Scene from Bridgerton: When you touch yourself, you do touch yourself. When you’re alone you can touch yourself. Anywhere that gives you pleasure especially between your legs. When you find the feeling you particularly enjoy you can carry on with that, until the feeling grows and then eventually you reach pinnacle, a release that should help you.
Lisa: Hello, welcome to Killer Casting, I'm Lisa Zambetti. I am a casting director probably best known for my work on the long running show Criminal Minds. And I've cast victims and villains and cops and doctors and lawyers and everything in between. But apropos of today's topic, I've also cast many actors to play lovers, to play roles in adult situations. And I've even cast those very, very difficult roles where characters engage in sexual violence and who are sometimes the victims of sexual abuse. So given that, I wanted to give a little trigger warning, I wanted to warn our listeners today that we're going to be talking about sex. Sex in cinema, sex on screen, we're going to be using very explicit language possibly talking about things that could be triggering to you. And I want you to take very good care of yourselves and know your boundaries because this is going to be a great conversation, but probably a very frank conversation. And I have a very special guest I cannot wait for you to meet, but I want you to please exercise care if you need to, okay. So with that said, let me just say hi to my ever loyal sexy beast Brian Allan Hill, how are you today?
Brian: Doing great, how is everybody out there?
Lisa: And Dean Laffan the wonder from down under, how are you doing?
Dean: I'm very well, thank you. Good to see you again, Lisa and Brian.
Lisa: I'm hoping that I get to make Brian and Dean blush today. I'm really looking forward to that. So let me just lay it out there y’all. I am a very sex positive person when it comes to sex on screen, I'm not just talking about adult erotica, but sex in TV shows and cinema whether it's a consummation of “will they, won't they” get together, slow burning passion between the leads with this delicious animosity and chemistry that leads to sex, or more importantly sex that is about a very specific and difficult context. Sex that's born of grief, of pain, of secrets and lies and sex that moves the story forward, or just deepens your understanding of the character. Whatever the sex is between consenting adults on screen, no matter the sexual identity, orientation, and no matter if they have classically beautiful bodies and fantastic faces, or if they look like me, just the average everyday person grinding it out? I'm here for it. I am absolutely here for it. And some people may say, oh sex scenes are gratuitous and some people may have issues with nudity and that's fine. But indulgence means different things to different people. And for me, done right, sex is a very powerful and necessary thing. But those performances of simulated sex come at a price. And it's the actors on screen, they pay that price. And in the past, sometimes sex scenes are highly choreographed and a lot of times it's a lot of illusion camera trickery. Maybe people aren't totally nude, maybe they are. The fact of the matter is these scenes make those performers very vulnerable and in the past, in the very sad past of our industry in Hollywood and abroad, it's easy for that trust to be broken. It's easy for lines to be crossed and boundaries to be forgotten. But I have here today a very special guest who's going to talk us through something new that has come into our industry that is so needed. I can't even believe that we never had it before. I want to introduce to you an immensely successful casting director. She has cast some of the most important movies of my childhood and my premenstrual sexual Tween hood. She was on the casting team for ET. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, St Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink, Mean Girls, I could go on and on but I'm not going to because she in the last few years has become an Intimacy Coordinator. Please say hello to my queen Marci Liroff.
Marci Liroff: Hi am happy to be here.
Lisa: Oh Marcie, thank you for jumping on. And I know you are on the East Coast right now and you are instead of casting this show, you are the intimacy coordinator for this show. Do you want to tell us a little bit about this show, what you can tell us?
Marci Liroff: Sure. I'm working on a series called “High Town” and it’s in its second season and we're in Wilmington North Carolina on location. We've been here since October and it's a very dark and thrilling show and it centers around Provincetown which is known to be a wild vacation town in the summertime. But this focuses on the people that live there, and addiction, basically kind of the deep dark secrets that go on from the working class people that live there.
Lisa: I haven't seen the first season, but it sounds amazing.
Marci Liroff: Yeah, it’s really, really good.
Lisa: I'm sure a lot of our listeners have never heard the term intimacy coordinator before. It is a new role on the call sheet and I really just want you to just dig in, tell us what it is. Tell us why you turned to it after this amazing career as a casting director, I'm sure you still are casting. But what made you want to turn to this and just educate us on what it is and what you do?
Marci Liroff: Well, let me start off by telling you what the job is. So it is a newish job and I'll tell you how it came to be. There's a TV series called “The Deuce” on HBO. And they were going into their second season and it focuses on sex workers. And Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in this show, and the series regulars were going back to work and one of them, an actress named Emily Meade was feeling very vulnerable in these scenes, because they would have to do these scenes with guest stars that were coming in, not series regulars, day players that were coming in and as you said, these are very highly vulnerable scenes and she felt like she was kind of working without a net, so to speak. And she and some of the other actors went to HBO to describe what it is that they need it. And kind of somewhat invented the job because this job had existed in theater for a bit and in film and television what we're doing is collaborating with the filmmakers to help get their story on the screen in an authentic way. And then working with the actors as well, as their liaison and as their advocate for these scenes to make sure that they stay safe and to talk about things like consent and boundaries ahead of time so that there's no surprises on the day and everybody feels safe and we get what we need, but it's in a very safe way, consent is really the cornerstone of this job. In the old days, actors would have a nude scene or a simulated sex scene -- and we do say simulated sex because we really want to clarify that they are not having sex. Some people if it's shot well, it looks like they are. We want to make sure that people know that this is not real. And so in the old days, actors would be wrapped in a sheet. They would show up and like, hi, how you doing. And the director would say, okay, go for it. And they don't know, there was no plan, there was no choreography and we're very similar in a way to a stunt coordinator. And if you think about a stunt being done when actors show up and they're putting that could be a dangerous situation and someone says, okay, go for it. I mean stunts are rehearsed, there are safety meetings, it is choreographed, and it is a very serious venture. So the same thing is applied to simulated sex scenes and nudity. So as I said, we collaborate with the film crew and actors, the actors advocate on set and in preparation for the scenes. So that's kind of the short answer and we can get into more of it. And how I came to be doing this is I've been casting for 40 something years and producing and coaching actors, which I still do. And I've been looking for my next act and I've kind of become a unicorn in a way that I'm kind of the master of reinvention. I also design jewelry, so I do a lot of things.
