How Does One Direct a Mainstream Sex Scene?

December 9, 2016 | Posted in straight by jack-blackbush


Kind of Changes the Meaning of the Word "Action!"

We spend a lot of time talking about the difficult tasks actors must face when they have to pretend to have sex on camera, but I don't think many of us ever stop to think about the person behind the camera - the director. Sure, it must be strange to fake the most inmate act two people can do together, but how strange it must be to be the one telling the actors how to pretend to have sex. Well, the good people at Vulture decided to ask a couple famous directors about their famous sex scenes. 

Now, we'll only be hitting a few of the highlights, but I do encourage everyone to head over to Vulture and read the entire article. But, let's jump into a couple of the more memorable scenes and the directors describing how they did it. And by "did it," I mean make people look like they did it.

John McNaughton, Wild Things

I like to pour a cup of lurid into everything I do. The intent of that picture was to be shocking and sensational, although Neve Campbell was still in Party of Five at that particular time and she was under contract that she couldn't do full nudity or even partial nudity. So, if you watch the threesome scene again closely, you only see Neve's back. It’s not as salacious as you might remember it.

When it comes to nudity, I always ask my actors a question: “Have you read the script?” I’m not going to pull a trick on an actor: “Oh, I know it's not in the script, but do you mind taking your clothes off?” What I've found often with the actors is a lot of trepidation up front - they'll say, “Oh, I'm uncomfortable with this and I won't do that, et cetera” - but once they feel they're not being exploited or tricked in any way, they start to get into it. Once they do that, the clothes start flying off, and things that they said they wouldn't do at first, they really don't have a problem doing them. They push it further once they're in the comfort zone.

Mary Harron, American Psycho

When we came to rehearse the thing, the little room they had given us happened to have a mirror on the door. When I saw that, I said, “Christian, watch yourself in the mirror as you're having sex,” and then he really went with it and was so hilarious. But the thing I said to the actresses playing Christie and Sabrina is, “For your characters, it’s just a job. You just have to get through this.” I think that's where a male director would have directed it differently. When does the prostitute ever find these things sexy? It's a job to suck this guy's dick. He's having his fantasy, and their faces are adding a sort of counterpoint.

There’s not a lot of nudity in the scene - Christian wore a sock, and I think the girls were wearing underwear — but there was definitely a lot of digital removal if you saw this or that. Still, it was a very lengthy process in the editing room of taking out frames. The MPAA was okay with the violence, but they really objected to that three-way sex scene where it looks like there might be rear-entry sex.

Paul Verhoeven, Showgirls

I never shoot a sex scene if I feel that what I'm proposing is fantasy. I always use my own experiences with sex throughout my life, with different women. I use that as a source of reality, and I don't want to go beyond that: If I ask an actor or actress to do something, I want to be sure that it's not my fantasy leading me but what has actually happened to me and what I really know. Of course, that being said, everything in Showgirls is a little exaggerated. The lights, the colors, the dialogue, the movement of the camera - I took things one step further than reality. That's a reflection of what Vegas is, this extreme accentuation of real life.

The pool scene was choreographed in a different way, of course, than the sex scene between Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct where the style was much more classical and Hitchcockian. The scene in Showgirls was done in a style that is…let's say, “more hyperbolic.” But then, the whole movie is that way.

I don't know if I'll be able to watch a sex scene in a movie again without thinking about what the director did in rehearsals or told the actors beforehand but damn it, I'm going to try. We should all try - they work hard to make it look like they are working it hard.

The article covers a total of 10 directors and 10 sex scenes so, to read more go here.

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