Mulling: do actresses have to take their clothes off to be taken seriously? Think Carey Mulligan in Shame. The “brave” Elisabeth Olsen of Martha Macy May Marlene shedding all for a performance being floating as an Oscar contender. Is it a rite of passage? Or can it be reduced to sex sells, or the idea that producers/directors cast women they’d like to see naked? Thoughts?
Paula Bomer I think it’s that men and women like to see naked beautiful women- producers, directors, actors, viewers. I sort of understand, though, how many actresses – think Uma- even when quite young, decide to stop doing nude scenes.
Sheila Weller I don’t know, but it does seem that actresses (especially beautiful ones) have to gain weight to be taken seriously (and then they mysteriously lose it again). Charlize Theron, Renee Zellweger (well, that was a lighthearted role but still…) and a few others whose names escape me now, but I’m sure you know them….
Susan Wloszczyna What flashed in my mind was Julianne Moore standing there pants-less for several minutes in Short Cuts. It was very specific nudity that got people talking. And it was not so much a turn-on as a statement that maybe got her taken more seriously because it somehow seemed brave. But poor Carey standing in the shower like a bottle blonde rat? No one is really talking Oscar here. She just seemed miscast in an impossible role. I think they took her quite seriously enough after An Education. What she should strip off now are these dreadful worshipful girlfriend roles in Wall St 2 and Drive.
Lewis Beale I think it’s an individual choice. Bombshell Raquel Welch never appeared nude. Around the same time, Angie Dickinson was naked in half the films she appeared in.
Sasha Stone Someone like Natalie Portman who was known as a kid star merely has to undress for that not to be the case anymore. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not. If you’re not respected to begin with stripping down isn’t going to make it happen for you. If you’re already respected and it doesn’t really matter — translation, you’re British — you won’t lose anything by doing so and may in fact lose a bit of the coldness associated with you (Mulligan, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren).
It’s harder for American actresses to flaunt their nudity the way European actresses do with no care about it whatsoever. But that’s because we tend to be a lot more prudish over here in general than they are in France or Italy, where women of all shapes and sizes will parade around in their bathing suits or topless on the beach and it’s no big deal.
In Mulligan’s case, her doing nudity was news but she is sort of saying that she’s a brave enough actress to take it where it needs to go. As far as American actresses who can do both — there’s Natalie, Michelle Williams, Halle Berry, etc. I think it also can hurt actresses who refuse to do it – because it limits them as actresses, I think. Julia Roberts is one who refused to do it…
Asli Coker Nudity, sex and violence is definitely a sell point for Hollywood films; they’re more of an artistic choice in foreign arthouse films.
Thelma Adams So one thing we are saying is that for some actresses – the Fanning sisters, Lindsay Lohan, Drew Barrymore, Jodie Foster — nudity on screen is a rite of passage. It’s a way of saying that they are no longer child stars — they have gone from Lolitas to controlling their images?
A question that Lewis Beale raises is whether sensuality requires nudity — the Raquel Welch question. I suppose another question is what is the line that determines exploitation — was Portman stripping in Closer asserting her power, or acquiescing to pole-dance titillation?
And, Sasha, did it hurt Julia Roberts to keep her breasts covered for most of her career? Did it make any difference when Jennifer Aniston finally tossed her top off?
Andy Viner Seiler TAKE IT OFF! Once upon a time (in the Raquel Welch era mentioned above), women did nude scenes only because they had to and were trying to break into the business. Men didn’t do nude scenes (exception: Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, from behind — pun intended!). Having done a nude scene in the past was embarrassing for top stars. I believe that Barbra Streisand and Goldie Hawn both had their only topless scenes removed from all prints when they later had some serious power, & Tom Cruise similarly had his dangling Little Tommy cut years after he had made All the Right Moves with Lea Thompson.