Lisa: That’s why we should shout out, you design the beautiful jewelry, so we'll definitely post that in our show notes.
Marci Liroff: So as I said, I was looking for my third act. And it's been a while that I've been trying to figure out what else can I do. And I read some articles about this new position and I thought this is so up my alley. This just is kind of the amalgam of all the things that I have been trained to do so far, because I love working with the actors, I love working with filmmakers and I'm kind of one of those righteous people that wants to protect people that don't have a voice, that's always been my thing. I am always the people's advocate. And when I heard about this job, I just thought this is so interesting and this job is really multifaceted, which we'll get into, because we cover so many things on set. And so I did some research and found a woman in Los Angeles named Amanda Blumenthal who is kind of the, I would say the premier IC -- we call them ICs. She's the premier IC in the United States and lives in Los Angeles, and she was starting some training. And so I was accepted into a very small group of about seven people and we trained for six months in 2019. And I was certified by her organization called Intimacy Professionals Association. And I started working at the end of last year, started 2019 and then got a bunch of jobs the beginning of January of 2020 and then as we know, COVID hit and everything was shut down. So I had gotten the series, The Morning Show with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon and a bunch of movies, and so all of this went away. And then a miracle happened and I got a call about this series and I relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina and I've been here since October.
Dean: It's time for a clip -- you'll be listening to Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. They're talking about the filming of sex scenes in the very sexy and very popular Outlander. Here we go.
Sam Heughan: You know, we've always tried to approach them with something more and show that it's something to do with show the development of their relationship or and obviously it is a part of the show that we have to deal with.
Caitriona Balfe: I think we've always tried to make it further the story along, but it's not just there for titillation or just sticking in a sex scene for sex scene sake. When we started this show, the way the sex scenes were sold to us. Ron was very adamant that he didn't want to do typical TV sex and that he wanted each time there was a sex scene, it had to say something about the couple or the story. And we've tried to make sure that that has maintained throughout the seasons and yes, this couple is very passionate, it's an integral part of their relationship, but unless it has also something else to say, it doesn't really work I think.
Sam Heughan: And we're a couple now in our latter years, probably the prime actually.
Caitriona Balfe: But I think that's also beautiful to show that this far into a marriage that a couple can still be as passionate and is romantic and as much in love with each other as they were from the beginning. I mean it changes and evolves.
Sam Heughan: Doesn’t mean it’s less intimate or anything, you're just evolved. And I think other TV shows they don't show that.
Lisa: So Brian and Dean, have you ever heard any of these horror stories about things that have happened to actors and actresses in these sex scenes? I mean, and I'll tell a story of my own when I was an actor what happened. But do you recall any of these famous scenes where, you know, a lot of people think that hey, you're an actor, you should be able to do all this, but people have been put through so much fucking garbage on set.
Brian: Well the one that comes to mind most readily is Last Tango in Paris. That seems to me to be the most infamous and I think the one that damaged Marlon Brando's reputation to some degree, but not to the degree that he didn't get work again, you know what I mean, like he continued to work.
Marci Liroff: Well quite honestly at the time it didn't damage his reputation because no one knew about it until pretty recently.
Lisa: So Maria Schneider was in this love scene, whatever it is, a sexual scene, explicit scene with Marlon Brando and basically Bertolucci was like, we want to shake this actress up. We want to get her real reaction and they didn’t bother fucking telling her what was going to happen in the scene and so he has to simulate anally raping her and she's going along with it because that's what you had to do. If you're with a big powerful director and a big powerful actor, you go along with it, right? This is pre Me Too, and that sets the tone for the industry. I mean, don't you think?
Brian: One of my favorite documentaries is Hearts of Darkness about the making of apocalypse now and the scene that I always go back to and that is Martin Sheen on his birthday, getting more and more progressively drunk as the day is going on in the hotel room. And he smashes the mirror and cuts himself and he’s bleeding, that's not what acting is. And yet Coppola lets it go. And I mean, to some degree, Sheen says he needed that, he needed to exercise those demons, but there's too many of those kinds of stories and I think that's kind of foundational to the whole Me Too movement. And what people who aren't in the industry don't understand, if you say no, if you decide I'm going to take a stand, and I'm going to say “no” a lot of times you're done, that's it. You get a reputation as being difficult, and then it's like this thing that you want to make your career and your job, it evaporates. Because like we said, a handful of powerful people hold the strings.
