The Hindu: Harriet Warner on ‘Dangerous Liaisons’: ‘I had to be sure there was something new to say’
With all the steamy scenes in Dangerous Liaisons, work was cut out for the intimacy coordinator. “Intimate scenes are hard for everyone. For directors, it is wonderful to feel that they can focus on the story that is being told through the intimate scene, without worrying about the logistics.”
It is reassuring for the cast to have a safe space, Harriet adds. “The role of an intimacy coordinator is not only to coordinate the scene, but to make sure that people feel heard and they are comfortable with what they are doing. We were very lucky with Ita O’Brien who did an incredible job and was key to the show.”
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When filming began in February this year, Ward and Colman’s differing processes dovetailed neatly. Ward “had done a lot of work to understand Stephen — I knew the text and was super-prepared”. Colman “is incredibly raw — we go to set and read it once or twice, and she just knows it. It’s electric.”
The production brought in intimacy co-ordinator Ita O’Brien (TV’s Sex Education) to guide the duo through several sex scenes. “It felt like a dance routine,” says Ward. “We would do counts — ‘and one, and two’. If you were getting too invested to the point where I’m becoming Micheal rather than Stephen, you just go back to the counts. It’s quite magical.”
This rhythm helped Colman overcome initial nerves about the scenes, which the actors again approached from differing perspectives that mirrored their characters’ emotions. “Olivia was so uncomfortable that I felt nervous for her,” remembers Ward, “so [the counts] got us to a place where we could tell the story in the most amazing way.” Conversely, Ward had few qualms about the scene where Stephen sprints naked onto an empty beach. “I’m there for the story,” he laughs. “I watched The Talented Mr. Ripley with Jude Law. He’s got an arse scene — if Jude Law can do it, I can do it mate!”
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The Guardian: ‘I want my monkey!’ Ruth Wilson on villainy, intimacy and returning to His Dark Materials
It [True Things] feels like a radical statement, from a deceptively quiet film: not everything that goes wrong is because of some bad man. “A lot of people talk about it as a gaslighting toxic relationship. It wasn’t really – she’s the driving force. She’s the one that essentially chooses, decides to pursue him. She’s gonna get what she wants. And when she does get it, she’s, like: ‘Nah, I don’t want it.’ It’s not romantic at all,” Wilson concedes, “but it felt quite honest.”
Nor is it full of nude scenes, maybe contrary to the expectations set up by the fact that it had the same intimacy co-ordinator – Ita O’Brien – as Normal People. Wilson recalls that the director said: “I don’t really care about nudity. To me, that’s not where intimacy is. Yes, nudity is beautiful and wonderful and can be really ugly, and can be all the things you want it to be, but we’re exploring the dynamic between two people – they don’t have to be naked.”
The whole culture around sex scenes has changed a lot, even in the past couple of years. It was as recently as 2018 that Wilson left The Affair – the show, also starring Dominic West, for which she won a Golden Globe – and she’s reticent about it (citing, in the past, a non-disclosure agreement), but there were some allegations at the time of inappropriate behaviour.
Wilson says intimacy coaches have completely changed the game, too, though. “We have proper discussions: what the director is hoping to achieve, what the actors feel comfortable doing and not doing, and how do we really get that anyway? What is the scene actually trying to make happen between the two people in that moment? Because it should be as conversational as any other scene. Sex is so interesting, and so detailed, and so specific to the relationship you’re having with that person and yourself at the time within your life. It really should be as nuanced as that.”
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You really have to make sure that the space is conducive to that flow state. In acting, it's only conducive when you're in a safe space that allows for freedom. [Intimacy coordinator] Ita O'Brien made us a space safe, and the intimacy scenes are really beautiful because of it. And then we can leave that set and be like, "See you later. We're done now, I'm going to go have a coffee and a hot dog." No emotional destruction or power play. We just made some really cool stuff, and then you go home.
I've done a little bit of intimacy stuff in the theater world, but [an intimacy coordinator] is an incredibly welcome addition to any kind of creative space. I'm learning a lot about how a film set can be run in a respectful way. There's so many stories—especially from Australia, where I'm from—where it's just gone awry. I hear stories about how sets have gone to shit, or theater spaces and rehearsals have been so unsafe.
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Interview with Paul Mescal on "Lady Chatterly's Lover":
MESCAL: When you say, “You’re going to like it,” the class structure of it comes sharply into focus. It’s always there in the background, but that was played so well.
CORRIN: Totally, and he really got that. He spoke a lot about the tenderness in Oliver, which is something that was previously unexplored. We were like, “Wow, there’s a real depth here.” And then he was signed on and we had two weeks of rehearsals with [intimacy coordinator] Ita O’Brien.
MESCAL: Oh, nice. I know Ita well.
CORRIN: We love Ita.
MESCAL: Did she do the animal work with you?
CORRIN: Oh yeah. [Laughs] And then we also did—one of us was blindfolded and led the other outside and touched things and it was about trust and all that jazz.
MESCAL: I have an image of Emma Corrin leading Jack O’Connell blindfolded around the streets of London touching lampposts.
CORRIN: Pretty much. We had two weeks to basically chart the emotional journey for sex scenes, because we didn’t want any of them to be gratuitous.
