Supported by

Atlantic Documentaries

#MeToo Is Changing How Sex Is Simulated on Set

May 10, 2019 | 103 videos
Video by The Atlantic

In 2007, the actor Maria Schneider revealed something disturbing that had occurred while filming what became one of her most lauded performances, in the 1972 movie Last Tango in Paris. Schneider alleged that the director, Bernardo Bertolucci, had not received consent from the then–19-year-old actress to perform one of the most infamous sex scenes in American cinema history. “That scene wasn’t in the original script … I was so angry,” Schneider told the Daily Mail. “I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set.” Schneider added that while her scene partner, Marlon Brando, had reassured her that it was “just a movie,” Schneider felt so violated that she cried “real tears.”

Actors such as Schneider have been voicing their concerns about mistreatment in scenes of intimacy for decades. It wasn’t until the #MeToo movement, however, that a growing demand for more ethical practices across the entertainment industry forced Hollywood to take actors’ distress seriously. “Now, finally, the industry is listening,” says Chelsea Pace, a co-founder of Theatrical Intimacy Education, in a new documentary from The Atlantic.

In the film, we hear from several professionals whose careers are dedicated to staging sex scenes for film, television, and theater. These “intimacy choreographers” ensure that actors are respected throughout the process of choreographing simulated sex.

“There are no actual sexual acts that happen on set,” says Alicia Rodis, an intimacy coordinator for HBO who has worked on shows such as The Deuce. “So much of it is smoke and mirrors.”

Claire Warden, an intimacy choreographer, feels a great responsibility to uphold standards of consent on every set, despite the fact that only 20 intimacy directors are currently working in Hollywood. “I feel that every room I’m not in is the potential for an actor to be hurt,” she says.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

Author: Sophia Myszkowski

About This Series

Original short documentaries produced by The Atlantic