Marci Liroff: You hit on something very important, and that's the word no, because nois a very powerful word. And I think we have been trained, especially women that we can't say no. And so part of my job as an IC, is to disrupt the power dynamic on set, because an actor has a very hard time saying no to someone that has hiring and firing power. You almost can't. And when you brought up the scene of Martin Sheen, and he had a heart attack after that scene and they had to shut down production, and it's all in the name of cinema creativity and it's revered and respected and I call bullshit on that. In my job right now, which really follows on the heels of the Me Too movement which really helped accelerate this job for sure. It was 2017 that this all happened. We are giving actors their voice back again and I really believe that we will not go back to the way it was. I don't think that we’ll ever go back to that. And so I said a lot of my work is really built around the idea of consent, and part of my process is the filmmakers tell me their thoughts for what they like this scene to be. And then I take those notes to the actor and have a private one on one discussion with them to see how they feel about it. See if they have any ideas and they are in an environment talking to me where they can say no. And unless I get enthusiastic consent, this is what my trainer, Amanda Blumenthal taught me is that you don't just get consent. You have to get enthusiastic consent, because if anybody is wobbling on it, I'm going to take that as a no. And you don't have to qualify why you are saying no, you don't have to give any reasons. And I will take that back to the filmmakers and see if there's any notes that they have when we come to a mutual agreement on how the scene is going to go. Now, one of the things that exist in the sack after contract that many actors do not know appropriate to scenes like this is that, if they've agreed to do this, they have signed a writer because there's an addendum to the contract that explains what they've agreed to do in terms of nudity, and what they've agreed to do in terms of simulated sex, you're shooting the scene and then all of a sudden you feel things going sideways or you could get triggered by something that you don't even know triggers you. Like, let's say it's nibbling on your ear and all of a sudden it triggers some horrible memories. And I'm now trained also in trauma response because I'm sitting by the monitor watching them. And if I see an actor starting to have a meltdown, I have to stop things and go help them. So you're in the middle of a scene and you suddenly go, I can't go on with this. The actor has the right to say, I can't go on with this scene, and then we will then try to compromise on something and make it work for both parties, or we will then have to replace you with a body double and the body double can only do what you have put on your nudity rider. So we can have the double come in and suddenly do like these wild things that you would never agree to representing your body. So most actors don't know that you can say no, even after they’ve agreed to do it.
Lisa: Right, and the agent is going to read the script and they're going to flag all of this. And when Marci says nudity rider, literally I've negotiated, are you going to show the side of the breast the nipple, how much of the areola, like everything, are you going to show the bush, are you going to show, what are you going to show? It's just there in black and white. And that's to not be crude but to protect people so they know what to expect and the producers know what they're going to get.
Marci Liroff: It’s very specific. And so what has been happening is actors will get there on the day having discussed what the scene will be or loosely discussed, whatever, and the producer or the director will come on set and say, “No, I need to see you totally naked and fucking him”. And you're like, well, huh? I was not prepared for that. Well, you did it in your last movie. And so that's the notion of consent. The consent exists on the day in the moment. So you could have consented something yesterday and then today. I mean, I ask every day, are you good with this scene because consent is in the moment and it has nothing to do with what you did in a film two years ago with a different story with a different director and a whole different script.
Lisa: We shouldn't make assumptions that the men don't have any vulnerability too. I'm sure maybe people like, oh they're going to be in there and going to be into it, they don't care.
Marci Liroff: Yeah, I mean, men are taken advantage of just as much as women and they're expected to go along. And we're also talking now that story lines are so inclusive. We're talking about the LGBTQ community, which my training takes a very deep dive in. We're seeing shows with trans-actors and there has to be some respect and sensitivity to who these people are, including their pronouns. We are here to help the crew sometimes understand what to refer to people as. I've worked with a costume designer that would not use the proper pronounce when dealing with an actor, and it just doesn't show any respect and it makes them uncomfortable. It does in fact make a hostile workplace and they could sue me for harassment.
Lisa: It's so funny because I've been in the audition room, reading an actor who's going to be doing a sexual violence towards my character. The actor will really be getting into it and he'll be like spitting on me and calling me a whore and everything and getting closer and closer and closer to me, and like the director isn't saying anything. I'm just the reader. I mean, I'm the casting director, but I'm the reader and maybe they touch me and it's like, come on, where is the boundary? And I remember one time my assistant was being the reader and I was kind of sitting in the backrow kind of watching and this actor picked her up and put her against the wall and I just stopped. I said, no, no, no, no, no, this is not how this is happening, I'm sorry. And that's a big risk to object to what's going on in a producer session. But please, and that sets the tone. It has a trickle-down effect on everybody else in the production.
Marci Liroff: Sure. I mean as a casting director, I've been involved in a lot of those scenes where I had an actor literally like pull me out of the chair on the ground, straddling me and chocking me, or pull out a gun and pull a knife. These are the old days before 9/11 when you certainly couldn't get on a studio lot, you know with a gun because they have metal detectors now. But now we talk about it beforehand, I make sure to set the boundaries like, don't touch me and let's just act this out as if. And also the intimacy coordinators now have a committee that work with Sag Aftra and we helped them draft some of the new clauses of the 2020 contract that includes protocol for auditioning for auditioning naked, which was very unclear and very blurry before and you can't audition naked. You have to have the minimum of what's considered like what you would wear on the beach for a woman would be a, you could wear pasties and a bikini bottom and the men have to be wearing the equivalent of a tuxedo. But this all has to be done with a written request signed ahead of the audition so that nobody asks you in a room to take your top off. You know about it ahead of time and you're going to have some protection and they can't keep giving you call backs. So there's a lot of now new information in terms of protecting actors in the audition situation. I never picked these scenes anymore, like I never have, but honestly, I don't - this is a very weird, awkward scene to put in for an audition and you don't really need to see it.
Dean: Okay, well, in this clip we've got to genuine megastars being Idris Elba and Kate Winslet and there on the couch in the hilariously funny Graham Norton show, talking about a sex scene between the two of them, here we go.
Graham Nortan: It was Elba, you would think, we think Idris Elba’s a leading man, ladies’ man, but you haven't actually done that many love scenes.
Idris Elba: No.
Graham Nortan: Why is that? How is that?
Idris Elba: No, I just haven't had the opportunity. I've done a lot of films where there's a lot of guys.
Chris Rock: That's no excuse. [**00:24:30] That’d be a real good movie.
Graham Nortan: But the director had never directed a love scene, is this right?
Kate Winslet: Yeah, that's true. I'm afraid I had to get quite bossy because so I've done a few of these kinds of scenes before. And so we get there and poor honey our director is such a lovely man and he was really quite nervous and he had an extensive shot list and I'm thinking, oh my God, we are absolutely never going to get all this done. What kind of scene is this? Anyway there's like 25 shots and an Idris was, you were a little bit nervous, weren't you?
Idris Elba: Not really, no.
