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David Poland

By David Poland


The first thing that struck me when it was announced/reported/hyped that Lindsay Lohan had separated from the Linda Lovelace movie was, “Who could they get to replace her?”

It had nothing to do with Ms Lohan’s talents. It had to do with nudity.

Anne Hathaway dethroned herself from PrincessLand pretty early on, giving eyeball access to The Goods in back-to-back films after the second Princess Diaries movie. I don’t imagine that she did it on purpose. But she was up for tougher roles and went for it. Both roles would have been a departure without the nudity, but nudity was called for and with it, the 17th happiest moment in the history of Mr. Skin.

Now, there is a lot of talk about Hathaway and Gyllenhaal being naked in Love & Other Drugs… and they are… for about an act. And then, it’s a movie that really isn’t about naked. But even the naked parts are not so much about sex as about the comfort of being together. It is a cliche’, but the sexiest thing about Hathaway in this film is her mind. She is a complex, very smart, challenging woman who, initially, is comforted by shutting off her brain by being serviced by the Pussy Savant played by Mr. G. She is powerful in the way young people with all those tools often are. Of course, she is also completely out of control on another front… and so goes drama.

In some ways, the sex life of L&OD (Law & Order:Drugs?) reminds me of The American, which featured the breathtaking view of an often-exposed Violante Placido, but was not about sex at all. It’s a cliche’, but… it’s a 70s thing. If Anne Hathaway’s lanky stretch of flesh highway covered by feminine speed bumps is all that this film is reduced to, not only are we diminishing her performance and the film, but it will probably mean that less people will see the film in theaters, leaving the images mostly to the boys and men who will “browse” them on the internet. This probably says more about men than about the movie or Ms. Hathaway. In the end, Love & Other Drugs is really a movie that will appeal more to a female sensibility, I think… and if Gyllenhaal’s dick-first thinking and the promise of lingering on Hathaway’s body makes it “safe” for men to be dragged to the theater, so be it.

But I digress…

Hathaway does nudity. Can’t imagine her playing someone like Lovelace… not a great fit. Hathaway is a fine actress, but she is also a movie star by nature. She doesn’t disappear into characters. Neither does Lohan, but her performance would have walked that line where the audience feels like they are seeing a layer deeper into a character they know from the tabloids and may well have worked that way.

Who else? Charlize Theron could never be that small. Jolie would kill all those men and we’d be wondering what was going to happen for two more acts. Helen Mirren is a little too old for the role. The Spanish-language/Oscar nominated nudists are too accented. Maggie Gyllenhaal could do it, but doesn’t seem a good tonal fit. Seyfried is looking to more commercial roles and I would bet that she’ll be putting the breasts away unless a very gifted director feels they are needed. (A good career move.) McAdams could do it… and would probably win an Oscar, even with a mediocre director… but goes so deeply into the work that she might never recover from the experience. Michelle Williams is playing Marilyn Monroe now and could, indeed, make a brilliant Lovelace, but won’t happen. Zoe Saldana was naked all through Avatar, but never on set. Rachel Weisz, Maria Bello, and Vera Farmiga are all just a little too old now. Jessica Biel is more Jenna Jameson than Lovelace.

Does that cover it? All the most-revered acting names who do on-screen nudity?

And that’s how you end up with Malin Akerman.

It’s not that Akerman can’t act. Personally, I think she is a much better comedienne than a dramatic presence, but she keeps taking on tough roles. That makes her a go-to actor for movies in which nudity is required and celebrity is helpful. Akerman has accumulated a better resume than, say, Lizzy Caplan. And she is not someone who gets hired only to be naked, like a Paz de la Huerta, whose presence on the cast list of Boardwalk Empire (and many films) assured that at least one major cast member would be having a lot of sex and frontal nudity.

