Director calls for sex scene training to protect actors

Hanna Flint
‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ features a graphic sex scene (Vertigo Films)

A campaigner is calling for actors to be trained for sex scenes before performing the intimate moment on stage or screen.

Ita O’Brien, a movement director, thinks it is imperative that these intimate scenes are as carefully choreographed as stage fighting to ensure the safety and comfort of those involved.

“There is an assumption that people don’t know how to fight with swords,” she told The Stage, “so you get somebody in to teach them, and people assume you don’t know how to do a foxtrot, so you get a choreographer in.

“The thing with sexual contact and sexual expression is the idea that everybody knows how to do it so we don’t have to take care.”

The movement director has formulated a series of rules, called the “Sex on Set” guidelines, which both filmmakers and actors can follow in order to prevent any sort of exploitative behaviour and ensure a safe working environment.

O’Brien added: “Invariably whenever there isn’t transparency, whenever everybody isn’t in agreement and knows what’s going on, that’s when actors are left vulnerable.”

Lea Seydoux said she was humiliated during the filming of the ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ sex scene (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP, File)

A number of actresses have spoken out against their treatment by directors and co-stars when shooting sex scenes. Léa Seydoux said she was “humiliated” by her Blue is the Warmest Color director Abdellatif Kechiche during the gruelling shoot for the 2012 film.

“I didn’t know that he was totally, totally obsessed by the film.” Seydoux told Metro newspaper. ‘He could do scenes 200 times and I didn’t know that at the start.’

Before her death, Maria Schneider said she felt a “little raped” during a sex scene with Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris. The film’s director Bernardo Bertolucci admitted that he and Brando has purposefully kept the actress in the dark about the scene, in which the actor uses a stick of butter as lubricant for sex.

According to the theatre magazine, the guidelines were used during the productions of Low Level Panic at Orange Tree Theatre and are currently in use at various drama schools.

O’Brien is said to be promoting the “Sex on Set” manual throughout the theatre world with the help of her agents at Carey Dodds Associates.

There has already been efforts to instigate better practices by the Royal Court theatre with the publication of a code of conduct to prevent sexual harassment and assault, in the wake of the Kevin Spacey allegations and the growing crisis in both Hollywood and the theatre industry.

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