One does not simply walk into Mordor but Sean Bean simply walked into a controversy of his own wrongheaded making this week with some unprompted thoughts on Hollywood sex scenes that he really could have kept to himself. The Game of Thrones actor unpacked some of his thoughts on the rise of “intimacy coordinators” and why he’s not a fan of how they “spoil the spontaneity” of sex scenes.
“I think the natural way lovers behave would be ruined by someone bringing it right down to a technical exercise,” he told the Times of London Sunday Magazine. “It would inhibit me more because it’s drawing attention to things.”
Before we go on, we need to talk about intimacy coordinators a little. Following the #MeToo movement and the arrest of former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, many movie and TV studios began mandating intimacy coordinators on sets with sex scenes or sexually charged scenes. Intimacy coordinators do a lot, but their primary job is to make sure that actors feel safe and comfortable with these delicate scenes. Before shooting, intimacy coordinators help draw up a contract that makes it exceptionally clear what the actor is and isn’t comfortable doing and revealing on set, helps choreograph the scene itself to make sure everyone involved knows exactly what to expect and supervises the shoot to make sure the actors are OK with any onset adjustments and nobody is pressured into something they don’t want to do. In an industry famous for pressuring people — particularly women — into all sorts of compromising and demeaning positions, intimacy coordinators provide performers with a voice and accountability.
But Bean apparently isn’t a fan of this extra measure of empowerment for actors, saying it gets in the way of the “natural way lovers behave.” And, well, yes. That’s a good thing. When he’s on set, Bean isn’t a “lover.” He’s an actor. And in the same way he’d probably want to make sure a fight coordinator walked him through all the steps of onscreen fist fight before shooting — even if it gets in the way of the “natural way” fighters behave — actors should be grateful for intimacy coordinators to make sure things on set stay professional.
That’s a point underscored by West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler, who told her own story about working with an intimacy coordinator for Spielberg’s musical and how glad she was for the experience. “intimacy coordinators establish an environment of safety for actors,” she tweeted. “i was extremely grateful for the one we had on WSS— they showed grace to a newcomer like myself + educated those around me who’ve had years of experience. spontaneity in intimate scenes can be unsafe. wake up.”
The Good Place’s Jameela Jamil, who co-stars in Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk, weighed in too. “It’s like a stunt,” she said. “Our job as actors is to make it not look technical. Nobody wants an impromptu grope…”
And then there’s Lena Hall, who worked with Bean on TNT’s Snowpiercer and actually filmed her own intimate scene with him there. In the interview, Bean suggested that Hall may have been more comfortable without an intimacy coordinator and was “up for anything.” Hall took to Twitter to make it clear that wasn’t the case. Though she praised Bean and said she felt very comfortable with him, she also said she felt intimacy coordinators were necessary. “I do feel that intimacy coordinators are a welcome addition to the set and think they could also help with the trauma experienced in other scenes,” she said. “Sometimes you need ’em sometimes you don’t, but every single person and scene and experience is different.”
All that to say, Bean may not feel the need for an intimacy coordinator but, clearly, a lot of actors do. And intimacy coordinators are probably most valuable for women, particularly young women who have less power on set than a seasoned Hollywood veteran. Whatever Hollywood sex scenes might lose in “spontaneity,” they certainly gain in a safer, better experience for all involved.