Boardwalk also brought in Gretchen Mol, who has, I think, got very close to the gold ring as an actress only to become limited by her remarkable body and her willingness to show it. I know it sounds terrible, but I believe this to be true… as an actress, if you are in ONE movie in which the response is, “Her boobs were more memorable than the movie,” it will be hard to find roles that don’t feature your boobs ever again. You can go do theater or perhaps a series, but it is a scarlet letter in this town. Mol is working, which is more than many actors can say. And she’s one of the best things about Boardwalk Empire, even if you disregard every moment of nudity. Her character is one of the more interesting ones and if she never showed anything while seducing this one or that, she’s be every bit as interesting. She was also great in the Bettie Page movie, much more so for her performance than her body, lovely as it is.

We are a funny culture. Boys (and men) always masturbated over images of famous women, but something about the internet and the easy access to every image of every body part ever shown and every video ever “stolen from a celebrity house” makes it harder for the people being ogled to pretend its not happening. Whether it’s Alyssa Milano, who has done nudity in some low-rent situations but wants to control it on the web, or Natalie Portman, whose snippet of our chat I ran last week, talking about making the conscious choice to do sexual material, but not to expose her private bits, it seems a shame that they have to be so much more self-conscious than, say, Rita Hayworth or Ann-Margret. And it’s a shame that we all have so much of this seep into our daily lives, wanted or not.

But when the achievements of women like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Anna Nicole Smith, and others are limited to their sexual attractiveness and their private sex acts made public and we treat them as Important Celebrities, we have no one to blame but ourselves, I suppose.

My rule of thumb for young actresses remains… keep it on. Because few actors can see what “their thing” is when they are still growing a career. And as Jolie, Theron, and Hathaway (amongst others) show, it doesn’t just have to be about your body simply because you are willing to show your body. But it can go there fast if “your thing” is not well-defined and there to return to when “they” try to box you into being the next “The Body.” I truly think that if Gretchen Mol had ever played a role as funny as Bettie Page without the nudity before Bettie Page, she would be one of the top comedic actresses in the business and probably would have never ended up showing herself in the all-together. But working naked and being quite funny in a film, really for the first time, people only seem to remember the naked.

Finally… for those who are going to wonder…. men… completely different issue. For better or for worse, male genitalia is simply not part of mainstream filmmaking in this country. Neither are close-ups of female genitalia, for that matter. Are female breasts comparable, in this way, to the male sex organ? I guess you could make the argument that they should be considered as such, but it’s not the reality. People are still talking about Sharon Stone crossing her legs. Colin Farrell’s penis got more attention from the media in Alexander than did Rosario Dawson’s nude scene that was mostly about her breasts and butt. Actual genitals are rarely seen in films, from either sex. All the near-naked beefcake in 300 got its share of ogling. But compared to a “wardrobe malfunction” in which we really didn’t see very much of one of Janet Jackson’s nipples at the Super Bowl? Mild.

It makes one wonder why we are so focused on these body parts that most of us see every day. It’s not really the parts, is it? It’s the idea of whatever kind of value is placed on the possessor of the parts. Imagined intimacy. And yet, that is at the core of being a public figure. So read my book… blah blah blah…

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26 Responses to “Nude-atude”

  1. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    This makes me think of the current tussle over Blue Valentine’s rating and the fact that graphic torture and extreme violence have no trouble getting an R but showing female pleasure (and I have not seen Blue Valentine so only know what I’ve read) gets you NC-17.

  2. David Poland says:

    Blue Valentine comes nowhere close to an NC-17 being appropriate, though they have removed a bit since Sundance and I have only seen the current version this week.

  3. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Is all the fuss just about Gosling going down on her (please pardon the crude language)?

  4. John says:

    You have to remember that the MPAA is completely insane. Remember that Soderbergh’s version of Solaris received an R rating when it was released. That was uncalled for.

  5. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    And wasn’t that for Clooney’s nudity?

  6. LYT says:

    “Is all the fuss just about Gosling going down on her (please pardon the crude language)?”

    I think so. Remember, that particular action is what had to be cut from Basic Instinct back in the day.

    But honestly, in the case of Blue Valentine, I can’t imagine anyone under 17 wanting to see it, or getting it…except just to look at nudity. So the only real issue I have with the rating is the unfair stigma that the rating itself has.

  7. Shillfor Alanhorn says:

    “…lanky stretch of flesh highway covered by feminine speed bumps???”

