Ah, sex scenes. Those precious few minutes of a film (or HBO series) when parents decide to walk into the room. 9½ Weeks (1986), Shame (2012) and let’s not leave out Game of Thrones– some pretty racy and realistic sex scenes have made their way onto our screens over the years and have often prompted the question– are they actually having sex?
I came across an inside source who’s spilling all the beans on how those famous sex scenes are done, from on-set etiquette to some to surprising tricks for covering up. His behind-the-scenes knowledge went viral on Reddit.com recently when he participated in an online advice forum for a fellow Reddit user whose girlfriend, a budding actress, had been offered a part with a nude/sex scene in an independent film.
Our source is an Assistant Director in the film industry and he knows his stuff, but for fun, let’s think of him as that character from Love Actually, who worked in film as a sex scene body double…
Here are the answers to those questions we’ve all been wondering…
(For any budding actors/ actresses, there’s some pretty useful stuff in here too).
So, are they really having sex?
First things first. There is absolutely no necessity for both actors to be naked and both have their ‘uglies’ bumping for real. If the director says “No, no they have to actually have sex,”– he’s not a real director.
Do actors’ respective genitals ever touch?
There is no sex scene save for p0rn that calls for the shot to show full on penis into vagina. Even if they are fully in view there are tons of options to provide modesty.
In the business we call these “cock socks”, and “pasties”.
Good to know.
They are exactly as they sound. Flex coloured pasties that go over breasts to provide women some modesty, as well as ones that (forgive my inability to sound informed) female monthly product pads that cover the vagina. Not to mention there are tons of flesh coloured undies.
Wow. that’s not embarrassing at all!
Do actors enjoy doing sex scenes?
I have never met an actress or actor who is stoked for these scenes. Never. Not even the lecherous ones that hit on anything that moves. It’s not fun business.
What if the male actor gets excited?
You’d think it’d be hard not to get a boner, but it’s relatively easy not too. It’s a totally different situation when you’re being told how to lay, you’ve been on set 7 hours, lunch was an hour ago and it was chilly, the room you’re in is 100 degrees, there’s 10+ people all exhausted and expecting you to perform and get it right the first time so they can move on. It’s it’s all about the girl in the scene, and every time you miss a mark, you have to do it again. All this without taking into account multiple angles, you have to do the same thing at the same time every time, if you have any lines … remembering those lines. Also, you may have just performed a scene in which you were crying and thinking about your dead dog from 7th grade.
How many people on set get to watch?
There is a thing called ‘closed set’. If the film has an Assistant Director on set (which is what I do), and is any kind of a professional, he will make the set priority only. Which will mean once the actress/actors are on set, the people on set are limited to camera and wardrobe (so that wardrobe can pull the robes last minute) … the set is locked up until the LAST minute when the wardrobe person will run in with robes. Once the robes are on, THEN the crew comes in. This is how it should be run. If anyone protests they do not work in film, and are just a bunch of silly kids trying to pretend they do.
What about the actors/ actresses significant others?
Every set I have been on bar two have had the actors(s) significant others there behind the monitor.
Can anybody say, “awkward”?
How much do sex scenes rely on actors improvisation?
If the director is even remotely legitimate he will have a shot list for a sex scene … the actor/ actress can request a copy of the sex scene’s shot list WELL in advance (and must be available 24 hours before the scene) so that the actress, agent, and all parties involved can then agree regarding the shots. This is to make sure the actress doesn’t get there on the day and suddenly they are looking for an up close shot of her cooter. This is business.
How many takes do the actors have to do for a sex scene?
In a lot of situations, the scene can be shot in portions allowing the cast to slowly get undressed and to not necessaily be naked for the whole scene. This can involve wearing pants while ‘penetration’ is happening and showing only waist up/or facial expressions. Or shot from behind and utilizing cock socks, pasties, and other such things for modesty.
What about all those HBO series? They look SO real!
HBO is sorta different in a lot of regards. For one they’ve made a name for themselves in how realistic they portray things, also they have some of the most highly professional crews in the field. Similar to the BBC nature documentaries, and Pixar for animation. Depending on the scene, the motivation, the cast, and other things regarding that they will make a call scene by scene basis.
In a lot of instances I have to break some hearts by saying that it’s most likely a mixture of camera angles, body positioning, fantastic acting, and no doubt a bit of VFX wizardry. (They can now shadow out skin tone with relative ease, especially a show like Game of Thrones, that has their own VFX production crew.)
What advice would you have for young actors/ actresses doing their first sex scene?
It’s not rude or inexperienced to request things from the crew… Make sure that everyone’s rights are protected. The footage goes to a lot of people, and if it’s an indie film … I doubt it’ll be like Hollywood where the rushes are kept under lock in key, most likely it’ll all be shot on digital. Due to this, anyone can end up with the footage, so make sure they are only shooting stuff relevant to the film. (Thus the shot list prior.) If an actor doesn’t feel comfortable showing their nether regions, they can shoot it without showing them. If an actress isn’t comfortable the guy being fully nude while she is full nude and simulating sex, they can shoot it to not show it. Film is all fake. Protect yourself from getting into sketchy territory where you have to wonder whether this is all just a way for an artsy fartsy dillhole to get his rocks off while saying it’s for ‘art’.
On that fantastic note, I think we’ll wrap it up there!
Find the full Reddit feature here.