It’s not uncommon to experience an embarrassing moment or two in the workplace, but it might be surprising to learn that our favorite actors and actresses – who look so powerful and in command on-screen – would be subject to the same feelings of shame and awkwardness when on the job.
In fact, almost every actor will admit to some embarrassing moment when filming. One common denominator among these cringe-worthy moments is usually something of a sexual nature – either involving nudity, romance between friends or strangers, or on-screen simulated sex.
Throughout the years, actors and actresses have admitted to reporters some of their most awkward moments when filming, elucidating the painful emotions that they felt during these scenes that appear so effortless to viewers. Many of them are embarrassed about the sheer numbers of people watching them, others are ashamed because they don’t know how their real-life spouses will react when they learn that their husband or wife spent a hard day at the office filming a sex scene – a scene they might have to continue enacting the next day.
Among the myriad awkward moments while filming, the following are the fifteen scenes that actors have confessed to being most embarrassed about filming – but not too embarrassed to talk about.
15. Lena Dunham in Girls
The popular HBO series, Girls, is about an aspiring writer and her three friends, all trying to make sense of their lives after living in New York City for two years. In the show, it seems that creator, writer and star Lena Dunham is seen in the buff almost as often as she’s seen fully clothed. But her recurrent raucous behavior and sexual adventures on-screen don’t make the experiences any more comfortable. Most notably uncomfortable for Lena are the aggressive and often bizarre sex scenes she films with co-star Adam Driver:
As Dunham told Conan O’Brien, “I will be lying there, kind of being slammed by a naked body, thinking, ‘I want out of this bed. I want out of this scene. I want out of this life. Who did this to me?’ And I realized, I’m my own boss. I’ve written it. I’m directing it. I’m the person holding myself in sexual slavery.”
14. Michael Fassbender in Shame
The 2011 film Shame saw modern heart throb Michael Fassbender play a sex addict. Of course, this necessitated more than one explicit sex scene – an act that Fassbender finds harder to do than dying on-screen.
As he told W Magazine the same year, “Sex scenes can be quite awkward. As a guy, the first thing you want to do is make sure you’re not taking advantage. You don’t want the girl to feel like you’re getting a free feel or something. I try to make a fool of myself in one way or another to lighten the mood, and then just go for it, because you don’t want to be doing take after take.”
13. Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises
In the 2007 film Eastern Promises, Viggo Mortensen plays a Russian mobster’s driver with utter mastery. During the film, Mortensen takes part in a brutal and now infamous four-minute fight scene in a Turkish bathhouse, where the actor goes from towel-wrapped modesty to dropping the towel and revealing everything. The actor told The Telegraph that the scene was “slippery, painful, and embarrassing” to shoot.
Mortensen was thankful that the scene only took two days to complete (rather than the six days the director initially indicated), because he was unable to wear any padding to protect his body during the fight. As he explained, “I always knew the scene should be as realistic as the rest of the movie, so I couldn’t feasibly keep the towel on.”
12. Mila Kunis in Black Swan
In Darren Aronofsky’s superb, creepy ballet-based thriller starring Natalie Portman (who won the Oscar for her leading role) and Mila Kunis, the two actresses share an intense, intimate sex scene. Portman said that doing a sex scene with someone who’s a real-life friend made it “more awkward.”
Kunis, meanwhile, didn’t say much about the awkwardness of that particular scene in Black Swan, but did discuss such scenes in more general terms. As she told The Huffington Post, “It’s hard to have a sex scene, period. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend, a male, a female. You’re with 100-something crew members, lighting you, repositioning you; there’s no comfort whatsoever.”
11. Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached
Natalie Portman didn’t just speak out about the awkwardness of her infamous Black Swan scene. She further explained her qualms about on-screen sex, and the embarrassing nature of the act, in the movie No Strings Attached, in which she and co-star Ashton Kutcher have a casual relationship that doesn’t work out well.
As Portman told reporters about handling the sex scenes, “I’m pretty immature, so I get pretty embarrassed still. But yeah, [I] would check out once in a while – certain shots to make sure I felt okay. You sort of go the opposite direction between takes. ‘Oh, what are you doing this weekend?’ Like, totally benign conversation… to make it a little normal.”
10. Natalie Dormer in The Tudors
Natalie Dormer, the British actress who gained fame playing the doomed queen Anne Boleyn alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers‘ King Henry VIII, has since skyrocketed in popularity, playing parts in Captain America, the American TV show Elementary and, most recently, as the cunning wife of King Joffrey on Game of Thrones, Margaery Tyrell.
But it was The Tudors that first saw her speaking about the trauma of simulating sex on-screen. As she told The Independent, “It’s very traumatic. It really is. It never gets easier. That’s why it’s so important that you can trust in your writer and director, to make sure that it’s not just gratuitous. It’s like a full-over medical examination that we women have to go through at the doctors – never pleasant, but for the greater good.”
9. Nick Hornby in Wild
Nick Hornby is best known as an author of – he wrote book-to-movie hits like High Fidelity, About A Boy, and Fever Pitch – but he has recently expanded into screenplays. He was responsible for turning the novel Wild into an on-screen smash in 2014.
In Wild, he also co-starred alongside Reese Witherspoon. When he and Witherspoon went into a late private screening for the new film, he told The Daily Mail that they sat down beside each other at the very moment of their lovemaking scene, and he thought, “This is weird. I don’t think I had ever been anywhere with just me and Reese before, so it felt like a first date. Lovemaking scenes are always embarrassing on the first date, but when the person you are sitting next to is the person on the screen doing the lovemaking, it’s absolutely excruciating.”
