Emma Thompson defends “fantastically important” intimacy coaches amid Sean Bean outcry

Emma Thompson has joined a chorus of Hollywood voices defending the role of intimacy coordinators on set after Sean Bean questioned whether their presence is ruining the “spontaneity” of sex scenes. 

Oscar-winning screen legend Emma Thompson is the latest in a string of actors to speak out against Sean Bean’s comments questioning the need for intimacy coordinators on set. 

Speaking to Australian radio station Nova FM, Thompson said the role of intimacy coaches – who liaise with production and advocate for actors in scenes of nudity and simulated sex – was “fantastically important”, particularly within the male-dominated context of most production settings. 

“You might find that people go, ‘It made me feel comfortable, it made me feel safe, it made me feel as though I was able to do this work,’” Thompson told radio hosts Fitzy and Wippa, on the role of intimacy coaches.

 Apparently contradicting Sean Bean’s previous claims that such consultants “spoil the spontaneity” of filming sex scenes, Thompson noted, “You can’t just let it flow.

“There’s a camera there and a crew,” she said. “You’re not on your own in a hotel room; you’re surrounded by a bunch of blokes, mostly. So it’s not a comfortable situation full stop.”

Emma Thompson says intimacy coaches make people feel comfortable and safe.

In controversial comments to The Times last week, Lord Of The Rings star Bean said intimacy coaches may “slow down the thrust” of Hollywood sex scenes. 

“It would inhibit me more because it’s drawing attention to things,” he said. “Somebody saying, ‘Do this, put your hand there, while you touch his thing…’ I think the natural way lovers behave would be ruined by someone bringing it right down to a technical exercise.”

The actor added that his graphic sex scenes opposite Joely Richardson in 1993 BBC series Lady Chatterley, an adaptation of DH Lawrence’s classic novel, were spontaneous. “It was joy,” he recalled. “We had a good chemistry between us.”

Thompson is not alone in questioning Bean’s position.

West Side Story star Rachel Zegler also addressed the controversy earlier this week. “Intimacy coordinators establish an environment of safety for actors,” she wrote in a tweet. “I was extremely grateful for the one we had on West Side Story – they showed grace to a newcomer like myself and educated those around me who’ve had years of experience.”

She-Hulk star Jameela Jamil also weighed in on the debate, casting doubt on Sean’s assertion that sex scenes should avoid being “technical”. 

“It should only be technical,” she tweeted. “It’s like a stunt. Our job as actors is to make it not look technical. Nobody wants an impromptu grope…” 

West Side Story star Rachel Zegler has also questioned Sean Bean’s position.

Thompson is in Australia to promote her latest comedy-drama, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. The film tells the story of sex worker Leo (Daryl McCormack), who is booked by widowed RE teacher Nancy (Thompson), to fulfil a lifetime of unspent sexual fantasies. 

Both actors met with real-life sex workers and attended intimacy workshops as part of the production, which has been hailed for its emphasis on sex positivity, along with a clear-eyed depiction of women’s sexual pleasure. “Nobody’s interested in women’s pleasure,” Thompson said, in previous comments to Woman & Home

“Women exhibiting pleasure, performing pleasure, has been seen a lot. But that’s not about women’s pleasure, that’s about other things…men’s mostly. She [screenwriter Katy Brand] has written a script that is quite revolutionary, about pleasure, about intimacy, about consent.”

Images: Lionsgate Entertainment; Getty

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