Emma Stone ‘Had to Have No Shame’ About Nudity and (Very) Graphic Sex in ‘Poor Things,’ Says Yorgos Lanthimos
ManOfTheCenturyMovie News Emma Stone ‘Had to Have No Shame’ About Nudity and (Very) Graphic Sex in ‘Poor Things,’ Says Yorgos Lanthimos

Emma Stone ‘Had to Have No Shame’ About Nudity and (Very) Graphic Sex in ‘Poor Things,’ Says Yorgos Lanthimos



Emma Stone ‘Had to Have No Shame’ About Nudity and (Very) Graphic Sex in ‘Poor Things,’ Says Yorgos Lanthimos

Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” features more raunchy sex and frank nudity than you’ve probably seen in a studio-backed feature in a very long time.

In the film, which premieres Friday night in competition at Venice, Emma Stone plays Bella Baxter, a reanimated, brought-back-from-the-dead Frankenstein’s monster creation of her guardian, Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). As she’s an adult woman with a transplanted baby’s brain, Bella is a woman who gets to start from scratch, learning to walk and speak and comport herself in the world. That also means discovering — or rediscovering — sex for the first time.

Adapted from a 1992 novel by Alasdair Gray, the near-two-and-a-half-hour running time of “Poor Things” features a ton of sex scenes involving Stone and Mark Ruffalo as decadent lawyer Duncan Weddenburn, masturbation (at one point involving a piece of fruit), and full-frontal nudity (including from Stone). Bella’s erotic journey in the film takes her from London to Lisbon to a Mediterranean cruise line to eventually a bordello in Paris, where she learns she can indulge in her favorite pastime and get paid while doing it.

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Director Lanthimos spoke at the film’s Venice press conference about tackling the film’s intimate scenes and working with an intimacy coordinator, a profession he once interpreted to be “a little threatening” but one that wound up proving invaluable for “Poor Things.”

Lanthimos also wondered, “Why is there no sex in movies?” Well, he delivers on that open question with a lot of sex onscreen.

“It’s a shame that Emma cannot be here with us to speak more about it because it’s weird that it will be coming all from me,” said Lanthimos, whose lead cannot attend the festival due to SAG-AFTRA work stoppage orders. “But first of all, it was a very intrinsic part of the novel itself, her freedom about everything, including sexuality. And secondly, it was very important for me to not make a film which was gonna be prude because that would be completely betraying the main character. We had to be confident and again, like the character, have no shame.”

He added that Stone also “had to have no shame about her body, nudity, engaging in those scenes, and she understood that right away. The great thing about myself and Emma is that now we’ve completed like four films together. There’s a shorthand. As soon as I started saying something like I just said, she said, ‘Yes, of course, I understand, it’s Bella. We’ll do what we need to do.’”

He continued, “Although we were working on big studios and sets that we built, and there was a lot of crew and lights, we still managed to maintain the same kind of atmosphere that we had in previous experiences, like on location with natural lighting, by lighting the sets as much as we could from the outside of windows.”

VENICE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 01: Holly Waddington, H. Stacey, guest, guest, Yorgos Lanthimos, Robbie Ryan, James Price, Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe attend a photocall for the movie
Holly Waddington, H. Stacey, guest, guest, Yorgos Lanthimos, Robbie Ryan, James Price, Ed Guiney, and Andrew Lowe attend a photocall for the movie “Poor Things” at the 80th Venice International Film Festival at on September 01, 2023 in Venice, ItalyGetty Images

Lanthimos said that naturalistic approach enabled there to just be, at times, three people in the room — “just the camera, sometimes sound wouldn’t be there… it was just (cinematographer) Robbie (Ryan), Hayley (Williams) the AD, and the actors, so that created a comfortable intimate environment.

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker — whose films like “Killing of a Sacred Deer,” “The Favourite,” and breakout “Dogtooth” include kinky sex via his typically twisted lens — also credits intimacy coordinator Elle McAlpine. “In the beginning, this profession felt a little threatening to most filmmakers, but it’s like everything. If you work with a good person, it’s great and you realize that you actually need them. So she made everything so much easier for everyone. Emma and the actors that she rehearsed with, Mark Ruffalo, who she had quite a few sex scenes with, they were all familiar through the rehearsal process.”

He said, “We sat down with Emma at some point, especially for the sex scenes, we just sat down and decided, ‘What kind of position would they be in here? What kind of thing would they do there?’ What’s missing from the experience of sex and the different desires that people have that we need to portray to make enough of a representation of human desire and its idiosyncracies?”

“Poor Things” opens in theaters on Friday, December 8 from Searchlight Pictures.

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