sleeps with Iris’ brother, Graham (Jude Law). Their relationship is complicated when she learns he’s a widowed father. Meanwhile, Iris finds the confidence to blow off her engaged coworker with the help of the ever-cheerful Miles, played by Black.

Jack Black is a well-known improviser

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Black is known for his work in comedy. After entering show business as a teenager, he broke out in films such as High FidelityShallow Hall, and School of Rock. Music is part of nearly every project he does, as he’s the lead singer and guitarist for a comedy rock band, Tenacious D.

Within the comedy world, Black’s improvisation skills are infamous — especially when it comes to musical numbers (above). And his Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle co-star Karen Gillan told Collider there was “definitely a level of intimidation” working on scenes with him and Kevin Hart due to the “ton of improvised dialogue in the film.”

Black improvised some of the Blockbuster scene

Jack Black
Jack Black | Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Black is the last of the central four actors to get a significant portion of screentime. But that changes when Miles and Iris walk through a video rental store (seemingly Blockbuster). Miles shows off his knowledge of film scores, making Iris laugh. “It was scripted but there is some improv in there,” writer-director Nancy Meyers told IndieLondon of the scene.

“When he and I got together and went over the different songs he was supposed to do from the different scores, I didn’t know that instead of humming them he would be ‘doo, doo, doo, doing,'” she continued, noting Black’s unique sound. “He also improvised the ‘are you embarrassed?’ lines over the Gone With The Wind theme,” Meyers added.

Dustin Hoffman’s cameo wasn’t in the script, either

Dustin Hoffman
Dustin Hoffman | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Miles “hums” the scores to several iconic films during the scene, from Chariots of Fire to Jaws. However, he chooses to sing the lyrics to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” the song most closely associated with The Graduate, while holding up the 1967 classic. The camera then pans to its star Dustin Hoffman, shaking his head and saying, “Can’t go anywhere.”

What was the actor in The Holiday? According to BuzzFeed, the DVD commentary states that that cameo came about on the day of shooting. “He was having lunch near the film shop’s set, stopped because there were lots of cameras, and ended up appearing in the movie because he knows Meyers,” wrote the publication.