Kate Winslet: Okay.
Idris Elba: That was my game, you know, it's getting there.
Kate Winslet: Anyway, so everything was moving quite slowly and I'm like, look, we need to really start filming this. What's with all this kind of chat, and honey said, oh actually, I'm really kind of nervous. I've never done this. I actually never, I really haven't shot anything like this before at all. And Idris said no, and I haven't done much of it either and I went, okay. Put the camera over there and we're going to do this and we're going to do that. And then Idris said keep your socks on and I'm like, keep my socks on? Everything else is off, what’s with the, I said, no, I've got a foot thing.
Idris Elba: I got a thing.
Lisa: Brian, I wanted to sort of check in with you because Marci’s working in the professional world with Sag-Aftra rules and all that stuff. But like when you and I were in college and you do a scene from Pick a Sam Shepard play will you.
Brian: We’re like doll's house where you're in a marriage situation where it's Nora and Torvald.
Lisa: I was doing a college production of extremities, which I don't know if you remember that play Farrah Fawcett, and it's a near rape scene and you have college kids rehearsing together alone and no fight choreographer forget about that. And even though we know we're acting, your body doesn't know you're acting by the way when you're touched in a certain place. And this guy, he was very nice guy, but he got very into it, throwing me on the floor, grinding his, his junk against me. And at one point he's like, oh, maybe would it be fun if I took this carrot and I like tortured you with it and I'm like, check please, like no, there's nobody to protect you in that situation. And it's just like, what have we come a long way since then guys? I mean, is this I just want to protect everybody out there no matter if you're a “professional actor” or not, that we have to have boundaries. You can't just assume that you can just jump on somebody no matter what your gender, what’s your orientation. I mean, Brian did you have an experience like that?
Brian: Yeah, well, so let's unpack it just a little bit. So conversations that I've had with people about the profession, there is an industry standard. Once you get to a certain age I think, or once you decide, okay, I'm a professional actor, right? You behave in a certain way in talking to Lisa, I've contended that I don't care how big the theater community is, whether Chicago or Dallas or LA or New York, whatever. It's not that much different than a high school theater department with all the kind of incestuous relationships and quickly and let's go to the bar and at least that was the culture that I was a part of when I was in theater. And so you would get involved in these plays with people. And let's say there was like a romantic connection that people allowed themselves to kind of fall into. So I guess my I do have a question for you Marci on that front of like separating. So when I was in college, when I was first starting to act doing doll's house, I had an older actress, she was three years older than me. But I was 18 at the time playing Torvald, I mean, which is what college is for. But she was having a tough time finding the relationship. So she involved me in her process and as an 18 year old kid, I was like all for it, let's I was - I jumped right on in it was like heaven. And then closing night, we're all tripping on acid and that's when she dropped the hammer and said, yeah, I just kind of did that for the play, sorry.
Lisa: Wait, when you say involving in your process, you mean she started fucking you for real?
Brian: Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. And that I had no idea, like, the damage that would do. I mean, like, I almost decided I don't want to do that. If this is what it's going to be, then I don't want to fucking do it. And so this is the question that I have in your role. Do you caution actors to like, this is a fantasy, this is pretend that we're doing right? You have a job to do. Your body is going to be telling you something different potentially in this moment. Is that part of the job of the coordinator as well to like keep things separated because we've heard plenty of stories where actors get involved in a project together and then they divorce wives and husbands and get married, you know what I mean? And then it's like, oh that wasn't real.
Marci Liroff: There are a couple of things that I would talk about. We get hired to help minors with the first kiss. Because that can also be like, imagine having your first kiss ever on screen, or your first screen kiss, when you're 16 years old. I mean there was stories about the actress Millie Bobby Brown on “Stranger Things”. She had her first ever kiss on screen and the Duffer brothers, sweet as they are were teasing her about it, and they didn't realize how traumatic it was for her. And she's done so many interviews talking about how embarrassing that was. So they hire us to help out young actors and scenes like that. So one of the first things I worked on was in the film were two 16 year old kids. The girl was seducing the boy and she threw on a chair and straddled him and was kind of grinding on him and trying to take his pants off and kissing him. And neither of them had ever done that. I talked to the boy about you might have a physical reaction to something where your mind is telling you one thing, but your body is doing another thing and that's totally fine if that happens because that's very natural and if there's something like that happens, we'll stop and wait until things calm down and don't be embarrassed about that, it's totally natural. But I think it's really important to what you're saying Brian is to stop this notion of romanticizing it and doing it for art. We have to really get into it and really do it, which is bullshit. It's absolute bullshit. I mean you were taken advantage of, I mean at least you were 18 and an adult-ish, but we've certainly seen this happen and if the role was reversed and it was a guy doing this to a young girl that's criminal activity. And women kind of get the pass on that in a weird way. But yeah, I do absolutely try to guide people through these situations like that they are doing a very violent scene. I talk to the actors to make sure that they're going to be, maybe they've had experiences like this and they're worried about doing something like this as it may trigger them and so we talk about it very deeply. And I also want to make sure that we talk about keeping this in a container, so to speak so that once we finish the scene, we close that container and I don't want to send them home without knowing that they're okay psychologically with this. And so we talk about an after plan, we talk about what they're going to do when they leave the set. Do they have some support? Do they need to talk to somebody about it? Like have they really closed the container so that they're not walking around like an open wound from just stirred up all of this stuff.
Lisa: Oh my gosh, that's so important. And you just made me think of how many things could get triggered. I mean, as you said with this underage couple that you were coaching. Their sexual orientation and identity may not be formed yet and it may be very confusing to them to be in a scene like that, you can't make assumptions on somebody else and thank goodness that you're there for that. I don't know if you've had to encounter that or if these are not just heteronormative scenes that Marci is going to be working on certainly.
