Shia LaBeouf already proved he’s not afraid to bare all for the sake of art when he recently went full-frontal for a Sigur Ros music video. So when he signed on two weeks ago for an unspecified role in Nymphomaniac — director Lars von Trier’s latest cinematic provocation about a sexually voracious woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which will reportedly be shot in two versions, both explicit and R-rated — eyebrows went up all over Hollywood. Did this mean the Transformers and Indiana Jones 4 star would be performing un-simulated sex on screen?
In a word: Probably. In an interview with MTV News to promote his upcoming film Lawless, LaBeouf said that he would do “whatever is asked” of him by von Trier. “There’s a disclaimer at the top of the script that basically says, ‘We’re doing it for real,’” said LaBeouf, while his Lawless costar Jessica Chastain looked on in amazement. “Anything that is ‘illegal’ will be shot in blurred images. But other than that, everything is happening….It’s going to be a wild movie, man. It’s going to be a wild movie.” Check out the full exchange below:
It’s not entirely clear if LaBeouf means “illegal” literally – filming un-simulated sex, especially under the auspices of a narrative movie, isn’t generally against the law in western countries – or as a euphemism for actual sex acts.
But as Chastain herself points out, while Shia would likely be the most famous actor to do the deed for real on screen in a film meant for mainstream (if art house) audiences, he would not be the first. Genuine happy fun times have been happening on screen as far back as the sado-masochistic Japanese curio In the Realm of the Senses (1976), John Waters’ infamous paean to bad taste Pink Flamingos (1972), and Melvin Van Peebles’ blaxploitation classic Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971). But breaking mainstream cinema’s last taboo has only started to pick up real steam in the last decade or so. It started with fellatio, between Mark Rylance (Angels and Insects) and Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave) in 2001’s Intimacy; and between Chloë Sevigny and actor-director Vincent Gallo in 2004’s The Brown Bunny. All manner of real sex, meanwhile, was performed by mostly unknown casts throughout 2005’s 9 Songs (directed by Michael Winterbottom) and 2006’s Shortbus (directed by John Cameron Mitchell).
A few of the actors from these films have subsequently enjoyed a robust career, most notably Sevigny, who went on to star on HBO’s Big Love; and Rylance, who twice won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play. But most of the men and women who have had real sex on screen have yet to go on to any tangible mainstream success. As it happens, LaBeouf has recently made no secret of his desire never to make another big-budget studio film again, and bumping uglies on the big screen could likely go a long way to fulfilling LaBeouf’s wish.
But I’m curious: Would your opinion of LaBeouf change if he does end up having real sex in von Trier’s film? Would you be more inclined to see Nymphomaniac? Would you be less inclined to see any of his other films? Sound off below!