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Enric Ortuño: Spanish intimacy coordinator of ‘Bridgerton’: ‘The pressure actors are under is terrible’ | USA

Voice Of EU



Whenever we talk about the filming of sex scenes and their possible impact on the actors involved, the notorious example of Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris inevitably comes to mind.

Schneider was 19 when she shot the 1972 movie and, as she later explained, a virgin at the time. Director Bernardo Bertolucci, and Schneider’s co-star Marlon Brando, who was then 48, wanted to blur the line between fiction and reality in order to get an extreme reaction from Schneider. So when it occurred to Brando to use butter as a lubricant in a scene in which his character rapes Schneider anally, both men decided it would be better not to warn the actress. “I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress,” the director admitted some years later. “I behaved horribly with Maria.”

Schneider never got over what happened. Years later, she was to shoot an intimate scene in the erotic historical movie Caligula, but just before the shoot got underway, she suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to psychiatric care. Far from supporting her, the film industry painted her as a problematic actress prepared to spoil a shoot. In the 1970s, she suffered from drug addiction and depression and attempted suicide. As far as she was concerned, the scene with Marlon Brando was the underlying cause of her problems. “Even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears,” she said. “I felt humiliated and, to be honest, a little raped, both by Marlon and Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

The actress passed away in 2011 from breast cancer and did not get to see any of the very recent changes in the industry. Paradoxically, these changes are thanks to the man who did much to make the lives of actresses a living hell: US producer and convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein. After his abusive antics became a matter for the courts, cinema and streaming platforms began to seriously consider – for both ethical and legal reasons – the need to work with an intimacy coordinator. This figure is responsible for reaching agreements with actors, and choreographing the sex scenes to make them narratively more interesting, but also less traumatic for actors.

The most powerful actors’ union in the United States, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), defines an intimacy coordinator as “an advocate, a liaison between actors and production, and a movement coach and/or choreographer in regards to nudity and simulated sex and other intimate and hyper-exposed scenes.”

Today, virtually all big-budget series and an increasing number of movies have an intimacy coordinator among their credits, although film has lagged behind TV in this respect. Perhaps the best-known intimacy coordinator is Ita O’Brien, the Brit who choreographed sex scenes in series such as Sex Education, Normal People and Gentleman Jack. Her name became known beyond the confines of the industry when director Michaela Coel dedicated her BAFTA award for I May Destroy You to O’Brien. “I want to dedicate this award to the director of intimacy Ita O’Brien,” she said at the awards ceremony. “Thank you for your existence in our industry, for making the space safe, for creating physical, emotional and professional boundaries, so we can make work about exploitation, loss of respect, about abuse of powers, without being exploited or abused in the process.”

A sex scene from the series ‘Bridgerton.’
A sex scene from the series ‘Bridgerton.’

What is not so well known is that another of the most in-demand intimacy directors, working on series such as Starstruck, Bridgerton, Adult Material, The Girlfriend Experience, Domina and The Nevers is Spaniard Enric Ortuño, from Alicante province, who, like almost all his colleagues in this fledgling profession, came to it by chance.

Trained in theater, he had been traveling to London every year to take courses in areas such as fencing and movement. “Then, in 2018, I was lucky enough while in the US to meet the three women who were blazing this trail,” he explained at the Serielizados Fest festival in Barcelona. “I had always been interested in this world, as a choreographer and assistant of body expression on stage. It’s such a new job and everyone has come to it from a different place. There are people who come from the world of costume, but most of us come from choreography or dance; from some type of physical work.”

Given the job in hand, Ortuño’s personal credentials make him something of a curiosity in the profession. “I’m a middle-aged heterosexual cisgender white male,” he says, almost regretfully. “And this job is 90% about protecting those who aren’t. I’m aware of that and it’s complicated. Sometimes the producers who hire me have to think about this. I could choose not to do the job but I also know that I can help performers have a better experience and, so far, I’ve always had good feedback.”

