Everybody’s Doing It…or Are They?
The final Fifty Shades movie hits theaters this weekend steaming up cineplexes everywhere. These days, “sexy” movies are a rarity. But not so long ago, movies were filled with racy scenes that were rumored to be the real deal. In this article from Movieline’s 1993 “Sex” issue, Martha Frankel and her friends try to figure out how much Method acting went into some famous sex scenes.
Long after a sexy movie’s made its way to the bargain bin at your video store, the gossip lingers on: were the stars making love for real when those steamy scenes were filmed? An informal survey of the movies most whispered about separates the acting from the act.
When we were teenagers, my friend Paula and I would spend hours playing what we called “the bed game.” The rules were simple: one of us would name two people we admired from afar–they could have been writers or doctors or accountants, but somehow they always wound up being actors and actresses–and the other one had to describe what these two would do to each other in bed. The older we got, the more graphic the game became. All Paula would have to say was “then he put his toe…” and we would have to run to different sides of the house, so that our hysteria would have some bounds.
It’s been years since I’ve spoken with Paula, and years since I’ve played the game, but every once in a while, a rumor will surface about some sex scene that supposedly was really enacted in front of the cameras, and all I can think is that Paula and I were on the right track.
Now, most of these rumors are probably started by publicity people hoping to attract large crowds to the theaters or video stores, but some of them just refuse to die. In the interest of fairness, I invited my girlfriends over to watch–and rewatch–those sex scenes that are supposed to be real. Paula, we sorely missed you.
Don’t Look Now
Only Nic Roeg, when he was brilliant, could have directed this amazing film. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland are a couple whose daughter dies accidentally (watching Sutherland’s reaction to the child’s drowning is a seminal movie going experience, although I admit that has nothing to do with this article). They travel to Venice, where Sutherland is renovating some churches, and fall in with a blind psychic who can “see” the dead daughter. The movie is full of frightening images and horrific pain, but that’s not the reason people have talked about it ever since its release.
It was the sex scene, which many people still rank as the hottest thing ever to be filmed. It’s really just a simple domestic scene, involving two people who are in love . . . no humiliation, no manipulation, no violence. (Why hasn’t anyone ever thought to find this sexy, before or since?) It begins as Christie takes a bath and Sutherland a shower. We watch them drying off, Christie kidding Sutherland about his love handles. Then they are lying on the bed, Christie in her robe, Sutherland naked. She tells him he has toothpaste all over his mouth. “Eat it off,” he says, leaning toward her. A piano concerto begins–which I always like as background music, don’t you?–and we never hear another word from them. Christie begins to stroke his naked back. They kiss. We flash-forward to her putting on her sweater afterwards. Then we flashback: she’s on top, naked. We go forward again to Sutherland getting into his pants. Back: she licks his armpits. Forward: he pulls up his zipper; she steps into her underpants. Back: he’s on top, beginning to sweat. You can almost smell them. Christie is incandescent. And when she reaches between her legs, the look on Sutherland’s face says that she’s hit pay dirt.
My friend Annie and I watched this scene a dozen times, although, strictly speaking, we didn’t need to: we were convinced from the first time that Christie and Sutherland weren’t pretending. When I had a chance to ask Roeg, straight out, if they really screwed each other during the filming, he laughed his wicked little laugh, gave me a wink, and wouldn’t say a word.
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Here we get to see Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange before they were caricatures of themselves. Did they really do it? Would Jack have dared, with Anjelica Huston in the same film? Whadda you think?
Nicholson plays a drifter who winds up at the garage/restaurant owned by Lange and her Greek husband. Jack takes him up on his offer of a job because he lusts after the pretty wife who bakes in the kitchen. Lange’s cold to him. That excites Nicholson even more. He attacks her one night in the kitchen. She resists. He thinks this means she really wants him. Turns out, he’s right, she does. And so he has his way with her right on the table where the loaves of bread are rising. Dough and flour go flying. The fact that Jessica is wearing a ’30s-style garter belt is part of the turnon. She diddles herself and then Jack moves her fingers away and inserts his own.
Linda and I decided that all this diddling looked real, but was actually all smoke and mirrors. We figured Jack was probably winking the whole time and rushing off to be with Anjelica, who plays a lion tamer he later screws. In the movie, I mean.
