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Acting is all about faking it. It’s about pretending to be somebody you’re not and getting an audience to go along with it for awhile. Kurt Russell has pretended to be an old west lawman, an outlaw in a dystopian future, and a soldier who travels to other planets. Apparently the actor doesn’t have a problem trying to make you believe in those characters, but making you think he’s actually engaged in sex is something he doesn’t believe you’ll buy into.
Kurt Russell will be playing another somewhat outrageous character in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight later this month but in a recent interview the actor was discussing the roles that he never played when the topic of sex scenes in movies came up. Apparently he was offered the lead in An Officer and a Gentleman back in 1982 by the movie’s director Taylor Hackford. In discussing the sex scenes, the director told Russell that he wanted to go "just beyond the bounds of good taste." Russell apparently didn’t think the sex scenes were necessary to the story, so, as he told Details, he ended up turning the role down, because faking sex crosses a line of believability.
In my career, I've only done a couple of scenes in which there was open sexuality, and it was always a story point. I didn't find a story point in that one—they were just letting you know that people like to fuck. My problem with that is that everybody knows you're faking it. That's just not the way I work. Fake-fucking is tough.
At first glance it’s easy enough to laugh at the idea that faking sex is the thing that breaks suspension of disbelief for the audience, but maybe he’s onto something. Of all the things that we see actors doing on screen, sex is the one thing we can be fairly sure we’re not actually seeing, unless you’re in a different sort of theater.
Kurt Russell is hardly the first to have a problem with sex scenes in movies. On their most basic level they can be incredibly awkward for everybody involved to film, which can certainly make it difficult to make any degree of believability come through. There is also the issue of whether or not the scene is gratuitous. Many actors, of both genders have said that they don’t have a problem with sex scenes as long as they add something to the story. Often, however, the scene is just there because people like sex. As Russell says, that doesn’t exactly tell an audience anything they didn’t already know.
Has a heated scene in a movie ever taken you out of the story because it was most unbelievable thing in the film? Let us know in the comments.