Marci Liroff: I'm not a psychologist. However, there are several intimacy coordinators that do have that background and it really definitely helps the job. I'm not going to pretend that I have that training, but I as a psychologist, as a licensed psychologist, but that is part of our training to make sure that everyone stays healthy and safe in terms of what could happen psychologically from a scene like this. For instance, the woman that trained me, Amanda Blumenthal did the series Euphoria. And I don't know if you've seen Euphoria, but it's very raw. And all teenagers and it is very intense. And they were kind of breaking new ground for things like that. And there's a trans-girl and it's a lot. I mean the subject matter was very dark and very intense.
Lisa: And the whole reason that we even I even thought about doing this episode with you is because Dean last week was teasing me about Bridgerton and saying that that was my mommy porn. He was making a joke, but I was thinking about it that when I was watching those scenes, I was thinking they had to have had an IC. I mean, there are explicit scenes, I mean not just body parts, but the pleasure is and that's a fair that's even more intimate seeing somebody's face and the pleasure they're experiencing. What's for both the actor and the actress.
Marci Liroff: Well, one of the things I didn't mention that we also are trained to do is the choreography of these scenes and its different every set. Some directors know exactly what they want and they'll have its story boarded and some directors treated like hot potato, like, I don't want to have anything to do with this, you do it. And I was really fortunate on the first couple of projects I worked with that the directors are like you do it. So I got to choreograph a lot of these scenes. With Bridgerton absolutely they had an IC a very good IC named Lizzie Talbot and there are so many articles, interviews of the actors from Bridgerton talking about her and how much fun she made these scenes and how they couldn't have done it without her and how appreciative they were for that she was there because it can be very awkward with a camera that's close to your face and you're meant to have an orgasm fires. It's very, very rough and hyper sexual and she'll guide them through that to make them feel comfortable and then able to walk away feeling like they did a good day's work and it’s done.
Lisa: God bless you. I'm so glad that you're doing this. You seem like this is a perfect match for you. Because as you say, not only do you know how to talk to actors, you know how to talk to directors, you know how to talk to writers, and it takes a whole team to have this kind of sensitivity and understanding. I think that's amazing.
Marci Liroff: You really have to have set experience to do this. You cannot learn on the job. There's a whole different world language and set etiquette and it's really not something that we can teach you. I have produced several shows, I've been a casting director for several years, so I know how to deal with all these personalities, because I'm dealing with the producer, the director of the network, the legal department, the actors, the ADs. It's a lot.
Dean: You just mentioned directors and Marci I wondered how receptive obviously can't talk specifics, but just in general we've been discussing the dynamics between the actors themselves, but we all know that myriad of stories and you would know many more than me about directors and we can name them. But do you think of somebody like Bogdanovich who was serially fell in love with these actresses, Luc Besson the same infamously left one wife literally on the set for another, that he fell in love with. And what's the feeling with directors, are they fully on board with this? Or do they need to be sort of coached as well?
Marci Liroff: Since it is a new position, yes, there's definitely a learning curve with directors because some are grateful to have us there and there's an education process that we need to do to help people understand what the job is, because some directors feel like we're kind of stepping into their territory, you got to read the room. And so I will lay back more in a situation like that where they feel like I can do this, I don't need you. However, if there's abuse going on, you know, I don't like to be the sex police and a lot of people see this job as the sex police or that we are where HR and that's really not what it should be. But if there's abuse going on, then certainly that's something that has to stop. But I'm not seeing that as much the Me Too movement trickle down and rose up and it gave people their voices. And I just don't feel like it's going to go back in time. I feel like we've now found our voices and we're not going to be taken advantage of anymore and we have backup. There are now things in place so that, that can't happen anymore.
Lisa: Hopefully the old serial misogynist director, hopefully they're dying breed, they're dying out. But even just as recently as Blue is the Warmest Color, which is a movie, I adored that movie. For me, it was just a very important movie to watch it personally. And later to hear the actresses in this highly lauded movie come out and say, yeah, we really felt pushed and abused by our director. And these are, I mean, Lea Seydoux is like not a nobody in her world. I mean she probably had the power to say, I'm not doing this, but it just shows you that when you're on the set and you're exhausted and you're pushed that you can still be taken advantage of.
Marci Liroff: And you can't say no to the people that have hiring and firing power, that's the problem. And so I'm there to make sure that that doesn't happen.
Lisa: I was just reading something that really shocked me. This is a story about Paul Haggis during Crash. Thandy Newton has recently said that, this is the sneaky thing Marci in these scripts, it's a very like an oblique scene, maybe it doesn't specifically say that there's something sexual going on, it's just like implied. And so that kind of gives the director creative license to just have something happen. And how Thandy says that Matt Dillon was instructed to stick his hand up her skirt and simulate assaulting her, but she didn't know that that was going to happen. Again, it's wanting to see the real reaction of the real woman being really humiliated. We have to call it out.
Marci Liroff: We are.
Lisa: Yeah, really.
Dean: Okay. Bear with me folks. I do need 60 seconds of your valuable time just to set this clip up so that you fully understand what's happening. Absolutely visuals. All right, this clip comes from a mini documentary of a movie titled “Keep Breathing” and we'll put a link in our show notes to this and all of the other clips that we reference in this episode. The first voice you hear on this clip is from one of the actors of the film guide called Damien Moloney, and then you'll hear from the IC in this film Aidan O'Brien. You'll hear snatches of conversations also from other actresses talking about sex scenes, Reese Witherspoon and Amy Schumer. And just for context, the movie that Aidan references about a minute and a half into this little snippet is the notorious scene that was filmed for Last Tango in Paris, where Bertolucci and Brando pretty much conspired to surprise in the actress Maria Schneider about Marlon’s use of a bar of soap that he used, unbeknownst to her as a prop for lubricant for a simulated anal scene”. The comments from Aidan echo very accurately, what Marcy covers in much more detail in this podcast episode with that as a setup, here we go.