    DP might have a future writing Harlequin romance novels if this Internet thing doesn’t work out.

  8. IOv3 says:

    David, it’s not the nudity as much as who is getting naked. People want to see Natalie Portman naked because it’s Natalie Portman. I know it’s hard for you and Natalie Portman to go get this but she’s pretty and when you find someone pretty, you usually want to see them nude. Again though, she’s pretty much all about showing her ass off, so the guys/gals who want to check out her ass win in that situation.

    That aside; if people remember the boobs that should be a good thing. The fact that execs and producers hold that against actresses is so fucking arcane that the people who hold that opinion should be removed from their jobs.

    Outside of that, if you are a young European actress you can get nude all day. If you are a young American actress, keep your clothes on because we are a bunch of prudes that are going to hold it against you for years to come. Aw… AMERICA!

  9. David Poland says:

    But IO, the question is, once you saw Natalie or any actress naked, would you care about seeing her naked again?

    Isn’t the wanting to see someone nude more compelling than actually seeing them naked, regardless if their nudity lives up to your imagination or not?

  10. hcat says:

    Not only do I think the nudity in Hatheway’s followups to the Princess Diaries were fully intentional but likely a direct result of a heart to heart from costar Julie Andrews-“Look Darling you have a lot of talent so just make sure you don’t box yourself into these goody-goody Disney roles because once you are in it takes forever to get out. I was one of the biggest stars in the world until I insisted on playing people that actually had blood flowing in their nethers. Do some things unexpected and a little challenging and don’t be coy about letting the ladies loose. I waited until I was 45 before I introduced Emily and Charlotte to the world, they were still spectacular, but I always wonder if I had taken more chances earlier if I would still be back at Disney in my golden years.”

  11. ads says:

    its fun to see actresses you didn’t know who did nudity ..
    usually they have smaller roles in small films but then go on to do several big budget films like Gemma arterton and Alice Eve

    Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Alba haven’t done any real
    nudity … at some point will people care if they do or not ?
    Jessica Biel did but that was with weird lighting …

    and finally – actresses that use cell phone cameras to take shots of naughty bits always seem to get hacked into and put on the internet .

  12. Shillfor Alanhorn says:

    There is a long tradition of acclaimed Oscar-winning/nominated actresses making their big initial splash with a high-profile nude scene/layout. The key is strategy — it has to be the right project and they have to know when to pull back. Consider the following:

    Julianne Moore in SHORT CUTS
    Annette Bening in THE GRIFTERS
    Kate Winslet in JUDE
    Rachel Weisz in STEALING BEAUTY
    Nicole Kidman in DEAD CALM
    Charlize Theron in 2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY
    Maggie Gyllenhaal in SECRETARY
    Gwyneth Paltrow in FLESH AND BONE
    Angelina Jolie in GIA
    Halle Berry in SWORDFISH
    Reese Witherspoon in TWILIGHT (the Robert Benton one)
    Naomi Watts in MULHOLLAND DRIVE

    Additionally, Kim Basinger and Sharon Stone’s Hollywood careers were literally jump-started by high-profile PLAYBOY layouts, and Drew Barrymore’s “comeback” didn’t begin in earnest until she did high-profile nude spreads in INTERVIEW and PLAYBOY (but for “classy” photographers Bruce Weber and Ellen Von Unwerth).

    Again, the key is strategy. Where Jessica Biel and Gretchen Mol went wrong is that their nude “debuts” came after they’d already made a splash and both fell on deaf ears and were wasted on movies that went straight-to-video (POWDER BLUE and FOREVER MINE, though in both cases you could argue that they were still attempting to play the game right — POWDER BLUE’s Timothy Bui had Sundance cred and FOREVER MINE was directed by Paul Schrader). Hathaway similarly miscalculated with the unreleasable straight-to-video HAVOC (which, on paper at least, had Oscar winners Steve Gaghan and Barbara Kopple behind the scenes), but has rebounded spectacularly.