Nice snatch, terrible film. Since my friends and I didn’t get to see the scene where Michael Douglas has his mouth on that snatch–the unrated video wasn’t out yet–it’s hard to say if the sex here is real. When Sharon Stone is on top, Douglas seems too relaxed. When he’s on top, his drooping ass is all anyone can focus on. Nah, I don’t buy it for a minute. Sharon Stone seems too witty to stoop that low.
I can just imagine the pitch meeting for this film. “Okay, we get this guy, he’s a dick. I mean, like in private eye. Ha, ha. So anyway, he’s hired to find a guy who’s missing. The dick’s name is Harry Angel, the guy who’s missing is Johnny Favorite. Okay? So anyway, the guy who hires Mr. Angel, his name is Louis Cyphre. Like Lucifer. The devil. Get it? Anyway, we get, oh, like… hey we get Robert De Niro to play the devil. Yeah, yeah, that’s good.
“Okay, so Angel has to try to find this guy, and there’s some nonsense voodoo, we’ll figure that part out later, but there’s a lot of chickens and blood and killing. Are you with me so far? Okay, good, so we get, like, Mickey Rourke to play Angel, that’ll be casting against type. And then he finds a girl who might be Johnny Favorite’s daughter, some beautiful mulatto–maybe Lisa Bonet plays her. He’s poking around in some bushes and he hears a noise: It’s her, all right, wearing a dress that is open so one of her tits is sticking out and she’s dancing to this wild voodoo music. And over her head, she has a live chicken. Yeah, a live one. And she cuts its throat and the blood spills all over her and she rubs it into her tits and humps the ground. Man, it’ll be wild.
“And somehow, she and Rourke get together to fuck, and this is the best part…he imagines that he’s cutting her throat and strangling her while he’s sticking it to her, and there’s blood dripping on her naked ass and he’s pumping real hard and maybe hurting her, maybe not. It’s hard to tell what’s real here. So get me Mr. De Niro on the phone, will ya?”
Not much more to say, except that I don’t believe for a minute that they really did it. In any case, I hope Lisa Bonet got paid a fortune. And invested it wisely.
If there’s a plot in this movie, I failed to understand it. It has something to do with Carré Otis being a brilliant lawyer (fluent in five or six languages) and Jacqueline Bisset being her boss, a tough bitch lawyer who likes to dance and dress up as a man. They go to Rio to do a deal, but Bisset has to rush off someplace. While Otis is walking through the ruins of a hotel (hey, I didn’t write it), she comes upon a naked black couple doing the nasty. (There was no doubt in any of our minds that this couple is definitely doing it for real, but then that’s not surprising, because they’re extras.) Otis is embarrassed, mortified. How mortified? She stays and watches till they both come.
But that’s only the beginning. Now she has to fill in for her boss on a date. You guessed it: the date is Mickey Rourke.
Otis shows up with her hair watered down. Rourke shows up with his skin smeared with oil. He talks dirty. She flees. He follows. Later on, Rourke makes her watch as another couple has sex in the back of a limousine (and these two definitely aren’t doing it for real–they’re co-stars, not extras). The next day, Rourke makes her have sex with another man while he watches from below (we couldn’t tell if it was real, but we didn’t care, either). My friend Alice summed up the movie so far by saying, “You could vomit,” and then left the room.
The plot gets more complicated: Rourke gets to ride a Harley (proving what a terrific actor he is); Bisset has sex with a beach boy while Otis translates; the deal goes through. Thank God. Maybe now they can get out of this damp, humid place.
But no. It’s like the last circle of hell . . . before Otis can get out, she has to fuck Mickey. We see him on top, her on top, him arching his back, her arching her back. He sweats, she moans, he sweats some more, she has an orgasm. To the naked eye, and with the video in freeze frame, it sure looks as if Mickey is playing hide the salami with Otis. Alice walked back in for the last 10 minutes and put it all in perspective: “This is definitely real,” she said. “Carre Otis is not a good enough actress to fake an orgasm.”
This is the film that finally answers the question, “How many people really want to see Judge Reinhold’s naked butt?” The resounding answer is: none. Perhaps that’s why this movie went straight to video.