A common misconception when it comes to intimacy direction is that almost everything takes place on set, such as agreeing on how much is covered by a sheet or how far a tongue goes into someone’s mouth. In reality, that’s only a small part of what an intimacy coordinator does, since set time is expensive. The work starts much earlier, when the script is sent to the actors and the so-called intimacy riders or clauses concerning how each sex scene is going to be approached are negotiated. In the case of big productions, that’s where the lawyers representing everyone from the producers to the actors come in. “I had to learn about this because I had no legal training, but, yes, I spend a lot of time retouching and returning contracts to all parties,” says Ortuño. Often, at this stage of the process, the production team puts pressure on actors reluctant to shoot a scene, using the oldest trick in the book: if you don’t do it, there are plenty of others who will.

Ortuño talks about the recent case of an actor he worked with who was reluctant to show his buttocks. He was told that if he didn’t, he would be fired. Eventually, an agreement was reached. “In this profession, you’re only as good as your last project,” says Ortuño. “The pressure is terrible. They think they’re not going to be recommended; they think they’re going to be vetoed. It puts actors in a very vulnerable position.”

A scene from the series ‘The Girlfriend Experience.’
A scene from the series ‘The Girlfriend Experience.’KERRY HAYES (© 2016 Starz Entertainment, LLC)

Ortuño also likes to make clear that he is not a censor or an agent of puritanism on set; on the contrary. “If your scene needs 20 people having an orgy and it’s necessary for your story, great, but let’s shoot it professionally,” he says. “It has to be established during casting, rather than letting the actor know when they are already on set, which is something that used to happen a lot before. And once we’re shooting, we need to get the protocol right, with a closed set and a reduced crew, so it is seen by a minimum number of people.”

Since the intimacy coordinator is such a new figure in the film industry, there is a generational gap between young actors, who believe shoots have always been this way, and veterans, who are used to a different modus operandi. But most veterans have welcomed the new approach with open arms. “In the old days there was a lot of secrecy, everything was talked about in hushed tones and the actors were tortured by certain things,” says Ortuño. There are two recurring situations: actors, or “performers with external genitals,” who are scared of having an erection on set; and “performers with internal genitals” who are afraid of getting their period when an intimate scene is to be shot. Both things happen, and a lot. And the job of the intimacy coordinator is to navigate these situations so that everything goes as smoothly as possible for everyone.

“Acting is a psychophysical process and the body doesn’t know you’re lying,” Ortuño explains. “Your body actually reacts. It’s quite possible that there will be a reaction to friction and the actor will get an erection. That can’t be foreseen; it’s a primary instinct. So what do we do? If necessary, we stop shooting for five minutes. In addition, the actors wear an intimacy garment [a kind of protector that covers the penis and testicles] and sometimes a silicone barrier is added. In the case of actresses who have their period, we try to make it so a tampon or a pad can be used by modifying the choreography of the scene.”

The ultimate goal for many intimacy coordinators goes beyond protecting actors. After all, there are controversial cases much more recent than Maria Schneider’s. When actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos confronted Abdellatif Kechich, the director of the 2013 film Blue is the Warmest Color about his handling of theirs sex scenes in the movie, he ridiculed them and told them that construction workers had it worse.

A scene from the series ‘Adult Material.’
A scene from the series ‘Adult Material.’

What intimacy coordinators aim for is to change the way sex is incorporated into series and movies. “What we have seen so far in general cinema is only a very small part of human sexuality,” says Ortuño, referring perhaps to the classic heterosexual sex scene which shows the actress’ breasts and just the male torso. “We are trying to work out how to expand it. I don’t have the power to change a script, but I do try to have conversations. I’ve been working on several anal sex scenes lately and I always insist that they include a shot of stimulation and lubrication beforehand. Maybe the director isn’t interested in spending five seconds on that, but I am there to point out that those seconds of stimulation can be just as erotic.”

Ortuño is referring to the controversy surrounding a scene in the fourth season of the Spanish series Élite in which two actors have anal sex without any prior lubrication, prompting a slew of viewers to point out how flawed the depiction was. Sometimes Ortuño wins battles on set, but loses them in the editing room. That is, the scene is shot as he suggests, but then those extra seconds disappear in the final edit.

