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File:ScullyBox 4861.jpg


If an actor looks too short next to a costar, the easiest thing to do is to have them stand on something to make them taller.

Named for a special box from the production of The X-Files. Gillian Anderson was much shorter than David Duchovny. Consequently, to keep Scully and Mulder on roughly the same plane while shooting them together, they developed a special box for her to stand on. Unlike the traditional movie apple box or trench, a Scully Box can be stacked up, or laid out in a runway. It's very versatile, and used to accommodate large height differences between cast members.

The term "apple box" is prevalent in the industry for an actor-heightening wooden box of a given dimension, typically: 12" x 8" x 20" or 30 x 20 x 50cm.

A less extreme but often more visible method is to have the smaller person in high heeled or platform shoes (or boots with a very deep heavy tread for guys), and the taller people in sneakers or flats.

A Scully Box is an 'apple' and a half, and is constructed of aluminum covered with outdoor carpeting for sound-deadening and traction.

See also Hitler Cam.

Examples of Scully Box include:


Films

  • While Michael Clarke Duncan is already 6'5, some movies use tricks to make him look superhumanly tall.
  • Inverted in the Scary Movie series when actor Kevin Hart had to stand in a trench in order to be slightly shorter than the other actors, since his character is short. Since Kevin Hart stands 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall, it seems that he frequently employs this device, rather than subverting it as he did in this movie.
  • In Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart had to stand on a box to kiss Ingrid Bergman. But it was worth it.
  • Similarly, in Gaslight Charles Boyer stood on a box for head and shoulders two-shots with Ms. Bergman.
  • The UK bus-side poster for Four Christmases has Reese Witherspoon visibly standing on a box, as she's a foot shorter than her co-star Vince Vaughn, who is... really damn tall.
  • In X-Men, James Marsden had to use these when filming around Hugh Jackman and Famke Janssen. At 5'10, Marsden is not short, but Janssen is 6'0 (not counting heels) and Jackman 6'2. This is especially ironic, since Cyclops (Marsden) is canonically about a foot taller than Wolverine (Jackman). The DVD extras reveal Marsden playfully griping about this fact. In the second and third movies scenes with Jean and Scott together were carefully framed so that their legs and feet were not visible, because he was standing on boxes and she wasn't wearing shoes.
  • In I Love Your Work, Giovanni Ribisi's character kisses a woman while filming a scene in a elevator, then promptly hops off the Scully Box at the end of the take, revealing that the woman is about six inches taller than him.
  • The Disney Channel movie Double Teamed, which portrayed WNBA twin sisters Heather and Heidi Burge, had the actresses portraying them (who weren't twins, and in fact weren't even related) using several methods to tower over their teammates, from Scully Boxes to specialized sneakers.
  • This has been done digitally and with camera angles as of recently, most notably with Robbie "Hagrid" Coltrane in the Harry Potter film series to make him seem like a half giant.
  • Pretty much everyone of average height who shared a scene with Elijah Wood, Sean Astin or any other hobbits in the live action trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, in order to make the hobbits seem shorter, as well as forced perspective.
  • In Julie and Julia in order to have Meryl Streep reflect the height of Julia Child.
  • In Back to The Future, because Christopher Lloyd is much taller than Michael J. Fox, the director used camera tricks to avoid using one. For example, the two are rarely in the same shot together and, when they are, one is usually sitting down or much closer to the camera than the other. When Doc Brown is talking, he's often moving around so much that the viewer can't really tell how tall he is. Lloyd also improvised a hunch in his posture that helped give the character more of a Mad Scientist look.
  • Used in-story by Linda Hunt's character in Silverado. Kevin Klein first meets her while she's tending bar. When she comes around to the other side, she's suddenly a foot shorter. He leans over and looks behind the bar to see a ramp along the other side for her to stand on and comfortably reach the table. She makes a comment about the necessity of "making adjustments" in life.
  • Paul McGann (perhaps most notably seen in Withnail and I, being short, and Doctor Who, being less so) shares his thoughts on his height and the Scully Box:

 "Five feet nine. Quite little, really. From a squat tribe, you see. My brothers (and sister) are all taller than me, as are most of the actresses I'm required to smootch. At such times they usually stand me on a box. Sort of keeps your feet on the ground, paradoxically."

