Hollywood stars make getting naked on camera look easy, but many will confess how incredibly uncomfortable or even boring it is to bare all on screen. There are tricks to overcoming this, of course, but for those who haven’t stripped for their audiences before things can get a little tricky. If you’re starring in a hotly anticipated film — like the one that spent three installments pretending their lead stars didn’t actually have genitals — the pressure is really on. This got us thinking about the most awkward nude scenes in cinema. How did the actors and actresses handle being in the buff? Some stars used awkward nudity for comedic effect, while others looked flawless, but felt terrible — and in a few cases, the unpleasant feelings we had were all in our own heads. Still, we wanted to know: did they find the experience as strange to shoot as we did to watch? Find out past the break where we revisit a few naked nightmares.
Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls
Pretty much every frame of the film. Berkley spends most of her screen time nude, which for diehard Saved by the Bell Fans was a little weird at first. The most awkward scene hands-down, however, is watching Berkley convulsing naked in a pool like an epileptic, horny dolphin for her sex scene with co-star Kyle MacLachlan. (What were you thinking Agent Cooper?)
Berkley tried to approach her stripped scenes with a good sense of humor — which makes sense, because audiences laughed at Showgirls. A lot. In this interview with David Letterman (also kind of awkward, due to the lap dance she gives him at the end), she told the show’s host that the four and a half months she spent nude became like second nature and didn’t bother her in the slightest.
Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises
Viggo Mortensen’s brutal four-minute fight scene in a steamy Turkish bathhouse where the actor wore nothing but his amazing tattoos. Audiences applaud his bravery for going full frontal and his execution of this difficult scene, but winced watching him brawl in the buff. (Do we really need to explain why?)
Mortensen told The Telegraph that the scene was “slippery, painful, and embarrassing” to shoot. The actor clearly wasn’t able to wear any pads to protect his body during the struggle and was thankful it only took two days to complete, versus the six days Cronenberg initially indicated. In his dedication to authenticity, Mortensen explained “I always knew the scene should be as realistic as the rest of the movie, so I couldn’t feasibly keep the towel on.”
Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct
When killer crime novelist Catherine Tramell (Stone) is interrogated at police headquarters about her eerily real-life stories, she gives detectives a little show by crossing and uncrossing her legs. While Stone was nude in the film for several scenes, this revealing moment was probably the most … intimate.
Stone told Playboy that director Paul Verhoeven “persuaded” her to get nude for the scene, reassuring that nothing would be visible because of the reflected light back at the camera. Later on, Stone said she felt “manipulated and exploited” by revealing all. She also told the magazine that nude scenes are never truly comfortable for her in general, but with Basic Instinct there were other things that made her feel uneasy.
“I don’t go, like, ‘Oooh, I can’t wait to rip off my clothes and jump around in front of everybody.’ … And I was certainly not comfortable when I had to depict murdering someone — violently killing someone. I am infinitely less comfortable with the fact that the public is more concerned with whether or not I was nude or gay than whether or not I was a f*cking serial killer. Excuse me very much, but where are your priorities, people?”
Kathy Bates in About Schmidt
When Jack Nicholson’s character Walter Schmidt tries to dissuade his daughter from getting married, it doesn’t stop the groom-to-be’s mother — the uninhibited Roberta (Bates) — from getting naked and flirtatious in a hot tub with the curmudgeon. Bates’ free-spirit bothered many (lame) people, who were shocked to see a mature, zaftig woman no-holds-barred.
Bates shared in interviews that she felt completely comfortable being nude for About Schmidt. “We had a very small set that day so [director] Alexander (Payne) made me feel very comfortable. I even had a little Cosmopolitan before I got in the tub to kind of take the edge off. All in all, it was a good experience.” The actress even felt that this was her most comfortable on-screen nude scene yet. “Alexander and I each negotiated what he wanted and what I wanted, until we both felt comfortable. I love working with Jack and he made it very comfortable, so this was good,” she expressed.
Keitel went on a bit of a nude bender in the ’90s when he stripped down for his part as the corrupt cop in Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant and a lusty forester in Jane Campion’s The Piano. Keitel isn’t what many would call a sexy symbol, which definitely ruffled a few feathers when audiences got a peek at his privates.