In the meantime, the credits on his IMDB page are growing. Most recently, he has been on set in Manchester where they are shooting the adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s book, Everything I Know about Love for the BBC. It is a romantic comedy quite removed from his other projects pending release, such as the Netflix fantasy series The Sandman, based on the books by Neil Gaiman and The Wheel of Time, on Amazon Prime. But whatever the series or movie, his ultimate goal is to make the sex scenes more interesting while ensuring the actors feel safe.

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Dad’s army musters in the Dáil to repel the Russian threat

Voice Of EU



Rear admiral Gerry Craughwell is all set to swash his buckle and take to the high seas in defence of Mother Ireland.

Who’s with him?

The Independent Senator is no stranger to military manoeuvres. He joined the British army when he was a nipper before returning home to his native Galway to join the Irish Army, serving with the first infantry battalion based in Renmore Barracks before handing in his sergeant’s stripes in 1980.

But you never forget your training. And now, says Gerry, it is time to take the fight to Vladimir Putin by dispatching a crack force from Leinster House to scare the living daylights out of the Russian fleet on its way to play war games next week off the coast of Cork.

He says members of the raiding squad should be drawn from the elite corps known as the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, nominally under the command of captain Charlie Flanagan but, presumably, led on this occasion by rear admiral Craughwell for operational purposes.

“In my view, the issue of the Russian fleet being off the southwest coast of this country in the next few weeks carrying out an exercise is something that we must monitor,” he told the Seanad on Thursday.

“We must send a Naval Service vessel to the southwest with members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence observing what’s going on there.”

Hear hear!

If the highly armed flotilla does not leave Ireland’s exclusive economic zone in the Atlantic, rear admiral Craughwell will detonate Simon Coveney and bore them all to kingdom come

Imagine the scene: the rear admiral in his cocked hat, standing on the prow of LE Kildare Street, chest puffed out and gold-buttoned arm aloft, waving his fist at Russia’s gunboats.

And behind him, standing strong and proud, the highly trained and fearless members of the joint committee eyeballing the terrified sailors who fear Craughwell’s elite force is concealing a terrifying secret weapon brought specially from Cork specially for this dangerous mission.

If the highly armed flotilla does not leave Ireland’s exclusive economic zone in the Atlantic, rear admiral Craughwell will detonate Simon Coveney and bore them all to Kingdom come.

This is serious.

The Naval Service must also provide search-and-rescue back-up for the fishermen who are “taking their lives into their hands by sailing their trawlers into a live firing exercise area”, the rear admiral also informed the Seanad.

“I’ve been involved in live firing events myself down through my career and I can tell you that when we start to fire live ammunition, there is no guarantee that there won’t be an accident.”

He said the Minister for Defence (secret weapon Simon Coveney) must be apprised immediately of the situation.

In the meantime, we understand members of the elite joint committee are training in the pond outside Government Buildings. They have been issued with inflatable armbands and camouflage galoshes and are ready to scramble at a moment’s notice.

Should things turn nasty corporal Bernard Durkan, fresh from his famous victory in the Battle of Lotto Balls, will command the troops in the ground offensive. Tactical genius Bernard, who was mentioned in Dáil dispatches on Thursday, will bring all his experience to the role.

Major Jim O’Callaghan of Fianna Fáil asked Coveney to look at the mandatory age of retirement for members of the Defence Forces as some of them leave “because they know they will have to retire between 56 and 60. At that age, many people are just getting into their prime.”

He then looked to his left.

“Deputy Durkan here beside me, could you imagine if there was a requirement in politics that people had to retire between 56 and 60? We’d lose some of the best wisdom we have in the house.”

Sergeant Kieran O’Donnell (FG) agreed. “Bernard still hasn’t reached his prime.”

“Obviously, I entirely agree with my colleague’s remarks,” replied the great campaigner.

Minister for Defence Coveney, clearly wrestling with the image of Bernard (76) in combat fatigues, bayonet fixed and going over the top, tried to address O’Callaghan’s point.

