Quick — think of your all-time favorite love scene. From your living room couch, what you're seeing is two beautiful people stripping down and getting busy — but the on-screen actors IRL are actually kind of freaking out. As you can imagine, filming a sex scene isn't all it's cracked up to be. There are most likely tons of people ogling from behind cameras and microphones, yelling out directions while half-naked actors try to stay in the zone and move onto the next scene as quickly as possible.
Read more to see what's really going on behind the scenes while you're getting sucked into the down-and-dirty plotline onscreen. You'll have a whole new appreciation for the actors and actresses who pull off love scenes so effortlessly.
In Big Little Lies, Nicole Kidman plays a mother who often engages in violent sex acts to appease her abusive husband. "I felt very exposed and vulnerable and deeply humiliated at times," the 50-year-old actress admitted to W of filming the demanding scenes.
"I remember lying on the floor in the bathroom ... and I just wouldn't get up in-between takes," she recalled.
"I was just lying there, sort of broken and crying, and I remember at one point [director Jean-Marc Vallée] coming over and just sort of placing a towel over me because I was just lying there in half-torn underwear and just basically on the ground with nothing on and I was just, like [gasps]."
Remember Mila Kunis' iconic scene with Natalie Portman in Black Swan? She says regardless of the film or your acting partner, a sex scene is always going to be awkward no matter what.
"It's hard to have a sex scene, period," she told reporters at the Black Swan premiere. "It doesn't matter if it's a friend, a male, a female. You're with 100-something crew members, lighting you, repositioning you, there's no comfort whatsoever."
The English actor told Elle that he doesn't enjoy sex scenes for two reasons: his girlfriend doesn't like watching him onscreen with someone else (can't say we blame her) and he's a germophobe.
"I try to be sensitive to the fact that we're doing something intimate, but also keep a clear boundary. Because I'm in a very committed relationship, and I'm also cognizant that it's not my girlfriend's favorite part of my job. It's a delicate balance to strike," Hunnam said. "I'm also a germophobe. I’ve been profoundly germophobic since I was a young child. I don't want to kiss anyone but my girlfriend for my whole life."
Jenna Dewan Tatum
If there's ever seen a steamy Hollywood couple, it's Channing and Jenna Dewan Tatum. But it seems like the sexy energy stops when the couple isn't together. While we love to fangirl over their marriage, Jenna told E! News that she's not really cool with sex scenes with someone who isn't her husband — especially sex scenes on Witches of East End with Channing's besties.
"It'd be weird if he was like, 'Ah, I'm cool with it, do whatever,' you know? It's never fun [shooting love scenes], but you just get really used to it, it's weird. They [Channing and her male co-stars] are, like, really good friends, so it's even more awkward. 'Yeah, we have this love scene, but we were just hangin' with our wives and husbands ...' It's acting, you know — it's weird."
Who could forget Jon Hamm and Kristen Wigg's hilariously awkward Bridesmaids sex scene? Turns out Hamm found it equally as awkward — especially because he was wearing a flesh-colored thong. He compared it to running in the rain in a 2012 interview with Playboy:
"It's like running in the rain. There's a certain point when you go, '[Expletive] it, I'm already wet. I'm not going to get any less wet, so I might as well just enjoy how this feels.' I mean, sure, there's awkwardness about being in a weird flesh-colored thong, bouncing on top of an actress. I am not a small human being. I weigh at least 200 pounds and I'm six-foot-two. And Wiig is a twig; she's a skinny little thing. It's weird and uncomfortable at first, but then all the awkwardness melts away and you think, All right, we're doing this, so let's have fun with it. You know what I mean? You're in that moment and it's happening and it's not going to get any better, so you might as well enjoy it."
This Southern belle isn't above a raw sex scene! Witherspoon told Vogue that for her role in 2014's Wild, she wanted the scene to be as authentic as possible.
"I just didn’t want to hear, 'Oh, we don’t want to see Reese have sex ... Oh, can we not have any profanity?'" she said. "I wanted it to be truthful, I wanted it to be raw, I wanted it to be real."