  • In Water for Elephants, Reese Witherspoon at roughly 5' 2" shared the spotlight with Robert Pattinson, who is a foot taller. In an interview she mentioned this was in liberal use for the kissing scenes.
  • An amusing example: Brad Garrett (Robert from Everybody Loves Raymond) was cast as comedian Jackie Gleason in a biographical movie (titled "Gleason", naturally). Because Brad Garrett is known for being extremely tall, everybody else in the cast had to wear platform shoes in all their scenes with him.
  • In In Time Amanda Seyfried (5'3) is paired up with Justin Timberlake (6'1). Rather than use a box or use perspective shots to try and hide the height difference the filmakers decided to make it part of the character and Seyfried is never seen without a pair of very distinctive towering purple high heels.
  • Marlon Brando is always shown from the waist up in Apocalypse Now to seem like the 6'6" Kurtz described in Heart of Darkness.
  • Miley Cyrus is about 5'6, but her love interest in The Last Song was played by Liam Hemsworth, who is 6'3, so this technique had to be used on occasion and it can be clearly seen in outtakes from the movie's promoshoot like this one.
  • Used in at least one of the Dirty Harry films due to Clint Eastwood's height.
  • Inverted in Judge Dredd, where it's to make Sylvester Stallone tower over the young recruits.


Live-Action TV

  • Spoofed in the Monty Python's Flying Circus skits:
    • In "Scott of the Sahara," an actress stands on an apple box placed in a trench, making her the exact same height as she really is.
    • In a skit about horse jockeys, several jockeys are so short that only their hats are visible in frame. Another jockey is so short that he has to stand on a box just to make his hat visible.
  • The raised platform holding the desk on The Daily Show serves a similar purpose: observant viewers will note that Jon Stewart, who is 5' 6", always shakes the guest's hand before they step up onto the platform. Despite this fact, Stewart constantly jokes about his height. He used the raised platform on The Colbert Report to briefly make himself look taller than 6' 4" Conan O'Brien during the Melee a Trois Crossover between the three shows.

 Stephen Colbert: That's the magic of television, Jon.

Jon Stewart: Can I have a screengrab of that?

  • In earliest seasons of That 70s Show, the scenes where the 15-year old Mila Kunis (Jackie) and Laura Prepon (Donna) talked alone had either to portray them sitting, or to have Mila wearing platform heels. Not quite a box, but very close.
  • Allison Mack from Smallville admits to using either a crate, or a lifted "alley board" so she doesn't look short against "ostentatiously tall" Tom Welling.
  • Eight Out Of Ten Cats host Jimmy Carr has to have a cushion placed on his seat so he can see over his desk. This led to a fairly hilarious scene when guest David Walliams "outed" him by insisting that he stand up, and then removing the cushion, leaving Jimmy about four inches shorter all of a sudden.
  • Doctor Who
  • In Get Smart, Barbara Feldon was a few inches taller than male lead Don Adams. This led to Don Adams standing on an apple crate or Barbara Feldon bending her knees and/or not wearing shoes so he would appear taller than her in close ups.
  • While Angel was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Geller had to stand on a box just so she can be seen in the same frame as the much taller David Boreanaz.
  • Staging scenes in Glee is often difficult because Cory Monteith is so much taller than anyone else in the cast (even the cast members playing teachers) and he spends a lot of time not only sitting, but also leaning forward with his forearms resting on his thighs (otherwise seated cast members behind him still wouldn't be visible). Other times they actually use his height to their advantage, for example: When sharing a scene with Rachel the camera will sometimes switch to a shot closer to her perspective which only serves to make him look even taller.
    • Chris Colfer is slightly taller than his on screen love interest, Darren Criss, but, because Criss' character was meant to serve as a mentor type figure, efforts were made to make him him appear taller than Colfer, even in photo shoots promoting the show.
  • The Hamster was once seen to be standing on a box so he could see over the bonnet of a Cadillac Escalade.
  • Nodded towards in The Big Bang Theory. Bernadette is played by the under 5' Melissa Rauch, but Howard, her boyfriend, isn't that much taller and thus it isn't that big of an issue. In one episode at her apartment she got a ring at the doorbell and in order to look through the peephole she had to use a step stool. Rauch mentioned that most of her family is pretty short and her husband is around 6', so whenever they get together it feels like he is visiting the Shire.
  • In ICarly, the actor who plays Freddie was very short in the first season, compared to the 2 girls in their power trio. So he had to wear a very visible pair of giant platform boots. By the time season 2 started he'd hit puberty with a deeper voice (mentioned on the show), and he was as tall as Carly. In the current episodes, he's starting to tower over Carly as well.
    • In Season 4, Miranda Cosgrove has continued to get taller, while Jennette Mc Curdy has not, so in episodes from Season 4 onward she starts wearing platform shoes.
  • Inversion. In the later seasons of Mash with Major Burns, Burns seems to get shorter, despite Larry linville being 6'1" and Alan Alda standing 6'2", and Mike Farrell 6'3". It may have been a nod to the movie, where Burns was played by Robert Duvall (5'8") and Hawkeye by Donald Sutherland (6'4"), and Trapper Elliot Gould (6'3").
  • In Supernatural, both Katie Cassidy (5'7") and Genevieve Cortese (5'4") played the demon Ruby. Since almost all of their screen time was spent in the company of the 6'4" Jared Padalecki and 6'1" Jensen Ackles, tall, spiky heels became a standard of Ruby's wardrobe from the get go. Katie Cassidy has stated these caused her to lose her balance on more than one occasion.
  • Used in-universe in Veep, where the Vice President's assistant has a folding stepping stool in his bag for her to use during speeches when the lectern is too tall. This is understandable, given that the actress, Julia Louis Dreyfus, is 5'3.


