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HomeHollywood‘Can I Touch You There?’: Inside Hollywood’s Intimacy Coordination Boom

‘Can I Touch You There?’: Inside Hollywood’s Intimacy Coordination Boom

Place your right hand here. Try moving your hips down a little. This position looks strange.

This may sound like someone being coached through a round of twisters, but it’s actually a set of general instructions given to actors by intimacy coordinators. Not even a decade ago, most people working in Hollywood had never heard the term before. Now intimacy coordinators have become an industry standard, booming in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which has become a phenomenon in large part due to the amount of sexual assault allegations emanating from the entertainment industry. Hollywood talent young and old is now adjusting to this new normal.

An intimacy coordinator, as defined by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), is “an advocate, a liaison between actors and production, and a movement coach and/or choreographer in relation to nudity and simulated sex and other intimate and hyper-exposed scenes.” In short, they serve the same purpose as a stunt coordinator, but instead of fighting scenes, they work to keep actors safe during sex scenes.

Looking back at Hollywood’s past, it’s not hard to see why a post #MeToo industry would be keen to welcome pros on set. There is a dark, ingrained history of not only off-screen sexual misconduct, but also many instances of inappropriate situations occurring during the actual filming of sexual or otherwise intimate scenes.

The best-known example of this is the 1972 film by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci The last tango in Parisin which star Maria Schneider was subjected to sexual assault during the filming of a highly explicit sex scene colloquially known as the “butter scene”.

In the scene, star Marlon Brando’s character uses butter as lube while having sex with Schneider’s character. The scene is very graphic, and Bertolucci himself admitted not telling Schneider that Butter would be involved in the scene until the day of shooting, saying he wanted Schneider’s reaction “as a girl, not an actress” and that he “wanted it.” that she reacted in a humiliated manner.” In 2007, four years before her death in 2011, Schneider said of the scene that she “felt humiliated, and to be honest [she] felt a little raped by both Marlon and Bertolucci.” At the time of filming, Brando was 48 years old while Schneider was 19 years old.

Schneider’s experience on the set of Last tango in Paris is not an isolated case. Many other actresses have come out and spoken out about feeling uncomfortable filming sex scenes.

Sharon Stone reflected on the scene that catapulted her to stardom, the infamous “leg crossing” in Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 erotic thriller primal instinct. In the GQ Awards in 2019, Stone gave a speech in which she revealed that Verhoeven told her that she had to remove her underwear for the scene due to lighting issues and that nothing would be shown in the film.

Luckily, intimacy coordinators seem to have a lot of influence on sets, making actors feel safer and more comfortable in high-risk scenes.

The HBO Show The two was one of the first productions to include intimacy coordinators. This show about sex workers in the 1970s made several actors on the show uncomfortable with the amount of nudity and sexual scenes they had to take part in. (The show also starred James Franco, who was accused of sexual assault by several women in 2018.) In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, The two Star Emily Meade, who initiated the change, said intimacy coordinators make sets safer, adding that she “didn’t sign on as an exploited porn star, [she] signed up to play one.”

Now almost every television show and film in production will have an intimacy coordinator on set. The star of the Hulu hit normal people, Daisy Edgar-Jones praised the communication aspect of intimacy coordinators, noting that “[h]Having a sense of why certain scenes are happening and what is being communicated meant we could approach them simply as we would approach any dialogue scene. It was about the story.”

However, not everyone in Hollywood was receptive to the influx of intimacy coordinators. Controversy ignited over the summer when game of Thrones Star Sean Bean gave an interview in which he expressed his troubles with intimacy coordinators, claiming that they spoil “the spontaneity” of sex scenes.

Bean’s comments were met with strong backlash, and many actresses took a stand against him. The star of Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake Westside Story, Rachel Zegler tweeted in response to Bean that “Spontaneity in intimate scenes can be unsafe. [W]wake up.”

Bean quoted Lena Hall – his own co-star on the show snowpiercer— in his proclamation against intimacy coordinators, in which he said Hall “came from a musical cabaret background, so she was up for anything.” Taking to Twitter to push back his comments, she said “Just because I’m in the theater (not cabaret, but I do it every once in a while) doesn’t mean I’m ready for anything. … I think intimacy coordinators are a welcome addition to the set and think they could help with trauma experienced in other scenes as well.”

No matter what Bean or anyone else thinks about intimacy coordinators, their presence in Hollywood is going nowhere and will only continue to be tied to sex scenes. Many of the industry’s rising stars, such as euphoria and sex education have only ever filmed sex scenes with intimacy coordinators on set. Hollywood’s history has been riddled with violence against and exploitation of women, and if intimacy coordinators can reduce the number of actresses walking off sets with trauma and shame, then a little lost “spontaneity” is a worthy compromise.



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