But one year, when I was well and at USA Today, I noticed a sea change highlighted by the Academy Awards. All five women nominated for the Best Actress Oscar had done nude scenes (even when they were famous). So I wrote about that. But most male stars were still camera-shy about their willies.
A few years later, something I REALLY didn’t expect happened: The men joined the women. I never expected to see All 20 of the Best Actresses, Actors, Supporting Actresses & Supporting Actors had done nude scenes. ANOTHER occasion for a nudity article. (I never expected to see Bob Hoskins’s family jewels, but see ’em I did, & I may never get the picture out of my mind for the rest of my life.
I do agree with Susan Wloszczyna that it depends on the context. Obviously, if you did it as the-next-young-girl-to-get-slashed in a slasher picture, that’s bad. If you did it while being raped in a “serious” picture (Jessica Lange in Frances, Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry), that’s very good indeed.
Lewis Beale I think the answer is obvious: sensuality does not require nudity. I can’t imagine anything more sensual than Rita Hayworth doing the ‘Put the Blame on Mame’ number in Gilda, and she’s sure not nude.
Sasha Stone The nudity that is for sensuality will never result in respectability, particularly, unless it’s paired with deeper intimacy with the character. It’s weird to me to watch an actress, like Julia Roberts, do love scene after love scene and yet never be naked in them. Glenn Close did many nude scenes in Fatal Attraction, for instance, and I can’t imagine that character any other way.
Lindsay Lohan is just a whole different thing. But if you want to go in that direction, look at Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy Macy Marlene – without nudity she wouldn’t be getting half the amount of recognition she is.
In the end, I think it comes down to the part. And the confidence of the actress…
Jordan Bayne Sasha, I was just getting ready to say this ” I think it comes down to the part. And the confidence of the actress….” I do believe it has everything to do with the context, the story. Does it serve the story or is it gratuitous? And, then, outside of the film itself, how the actress handles it? Confidence wins.
Thelma Adams So, Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine – acting. More respect. Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Macy et al: no. Any other simple (or not so simple), specific examples?
Lewis Beale Marisa Tomei in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – acting (and totally hot).
Jan Lisa Huttner I Just saw Sleeping Beauty twice re The Chicago International Film Festival (once in screening room with other critics & once with full CIFF audience). No way you could do that film without the nudity. Me, I thought it was superb. Also saw THE SLUT twice and no amount of nudity will save such a garbled screenplay. So nudity in itself is no longer proof of any thing.
Sasha Stone Thelma, I wouldn’t say it wasn’t acting with Elizabeth Olsen – but I do think it got her attention…another thing we should mention is whether an actress has great tits or not. Someone like Susan Sarandon, Uma Thurman – their tits are legendary. Elizabeth Olsen? Great tits. If you got great tits, sooner or later you have to share them. So goes the unwritten rule. Sorry to be crude. Okay, not really sorry. Okay, sort of sorry.
Lewis Beale I’m there with Sasha. I was just thinking of Sigourney Weaver, who has gotten nude in a few pix, and she is not one whose tits you necessarily want to see. Maybe it’s liberating that she shows them anyway, but still….
Sasha Stone Remember how Robert Altman didn’t show Greta Scacchi’s tits in The Player but did show the other actress’? Someone once said that was what made him a great filmmaker. Scacchi is, however, totally nude in A Man in Love. Again, legendary.
Paula Bomer Ha. Great tits! Poor Meg Ryan got so much crap for showing hers off later in life. And Gwyneth Paltrow in I forget what movie…BUT- speaking of “simple” or not, um, Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls– or Demi and her new fake ones in Striptease.
Sasha Stone Demi’s new fake ones, ha…see, fake ones, always a bad idea. If you’re an actress looking for respectability and you get fake ones and then do nude scenes? As Robert De Niro would say, “it defeats its own purpose.”