Professional Wrestling

  • The WWF's Andre the Giant frequently employed a crate during backstage interviews; he was already incredibly tall and large, but this served to make him truly tower over the interviewer. Sadly, the condition that caused his large size ultimately led to his early death.


Web Comics

  • When Drowtales released its 14th chapter the cover showed Ariel and Chiri'nide standing back to back and at even heights, even though other pages show that Ariel is about a head shorter. The joke naturally became that she's standing on a stump, or in one piece of fanart, Rikshakar.


Western Animation

  • In Toy Story, since Woody was actually much taller than Buzz, in scenes when they had to talk with each-other but their feet wouldn't be in the frame. the animators would actually have Woody's legs dangling BELOW the ground. They called it "Ditching".
  • A similar trick was done in Total Drama World Tour. Since Sierra is just shy of One Head Taller than her crush Cody, the animators had to cheat whenever she employed a Marshmallow Hell, and kept Cody's feet a few inches above the ground.
  • An in-universe example in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode "Rondo in New York" when action Hollywood star tours the theater to promote his latest film. The actor is really short and has a crew placing apple boxes as he walks by the crowd looking down on them, much to Michelangelo's disappointment.


Real Life

  • Tom Cruise uses these (apparently it's not just couches he stands on). In his wedding photos, where they couldn't be used, he had Katie Holmes squat down a bit so that she wouldn't be taller than him.
    • After divorcing him, Nicole Kidman declared "Now I can wear heels again."
  • Tom Cruise's BFF David Miscavige uses a box for nearly every speech he makes. He also surrounds himself with short people, and has regular-sized and tall people stand in the back for group pictures.
  • During a debate when Robert Reich was running for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, a camera pan showed he was standing on one of these behind the podium. Understandable, since he's 4'10" due to a bone condition. He's made fun of this on shows like Conan O'Brien.
  • John Kerry, frequently has this device used by people he's posing with, since at 6'4" he towers over practically everyone. This is especially notable whenever he has to stand next to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and is a good head and then some taller.
  • During an event where speeches were given by Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, several pictures were taken from the side, revealing the... vertically challenged French president had stood on a box, presumably because he wouldn't have reached the microphone (set up for Obama) otherwise. Sarkozy even needs one of these when pictured with his own wife, an ex-supermodel.
  • In non-fiction, CNN reporter Frederik Pleitgen typically ends up with a cameraman on a box. Fred is very tall, and when doing interviews stands with his legs apart to bring himself down to the level of most of his interviewees - this way, they aren't looking up and we don't get a lovely shot of the subject's nostrils. However, when doing a One Shot, to avoid the opposite effect of Fred looking down, the cameraman needs a boost to operate the camera at a suitable height.
  • Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright accomplished the same effect by designing many buildings around his own height of 5'8". Tall people find them notoriously cramped.
  • Many photographers have boxes in their studios for just this purpose. It really comes in handy for couples with large height differences. Some studios also employ phone books (and other thick literary titles).
  • In the BBC's flat racing coverage, Willie Carson, a five foot tall ex-champion jockey, employs one of these to be seen in shot with his much taller co-host Clare Balding.
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