MESCAL: Those sex scenes feel incredibly modern, and that’s what lasts with me. It’s aesthetically set in that period, but the relationship, if you took the costumes away and the way that they talk to each other sometimes—there are moments where it feels really modern. I don’t know if that dialogue is lifted from the novel.
CORRIN: It’s from the book. It’s wild.
MESCAL: Really? Wow.
CORRIN: Yeah. He uses the word “fuck” and I’m like, I didn’t even think that word existed in the ’20s. It’s an amazingly modern book. Especially the way it talks about sex. But what helped both of us with everything was that we did the dancing in the rain scene the first week of shooting.
MESCAL: Oh whoa, what was that experience like?
CORRIN: The most terrifying but exhilarating thing I’ve ever done in my life. There’s a lot of stuff that can be cushioned with the magic of filmmaking, but in that scene we were literally just running around naked in the rain.
MESCAL: I was like fair fucking play to you both because that’s really hard. How long did you shoot that scene for?
CORRIN: All day. The novelty really wore off by hour 11. It got really cold.
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Insider: 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' star Jack O'Connell says he wishes he had an intimacy coordinator as a teen on 'Skins'
Jack O'Connell has called intimacy coordinators "necessary" after working with one for the first time in "Lady Chatterley's Lover," and said that "in hindsight," he wishes there was one on the set of his teen drama series, "Skins."
The British actor spoke to Insider ahead of the release of Netflix's new adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's seminal novel, in which he plays the role of Oliver Mellors, the taciturn but tender working-class gamekeeper who embarks on a passionate affair with his employer's wife, Lady Constance Chatterley (Emma Corrin).
Staying true to the story's erotic nature, the film features several intimate scenes between the two, culminating in a euphoric sequence in which they dance completely naked in the rain.
Full-frontal nudity was required of the actor and his costar, and O'Connell said that such scenes were only possible thanks to the help of "fantastic" intimacy coordinator and movement director Ita O'Brien, who previously worked on the BBC/Hulu series "Normal People."
Noting that it was his "first experience" of working with someone who has been specifically employed on set to facilitate the filming of sex scenes, he said he was glad to have them there.
"I think that it is necessary," he told Insider. "To have someone who's officially appointed to oversee that everyone is comfortable, I think it is vital."
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What I enjoyed so much about your Lady Chatterley’s Lover is just how sexy it is. There’s a real lack of eroticism and sexuality on-screen and, as you say, human touch and connection. What’s your perspective on the state of sex and romance on-screen?
I thought [the sex] was very faithful to Lawrence because this is what he always wanted to bring. I felt I needed to bring this as well, but as a revitalization of a human being, as something that heals. Especially the scene where they’re running under the rain naked—there’s something so erotic and so liberating. When I was reading the script, I had forgotten that scene, and I was like, “Well, this is what I want to experience and explore, and bring this ecstatic freedom.” The actors felt the same way.
I saw that you used intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien—who’s worked on Normal People and I May Destroy You—for the sex scenes.
She helped us dive into those scenes and face them as an emotional narrative, to be shameless and not awkward about details. She was there to explain and guide us through it and make it authentic. We had two weeks of rehearsals—Jack, Emma, Ita, the cinematographer [Benoît Delhomme] and I—and we found the right shapes, the right emotions, the best choreography.
Emma and Jack were really involved in this process. It cemented our trust and bond. [The process was] desexualized, which was important—because when you’re rehearsing the scene, there’s always a fine line between reality and fiction, and it can be awkward. As a former actress, I have to say that I was on set a while ago and I had to face this kind of scene. No one would tell me anything and guide me through it. I was petrified. It’s not only that it’s not pleasant, but you also don’t do a good job because you are not fully prepared in a safe space.
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She also says that making a movie with so much sex in it "was a challenge, because sexual intercourse can be really boring on-screen".
However, with the help of intimacy coordinator and movement director Ita O'Brien - who has a background in dance - Clermont-Tonnerre says they used "choreography" to "say something about the emotional growth" of each scene and avoid anything "gratuitous or redundant".
The filmmaker also says the book was well ahead of its time.
"DH Lawrence was the first writer to address female sexual pleasure. And I think this is always important to glorify the body of a woman and what he really wanted to say was that sexuality is pure and beautiful and nothing shameful and dirty," she said.
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The Guardian: An explosive act of violence: why Britten’s Rape of Lucretia speaks to our brutal times
Finally, directing is about drawing the best from performers: a function not only of rigorous and precise work, but also of a supportive and safe rehearsal room. We worked closely with intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien and movement director Sarita Piotrowski on making scenes that honour the truth and continued relevance of this story, while respecting human feelings of discomfort and vulnerability. In the old days, performers and audience alike had merely to accept traumatic material: today we place similar emphasis on alerting our audience to what they will see and hear, treating subjects with the sensitivity they deserve.
The Rape of Lucretia will never be an opera like Carmen or The Marriage of Figaro, drawing in large crowds. It is a strange, unsettling, at times unbearably private piece, but it will remain a work whose originality and unique force will continue to trouble audiences for as long as the awful crime at its centre blights humankind.
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