The plot of Zandalee is even more improbable than its title. Judge Reinhold is a poet who can’t fuck. Nic Cage is an artist who can’t paint. They’ve been friends since they were little boys on the bayou, and now they’re both lusting after Zandalee (yes, it’s a name!), who is married to Reinhold, but begins an affair with Cage, who knows how to talk dirty. Got it?
The you-never-heard-of-her-before-and-probably-never-will-again Erika Anderson plays Zandalee with a range that goes from blank to blanker. She’s like a girl in a snuff film who has no idea what’s about to happen to her. To make up for her lack of talent, she prances around each scene with most or all of her clothes off. (This is the best part of the movie.)
Cage utters lines like, “We’re inevitable. I want to shake you naked and eat you alive, Zandalee,” and, “You want it and I want to give it to you. It’s a perfect relationship.” He and Zandalee also have conversations, like when he asks her, “Why’d you marry him?” When she replies, “Because he was a poet,” Cage asks, “Isn’t this poetry?” as he’s slipping his fingers into her underpants. Who are we to argue? But when my friend Val heard Cage say, “When I go in my kitchen and I make toast, I smell your skin,” she went berserk. “Did he say toast? Toast? Why would anyone fuck this guy? And if they did, why in hell would they admit it?”
Now, when it comes to determining whether Anderson and Cage were really having sex in front of the camera, or were just acting, there are a lot of scenes to consider. The inspired lovers have sex in an alley, sex on a clothes dryer (while Judge is in the next room talking to his family, for chrissakes) and, the coup de grace, sex in a church. Since Cage looked to us in all these exchanges of bodily fluid as if he hadn’t showered in a month, we considered the possibility that no actress would ever have really fucked him on- or off-camera. But, after endless watchings, Val and I agreed that the sex here was real, mainly because it’s the only time Erika Anderson didn’t look like she was in a coma.
9 1/2 Weeks
This is one of the most odious movies ever made. I have nothing against degradation and violence, as long as Mickey Rourke isn’t the perpetrator. Here he is, once again (remember Wild Orchid?), as one of the world’s richest men. Kim Basinger is an art dealer. He wants to take care of her: brush her hair, choose her clothes, blindfold her when they make love, force her to crawl across the floor, picking up dollar bills he’s dropped. And you thought you were having fun in your private life!
Basinger likes it. He sticks foreign objects in her mouth–cherries, hot peppers, Jell-O. She swallows. He screws her on a genuine Frank Lloyd Wright dining table. They don’t worry about scratching the finish. He screws her in back of some giant clock tower. They’re not afraid of heights. He screws her in the rain, with water sluicing down all around. Neither of them catches cold. There’s something that looks very much like spittle on Rourke’s lips throughout, which Basinger seems to find appealing.
Could Kim Basinger have really done it with Mickey Rourke? Although I would be personally offended to find out she did, I wouldn’t be surprised. But in the end, my friend Kari and I found nothing believable in this film, except the zits on Rourke’s face.
I have always wished that the rumors about Kathleen Turner and William Hurt were true, if only because Turner had never been this thin and sexy before, and was never to be again, so I’ve always hoped that she got a little bang out of the buck, if you know what I mean.
There are three or four memorable sex scenes in this movie, especially the first one, where Hurt smashes in the window to Turner’s house and takes her on the floor. But my friends and I all agreed that the scene that sticks out (pardon the pun) is when they’re in bed, and the camera is overhead, and Turner reaches under the covers to … rub him. You sure can’t see any panty line, and it seems that what she grabs definitely belongs to Mr. Hurt. Well, anyway, it’s a wonderful scene, and if they are just acting, they’re both crazier than I thought.
Wild at Heart
The truth is, Nic Cage and Laura Dern screw so often in this movie that you can get sore and sticky just watching them. I won’t tire you with the story line, or with comments about Diane Ladd’s over-the-top performance, or with details regarding the medley of bit players who try to steal the whole shebang. My friends and I all feel that Laura Dern is a fantastic actress, more than able to fake multiple orgasms. Since Cage is the one she’d have to have been fucking, we just pray she wasn’t Method acting.
Last Tango in Paris
Ouch! The movie that did more for the dairy industry than a million milk commercials ever could.
