- For the genuinely romantic depictions of sex on screen, actors and directors can face a myriad of challenges. Film sets are often packed, demanding, and tiring.
- It’s only in the last few years that a specified role to guide and coach actors for love scenes has become mainstream.
- Intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien worked on Netflix’s “Sex Education,” as well as HBO’s “Watchmen.”
- We attended one of Ita’s workshops in South London.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Ranging from the cordial, to the steamy, to the… er, bestial, love scenes feature in films to advance the relationship between certain characters. Some films intentionally feature dodgy intercourse to invoke humour. In this, sex is depicted as corny or crass.
But for the genuinely romantic depictions, actors and directors can face a myriad of challenges. Film sets are often packed, demanding, and tiring. A far cry from the sexy mood you see on screen.
Moviegoers generally accept that the first ever on-camera orgasm in a non-pornographic film was in the 1933 Czech film “Ecstasy,” a romantic drama starring Hedy Lamarr.
But it’s only in the last few years that a specified role to guide and coach actors for love scenes has become mainstream. One such Intimacy coordinator is Ita O’Brien, who worked on Netflix’s “Sex Education,” as well as HBO’s “Watchmen.”
On “Sex Education,” Ita worked closely with the young cast to bring about authentic storytelling as well as keeping the actors safe on set. A scene is broken down into individual movements, with permission sought at each level.
And actors do need protecting. Maria Schneider accused director Bernardo Bertolucci of emotionally assaulting her by insisting on a now-infamous rape scene in 1972’s “Last Tango In Paris.” Salma Hayek accused controversial producer Harvey Weinstein of forcing her to perform a nude scene in “Frida.”
Coordinators like Ita have introduced a few practices to prevent incidents like this from happening. These include hiring a more gender-inclusive crew and encouraging crew members from different areas of production to get involved in an intimacy workshop.
For scenes that require nudity, female actors can wear a merkin, which is an artificial cover for pubic hair. In an interview with Allure magazine, Kate Winslet said producers made her one for her Oscar-winning turn in 2008’s “The Reader.”
Nipple pasties can be worn to cover breasts. Depending on how much skin is being shown, some actors may choose to wear flesh-coloured underwear.
Practical effects can also assist scenes. If two people can’t keep their hands off each other, why not add in a little thunder and lightning, or get them soaked in the rain?
Glycerin spray, oil, or water can be added to actors’ skin to give them that “sweaty” look.
And then there’s the more extreme augmentation. Visual effects have been used to superimpose actors heads on porn actors’ bodies. In Lars Von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac,” actors’ faces were superimposed on porn performers’ bodies using CGI.
We joined Ita at a workshop in south London.
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