Simulated sex scenes have often made stars feel pressured, such as in the cases of Game of Thrones Emilia Clarke and or threatened, in the case of Frida star Salma Hayek. In the worst case scenario such as Maria Schneider in The Last Tango in Paris, it can also mean a very real assault.
In the best-case scenario with a closed set, O'Brien describes sex scenes as being done in an "unconscious place," and that afterwards, actors would meet up and have to act like it never happened.
Instead, O'Brien says, "I want people to be proud of their work," which is exactly what was accomplished with Normal People's Daisy Edgar-Jones (as Marianne) and Paul Mescal (Connell).
Before Normal People, neither actor had done sex scenes this way, they said in a recent interview with Dazed. Edgar-Jones described the experience with O"Brien: "Ita was so wonderful. She took the pressure off completely. The scenes ended up being quite positive."
Mescal agreed: "The fact that they put policies and structures in place allowed me to go about doing the things that are really important to the book as honestly as possible. Also, we were given guidelines in terms of the physical blocking, but it never felt like there was a disconnect from the emotional part of the scene – it never felt clinical or creatively dead."
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