Earlier this week, an interview with Sean Bean was published in The Times that has sparked a debate about intimacy coordinators across the entertainment industry. Well, more specifically, it has sparked a bunch of actresses to speak out on why they like having intimacy coordinators on set. According to Bean, an intimacy coordinator would “inhibit [him] more” and he called his love scenes in the 1993 mini-series Lady Chatterley, an adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover co-starring Joely Richardson, “spontaneous”.
I’m glad it worked out for Bean and Richardson, but sometimes “spontaneous” love scenes means something like Maria Schneider feeling violated when Marlon Brando “surprised” her with the butter in Last Tango in Paris.
Among the responses, Amanda Seyfried said she wished intimacy coordinators were common twenty years ago, when she was starting out as a teenaged actress: “Being 19, walking around without my underwear on – like, are you kidding me? How did I let that happen? […] Oh, I know why: I was 19 and I didn’t want to upset anybody, and I wanted to keep my job. That’s why.”
I didn’t want to upset anybody. I wanted to keep my job.
Common refrains when it comes to workplace harassment and abuse. Of course, not every director overseeing a set with scantily clad young actresses is a monster, and many likely did try to mitigate the awkwardness in the moment. But as intimacy coordinators—who, like stunt coordinators, oversee close-contact scenes that require technical preparation and a certain amount of naturalism in execution—rose to prominence in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the overwhelming feeling coming from the women in the entertainment industry was relief. Emily Meade, an actor on The Deuce, said having an intimacy coordinator on set “allowed me such a freedom to let go and be more present and focus on my performance than on protecting myself in these scenes. It’s been hugely transformative for me.”
That doesn’t sound like the intimacy coordinator (Alicia Rodis, for the record) got in the way of anything. If anything, she enabled Meade to give the best performance possible in the moment. It’s easy to see Sean Bean as an old man yelling at clouds, but this is also a reminder that as much as things have changed, a lot has stayed the same. And while I have nothing against Sean Bean—he pops up in things and dies, it’s one of contemporary cinema’s most reliable bits—there must always be pushback against comments like this.
No one questions the presence of stunt coordinators or their role in ensuring the safety of cast and crew. Until intimacy coordinators are afforded the same respect—until they’re as much “part of the furniture” as a stunt coordinator—we need to be reminded how helpful they are, even necessary. That for every one actor who thinks they kill spontaneity, there are dozens of actresses who feel safer and freer to perform effectively with them around. Anyway, shout out to all the intimacy coordinators, whom THE Emma Thompson called “fantastically important”. They really are, if making cinema is ever going to be truly safe and equitable for all.
Attached - Amanda Seyfried out for dinner in New York the other night.
Live long and gossip,