Add to that the fact that Hornby’s wife was sitting in on the same screening, and that Hornby was ’embarrassed and recoiling’ because he thinks Witherspoon is gorgeous, and you have a trifecta of super-awkwardness.
8. Anne Hathaway in Love and Other Drugs
In Love and Other Drugs, Anne Hathaway plays a young woman suffering from Parkinson’s, who befriends a drug rep working for Pfizer (Jake Gyllenhaal) in 1990s’ Pittsburgh. During the numerous sex scenes between the two, Hathaway explained to Entertainment Weekly that, “There is that revoltingly embarrassing moment when you have to take your clothes off in front of strangers. I mean, I don’t go to the beach in a bikini for a reason.”
She went on to say that despite the initial incredible embarrassment, she thought, “OK, I’m going to be in control. I’m going to do everything properly, disrobe at the last minute, and in between shots get the clothes back on.”
When she found that every time she put her robe back on, it smudged her body makeup off and added 20 minutes to filming, she lightened up, saying, “As with all things in life, the second you stop making it about you and you make it about everyone else, it just got, dare I say, fun.”
7. Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Harry Potter star Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in all eight of the films, had never been kissed on-screen, until filming the two-part franchise finale, “Deathly Hallows.” In the film, she kisses Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley in the films), and, because of her nervousness, she told MTV that, “I ended up pouncing on Rupert. I was so desperate to get it over.”
The 19-year old actor Rupert Grint admitted, “It took me by surprise.” Grint also said that, “Kissing [on camera] is always quite embarrassing, because you’ve got a whole crew of people watching you and it just feels really self-conscious and you don’t really know what to do with yourself.”
The fact that Watson and Grint have known each other since their pre-teen years made the kissing scene even more awkward. As Watson put it, “Oh my God, I can’t believe we have to do this… We were both giggling. We were like 12-year-olds.”
6. Jemima Kirke in Girls
Jemima Kirke, who plays the free-spirited Jessa on HBO’s Girls, has a similar experience as co-star and creator Lena Dunham when it comes to the intimidating, shocking sex scenes in the show.
As she put it to Huffington Post, the sex scenes are, “Mortifying. You’ve got hundreds of people watching… It was worse shooting it at the time. When I do it myself, on set, and I’m doing a real orgasm – not “real,” but the way I know it sounds in real life, because I don’t know how to fake it – I’m embarrassed in front of the cameraman. For some reason, when it’s on TV, I’m proud of it as part of the work.”
5. Ruta Gedmintas in The Tudors
Ruta Gedmintas played Elizabeth Blount in three episodes of season seven of The Tudors, where she was King Henry’s mistress. Gedmintas had a surprisingly sour experience during her sex scene with Meyers, telling The Independent that, “I was absolutely terrified and had no idea what was going on. I cried afterwards because I was thinking, ‘This isn’t acting; what am I doing? My mum’s going to see this.’”
Since then, she has become very strict with what she will do, saying, “I have to know that a sex scene is going to give the audience information about [my] character or a relationship. If it doesn’t do either of those, I won’t do it.”
4. Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love
In Crazy, Stupid, Love, Ryan Gosling co-starred in his first romantic comedy as the pickup artist Jacob, who teaches his newfound friend and divorcee, Steve Carell, how to pick up women at bars. In the film, there’s a particular scene where a naked Gosling is trying to coach Carell, and Carell improvised and fell into Gosling’s private parts.
As Gosling teased the Inquirer about his ‘naked’ scene with Carell (he was wearing the infamous “sock”), “You can imagine why the naked scenes with Steve were embarrassing. But if you lose your comedic virginity, you have to lose it to Steve. He’s very gentle.” He also commented that his idea of a man was “Steve. I want to be like Steve.”
3. Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct
Sharon Stone‘s leg-crossing scene in Basic Instinct is one of the most iconic (and paused) scenes in cinematic history. But it left a bitter taste in her mouth. In an interview with Playboy, she said that director Paul Verhoeven “persuaded” her to get nude for the scene, assuring that nothing would be visible because of the reflected light back at the camera. When she saw the final product, she said she felt “manipulated and exploited.”
But there were other things that made her feel embarrassed and uneasy. She explains that, “I don’t go like, ‘Oooh, I can’t wait to rip off my clothes and jump around in front of everybody.’… and I was certainly not comfortable when I had to depict murdering someone. I am infinitely less comfortable with the fact that the public is more concerned whether I was nude… than whether or not I was a f**cking serial killer. Excuse me very much, but where are your priorities, people?” Good point.
2. Michael Douglas in Behind the Candelabra
Another good point is made by Michael Douglas, who played Liberace in the TV-film Behind the Candelabra, alongside Matt Damon. In the film, the gay lovers have numerous sex scenes, but Douglas told Celeb Daily News that, for the most part, after the first kiss things were comfortable.
It was this point that he made about sex scenes, in general, that viewers may not have thought about before: “The hardest thing about sex is that everybody is a judge. I don’t know the last time you murdered somebody or blew anyone’s brains out, but everyone has had sex, and probably this morning, which means everyone has an opinion on how it should be done.”
1. Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris
In Last Tango in Paris, a then 19-year-old unknown French actress named Maria Schneider took part in one of the most infamous sex scenes of all time, and it resulted in devastating consequences in real life, including drug addictions and suicide attempts. The film starred Marlon Brando – then 48 – exuding aggressive masculinity, as an older man who falls in love with a younger woman.
The scene in question, which wasn’t in the original script, happened when Marlon improvised a sex scene by grabbing a tub of butter, applying it to her nether regions, and then engaging in a sex act. At the time, Schneider told The Daily Mail that, “Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,’ but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears.”
She continued to say she felt, “humiliated,” and “…a little [sexually assaulted] both by Marlon and (director) Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully there was just one take.”
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