Damien Moloney: The first few intimate scenes you do is actually you're so terrified, because you have no idea what you're doing really, or how you'll be judged. You're thinking the whole world is going to look at it and think, oh my God, that's how he does this.
Speaker_1: The sex scenes were the hardest thing for me to do, honestly.
Speaker_2: It's always awkward. You got 20 crew members standing around who you had also met that week.
Speaker_3: He's like, do you want our first kiss to be on camera? And I went, yeah.
Speaker_4: So if you’re doing the kiss and relax and you'll receive it great. And intimacy coordinator is somebody who brings a clear structure and a process when choreographing intimate scenes both in theater, TV and film. So historically actors have been vulnerable in intimate content because whereas with a fight, the injury that you're taking care of can be physical, with intimate content, the injury can be physical, but it also can be emotional and psychological. And call your personal and private intimate body at play, and of course, if you're touched in those personal private places in a way that is not right for you, that might be abusive to you or might be triggering all of that needs to be taken care of. We had a young actress approached by two men, the director and the costar springing a scene on that person that they weren't expecting and also talking about preparing a lubricant for the scene and that actress talking about feeling that she felt a little raped. That incident really having severe repercussions that actress never acted again.
Speaker_5: So I've been aware of practice in the industry to date, which variably the intimate contact wasn't spoken about clearly. Actors were left to sort of just work out themselves or just go for it, just improvise. And both of those situations leads the actor in a situation where it stops being professional and there’s that awkwardness of just trying to work out and then that's where you have the personal body being in play rather than making sure that you're serving character and the physicality you do is really serving the storytelling.
Speaker_6: The scene in The Night Manager, Elizabeth Debicki spoke afterwards about how she felt the best case scenario was that you got on well with your other actor. And that they did the scene in one take and they met up at the tea caddy as if it never happened. Already that thing of going into shame, we don't want that, we want our actors to be able to feel comfortable and open the feeling that they've done a good day of work in real presence, with the work that they were doing.
Dean: Hi there listeners. You know we love putting the pod together and we certainly hope that you enjoy hearing from us, but we would love to hear from you. How do we do this you say? Well, if you visit our website, www.killercastingpod.com, you'll see a widget there for a little service called speak pipe and you can record a message and send it to us as an audio file. So whether it's a question about an episode we've already done, maybe you've got a suggestion about a topic or a film or a series that we could jump into. We would love to hear from you, and you can be on the pod, we'll hear from you soon, bye.
Lisa: Is there anything else you want to tell us about your experiences so far in this very important position. And then I just want to talk about our favorite sex scenes basically.
Marci Liroff: Well, one of the things I've noticed since I started is I come home feeling really good. Like, feeling very useful and very appreciated. And it's been a long time since my work has given me that because as you know as casting directors, everyone takes credit, they'll take credit for what we do. How many times have you heard of directors say, I found so and so after looking at thousands of girls, it's like, no, you didn't actually. I looked thousands of girls and I brought her to you and jumped up and down on the table to get you to hire her. So I feel like I come home at the end of the day and I feel appreciated the actors pulled me aside afterwards and say thank you so much. There's so many thank you’s going on and there's relief going on with these actors that I'm there. Now, mind you, there are some actors that are like, I don't need you, stay out of my grill and I need to know to step back and let them do their thing, because again there's a learning curve there because they're like, this show did not have an IC the last time. So there was definitely a learning curve with me coming on. And I need to know when to step back. The problem is sometimes an actor will not want me around, but their partner wants me. So that's very tricky.
Lisa: And do you help the crew to understand what kind of privacy that's needed. And because I did it, once where I was a rape victim and I was left nude on the stage, I just had my socks on. I was so not taking care of like getting there, getting off the stage, getting back to my dressing. I mean everybody like everybody just, you know what I mean? It was just all out there.
Marci Liroff: So I'm glad you brought that up. So another huge part of my job is enforcing the closed set rules because we guarantee these actors that it will be a closed set. And what that means exactly is that we have only essential people on the set. And then nowadays we have monitors everywhere, all over the set. And so we have to make sure that all those monitors are a tinted or flagged. So the crew can't be walking by and be watching the monitor. And also, and that's part of the new set contract, is that this is one of the things that the ICs help them put into the contract, is that the costume people have to be standing by with a robe or cover up so that every time we cut in between takes they throw a robe over them and they're very conscientious about that. So I work with the ADs, the assistant directors to make sure that all the monitors are locked up before every scene. And so it is a little bit like the sex police where I'm running around the set trying to make sure you can't be standing here, and to make sure we're the costume people are providing them with robes. And I also cover background actors. Anytime they have a nude scene stimulated sex to work with them well and make sure that they understand the writer and what that means before they sign it and make sure that it gets signed.
Lisa: Oh, that's amazing. Guys, any other questions on this topic that I just want to talk about sex. So I'm just very curious for all of you. A lot of people learn about sex on TV and in movies and how to treat the other people and what's allowed and what I mean, I just remembered, I think that The Big Easy, there's a scene in The Big Easy where Ellen is, she's getting fingered or something. I don't know what it was, but it wasn't like the traditional thing that we always see this Hollywood clutch with the man on top and the woman on bottom, and I was just like it was so scandalous to me and she's completely clothed but like it's happening under her skirt and I was like damn, you know, that was like really erotic for me and very empowering in a weird way. Like it just, it just wasn't the A B C by the numbers.
Marci Liroff: It wasn't conventional at all and it was very raw. It's probably very raw for that time. I didn’t see any skin and it was still erotic.
Lisa: Exactly exactly. And I just wonder if you have other movies or moments that really stick with you. I mean I'll never forget Monster's Ball was just like. What a traumatic if you haven't seen it, Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton are having sex and they're both very wounded people who have big secrets that the other doesn't know and they're coming together. I mean something I'm just wondering if each of you have any things to share?