“On the image of deputy Durkan being in the Defence Forces . . . eh, eh, I, em, eh, eh, while absolutely, em, the retirement age issues are something, eh, that we have been considering and . . .”

He decided not to think about it.

RTÉ’s New Year’s Eve turkey

Kerry TD Brendan Griffin had some tough questions for RTÉ’s director general Dee Forbes and chairwoman Moya Doherty at this week’s meeting of the Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media.

Why hasn’t RTÉ brought back The Den and why was the New Year’s Eve show so awful this year?

He said the committee complained about last year’s effort and this year “we had an awful debacle of a New Year’s television celebration again. What has RTÉ got against New Year’s Eve?

The one great white hope we had was the return of The Den and for some reason that didn’t come back in 2021… It was one of the most positive developments in RTÉ

“Last year they got the tone wrong and this year they managed to get the time wrong. I mean, you’ve one job, that’s the 10-second countdown, and I’d say CNN were nearly welcoming in the New Year before RTÉ were this year, it was so far behind. Simple things like that really resonate with people.”

Turning to childrens’ programmes, he said: “The one great white hope we had in recent times was the return of The Den and for some reason that didn’t come back in 2021 . . . It was one of the most positive developments in RTÉ across the boards.”

What happened? “I think it was a huge mistake” not just for the children “but for the big kids amongst us who enjoyed it as well”.

Griffin said he was raising the matter because the number of parents who contacted him about The Den not returning “was not insignificant”.

As for New Year’s Eve next time out, “Could ye not just focus this year? You’ve got 11 months to work on it and just get it right for the arrival of 2023, please.”

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne suggested Griffin had so many scripted one-liners that maybe RTÉ might get him to present the show next year.

Paschal’s Ulysses odyssey

As it is, there are barely enough hours in the day to cram in all the eating, lounging, thinking, telly, tea, whingeing, scratching, scrolling and playing with the dog.

And here’s the Minister for Finance and president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, hosting another literary event between running his department, writing reviews, going to football matches, chairing history symposiums, working through his library of music albums and adding to his extensive bobblehead superhero figurine collection.

Just where does Paschal Donohoe find the time?

You’d be inclined to hate him, if he wasn’t, well, so flippin’ Paschally.

This thought occurred on Monday night when he popped up at the virtual launch of yet another book about the book Ulysses, which is in the news because it was first published 100 years ago. The Minister was in conversation with Dan Mulhall, whose book Ulysses: A Reader’s Odyssey is hitting the shops just in time for the centenary next week.

Publisher New Island Books says it is “an essential introduction for all readers seeking to navigate Joyce’s notoriously impenetrable masterpiece”.

Dan also happens to be our Ambassador to the US, so it was a transatlantic Q&A, with the Minister in Dublin and the ambassador in Washington.

Paschal said his “great Covid project of 2021” was to read the book (which, naturally, he has).

“I have a copy of Ulysses which has been in my home for at least two decades and I only had, I guess, the courage to pick it up last year and to begin delving into the extraordinary world that is Ulysses and the extraordinary mind and art that Joyce had to offer.”

He wished he had had a copy of Dan Mulhall’s book to guide him through some of the more difficult passages, because he found the opening chapters “tricky enough. I really had to concentrate and persist at it, to build up a little bit of momentum until I met Leopold and Molly.”

The author’s pragmatic advice to people who get bogged down in some of the more puzzling parts is to simply skip on to the next bit and maybe return later.

“I’m approaching this and I’m talking to you here this evening as a very general reader, somebody who is at the very early stages of trying to understand all that Ulysses has to offer,” explained Paschal.

Mulhall was more than delighted to fill him in further, even managing to get in a reference to the last words of the book and their relevance to the Brexit situation today.

Yes,” chirruped Paschal, because he’s read the book.

But no.

Music-head Paschal has had more than one Covid project on the go. In an interview last year he said he had set himself the goal of listening to all of Bob Dylan’s albums

“The last three words are ‘Trieste, Zurich and Paris’,”declared Dan, pointing to the significance of Joyce going to the trouble of writing down that his novel was written in three different European cities at a time of great conflict and change.

