An industry that allowed men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and innumerable other predators to thrive probably requires some oversight, guidance, and supervision to ensure that people performing in sex scenes feel safe and supported. Nonetheless, earlier this week, actor Sean Bean (Eddard Stark himself) felt the need to weigh in and claim that intimacy coordinators—professionals who help guide and moderate the filming of sex scenes and intimacy—have “ruined” the process of filming these scenes. To put it succinctly: The comments were really creepy.
In a Thursday appearance on Australia’s Fitzy & Wippa radio show, Emma Thompson seemed happy to point this out. Thompson said she didn’t know if Bean had been “speaking to someone who found it distracting, but [in] another conversation, you might find that people go, ‘It made me comfortable, it made me feel safe, it made me feel as though I was able to do this work.’”
She also rebutted some of Bean’s statements more directly, including his claim that going with “the flow” back in the day improved the quality of these scenes. That Bean and Thompson are the same age and seem to have very different recollections of what filming without intimacy coordinators was like speaks to power dynamics that Bean, as a man, has benefited from—and never even had to think about.
“No, you can’t just ‘let it flow,’” Thompson said. “There’s a camera there and a crew, it’s not on your own in a hotel room. You’re surrounded by a bunch of blokes carrying things.” According to Thompson, in most cases, filming intimate scenes is “not a comfortable situation, full stop.”
Thompson isn’t the only actor who’s spoken out in response to Bean’s statements. Lena Hall, with whom Bean filmed a sex scene in TNT’s Snowpiercer, tweeted on Monday that Bean made her feel “comfortable” and was a “true scene partner”—but nonetheless, “if there is any part of me that is feeling weird, gross, over-exposed etc... I will either challenge the necessity of the scene or I’ll want an IC.” She added in a later tweet, “I do feel that intimacy coordinators are a welcome addition to the set and think they could also help with the trauma experienced in other scenes. Sometimes you need [them], sometimes you don’t, but every single person and scene and experience is different.”
Other actors were more forthright about their disgust with Bean’s comments. Activist and She-Hulk star Jameela Jamil tweeted of filming sex scenes: “It should only be technical. It’s like a stunt. Our job as actors is to make it not look technical. Nobody wants an impromptu grope...”
Rachel Zegler, 21, who became a Hollywood star at a pivotal moment for gender and power in the industry, also weighed in. In a tweet, Zegler seemed to respond to Bean’s comments by emphasizing the importance of intimacy coordinators, who were particularly helpful to her in filming West Side Story at just 18 years old.
“Intimacy coordinators establish an environment of safety for actors. I was extremely grateful for the one we had on WSS—they showed grace to a newcomer like myself [plus] educated those around me who’ve had years of experience,” Zegler wrote. “Spontaneity in intimate scenes can be unsafe. Wake up.”
Everything Thompson, Hall, Jamil, and Zegler have pointed out seems pretty obvious. Clearly, regardless of Bean’s intentions in criticizing the role of intimacy coordinators, his comments came from a place of never being made to feel unsafe in an industry that’s proven wildly unsafe for women, particularly young women.