    Natalie Portman has already graduated to adult roles and is already taken seriously, so there’s nothing in it for her. Additionally, since she made her initial splash as a child actress, there’s a weird pervy pedo element to those waiting for her to make her nude “debut” (though she came close for Wes Anderson — again, it’s fine if it’s “classy”).

  13. hcat says:

    There are a few of those I take exception with

    Kate Winslet in JUDE – less people remember that she was in Jude than remember she was in Kid in King Arthurs court, Pride and Prejudice and Heavenly Creatures established her. She bared all after she was a known entity.

    Rachel Weisz in STEALING BEAUTY- You can make the case for this helping Tyler but Weisz was still very much under the radar until Mummy.

    Nicole Kidman in DEAD CALM – remarkably nude for most of her carear, hard to say if this one role put her over the top, the Cruise factor is the reason she kept getting work.

    Halle Berry in SWORDFISH- Berry was already well established before Swordfish

    Now while Watts was nude in Mullholand (and has never shied away from it since) the fact that she took off after that is inconsequential, that was THE performance of the decade. Nude or not everyone took notice.

    So mostly I would say over half of those actresses would still disrobe if the role required it and didn’t just give us a peek to make a splash.

  14. IOv3 says:

    David, once you see it once why not see it again? Seeing Gretchen Mol nude never gets old. That’s the point: it’s about what you want. You seem to like the anticipation. While I just prefer getting down to it. Whateverthecase, Mr. Skin exist for a reason. Why? It just doesn’t get old, David. It just doesn’t… get… old.

    Shill, a weird pedo-element to want to see a 30 year-old woman nude? Really, Shill? REALLY?

  15. ads says:

    Is side boob considered nudity ? i hate it when
    actresses do that.

    i figure most movie critics are afraid to ask
    actresses about nudity ..

    theres a section on wikipedia about real sex in film

    this happens once or twice a year – is this considered
    porn ?

  16. ads says:

    hey David – when you interviewed Sasha Grey – did you
    watch any of her adult videos before or after ?

    would Easy A be a better film if it had nudity ?
    Emma Stone doesn’t do nudity so they need another actress.

    Elisha Cuthbert who played a porn star
    in the Girl Next Door but didn’t show herself .

    Elizabeth Banks – Zack and Miri make a porno – didn’t
    show herself

    Eva Mendes – did show herself in Training Day but it was rather quick and blurry – so what was the point ?

    i find it more fun when its totally not expected like Alexis Dziena in Broken Flowers – wow. she went full frontal .

  17. Shillfor Alanhorn says:

    IO –You’re right, I should amend my statement on Portman. There’s only a pervy-pedo quality to the desire to see her naked if you’re old enough for her to have been jailbait when she made LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL and BEAUTIFUL GIRLS. It would be akin to someone today counting down the seconds until Chloe Moretz turned 18 so they could see her nude. Otherwise, it’s perfectly acceptable.

  18. LexG says:


    See also: Saoirse Ronan and AnnaSophia Robb. And the Fannings.

  19. mary says:

    Reese Witherspoon had suggested all legitimate actresses to not do nude scenes.
    “If actresses take their clothes off, they objectify themselves… I am flabbergasted by how many legitimate actresses do it,” Reese Witherspoon said to Glamour Magazine in 2008.

    By the way, I also think that CHLOE did help Amanda Seyfried to get more industry recognition.

  20. mary says:

    PS: Natalie Portman definitely did nude scene for “Hotel Chevalier” (she was totally undressed in the scene; it is ‘nude’.)

  21. ads says:

    Portman didn’t do frontal nudity – it was mostly her ass

    an epic event was when Britney Spears flashed her crotch area while hanging out with Paris Hilton …

  22. mary says:

    Natalie Portman’s scene in “Hotel Chevalier” isn’t a ‘full frontal nudity’ scene, but it is still a ‘nudity’ scene.

  23. IOv3 says:

    Shill, that’s still a really fucked up way to look at things because you find the woman attractive not the girl. Seriously man, loosen up.

  24. LexG says:


  25. cadavra says:

    Lex, really? We had no idea! 😉

  26. Hey, Good read. what do you believe gonna happen next?

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