Even “the humble reader like myself” can discover the layers and depths in Joyce’s great work, said the president of the Eurogroup, quoting from a “lovely essay” by Anne Enright which he read in the New York Review of Books last year. “Ulysses invites meaning then throws it back at you, multiplied.”

And, as a Ulysses novice, he hailed the veteran diplomat’s book as “a compass to help us on the changing journey that each read offers”.

Mind you, music-head Paschal – a regular reviewer on these pages – has had more than one Covid project on the go. In an interview last year he said he had set himself the goal of listening to all of Bob Dylan’s albums. He must have achieved it because he is now moving on to The Beatles.

Where does he find the time?

A real beaut

Maybe Dan Mulhall’s next literary explainer might be a guide to interpreting and understanding the complex and sometimes baffling world of the parliamentary written reply.

Here’s one from this week in response to a question to the Minister for Finance by Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe, who asked why the beauty industry is subject to a VAT rate of 13.5 per cent while the hairdressing sector pays a 9 per cent rate and if this anomaly can be rectified.

“The VAT rates applying in Ireland are subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. While hairdressing services apply the 9 per cent rate from 1 November 2020, services consisting of the care of the human body, including beauticians, are subject to the 13.5 per cent rate,” it stated.

“This arises from the fact that many of the goods and services to which Ireland applies a reduced rate of VAT, including services related to care of the human body, have their basis under an EU derogation that provides that as Ireland applied a reduced rate to these items on 1 January 1991, we are entitled to continue applying that reduced ate to those items. However, this is conditional on the rate being no less than 12 per cent. These are known as ‘parked’ items, and are provided for under Article 118 of the EU VAT directive. As the services provided by beauticians are part of these parked items, it is not possible for Ireland to apply the rate of 9 per cent to them.”

Parked items?

With this sort of stuff emanating from Paschal’s department, it’s no wonder he was able to finish Ulysses in under a year.

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Rule number one of ‘Fight Club’ in China: The police always win | USA

Voice Of EU



The first rule of Fight Club in China is that the police always beat the criminals. The second rule is that buildings are not demolished. And the third is that if the ending is considered unsuitable, change it.

David Fincher’s 1999 cult film, which was shown just once in Chinese theaters during an edition of the Shanghai Film Festival, is now available on tech giant Tencent’s streaming services in China. But with a different outcome. Warning this article contains spoilers.

In the original, the narrator, played by Edward Norton, has just “killed” his imaginary alter ego, Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, and watches the explosion of several nearby buildings with his girlfriend Maria, played by Helena Bonham-Carter. The anarchist revolution advocated by Durden is underway.

In Tencent’s version, on the other hand, there are no explosions and no scenes of Tyler and Maria holding hands as they watch the destruction. Instead, the screen turns black and writing appears, explaining that the police “arrested all the criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.” According to this alternative ending, Durden is sent to a psychiatric hospital, from which he is released in 2012. Screenshots of the new ending went viral last weekend in China, with comments mocking the changes. Although the film was shown just briefly in movie theaters, many fans have been able to watch pirated versions of the original over the past two decades, and considered the ending one of the film’s fortes.

“When a director comes to present his film in China, people will ask: director, why is your film so avant-garde that it completely dispenses with audiovisual language, ending it instead with just a poster and a story about respecting the law? Is it a satire on censorship in your country? And the director will answer: What? I filmed that?” wrote one user of Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. “Probably everyone in Ocean’s Eleven would also get arrested. And the whole Godfather family, too,” scoffed another. “But the ending was great! A bunch of foreigners in a terrible situation setting off terrorist bombs – a perfect scene to encourage [Chinese] nationalism,” joked another.

(l-r) Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee in 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' another movie that was altered for audiences in China.
(l-r) Joseph Mazzello, Rami Malek and Gwilym Lee in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ another movie that was altered for audiences in China.

It is unclear whether it was Tencent or the film’s original producers who made the changes. On the Chinese movie review platform Douban, the original film is rated nine out of 10 and has 744,000 comments.

