From the intense (and plentiful) sex scenes in Poor Things to whatever the hell was happening in Saltburn, intimacy has become a key component of the most acclaimed shows and films. Although it looks believable, filming a sex scene is typically very rehearsed — it involves intimacy coordinators, contract agreements, and even sometimes, special effects.
Bridgerton became a hit because (let’s be honest) we were all horny and had nothing better to do during COVID. We came for the Regency-era vibes and stayed for the copious amount of sex scenes. Phoebe Dynevor (Daphne Bridgerton) said the Netflix series “changed the game” when it came to intimacy, explaining, “It really was like shooting a stunt. It looked real, but we’ve got padding on.”
The actress said everything — down to her hand placement — was choreographed, and there was no room for the director to make any last-minute changes during filming.
Of course, it doesn’t always take two to tango. Penn Badgley has masturbated on camera more times than I can count on You. Although he opts to simulate the act as Joe Goldberg, he said those scenes can be “harder” to do than a traditional sex scene with two actors. Weird flex but OK.
“I’ve now done it so many times on camera. It’s strange — you don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal,” he said on his Podcrushed podcast. “And then you discover in front of a crew of people with a camera on your face, knowing that, in all likelihood, millions of people are going to see this, you’re simulating masturbation.”
Sex scenes are changing. We’re thankfully seeing more representation of same-sex couples and equality in nudity between men and women (thank you for your service in Normal People, Paul Mescal). There’s still a long(ggggg) way to go but intimacy scenes can bring a story to life.
It might make you cringe thinking back to watching Wolf of Wall Street with your parents (I thought it was about finance, OK?!), but there is generally not much to blush about the details of sex scenes. However, some directors and actors feel so strongly about the content that simulated sex just won’t cut it and only the real deal will do. Keep reading to see celebrities who had real sex on screen.
Chloë Sevigny in The Brown Bunny
Chloë performed oral sex on Vincent Gallo, her costar and The Brown Bunny’s director.
“What’s happened with that is all very complicated. There are a lot of emotions. I’ll probably have to go to therapy at some point,” she told Playboy in 2010. “But I love Vincent. The film is tragic and beautiful, and I’m proud of it and my performance. I’m sad that people think one way of the movie, but what can you do?”
Shia LaBeouf in Nymphomaniac
Did we want to see Louis Stevens perform explicit (and at times disturbing) sex scenes? Not particularly but then came 2014’s Nymphomaniac.
“There’s a disclaimer at the top of the script that basically says we’re doing it for real,” Shia said. “Everything that is illegal, we’ll shoot in blurred images. Other than that, everything is happening.”
While the finished product *technically* had real sex shown on screen, it was a combination of the actors, porn doubles, and CGI.
Aubrey Plaza in The To-Do List
The Parks and Rec actress’ intimacy scene was a “whole different thing” than she initially assumed.
“I read it on the page, and it said ‘Brandy masturbates.’ And in my head I envisioned a nice scene where you just see my hand slowly go out of frame,” she said during an interview with Conan O’Brien. “I thought I was doing one thing and then when I showed up it was a whole different thing. It was a full body shot. And I asked the director, ‘What should I do?’ And she said, ‘Masturbate, like it says in the script.’”
50 Cent in Power
The rapper was excited before his masturbation scene aired, even writing on Instagram, “My penis is going to debut!”
However, 50 wasn’t too happy when his ~magic stick~ was out for the world to see. He claimed he didn’t approve of full frontal nudity and thought his manhood would be less, er, exposed.
Robert Pattinson in Little Ashes
“[Faking it] just doesn’t work, so I pleasured myself in front of the camera. My orgasm face is recorded for eternity,” Robert said in Interview magazine.
It seems that he expanded his acting range because he also masturbated on screen in The Lighthouse — but opted to simulate the act.
The Cast of Lie With Me
Lauren Lee Smith and Eric Balfour’s sex scenes in Lie With Me look real because… they are.
“Let’s face it, at some point in any actor’s career, you have to get naked — whether physically, emotionally or mentally,” Lauren told The Vancouver Sun. “This movie offered me the chance to do all three at once.”
The Cast of Love
If the unsimulated sex scenes (which take up about one-third of the run time) weren’t enough, director Gaspar Noé also shot the movie in 3D. His hope was that his film would give men “erections” and get women “wet.” So… do with that information what you will.
The Cast of Antichrist
Antichrist has been regarded as more disturbing than sexy. Most of the nudity and sex scenes are shot in extreme close-up, so it’s hard to tell who exactly you’re watching — film stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg or stand-ins.
“If that [nudity] was seen to be me it would only be about that,” Willem told MTV. “It would be ‘that movie where they have real sex.’ So for the genital shots it’s a double. That way it’s not about a stunt. It’s a better idea. [Director Lars von Trier] actually cut a lot of nudity out. He’s a good filmmaker.”
“Honestly, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. It’s a film about two people in a monogamous relationship, having sex as you’d kind of hope that everyone does,” Kieran O’Brien told Ladbible of his unsimulated sex scenes with costar Margo Stilley in the 2004 film.
The Cast of Shortbus
Shortbus follows a group of young adults in New York City trying to find themselves. Groundbreaking, right? The (tired) concept gets freshened up with lots and lots of sex between a plethora of people.
“My mantra during the movie was: I never want you to do anything you don’t want to do, but I always want you to challenge yourselves,” director John Cameron Mitchell told Vulture. “We are challenging an eroto-phobic culture — that’s one of the reasons we’re doing it. We weren’t trying to shock people. What we were trying to do was to create a relationship with the audience, and oftentimes, a relationship begins with a lot of sex.”