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Sex and Nudity on film: An interview with Anna Maguire



Anna Maguire hit the ground running. Her first screen performance, at the tender age of seven, was in a 5 times Oscar winner, the World War II film Saving Private Ryan directed by a little someone named Steven Spielberg. 22 years on and she is still an actor, but since 2014 has been writing and directing her own projects too. “As much as I love acting I realised that I needed to have my own creative voice outside of being a conduit for someone else's voice,” she tells me.


Made public online for Valentine’s Day 2020 Constellations is a bold and beautiful short film that illuminates the female appetite for sexual discovery through a young woman’s awakening to desires that can’t be met through her boyfriend. Maguire wrote and directed the film, and then realised that she needed to star in it too because the role required nudity. “I didn't feel like I could ask someone to do that, without having done it first. I feel now I could say, 'Look, this is what I'm willing to do, this is what I do, this is how I would treat a subject like this. Trust me!'”


I am a film journalist, both bored out of my skull and riled up by decades of watching female flesh used to titillate by mostly male directors who think their basic fantasies are in any way new and who alienate women by presenting bodies that are weaponized, like Amazonian suits of armour. What makes me sit up and pay attention is nudity presented as vulnerability. This is how Maguire uses herself in Constellations, stripped to her core. We spoke about navigating nudity in her film and in the wider industry.


How does it feel to direct a film naked?


Great. Liberating. I believed in what I was trying to say so I didn't feel like the nudity was ever gratuitous. That, for me ,was important. As an actress in other things, I definitely am careful about nudity. I ask, 'Do I feel like this is integral to the piece?' and sometimes yes and sometimes no. I've had some nudity clauses where I'm like, actually, we can have the suggestion of nudity but I don't want this on show, and there are some things where I'm like, 'Absolutely! This really serves the message, the piece, the story, the characters.'


What advice would you give to someone new to the industry if they read a script featuring nudity and didn't know how to feel about it?


I think if you're uncomfortable with something, you should raise that, and the people who you're raising that with - the directors, the producers - should be respectful. There shouldn't be any pressuring or cajoling or 'Oh, we thought you'd be up for this, but actually you're not worth the time.' If anyone tries to gaslight you into something, listen to those alarm bells. Come prepared. Have nipple covers, have flesh-coloured underwear, because costume should have those things, but if they don't, you've got them. Ask to see the frame. Make sure that the set is closed. If it isn't closed, feel absolutely free to advocate for yourself. Of course it's a bit awkward to stand on set with a bunch of people and be completely naked or half-naked. The important thing is that it's a safe and respectful working environment, and you feel comfortable with what's happening and are consulted every step of the way.


The first scene that you wrote is the balcony one where Sasha has a sexual experience. Where did that come from?!


I'd been talking to a lot of young women about relationships. Various friends had had strange and fun experiences. I had too. Moments were I was like, 'That just happened!' How do I put that in the context of my life?' I'd also spoken to other friends who were saying, 'Oh, my partner would never let me explore such and such.' I used it as an exercise to write something sexy and fun and to fulfil a fantasy, not necessarily my own, but this sense of, 'What does it mean to have desire as a woman?' 'How do you represent that?' and 'How do you have agency in situations where you can come to lack control very quickly?' So, I wanted to explore a scene where a young woman had sexual control, but used it for her own pleasure.


That scene feels really genuine whereas it could easily have felt cheap or titillating. How did you manage to hit that tone?


It's about point of view on some level, right? The scene is not about us watching her or her being "desirable" to someone, it's about her having a sexual experience while being very present and in the moment. That's what I was trying to get to, that you can get carried away in desire, and that sometimes can lead to new and unexplored territory, and it can be a grey area, in terms of, 'Oh, I have a partner' or 'I thought my life looked like this' or 'I thought my desire looked like this' or 'I thought sex looked like this'. All of a sudden it looks different or feels different and what does that mean? Young women in straight relationships often get put in a box, a box of what you should do, what your relationship should look like, and it's very easy to get stuck in this conservative, patriarchal perspective around your own desire. This is a film that opens a door for Sasha to go, 'Oh, desire could look different for me and that's okay too'.


Watch Constellations and let us know your thoughts by tweeting @actorstemple

#Nudity #Directing #Film #Movies #Actors #Training #ShortFilm #Actor #Training #Naked #Intimacy #Director #Filming #NewWriting #Inspo


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