When asked about appearing nude in several films, Keitel seemed in denial — instead claiming that his character simply “did certain things.” The star even went so far as to claim, “I’ve never done a nude scene.” His explanation? “An actor tells a story the way his conscience dictates is best to tell it. Actors do not do nude scenes. They play events in the story. Whether they’re dressed or undressed is up to their conscience and their artistic sense. I want to be clear about this point. Is it clear that I’m not actually doing nude scenes?” Roger that, good buddy.
Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game
Up until Neil Jordan’s 1992 drama The Crying Game, serious portrayals of transgender people on film were largely unheard of. And in a starring role? Pretty much never. Jaye Davidson’s infamous nude scene was pivotal to the film, but made the movie a shocking and uncomfortable viewing experience for some audiences.
Davidson hasn’t conducted many interviews about filming The Crying Game, but we can guesstimate what his feelings are based on a few rare conversations he shared in the early ’90s. Overall, the actor seemed to be more uncomfortable with the idea of fame than being nude for the camera. “I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to be famous,” he said. “I’d love to be one of the greatest actors in the world. But acting often equates with fame. If you could be an actor, yet not be famous, that would be brilliant.” What did he think about watching himself on screen? “Absolutely hideous.”
Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris
After an American man (Marlon Brando) — who spends his days idly wandering Paris — begins an affair with a young, French woman (Schneider), things get steamy and strange as they try to cope with their emotionally troubled pasts. Then there’s the butter and rape.
Sadly the controversial film took its toll on Schneider in the days following its release. She sank further and further into a downward spiral of drug addiction and suicide attempts. “Nudity wasn’t a problem for me in those days as I thought it was beautiful,” she told the Daily Mail. Regarding the tense scene in question, the actress said she felt “humiliated” and ” … a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci.” The director never included the graphic scene in his original script, and the young star was only clued-in on it right before they shot the scene. ” … Even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears.”
Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball
Two damaged people (Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton) bare their souls — or at least what’s left of them — and their bodies in a desperate attempt to feel anything. The sex that follows is cringe-worthy. Also awkward: after Monster’s Ball released, there was a lot of chatter about Berry getting her Best Actress Oscar for the wrong kind of performance.
” … With Monster’s Ball, without this scene, I think it would be a very different movie. I think it’s a pivotal moment and from that moment on, you understand why these two people get together,” Berry shared in an interview. If being nude serves the part, Berry is happy to disrobe again. “If another role affects me like this, and I feel it’s something the character would do — then I’ll use my body in way to best serve the character.” The actress seems to favor nudity in real-life too. “If the world wouldn’t persecute me, I’d take nude pictures every day of the week.”
Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Ladies man Jacob (Gosling) shares a nude scene with the down-on-his-luck Cal (Steve Carell) and lets it all hang out.
” … You can imagine why the naked scenes with Steve were embarrassing. But if you have to lose your comedic virginity, you have to lose it to Steve. He’s very gentle,” Gosling teased to The Cinema Source. “It was so hard not to laugh. We giggled all the way through it. I had the idea that maybe my character should pass out and maybe fall forward toward him, which he had to prepare himself for both physically and emotionally,” he also told The Reel Bits. Even if Gosling had to done the famous c*ck sock for his scene, that seems far more embarrassing than actually going au naturel.
Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The moment Peter (Segel) steps out of the shower in the beginning of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, his girlfriend — who seems to have swapped traditional gender roles with her boyfriend — announces that she wants to break up. Devastated by the news, Peter remains naked (and looking absolutely pathetic) while they chat about their relationship.
If Segel seemed right at home in the buff, that’s because the full frontal nude scene was almost exactly like one that the writer/actor had in real-life. “I had a naked breakup,” he told Movies Online, “and it was basically exactly as it was in the movie.” The decision to don his birthday suit, although executed in an amusing way, was something Segel took quite seriously.
“I knew that we weren’t gonna do it in a gratuitous way. It wasn’t gonna be a dumb joke where all of a sudden, for no reason, you see my penis. That scene is so vulnerable as written, you know? And it’s just such a raw moment that I think to add the nudity, which is why the reaction, when you see it in a theatre, is the way it is. It’s this mixture of like shock and gasping and confusion. Like is this even allowed? And laughter. And I think it’s because we managed to do it in a way that wasn’t a one note joke. It wasn’t hacky. It was this very complicated moment where a guy is literally just being told that his life is ending as far as he’s concerned. And that is a naked moment. So, you know, it’s metaphoric, whatever. I’m no film student.”