For filmmaker Sophie Hyde, directing Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack through a series of sex scenes for Searchlight Pictures’ Good Luck to You, Leo Grande was “heavenly.”
The film, which is now streaming on Hulu, stars Thompson as Nancy, a widow determined to have good sex for the first time and enlists the help of a charismatic sex worker (McCormack).
The lessons they learn from each other are not fully expected, either for the characters or for the audience.
“Emma really needed someone she had chemistry with,” Hyde said of the decision to cast the Peaky Blinders actor. “Not like electro or sex chemistry, but someone they can sit face to face with together and find comfort and surprise as well.”
That chemistry was established early on during a week of rehearsals as the two actors worked through a series of body positivity exercises. “The rehearsal process was very easy in the sense that we had five days to block the film, run the lines and just explore the characters,” McCormack said. “We did a few different exercises; One of the first was just observation. And it really brought a non-judgmental feeling to this whole process.”
“On the first day, I had them lie on the floor and chase each other’s bodies to separate themselves from the characters’ bodies,” Hyde said. “And then we had a day where we were introducing each other to our own body parts for what they’ve done in our lives — not what they look like — by removing clothing items. Like ‘I love my feet because I walk every day.’ So by the end of that workshop we were naked and by then we were all very comfortable with each other and the two of us could go on set and own it.”
There was something about just seeing our bodies rather than commenting or judging them that really freed us and allowed us to delve into the depths of intimacy the characters had found.
– “Good Luck Leo Grande” star Daryl McCormack
“There was something about just seeing our bodies, rather than commenting or judging them, that really freed us and allowed us to delve into the depths of intimacy that the characters had found,” McCormack said. “Because basically we had to make sure that we as actors didn’t get in each other’s way when portraying these people. And Sophie just did such a great job making this rehearsal fun, easy and free.”
Joining her stars in stripping “felt daunting to me at first, but also a challenge I wanted to take on,” Hyde said. “Because I really believe in this idea that our bodies shouldn’t just be decorative billboards. They are our home and they are there for all these other reasons. So I felt I had to put that into action.
“As a director you do whatever it takes [to make] the actors feel more comfortable,” she added. “It’s very powerful to have that moment of vulnerability with other people. A closeness developed between us throughout the week, but that took it to a new level. When we walked onto the set, we felt like we knew what we wanted to tell and we could achieve it.”
The film’s most intimate moments were shot on a closed set during the final days of production. “They had an approach where the crew would go and go to the set, undress, get comfortable and then the crew would come back, which is pretty much the opposite of how it often works,” Hyde said. “Because we did the material in the rehearsal room, I think they got there and they said, ‘No dialogue, woo-hoo!'”
“We were so close at that point that by the time those scenes came it really felt like a celebration because it marked the end of the film and all the work that we had done,” McCormack said. “To get into those scenes and feel totally comfortable and comfortable felt right, and it felt right for the characters as well. So this day felt like half a school day. It just felt like one of those days when all the hard work was done and we could just celebrate.”
The positions were not choreographed; Instead, Hyde called back to the work they had practiced in rehearsals. “I think there were certain silhouettes that Sophie wanted to capture,” McCormack said. “And a range of intimacies to be explored on screen. It was more about the essence or the sense of intimacy and less about the positions or anything like that. It was more about capturing the mood.”
“Rather than saying ‘do that,’ we would prep the recordings and I’d give them some kind of exercise that they would lean into and we’d take little moments from it,” she said. “So there was a whole section where they were laughing and tickling each other that we don’t use in the film.”
“Sophie has such attention to detail,” McCormack said. “And I think we needed a director like that to grab the audience’s attention, because a lot of the changes are subtle adjustments that you can miss if you’re not careful. I think Sophie just had a great eye for how they would look, how their body language would change, and she really kept us safe through all of that.”
Hyde made the decision to shoot without an intimacy coordinator because “I didn’t feel like we needed him on this particular project,” she said. “I felt like I was working under the same practices as an intimacy coordinator, and because I was so focused on these two actors, I felt like we were very open with each other and checked each other in a lot.” And I think that’s really the core of this work. But I think it’s one of the best developments in the film industry.”
“We all felt like there was nothing in the film that we couldn’t do together,” McCormack said. “And I think that was just because of the trust that we had in each other. We can all agree that intimacy coordinators are very important and important and their presence is long overdue. But we just felt like there wasn’t anything in the film that we couldn’t do on our own.”
“I work with actors as part of a process [seeks] constant enthusiastic approval from them,” said Hyde. “Emma will always state what she wants and needs, but with Daryl in particular, I didn’t want him to feel like it was him [had to do] something just to please us in some way. I wanted him to feel like he was making a choice. So I made sure to check in a few different ways, much like Leo did in the film.”
“I also said to both of them, ‘You can wake up every day and even if you said yes [before]you can say no [now]'” She added. “Even in the editing suite, if you don’t want something, you can tell me, and I have tons of other ways to do it.’ But I was really glad they were on board with me and they felt that those things were a necessary part of making the film.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-06-17/good-luck-to-you-leo-grande-sex-scenes How ‘Good Luck to You, Leo Grande’ sex scenes were filmed