To hear most actors tell it, filming sex scenes is no turn-on. There are big cameras, of course, and big crew members that come with them. Speak to the filmmakers, though, and you get a different take. But they are delicate moments to capture. To simulate sex, actors employ tricks: pillows between them, prosthetics and body stockings, and push-ups to get their muscles bulging.
But the movement is often improvised. Naturally, not all steamy scenes are amorous. In individual telephone conversations, these film professionals discussed one of the weirder aspects of their jobs, the logistics of sex on screen. Write, rehearse and choreograph? Or just let the camera roll? We do have detailed stage directions. Amy Schumer I think I overwrote the sex scenes. It was probably half a page of very specific stage directions before I even said one word in the movie. Judd Apatow I took photos of every possible angle you could have sex in, but then on the day, all of it goes out the window.
Seamus McGarvey We did have rehearsals and to make the actors feel comfortable initially, look at how we might photograph the sex. Also, that suited the first few sex scenes, to have a slight awkwardness to them; the camera would be more at a distance.
In the Red Room, when things heat up a little bit, that was less choreographed. Adrian Lyne You try and create a situation where there are possibilities. Do you ask for nudity, and then worry about covering it up afterward? And he was naked — well, he had his shirt on. We noticed in the cutting room literally one frame where his testicles were visible. Treem We have actors on our show who have varying relationships to nudity; people have things they will and will not show, and we have to respect that.
McGarvey We were protecting the actors. Jamie [Dornan] had a cover over his penis. Dakota [Johnson] had kind of a patch that went over her pubic area, and right round her whole body. We were in the curious situation, in postproduction, of adding [pubic hair]. We did have a butt double for Dakota. I had the pleasure of casting a nontattooed bottom — Surreal Scenario No. It was about the crew. Sex scenes mean a small crew. But how close are the cameras and how many takes?
Reilly, with a 5D [camera], I was literally under the covers. Do the performers have to be turned on? Do actors express worry about their bodies? Lyne Yes, I did have [an actor concerned about his manhood] — without the slightest reason to be worried — but it did show the amount of paranoia in their minds. The lead actress had to perform a sex scene, and I think she was 35 at the time.
She wanted to really talk about the angles and not show her from behind, and O. I can understand. Schumer I definitely was saying to my sister [a producer on the film], do I look O. Quiet on the set! Or not? Lyne What I have a horror of is these poor souls in total silence and not knowing whether they look good.
Do it again. McGarvey [The director] Joe Wright is a great proponent of music to help actors get into the mood. Is it ever awkward for you? Getting to that place was a bit of a challenge. I was acting out the sex scenes for [the episode director] Jeff Reiner. Schumer [The scenes] totally serve the story; they belong there.