Everybody's Doing It...or Are They?

Long after a sexy movie's made its way to the bargain bin at your video store, the gossip lingers on: were the stars making love for real when those steamy scenes were filmed? An informal survey of the movies most whispered about separates the acting from the act.

When we were teenagers, my friend Paula and I would spend hours playing what we called "the bed game." The rules were simple: one of us would name two people we admired from afar--they could have been writers or doctors or accountants, but somehow they always wound up being actors and actresses--and the other one had to describe what these two would do to each other in bed. The older we got, the more graphic the game became. All Paula would have to say was "then he put his toe..." and we would have to run to different sides of the house, so that our hysteria would have some bounds.

It's been years since I've spoken with Paula, and years since I've played the game, but every once in a while, a rumor will surface about some sex scene that supposedly was really enacted in front of the cameras, and all I can think is that Paula and I were on the right track.

Now, most of these rumors are probably started by publicity people hoping to attract large crowds to the theaters or video stores, but some of them just refuse to die. In the interest of fairness, I invited my girlfriends over to watch--and rewatch--those sex scenes that are supposed to be real. Paula, we sorely missed you.

Don't Look Now

Only Nic Roeg, when he was brilliant, could have directed this amazing film. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland are a couple whose daughter dies accidentally (watching Sutherland's reaction to the child's drowning is a seminal movie going experience, although I admit that has nothing to do with this article). They travel to Venice, where Sutherland is renovating some churches, and fall in with a blind psychic who can "see" the dead daughter. The movie is full of frightening images and horrific pain, but that's not the reason people have talked about it ever since its release.

It was the sex scene, which many people still rank as the hottest thing ever to be filmed. It's really just a simple domestic scene, involving two people who are in love . . . no humiliation, no manipulation, no violence. (Why hasn't anyone ever thought to find this sexy, before or since?) It begins as Christie takes a bath and Sutherland a shower. We watch them drying off, Christie kidding Sutherland about his love handles. Then they are lying on the bed, Christie in her robe, Sutherland naked. She tells him he has toothpaste all over his mouth. "Eat it off," he says, leaning toward her. A piano concerto begins--which I always like as background music, don't you?--and we never hear another word from them. Christie begins to stroke his naked back. They kiss. We flash-forward to her putting on her sweater afterwards. Then we flashback: she's on top, naked. We go forward again to Sutherland getting into his pants. Back: she licks his armpits. Forward: he pulls up his zipper; she steps into her underpants. Back: he's on top, beginning to sweat. You can almost smell them. Christie is incandescent. And when she reaches between her legs, the look on Sutherland's face says that she's hit pay dirt.

My friend Annie and I watched this scene a dozen times, although, strictly speaking, we didn't need to: we were convinced from the first time that Christie and Sutherland weren't pretending. When I had a chance to ask Roeg, straight out, if they really screwed each other during the filming, he laughed his wicked little laugh, gave me a wink, and wouldn't say a word.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Here we get to see Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange before they were caricatures of themselves. Did they really do it? Would Jack have dared, with Anjelica Huston in the same film? Whadda you think?

Nicholson plays a drifter who winds up at the garage/restaurant owned by Lange and her Greek husband. Jack takes him up on his offer of a job because he lusts after the pretty wife who bakes in the kitchen. Lange's cold to him. That excites Nicholson even more. He attacks her one night in the kitchen. She resists. He thinks this means she really wants him. Turns out, he's right, she does. And so he has his way with her right on the table where the loaves of bread are rising. Dough and flour go flying. The fact that Jessica is wearing a '30s-style garter belt is part of the turnon. She diddles herself and then Jack moves her fingers away and inserts his own.

Linda and I decided that all this diddling looked real, but was actually all smoke and mirrors. We figured Jack was probably winking the whole time and rushing off to be with Anjelica, who plays a lion tamer he later screws. In the movie, I mean.

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