"We had to be confident [in the scenes] … and Emma understood that right away," Lanthimos said
Emma Stone fully embraced the more intimate aspects of her latest movie role.
The actress, 34, stars in Poor Things, a film adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel of the same name which features several unflinchingly graphic sex scenes. According to director Yorgos Lanthimos, Stone tackled her character — Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back from the dead who explores her newfound freedom, including sexually — with zero inhibitions or self-consciousness.
"It was very important for me to not make a film that was going to be prude, because it would be completely betraying the main character. So we had to be confident," Lanthimos said Friday at the movie's Venice Film Festival premiere. "The character [had to] have no shame, and Emma had to have no shame about her body, nudity and engaging in those scenes, and she understood that right away."
Lanthimos, who has previously worked with the La La Land star on several movies, said the pair was in complete agreement about how the sex scenes needed to be approached in order to fully flesh out the character of Bella.
"You can understand there is a shorthand [between us] and we can communicate without having to explain or talk too much about things. So as soon as I started saying this, [Emma] said, ‘Yes, of course, it’s Bella. We will do what we need to do,'" he recalled of pushing the envelope with the intimacy scenes.
To keep the filming environment comfortable for Stone and her costars, the crew got creative with how the sex scenes were shot, including lighting sets from outside. "That enabled us to have just three people in the room — like, just the cameras. Sometimes even sound would not be there — we would just rig the mics in various places. So just three [crew] people — Robby, myself, Hayley, our AD, and the actors — and that created a very comfortable, intimate environment," Lanthimos explained.
The Lobster director said an intimacy coordinator, Elle McAlpine, also was on hand to guide the actors through the scenes. "She made everyone feel very comfortable," Lanthimos said, noting that McAlpine spoke to each of the actors individually about their scenes to address any concerns.
"There was a script but, for the sex scenes especially, we sat down with Emma and decided: ‘So what kind of position should we do here, what kind of thing should we do there, what is missing? You know from the experience of sex and the different desires people have, what do we need to portray to make this complete and make it enough of a representation of human desire and its idiosyncrasies, and all these kind of things,'" he said.
"It was important for all of us for it to be part of the film and not shy away from it," Lanthimos added.
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Poor Things, which is slated to premiere in theaters on Dec. 8, also stars Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe. An official synopsis for the film describes it as "the incredible tale and fantastical evolution of Bella Baxter, a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Dafoe)."
Under Baxter's tutelage and influence, Bella is "eager to learn" but that quickly evolves into a hunger for "the worldliness she is lacking."
Stone's character ends up running off with "Duncan Wedderburn (Ruffalo), a slick and debauched lawyer" on an adventure across continents. Free from "the prejudices of her times," she discovers her purpose to stand for equality and liberation.
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