Brian: Coming up in the 80s when cable was just becoming kind of getting into households. Like, I remember my grandparents had cable and I remember when I got to a certain age when I got to be a teen and they would go to bed and I would be in the living room. It was moving the chair in front of the TV just in case and keeping the volume really low so that if they did come around, it was just like, it wasn't like I had a remote either. It was the console, you remember the console? You had like the trigger that with the triple, it had multiple numbers on or whatever. So like having a memorized of like okay, I'm going to move to this channel, like I knew where to go. So as a kid, I was thinking about this so like 48 hours was one of those movies where it was like female nudity. But I haven't thought of this movie in decades, but The Lonely Lady Pia Zadora. No? No? Nobody knows? Nobody remembers this?
Dean: I didn't see it. But yes, I went flash. I think I said the title card.
Brian: Holy shit. So as a kid, like 12-13 watching that. I mean, it's a terrible fucking movie first of all. I think it's based on a like a really bad romance novel or whatever they made in to a movie. But she's like, I think she gets raped with a hose. I mean she's not married. Like she's kind of a hostess at a strip club. There's something at the end of the movie and she wins an Oscar for best writing. She goes, I guess I not the only one who had to fuck my way to the top and she saunters off the stage in victory. And it's just like, but as a kid, all I cared about was the nudity. And I still remember those babysitter jobs where it's the snow, like you land on the channel that they didn't have access to, but it would be snowy, but every so often it would like come into focus and so it was just like waiting in like anticipation of a moment. I was like, okay, I caught it, that's my story that's it.
Lisa: Okay, Dean.
Dean: Only until recently did we get cable over here, but we didn't grow up with cable as you describe it. But there was a period in the eighties where the federal government funded a thing called the SBS the Special Broadcasting Service and this was basically ethnic television. So all of a sudden on free to broadcasts, we've got all these French and Italian movies and there's full frontal nudity and there was just all this stuff happening, which didn't happen in Australian TV at all. So that just blew people's minds. So that was just flashed on that. Okay, so not so much scenes but films that I liked. And it's ironically so that you just mentioned The Big Easy because the director of the Big Easy Guy called Jim Mcbride is one of my favorite directors. He also made Great Balls of Fire with Dennis Quaid, yes. But one of my favorite films of all time is a movie that probably no one's ever heard of. It was made in 81 by Jim. It was called Breathless and it was a remake. Yeah, brilliant movie. And talk about killer casting.
Lisa: Richard Gere and that young girl I can’t remember her name.
Dean: I'll never forget it. Don't worry. Valerie Kaprisky.
Lisa: Valerie Kaprisky.
Dean: So it's this doomed romance set in LA and it’s just perfect casting. Richard Gere is just handsome as fuck. He's just absolutely at his peak and she is just gorgeous. And the chemistry between them is unbelievable. So they have a few sex scenes but it's just whenever they're in those scenes, it's just so hot. It's brilliant that for me was a great film. Also a film that I think even today is just still holds up is Lawrence Kasdan, I think it's 1981 as well, Body Heat which is an amazing film. It's so sultry, it's set in hot wet sticky Florida and that's kind of how the movie rolls and it's an amazing film and looking at it recently, it was Kathleen Turner's first role and she just owns the movie. Absolutely owns it. And it's an odd film because the two leads were almost unknown. So she was unknown. William Hurt had done Altered States for that Cronenberg I think. So they were the two leads and really the biggest name in it was Richard Crenna. You know, it's a beautiful one of the best Neo Noirs ever made. But apparently they turned up and there was a shooting schedule and then there was a change in the shooting schedule. Marci you would have had a heart attack. So they've got this fully naked face to face sex scene. They go, I'm sorry we've got to do this on day one. Day one there into this full on sex scene between the two of them and they hadn't met before the film. But so credit to them and to cast on who wrote and directed it because as it turns out, it's just absolutely fantastic. There's a couple of hits for me that really I never forgotten just made me go, wow.
Lisa: You brought up something really interesting Marci, do you have any say in how soon the sex scenes will be shot? I mean it's so it's all based on location and schedule and everything. Do you try to get together ahead, obviously ahead of time before.
Marci Liroff: Well new SAG Rules, which also we accomplished a lot on this contract. The new SAG rules say that we have to give the actor and the representatives a draft of the nudity rider, at least a minimum 48 hours ahead of the scene that we're going to shoot it. Because it used to be that we would give it to them on the set to sign. And what they would try to do is like add things to it on the day. And so this way, with the 48 hour rule, they can't add anything new to it. If the producers want to add something new to it, it starts the clock over. So it kind of keeps it so that these are the things that are on the rider, this is what we're sticking to. We can always make it less, but we can't add new things to it. Some things that I get concerned about is a lot of actresses won't eat when they have a nude scene. And so if they make the nude scene at the end of the day, they're going to be feeling pretty rough and cranky and low blood sugar and things like that. So I will talk to the ADs about that in terms of scheduling, yes, it does come down to location and shooting schedule and things like that. Some of my movies or shows that I remember there are a lot of really great scenes in Euphoria if you take a look at it, it was very interesting and very well done. There's a little indie movie that took place eons, Desert Hearts, and it had two women in a scene that I thought was very erotic. And it stuck with me for one reason or another. Another scene when you talk about actors saying this has to be real and genuine is word has it that on Officer and a Gentleman, there is a really beautiful love seeing simulated sex scene with Richard Gere and Debra Winger and they say that they were actually doing it.
Lisa: Hmm, never heard that, wow.
Marci Liroff: And then just stylized just hot stuff, which is Nine and a Half weeks of course.
Lisa: That's on my list.
Marci Liroff: Of course. I mean Adrian Lyne really knows how to shoot that stuff and he has a terrific eye in terms of certainly cinematography, but also like I saw him once taking, I'm forgetting what movie it was, that he was taking actress around shopping. Like he has a great eye for costuming and music and all that stuff. So I mean, those scenes were very 80s, 90s, whatever it was.
