Think of all the contradictions at play: Sex is one of the most real and messy things two people can engage in, but in this case, carefully choreographed movie stars are paid to fake it. Just as everyone goes about lovemaking a little differently, so, too, do directors approach these tricky scenes with a different set of techniques, tips, and tricks.
How do you put anxious and nearly naked actors at ease? And when it comes to the MPAA — the shadowy ratings board that slaps a restrictive rating on the slightest thrust — what sort of double standards are at play? We surveyed ten directors for their own funny, intriguing, and illuminating stories of how they made onscreen lovemaking work. Although, I can tell you that one of the only days my wife visited the set was the day Jon Hamm was having his sex scene. Jon was so game, and he and Kristen were literally just trying to crack each other up.
We had to shoot an actual scene from a porno — no full penetration, obviously, but we had to portray it realistically. This one woman in particular was in the middle of the audition, trying to do these lines, and having a hard time. I really must wear it sometime. Before too long, things have gotten out of hand as Tracy and Evie have a sexually charged encounter with much-older neighbor Luke Kip Pardue.
The welfare worker and their parents will be there. That scene was wild. The welfare worker gave us the rules at the beginning: They can touch his pants, but not pull them down.
When we actually went to film it, I wanted the camera to do a degree long take — I wanted you to feel terrified watching it, without letting us cut away or feeling like the editor was controlling it at all — so the welfare worker and I were hiding behind the couch and crouched over this little monitor. I give them running commentary to get them going, saying all kinds of things: Really try to find that beautiful spot and look how the person responds. It ruins it — the editor has to get my voice out first before I can even watch it.
In one early scene, she shows up to his office and things quickly get sexual. The way the sex scene was written in the script, it was incredibly graphic. The reason I did that is because I knew it was never going to get as intense as what it said on the page, but I needed actors who were sort of almost willing to do that.
One of the financiers actually asked me to revise that scene when we were having trouble getting money. He may be this super-boring cold fish, but he can fuck. He has a dick made of gold. That made me uncomfortable a little bit, but I think everyone else was really exhausted by that day, too.
So my advice would be to shoot sex scenes on Fridays, and then just go home and go to bed and curl up in a little ball. I like to pour a cup of lurid into everything I do. But one particular take, there was a little mis-coordination, and when I went to see the rough cut, guess which take my editor cut in?
Out of all the actors in the movie, the one who was probably the least inhibited about his body was Kevin. We had the first test screening of Wild Things in Pasadena with about people, and there was an African-American couple in the audience who were probably in their 50s. George, are you coming? George was enjoying the show, as far as I could tell. Universal Studios Mary Harron, American Psycho The sociopath Patrick Bateman Christian Bale is very specific about his turn-ons, and during a threesome with prostitutes Christie and Sabrina, he toggles between a dissertation on his favorite musician Phil Collins and a list of deadpan sexual orders: I talked to Christian a couple days before we shot it and he decided that because Bateman had watched pornography, we would watch pornography, so he got one of the PAs to get us a couple of videos and we both took notes.
He came in the next day before rehearsal and he had done these little stick drawings, and there was one where two girls were giving Bateman a blow job at once.
When we came to rehearse the thing, the little room they had given us happened to have a mirror on the door. You just have to get through this. When does the prostitute ever find these things sexy? 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. At the time, I had very young children, and the studio was sending me VHS tapes of the latest cuts of the sex scene.
This is not Barney. When they finally have sex with each other, the scene is not just romantic but realistic. I wanted to play the realness of it, that it hurts, that he asks if she wants him to stop.
That was really important in terms of his character as well, how attentive he was to her. Also, the use of a condom was a big deal. They were still in high school and they were smart about it: Even though the sex was spontaneous, he took the time to be safe. Protect her, and be open with your emotions. It has a beginning, middle, and end.
Even though I disagreed with the note, it gave me the opportunity to shoot a little more footage and the couple of shots I got when I shot it again made the scene even better. They said the fact that you could tell it was her first time was troublesome for them, and one of our arguments about that was Meet Joe Black had just come out, and there was a scene in this PG movie where Brad Pitt loses his virginity and that was okay.
We found that double standard kind of fascinating.