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Casting Roles with Nudity or Sex?

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Casting Roles with Nudity or Sex?
Jenny Lewis and Sara Kay
Lewis Kay Casting, Toronto; 'Skins,' 'Young People Fucking,' 'Love & Savagery,' 'The Tracey Fragments'


Lewis: We know that there are quite a few actors who won't come in if there's nudity for a part. A lot of the time, your producers and director will say, "Oh, they'll want the part enough that they'll do the nudity." No, they won't. In fact, if we even think the person's going to have to be in skimpy clothing or make out with somebody—or anything that feels sexualized in any way—we put it on the breakdown.

We actually will question the filmmakers before we do the breakdown: "Is this really necessary? Could it be implied? How much skin do you need? Could you use a body double?" We go to them right off the top and push hard, because most of the time we feel it's not necessary and we know we'll lose out on good actors. Then we have to go back and compromise on the nudity to get the good actor.

Kay: We're happy to be brutally honest on the breakdown and say that there will be "full frontal," or there will be "side breast," or there will be "top of butt," or whatever. We like to be really, really specific. A lot of actors won't do full nudity. So if you don't put it on the breakdown, then ultimately it's not fair, and we feel like they should know before they come in and audition.

Lewis: I think a good casting director comes to know the talent pool and knows who will do nudity and who won't, and so it isn't something they need to see on someone's résumé. We've never needed to see a naked body. Sometimes we need to see the body to see how in shape they are or how thin they are, but we've never in all our years needed somebody to actually be naked in an audition.

The union here in Canada has very strict rules for nudity in an audition, including how many people can be in the audition room and which people can be in the room. And quite often when those auditions are happening, a union steward shows up at the audition to make sure that everything's aboveboard. So if you really want nudity in your audition, it's a lot of trouble here.

We saw a film with women who we cast where we were very specific that there was no nudity in their contract. And then we watched the film and there was nudity. When they get into the creative moment, actors get talked into stuff on set.

Kay: They need to protect themselves. If they're suddenly asked to take off their clothes on set, they should say, "I need to call my agent." And if they're comfortable taking off their clothes, that's fine, but they certainly should know they didn't agree to that and that they have rights. It's good for them to know that in advance.

Felicia Fasano
Los Angeles; 'Californication,' 'Bad Santa,' 'Pumpkin,' 'Prozac Nation,' 'Barbershop'


The No. 1 step as the casting director is to read the script. It may be very obvious where nudity will be required, or it may be very vague and just say something to the effect of "and then they make love." So when we sit down and have our concept meeting with the director and producer, we have to be very specific and ask questions.

If it's a really huge part, you may forgo full-on nudity to get a better actress. But I would never want my creators to feel like they're getting less than what they wanted. If it's really important, then let's find the person who is the best actress and who is willing to do the nudity.

You're not going to get on set where all of a sudden they're like, "You have to be completely naked." The shots have been blocked out, everything's been rehearsed, wardrobe's been decided, and everyone really knows what they're getting into before they get to the set. If it says on the breakdown and your agent tells you there's nudity, then there's nudity.

If there are certain things you're not comfortable with, we need to know beforehand. I'm very clear and up-front about all of it with everybody. If an actor feels like something is uncomfortable, then absolutely they shouldn't do it.

Susan Shopmaker
Susan Shopmaker Casting, New York; 'Skins,' 'Shortbus,' 'Party Monster,' 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'


If an actor has read the entire script, I assume they know what it entails, but I guess that is not always the case. Assume that if someone asks you to take your top off in an audition, that is a red flag. Or kiss, or have sex, or anything weird like that.

You should have instincts and abide by your own rules. It's always different for what a man will show versus a woman. Sometimes it gets pretty funny: "Will show right cheek or right part of torso but not entire rear," that kind of stuff.

There are nudity riders on all contracts that require nudity. What is expected on set is discussed ahead of time and written up and signed along with the contract. People negotiate nudity requirements all the time, but I feel if it doesn't serve the movie, then you really have to fight for what is right for the film. It can get ugly, but there is always a compromise.

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