Lisa: Very introducing people to kink light because I think nowadays we look at the film and go, yeah, whatever. That's like that's a Tuesday for me. But do you remember the big controversy in Blue Valentine? Because Ryan Gosling was like going down on Michelle Williams. And it's like people were in shock that he was going down on her and it’s like really? Really why is that shocking? Why is that controversy? Yeah, it was like a really big deal and you know, how many times have we seen women - Yeah, exactly. But I'm a big fan Unfaithful, Brokeback Mountain, that's a very romantic movie. I love that movie. Boys Don't Cry, Secretary, High Art and Out of Sight, Dean loves that movie Out of Sight.
Dean: Yeah, great film.
Lisa: And most recently, if you guys watched Mrs. Fletcher, there's some incredible, incredible scenes and of course, another Kathryn Hahn, “I Love Dick”, love it, love it. Just great sex, great stories, great and on the downside, I mean Handmaid's Tale is so grotesque, but it's a very necessary story. I mean, nobody loves to see sexualized violence, but sometimes those stories really need to be told. And I think The Handmaid's Tale just blows it right up.
Marci Liroff: I agree. I mean, I think it's very obvious, at least to smart people like us. We can tell what is gratuitous and what is not, and what really makes sense to the storytelling and like you said in Handmaid's Tale, it's very rough to watch, but it is telling a story that needs to be told.
Dean: Well certainly somebody that could give a master class on how to deal with sex scenes would be the gorgeous Emilia Clarke who of course played Daenerys Storm Born on Game of Thrones, and here she is talking with actor and filmmaker Jay Duplass about that first season of Game of Thrones take it away Emilia.
Emilia Clarke: Season one of Game of Thrones, everything just did it all. I got raped, I came out of the fire, I was butt naked, fights all of it, I was pregnant and then lost it, and then kind of gave birth to something else. And so season one was the most challenging out of everything. But the naked stuff is always difficult. It's always hard because it's just uncomfortable for many, many, many reasons.
Jay: So many reasons, yeah.
Emilia: And you have to like, it's weird as the actor, I feel like you have to be the one who comes on and says, it's okay, guys everything's going to be fine. Well you guys can chill. It's not a big deal.
Jay: No one ever told me that.
Emilia: You've all seen it. You know, everything is going to be fine.
Jay: It is really weird though, because it's one of the few times where you can't just be in the moment. Because it's like the most choreographed stuff that you have to do and nothing really is going on. So you have to, it's basically like doing Pilates for a long time without any reward to come. Like that's what you don't realize when you're having sex, there's a reward that's coming at the end of this, when you're not, you're just like, God, my core sucks, everything sucks, right? It's a weird thing.
Emilia: It's weird. It is weird.
Lisa: Brian what do you have?
Brian: What I was going to say was, I can't imagine being a teenager in this day and age where you could just hop on the internet and have ready access to pornography just like that. And I'm not saying that the way that I approached sex or trying to find naked scenes in 1980s movies like Porky or Porky's II.
Marci Liroff: I cast those movies. And the same man directed a Christmas story, which I also cast. Bob Clark. He directed all these movies.
Brian: There's a kind of innocence about seeking out those movies, because it's tricky and I grew up in Texas in a pretty conservative evangelical household. So my idea of sex from word go is already kind of like things that I've had to work through. I don't know what this is related to or but there is something about the innocence of like those 80s movies of like going to your best friend's house for to spend the night because like I said, 48 hours is on. And there's a nude scene, you know what I mean?
Marci Liroff: Imagine being a young boy or girl having such readily ready access to porn and that is your education to sex and there's so much violence against women, men in porn and that's how they're learning to treat women is really scary.
Dean: Before we get emails and people start pinging… Altered States was Ken Russell, I've just remembered not Cronenberg. And Brian talking about access to sex as teenagers back in the day. At one point I think we were 15 or 16 school holidays. We wanted to go into the pictures, right? The cinema. And see a film and where you look at the paper, the old printed paper, what's on. And we're looking there was not much on. So we saw this movie and it stars Al Pacino. So we're like, oh Al Pacino, you know he's a cool guy, Serpico and all this.
Marci Liroff: I know what you're talking about.
Dean: Great so here we go.
Marci Liroff: Cruising.
Dean: Oh yeah, yeah. So we walk into the cinema with three 15-16 year old boys. We sit down, we're looking around going, well there's like just all these guys in here, because we didn't know what the film was about. We thought it was like Al Pacino is searching for a killer and we're like, okay great sitting there eating our popcorn and the opening scene is a male, it's this guy screwing a guy in the ass and the guys tied up, it's a bondage scene and we're sort of looking at each other, because we're totally white bread and we're like, what the fuck is this? And then of course the guy whips out a knife and it's very graphic and just brutally mutilates and stabs this guy to death. And all these old guys are looking at us and we're looking like we're too scared to move. We’re shocked by the content, were shocked, like, “uhhh” so we're whispering right, if anybody makes a move, we're going to punch them and run. So we sat through the whole movie, which is a very important movie and a great movie. But as soon as the credits were up, we were like, let's just get out of here and we ran like hell, but that made an impact. I haven't forgotten that.
Lisa: I love all that, I could talk about sex forever, but we don't have forever. Marci, you're my queen. I'm so grateful that we met each other, I'm so glad that we connected and I hope that you continue and what you're doing is so important. I'm so glad to educate our audiences about it and hopefully get the word out. So this becomes the norm and much healthier place. I want you to stay safe out there.
Marci Liroff: You guys too, nice to meet you all.
Dean: Nice to meet you Marci, thank you.
Lisa: And so for now this is Killer Casting signing off.
Brian: Killer casting is a concept created and produced by Lisa Zambetti. Audio engineering by Dean Laffan, mobile art by April Laffan. Website and big fat opinions courtesy of me Brian Allan Hill.
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