It’s not supposed to happen but there are times in movies when actors do get slapped or punched for real and the results are usually anything but pleasant. A lot of people know by now that in Rocky IV, Sylvester Stallone told Dolph Lundgren to actually hit him with full force. Unfortunately, Dolph was a trained fighter at this time and despite his impressive look, Stallone wasn’t. Dolph went ahead and hit Stallone with a real punch and the result was that Stallone ended up in the hospital with a swollen heart and nearly died. That’s why people pull their punches or depend heavily on editing in the movies since otherwise there’s no insurance company in the world that’s going to cover a studio if an actor decides to go full-out and make everything look as real as possible. Accidents do happen, as there was a moment in Ready to Rumble when Oliver Platt forgot to pull his punch and ended up socking Macho Man Randy Savage in the head. It’s also happened that slaps have been real, as the MCU outtakes will show when Jane Foster slaps Thor in The Dark World. Such things do occur now and then and normally they’re accidental. The only time when a punch or a slap is intentional comes when the actors really do have serious beef with each other or are trying to do something that they probably shouldn’t.
Harrison Ford actually ended up hitting Ryan Gosling on the set of Blade Runner 2049, but it was an accident as Ford stated that he didn’t expect Ryan’s face to be in the spot where he was throwing a punch. In a lot of movies, it’s possible to slow things down and see just how the whole fight is laid out since there are moments when it can be seen that actors will oversell a punch or a hit of some kind even if editing didn’t come through to fix the obvious gap between a person’s fist and the other person’s face. A lot of times it’s very hard to notice since actors are trained on how to move their bodies and how to come close but not actually hit or kick each other during filming. Bruce Lee actually hit Jackie Chan with a stick at one point in a movie and was instantly regretful since the whole idea isn’t to hurt anyone on the set no matter if they’re in the middle of a fight scene. The ability of an actor to sell a blow or look as though they’ve been hurt is important since the realism that it brings to a movie is of great value to the audience. Let’s be honest, in real life, a lot of people can’t take a punch the way some people in the movies do since they’d either stagger away or get dropped instantly.
The same goes for slaps, but not to the same degree since it all depends on how hard a person is being slapped. It doesn’t feel good, that much is obvious, but slapping is more of a nuisance pain than anything since it’s not pleasant but it can leave a mark. Usually when an actor slaps another actor and it lands they’ll be immediately sorry unless it was a part of the scene that needed to happen. Even after the director says ‘cut’ a lot of actors will make sure that their costar is okay since there’s no desire to hurt another person considering that it’s better to get along and not allow any hard feelings to develop. In such cases, it has to be kind of difficult to be the person that’s getting slapped since they know it’s coming and the normal human reaction is to move away from being hurt. But in the movies, they have to act as though they don’t know it’s coming, and therefore simply take the action and roll with it. When it comes to being punched or kicked though there’s definitely a science to it since some actors that are trained fighters really need to pull their punches and kicks or they’re likely to hurt someone. Another scene that comes to mind that was choreographed and yet somehow still botched in a couple of moments was the fight between Sonny Corleone and Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather. Neither James Caan nor Gianni Russo really sold that fight that well since one of Sonny’s punches missed Carlo by a mile and Carlo reacted like a WWE superstar when it came to being knocked down into the gutter.
Sometimes fight scenes do look realistic and sometimes accidents do happen, but actors are usually trained in how to make a hit look real without landing said hits. While some actors could probably take it, the fact is that very few people want to see their favorite actors get banged up for real.