When the idea of using an “intimacy co-ordinator” to help figure out the sex scenes was mooted, Abrahamson was dubious. “Part of me thought, when the intimacy co-ordinator comes in, everybody’s going to be swinging from the chandeliers. Or that it would be something that we’re doing as a sop to post-#MeToo film-making — like, a health and safety officer for the bedroom.”
But his scepticism melted away on meeting Ita O’Brien, who trained as a dancer before advising on programmes including Sex Education and Channel 4’s Humans. He credits her with helping his young, relatively little-known actors — Paul Mescal, in his TV debut, and Daisy Edgar-Jones, in her first leading role — to put aside any awkwardness.
“She takes the shyness away, and finds a way of negotiating touch and consent, which is really simple but which always goes back to the actors to make sure that they’re comfortable with what’s happening,” he says. “We did also have such a laugh because she’s got all these videos of different animals, from slugs to snakes to dogs to elephants, making love, so you can say, no, this is more of a sluggy moment. It’s a brilliant way of helping the actors to find an external language for it.”
It says something about Abrahamson that he embraced being disempowered: “The key thing is, if you’re a relatively well-established director, and you’re working with young actors, there is always a worry that the actors will say yes to things because you’re asking them to, and they don’t want to disappoint you. That’s all gone in the context of Ita [O’Brien].”
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