Keira Knightley will no longer shoot sex scenes directed by men, partly for vanity reasons, she says—definitive proof that everyone has body insecurities—and partly because she’s tired of “standing in front of a group of men naked.” I don’t think I’d like that very much either!
Knightley discussed her decision on a recent episode of the Chanel Connects podcast, in conversation with filmmaker Lulu Wang and Diane Solway, the features and culture director at W Magazine. After two decades of acting, Knightley said she’s become acutely aware of the male gaze, and how it often determines the way sex gets portrayed in film:
“I don’t want it to be those horrible sex scenes where you’re all greased up and everybody is grunting,” she said. “I’m not interested in doing that.
“I feel very uncomfortable now trying to portray the male gaze. Saying that, there’s times where I go, ‘Yeah, I completely see where this sex would be really good in this film and you basically just need somebody to look hot.’
“So therefore you can use somebody else, because I’m too vain and the body has had two children now and I’d just rather not stand in front of a group of men naked.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Knightley added a “no nudity” clause to her contract in 2015, after becoming a mother. In her conversation with Wang and Solway, however, she has no “absolute ban” on sex scenes. She would still consider shooting a nude scene, she said, but only if the film required it in service of tackling subjects like motherhood or body acceptance—and only if the scene were directed by a woman.
“If it was about motherhood, about how extraordinary that body is, about how suddenly you’re looking at this body that you’ve got to know and is your own and it’s seen in a completely different way and it’s changed in ways which are unfathomable to you before you become a mother, then yeah, I would totally be up for exploring that with a woman who would understand that,” she said.
It’s hardly for me to say, but all of this sounds eminently reasonable to me. Considering everything we’ve learned over the last few years about certain directors—as well as the industry’s overall disregard for women’s comfort and safety—it’s more than understandable that actors would want to delineate some strict boundaries.