Marlon Brando is looking for an apartment in Paris. The sexy Maria Schneider is looking at the same flat, and instead of flipping a coin, they screw standing up. (My friend Molly and I watched this and didn’t think it could be real: Molly observed, “His, uh, member would have to be 18 inches long.”)
Brando’s wife has just committed suicide. Schneider’s boyfriend is a filmmaker. Brando gets the apartment, but Schneider comes over to talk–and get laid. He won’t tell her his name or let her tell him hers: the ultimate zipless fuck.
Were any of this film’s sex scenes real? Well, Molly and I absolutely thought that Schneider’s look of pain in the much-discussed butter scene was convincing. Besides that, there’s not much else to say. It’s kind of boring to watch this movie now, but some of it is endearing, like when Schneider rubs Brando’s zipper and asks, “What’s this for?” “That’s your happiness,” Brando replies with a smile, “and my happ-penis.” They sure don’t write dialogue like they used to.
You probably haven’t seen this film, and I’m not really recommending it. You may just want to fast-forward to the very end, which was certainly what Nancy wanted us to do. “What’s the point in watching the whole thing,” she kvetched, “when all we want to see is the finale?” Disgusted, she left the room. “Call me in for the last half hour,” she told us. Anyway, in this movie, Bruce Dern is at his most deranged, which is saying something. He plays a heavily tattooed tattooist who has a crush on a model, Maud Adams, who must actually be a model ’cause she’s certainly no actress. When he’s asked to paint her body for a photo shoot, he does a beautiful job. He expects her to see what a genius he is, but when the shoot is over, she goes into the shower and washes his vision down the drain. She asks him out to dinner and, at the restaurant, he shows his charm by first shoving, then threatening to kill her ex-boyfriend. My kind of guy. Later, he invites her to his apartment in Hoboken for a Japanese dinner. She likes him and wants to fuck. He goes bananas and tells her never to say “fuck” in front of him again. (He thinks it’s crude.) She leaves. He goes to a peep show and talks dirty to the girl behind the glass.
When he calls, she asks him not to call again. So Bruce does the unexpected, which in some circumstances is a very nice quality, but not here, because he kidnaps her. Worse, he takes her to his family’s house on the beach in order to start tattooing her entire body against her will. Only then, he tells her, after she has “the mark,” will he have sex with her.
So, finally, she’s ready and he lays her on the floor to do it. (We called Nancy back in.) Unfortunately, by then, there’s something kind of comical about the two of them. They’re head-to-toe in these bright tattoos, and it’s like watching all the Disney characters at an orgy. The torment on Dern’s face made us believe that this was real, but, then, we really couldn’t have cared less.
Those were the films I viewed with my girlfriends. But then I remembered one more I’d seen:
One day, my Aunt Tillie and I were tooling around Miami Beach, trying to think of something we could do to get away from the heat. We saw a marquee that said Betty Blue. “Sounds interesting,” she said. We went in.
In the first two minutes of the movie, Betty and her boyfriend Zorg went at it like no one’s business. I didn’t breathe or move my head. When it was over (they had simultaneous and powerful orgasms), Tillie turned to me and said, “Hmmmm. What’s this movie about?” I shrugged and asked if she wanted to leave. She didn’t want to. I love her for that.
Later on, when Zorg had his head between Betty’s legs and was definitely licking his way to heaven, Tillie turned to me and said, “Have you ever let a boy do that to you?” “Ssshh,” I answered, turning beet-red in the dark. “I’ll tell ya later.” For three hours after the movie ended, she made me give her a detailed list of what parts of my anatomy had been involved in various sexual acts. Sometimes she laughed, other times she just shook her head in wonder. “I was born too early,” was her only lament.
Oh, those wild Frenchmen . . . Zorg even had little drops of saliva on his lips when he brought his head up from between Betty’s legs. I’d bet my firstborn that this is the real deal.
Martha Frankel interviewed Spike Lee for our November issue.
Posted on February 9, 2018, in Movieline Articles, Movies and tagged 9 1/2 Weeks, Angel Heart, Basic Instinct, Body Heat, Don't Look Now, Last Tango in Paris, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Wild at Heart. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.