Simon on the art of on-screen love scenes
Simon on kissing for the camera
‘Today, in the age of rumpy-pump vérité, sex scenes have couples thrashing away against the fridge’
FAN LETTERS aren’t a problem for me – I get so few that I hoard them for rereading on rainy days. But here’s a recent gem. I’ll leave the handwriting to your imagination.
Dear Simon (if I may),
As a fellow thespian, albeit not a pro like yourself, I write to ask your advice – I am rehearsing a play which necessitates certain amorous activities. The female involved is not unattractive – she works in a local gift shop. My wife is also in the cast, playing a minor role. Any tips? Should one hold back on tongues? And what about the other thing? Forgive me writing but my mum was a fan of yours. Kind regards,
Barry [surname withheld]
My first thought was to google the shop where Barry’s co-star works and recommend clenched teeth for the kiss and a firm but gentle knee for ‘the other thing’.
Love scenes are a problem for actors – the protocol and the modus operandi. Things have moved on since the sterile passion of Doris and Rock. In bedroom scenes then, the man had to keep one respectful foot on the floor at all times – hmm, challenging but not impossible.
Actors are crying out for one of Michael Simkins’ informative books on the subject: Kissing by Numbers or Hold Your Tongue. (Raymond Briggs could do the illustrations.)
I have played many love scenes with, among others, Joan Collins and Glenda Jackson – pre-clinch, see if you can guess which one said, ‘Don’t smudge my make-up, darling.’ And which asked, ‘Are you a full member of the Labour Party?’ On screen, actors are not trying to turn each other on – it’s their Twitter followers they have to please. There’s lots to worry about – gravity for starters – the toupee, the lip gloss and the ‘I love Corbyn’ tattoo on their hip.
The major concern is what their partners will think when the scene is aired. (Yes, they’ll go through it frame by frame, muttering, ‘What do you mean, it’s all in a day’s work?’) Whenever I had a love scene on telly my children used to cover their eyes and cry, ‘Kissy kissy woops!’.
In the olden days, love scenes were played out horizontally under a Laura Ashley duvet; today, in the age of rumpy-pump vérité, they’re done vertically with couples thrashing away on breakfast bars or against the fridge, flouting all health and safety regs. Sex al fresco or in cars is all very well on film, but it’s never worked in real life – or is it just me?
Producers now hire ‘intimacy coordinators’ to choreograph the nitty-gritty: ‘Come on: kiss – moan – nuzzle – stroke – roll – straddle…’ Fade to black. Job done.
No tongues, Barry.
Simon plays Justin Elliott in The Archers and is appearing in the new Alan Bennett play, Allelujah!, from 11 July