Susan Wloszczyna Actually, Thelma, didn’t they cut Natalie Portman’s nude scenes in Closer? She does a strip tease but not all that much is shown. The one sort-of nude scene of recent vintage that sort of keeps bugging me is how Keira Knightley’s one nipple — I believe it was the left one — sticks out of her corset-like undergarment as she talks intellectually with Michael Fassbender post-coitus in A Dangerous Method. That sort of nudity is like an exclamation point on the drama.
Lewis Beale I love how the women here are getting all catty about other women’s boobs. This should be the province of us men.
Thelma Adams I would call it “honest” not “catty.” But, Meow. I found the one nipple peeping over the corset in A Dangerous Method erotic, and restrained.
Lewis Beale O.k., ‘honest.’ So who are the hottest naked actresses?
Lewis Beale I asked you first.
Susan Wloszczyna As for the beautiful breast argument, consider Anne Hathaway. She did nudity in some wretched indie film to escape her Princess Diaries image. But since it basically went straight to video, she had to do it again in Brokeback Mountain to have it count towards her seriousness. The trouble is, now she is like Madonna in A League of Their Own — who hasn’t seen them. Her considerable nakedness in Love and Other Drugs didn’t go very far to sell tickets or add to her rep as an actress.
Sasha Stone Well in my day they were definitely Scacchi, Sarandon, Thurman, etc. But nowadays, when everything is so shallow and empty — let’s see – Kate Winslet, Diane Lane (good use of nudity in that movie), Nicole Kidman…argh, I just can’t go there with the youngers.
Paula Bomer That French actress in The American– caught some of that the other night on HBO. Amazing tits. But regarding all these actors complaining how awkward it is to have sex on film or fake sex rather- I don’t believe it.
Sasha Stone Paula, holy crap! How about that Clooney love scene!? Had I known that scene was in that movie I’d have seen it a long time ago. Dull as soup with a couple of great, great sex scenes.
Susan Wloszczyna There is always nudity for comic effect, too. I found it somewhat amusing but maybe insulting that Diane Keaton flashed her entire body in Something’s Gotta Give and the film was rated PG-13. Nicholson, of coures, flashed his butt to great effect in that, too. Best use of comic if cruel nudity: Hot Lips in the shower in MASH.
Sasha Stone And then of course young Keaton stark naked in Looking for Mr. Goodbar the same year she won the Oscar for Annie Hall. For some actresses, nudity equals bravery.
Susan Wloszczyna You could do a timeline of great Keaton nudity — the tub scene in Shoot the Moon is a fave of mine. Haunting.
Sasha Stone Shoot the Moon, I’m such a Keaton fan that I love all of her movies, especially that one, which has the great line, “I am going to vomit! I just hope I don’t vomit!” Also nude in The Good Mother, I think. Again, great tits make it easier.
Lewis Beale And here I never even thought of La Keaton doing a nude scene.
Thelma Adams Does any body think it’s strange that you can’t say “tits” on the radio? And, yet, it’s so common among women talking about their own girls.
Sasha Stone As George Carlin would say, “it’s like a nickname – Tits, Toots, Toots, Tits.”
Susan Wloszczyna Um, I do not say tits. Perhaps because my maiden name was Titzler. High school was murder.
Susan Wloszczyna Yes, I made a pact that I would take the name of anyone I married. Vowels apparently are a precious and rare commodity in Poland.
Sasha Stone Ha! Funny! You know, saying “tits” is harder than writing it. Somehow, online, it sounds better. In real life, you can’t really say it because it does sound sort of … I suppose we’re all stuck with the chicken-like reference, breasts.
Susan Wloszczyna Boobs is my go-to euphemism.
Thelma Adams OK: boobs. A man recently said to me to get someone “off his tits.” I was like, wow, I couldn’t imagine using that phrase in a collegial email, but I got what he was saying.
Sasha Stone It’s a new thing among my daughter’s middle school friends, too. “Calm your tits,” they say.
Lewis Beale I can’t tell you how much I am learning from this thread.