Emma Thompson Hits Back After Ian McKellen Questioned The Importance Of Intimacy Coordinators

"It’s all very well, if you’re a bloke it’s a different kind of thing,” the two-time Oscar winner said.
Dame Emma Thompson
Dame Emma Thompson
David M. Benett via Getty Images

Dame Emma Thompson has given an impassioned rebuttal after Sir Ian McKellen questioned the need for intimacy coordinators.

On Thursday, the two-time Oscar winner was asked for her thoughts on Sir Ian’s suggestion that intimacy coordinators could affect the “purity” of live theatre productions.

I can imagine there are situations when you have to be careful and people find it difficult to be intimate, and therefore a coordinator is just the thing,” he told Radio 4.

“But why can’t it be the director who does that? Why has it got to be somebody who’s been trained in how to do it?”

Dismissing the Lord Of The Rings star’s comments during an interview on LBC, Dame Emma said: “It’s all very well, if you’re a bloke it’s a different kind of thing.”

Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen
Lia Toby via Getty Images

She continued: “I think if you’re a young woman on a set, which is largely peopled by men, the crew will be 90% men and the women won’t be on the set with you, because generally speaking we do not have parity on any level on film sets, it’s all men.

“And that’s a very uncomfortable position for a young woman who’s starting in the industry, but it is absolutely essential that there is someone there to protect them. Absolutely essential.

“You cannot imagine what people went through in some of those big series when they first started the streaming series. They were just told when they walked on set, now this is what we’ve got to do… And that’s absolutely outrageous.”

“It’s not to say that they’re going to be in there all the time arranging your boobs,” Dame Emma added. “It’s that they can be there in case you might feel that there’s a position that you’ve got into that you’re not quite comfortable with, you know, your bum hole’s waving in the air, and you just think I don’t feel quite comfortable…

“I’ve worked with young actresses who’ve been truly traumatised by their experiences on set. And so, my passion for intimacy coordinators and protection for young women particularly, and young men, I mean, it’s not necessarily an easy thing for any person.”

Intimacy coordinators are a relatively new role within the acting profession, intended to help make sure performers are as comfortable as possible during intimate scenes.

They have previously been employed on shows like Bridgerton, Sex Education and I May Destroy You, with cast members praising them in the past.

Dame Emma previously stood up for intimacy coordinators last year, when their importance was questioned by actor Sean Bean, who claimed they “spoiled the spontaneity” of sex scenes.

“It would inhibit me more because it’s drawing attention to things,” said the former Game Of Thrones star, who played Ned Stark in the hit fantasy series. “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 Nanny McPhee star publicly responded: “Intimacy coordinators are fantastically important.

“You were speaking [about] somebody who found it distracting, but [in] another conversation, you might find that people go, ‘it made me comfortable, it made me feel safe, it made me feel as though I was able to do this work’.”

She continued: “There’s a camera there, and a crew. 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.”

Last year saw Dame Emma appearing in intimate scenes in the film Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, although she and co-star Daryl McCormack did not make use of an intimacy coordinator for the film.

Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
Nick Wall

Daryl previously told Variety: “Intimacy coordinators are really important, and their work is so valuable and so useful and needed, but at the same time, we were able to come to each other and go, ‘What do you think is going to best serve our relationship with this?’”.

“And we just found that out of the safety and out of the connection that we had already found. It felt really exciting to us to actually build that ourselves with the director.”


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