The evolution of sex scenes have come a long way since the dawn of film. Since silent era actress Louise Willy performed a shocking bathroom striptease in the seven-minute 1899 film “Le Coucher de la Mariee”, filmmakers have been pushing the boundaries of Hollywood cinema. On-screen sex has evolved beyond its largely taboo original existence to incorporate bare breasts and then full frontal nudity, various depraved sex acts including fellatio and, yes, even full-on copulation. For sex-savvy film fans, it can be an insightful and engaging activity to observe whether there’s any real passion and panache within a particular scene of on-screen coitus.
In many cases, it’s easy to find reason to rule out the validity of a given sex scene. Few would describe the frantic swimming pool-based gyrations of Elizabeth Berkley in the infamous sex scene of the even more infamous “Showgirls” as sexy, and even fewer would consider it remotely believable. However, other films have enjoyed more line-blurring success through the sexual chemistry shared by their involved actors or their respective investment in the role at hand. Of course, the rumors, speculation and mythos that surrounds certain filmed sex scenes would not be possible were it not for some scenes that really did depict actors doing the deed.
As a matter of fact, the “did they or didn’t they” question has catapulted some movies and movie couples into Hollywood urban legend territory. The challenge, then, is determining just what sex scenes are legitimately real and which ones simply feature some strong acting performances. Luckily, some have been willing to lift the curtain on the on set goings-on of some particularly steamy flicks. In some cases, that means coyly acknowledging the rumors of real action between the sheets without offering up a denial, while in others it means offering an honest confirmation of the deed having been done. Heck, in one particular situation, the promise of a true-to-life sex scene served as key messaging behind the marketing of a movie.
So what prompts a director or producer to deem that fake sex simply isn’t offering the viewer a sufficiently authentic rush? It is sometimes the decision of adventurous actors to infuse the scene with some added oomph to set it apart from the many fake depictions of the act, but more often it is a zany, domineering director who will use real sex as a means of placing their own garish stamp on the movie. This list includes films from famously eccentric auteurs like John Waters and Lars Von Trier, along with some who flexed their director muscle to insert – no pun intended – themselves into the erotic scene in question.
But even if the director calls for an un-simulated brand of on-screen sex, it still remains up to the actors involved to actually do the deed. While some unknown thespians hoping to make a name for themselves through low budget, indie work might have trouble expressing discomfort to a powerful director, even recognizable Hollywood stars, not to mention a few major players in the music industry, have found themselves in sex scenes either verified as or rumored to be real.