But as real as she wanted the scene to be, she confessed to PEOPLE that she was nervous about going barefaced.
“Oh, I’m Southern – I like some makeup!” she said with a laugh. “It wasn’t easy.”
Always one to crack a joke, Wilde told Fox News that sex scenes are uncomfortable thanks to some of the crew working backstage.
"There is always a particularly large and hairy man holding a boom wearing a crop top. I don't know if they're like, 'Ooh, sex scene, where's my crop top because I need to hover above Olivia, make sure my hairy belly is somewhere in the vicinity of her face.' People imagine it's this really glamorous and sexy thing, but I always laugh because in reality there are 50 people in the room. You are stopping and starting. There is someone yelling, like, 'Can you move your hand, can you just put your shoulder down, OK, good, more, more …'"
Speaking of Olivia Wilde, Ryan Reynolds has a particularly hilarious story about a sex scene he filmed with her in The Change-Up — and it involves a bit of wardrobe malfunction. He told Jay Leno about a prank Wilde pulled on him that left him speechless.
“So, in the scene, she’s sitting there and I take her top off and the bra off, and she has those pasties on, but she’s drawn these adorable little smiley faces on them,” the actor explained. “And I forget every line in the scene — not just from this movie but from every other movie I’ve done.”
“At some point in the scene she takes my hands and puts them on her breasts,” he said. “So, they’re there. Palms (are) a little sweaty. I don’t know what’s happening. … And I’m trying not to look at her like a 14-year-old boy that just won the lady lottery.”
“I take my hands away and I look down at my hands and there’s two frickin’ smiley faces on them and I have no idea what to do. The scene is over now. … And I reflexively, like an idiot, just put my hands right back on her breasts. And I think I’m doing it to cover them up, but I’m realizing now that it’s a very fine line between chivalry and, you know, workplace sexual assault.”
This Oscar-winning actress finds sex scenes to be empowering — as long as they're realistic.
"I’m not a woman who's a size 2," Davis told Tom Hanks on Variety’s Actors on Actors. "If I'm in a sex scene, I want to play the sex scene. I want to say, 'This is why I'm attracted to you, it's gotten to this point, this is what my body looks like.'"
It's what makes her proud to play the role of Annalise Keating on How to Get Away with Murder. "I saw it as an opportunity way bigger than doing good work — I saw it as an opportunity for a dark-skinned actress of 50 to be in a role that's sexualized, not sexy," she said. "There's a difference between sexualized and sexy."
Even Christian Grey has trouble in the bedroom sometimes. Jamie Dornan told PEOPLE that the "spreader" sex toy in Fifty Shades Darker was actually invented by EL James, the author of the Fifty Shades trilogy, and therefore presented a challenge when the props department had to build it from scratch.
“The spreader bar, they made that,” Dornan said. "They were actually really struggling to get their hands on that."
"It didn't work a couple of times and held us back a little bit. It didn't quite achieve what we wanted it to achieve, but when it mattered it worked, so it was all good."
During a SiriusXM Town Hall, Pratt said that while he gets anxious about shooting sex scenes, he tries his best to be a gentleman and make his co-star as comfortable as possible. After Jennifer Lawrence said she turned to alcohol to film her first-ever sex scene, which she shared with Pratt in Passengers, he said he tried to help out as best he could.
"I don’t want to make generalizations based on gender, but I feel the responsibility falls on me [to make my co-star comfortable], and I’ve been in that situation a couple times," the actor said. "Essentially it’s your job to just minimize the discomfort by, you know, making sure there’s nobody else on set than is required, having a closed set, periodically checking in, and just doing everything you can to assure the person you’re with that they’re okay."
He continued, "For all the sense of anxiety that comes leading up to a scene like this, you get into it and you realize there's really nothing sexy about it at all. It’s just really awkward. But you know, it’s part of the gig and you just do what you can to check in with the other person and try to minimize any discomfort that they feel."