China currently has a flourishing movie market, one in which just over 30 foreign films are released on the big screen each year. In fact, it overtook the US market for the first time in 2020, due in part to a quicker recovery from the pandemic. And, according to research portal, it is expected to gross $16.5 billion by 2026, annual growth of 30.1%, with respect to the $3.4 billion in 2020.

Within this market, Fight Club is not the only Hollywood movie to be changed. In 2019, scenes from Bohemian Rhapsody that alluded to Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality were carefully cut out in the Chinese version. While same-sex relationships are not illegal in the world’s second-largest economy, it is considered a sensitive issue and scenes portraying it are often, but not always, removed. Theoretically, they have been banned on television and also on streaming platforms since 2017.

The ending of ‘Lord of War,’ starring Nicholas Cage, was also altered in China.
The ending of ‘Lord of War,’ starring Nicholas Cage, was also altered in China.

Lord of War (2005) endured a similar fate to that of Fight Club. In its original version, the main character, an arms dealer played by Nicholas Cage, manages to escape prison and resume business. The film alludes to the fact that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council ­– the US, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – are the planet’s main arms dealers. But the version for the Chinese market, which is half an hour shorter than the international version, removes the original ending and replaces it with a text stating that the Cage “confessed to all the crimes of which he was officially accused during the trial, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.”

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High Court orders man to repay €30,000 awarded over fall on slippery tiles

Voice Of EU



The High Court has ordered a man who fell on slippery tiles on the porch of his rented council home to pay back €30,000 he received in part compensation.

Mr Justice John Jordan also ordered solicitors who acted for Thomas Keegan (53) to repay €20,000 received in part payment of fees.

The judge made the order in relation to monies paid by Sligo County Council as a condition of being allowed to appeal a €105,000 award made by the High Court in 2017 to Mr Keegan over the accident at his home at McNeill Drive, Cranmore, Co Sligo.

Mr Keegan, who previously worked as a paver, had claimed the slippiness of the terracotta tiling originally installed in the porch, as well as the angle of the porch to face the prevailing wind and rain in Sligo, created a particular hazard.

In 2017, the court found the council was liable and there was no contributory negligence on Mr Keegan’s part.

However, the council was permitted to appeal on the basis of paying €50,000, including the monies to Mr Keegan’s solicitors on his behalf.

Failed to prove

The Court of Appeal (CoA) ordered a retrial and, earlier this month, Mr Justice Jordan found that the plaintiff had failed to prove the council was “in any way responsible” for the accident. He also found it “artificial” for Mr Keegan to suggest he was a visitor to his home, which he rented and occupied.

The case came back before Mr Justice Jordan on Friday for the matter of costs in relation to the second High Court hearing.

Peter Bland SC, for the council, argued his client was entitled to those costs but he had no objection to a stay in the event of another appeal to the CoA. He sought the repayment of the €30,000 for Mr Keegan and the €20,000 for his solicitors given the outcome had been overturned.

John Finlay SC, for Mr Keegan, said he could not oppose the costs order or an order for the return of the monies.

Mr Justice Jordan granted the council its costs for the retrial with the exception of one day’s costs related to the evidence of an expert introduced by the council “who made a difference” to the case.

It was unfortunate the council did not engage this expert at an initial stage in the case and Mr Keegan might have been spared all of this time and expense that followed, he said.


He also ordered the return of the monies paid out but noted that if the council had difficulties with that money being paid as a condition of it being allowed to appeal, it could have appealed that matter itself but it did not.

The court heard the accident occurred on November 18th, 2013, when Mr Keegan was returning home sometime after 5pm after visiting a number of pubs in which he had consumed five pints of Guinness.

He suffered a significant injury to his left ankle, with X-rays revealing a fracture to his left distal tibia and fibula.

The council did not argue the consumption of this level of drink was an act of contributory negligence but argued it as a factor in regard to Mr Keegan’s duty to take reasonable care for his own safety and in his conflicting accounts of how the accident occurred.

Having heard expert evidence, Mr Justice Jordan was satisfied the unglazed tiles did not pose a danger.

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