Set in swimming pools, libraries, spaceships and pretty much anywhere else you can think of, audiences love watching characters act out wildly unrealistic love scenes. But the less-than-thrilling truth behind filming a Hollywood love scene is that it involves choreography, trust, intrusive make-up, legal contracts, and a whole lot of awkwardness.
For this reason, most actors agree that shooting a romantic moment is one of the most uncomfortable parts of their job. Some even refuse to shoot them altogether, or insist on toning down the more sensational aspects. As a famous example, after getting her big break playing a sex worker in Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts now refuses to do nude scenes and anything else she deems too risqué. For instance, she asked to de-raunchify a love scene between her and Clive Owen’s characters in the 2009 thriller Duplicity, saying that the hot and heavy stuff is "not really what I do."
But not every actor has approached love scenes with Roberts’ reluctance — or her star power. And unfortunately, that means that some look back on certain steamy scenes with a pang of regret. Whether it’s down to the wrong scene partner, the wrong setting, or even injury, these are the love scenes actors regret filming, and why they’d take them back if they could.
Jennifer Lawrence felt guilty over her Passengers sex scene
Jennifer Lawrence has had romantic scenes with several of Hollywood’s dreamiest leading men, including Bradley Cooper, Liam Hemsworth and Nicholas Hoult. She’s won a highly coveted Best Kiss MTV Movie Award (and been nominated twice more.) But 2016’s sci-fi drama Passengers was the first time Lawrence shot a love scene that went beyond kissing, opposite another famously handsome co-star, Chris Pratt. And Lawrence wasn’t entirely comfortable with the premise.
"It was weird — and everything was done right, it wasn’t anybody’s fault, nobody did anything wrong. It’s just a bizarre experience," she said. Her discomfort stemmed from guilt that Pratt was married (to actress Anna Faris) at the time. Lawrence recounted, "It was going to be my first time even kissing a married man, and guilt is like the worst feeling in your stomach."
The scene came back to haunt Lawrence months after Passengers had left theaters. Pratt and Faris announced that they were separating in August 2017, and unfounded rumors started spreading that Lawrence was somehow involved. Lawrence called it the weirdest rumor she’d heard about herself, pointing out that the split came two years after they’d shot Passengers together. Fortunately Faris took the high road, writing in her memoir Unqualified that she and Lawrence are on friendly terms, and that Lawrence, "was apologetic even though she didn’t need to be, because she hadn’t done anything wrong."
This James Bond star minded the age gap
The James Bond franchise is famous for steamy scenes between the titular super spy and a series of stunningly beautiful women. But those bedroom scenes don’t always go as smoothly backstage.
Roger Moore was a Bond veteran by the time he filmed 1985’s A View to a Kill, the last of his six films in the franchise. You could say he was a life veteran too: 57 at the film’s release, he was the joint oldest actor to play the role, with David Niven. But the women Bond seduces stay eternally young. One of his conquests in the film, May Day, is played by model and musician Grace Jones, who was 20 years Moore’s junior. And boy, did their age gap create tension on set.
In his memoir, Moore remembered that Jones would play loud music in her dressing room, which meant he couldn’t get his afternoon nap. Moore admitted that after unsuccessfully asking Jones to turn the music down, he got so annoyed he threw a chair at the dressing room wall. As he dryly observed, this did not help set the mood for their yet-to-be-shot sex scene.
It may have made things extra awkward on set, but Jones didn’t hold Moore’s outburst against him forever. After his death in 2017, she described him as "a great gentleman" and said, "He will always remain one of my best experiences in my filming career."
Juliette Danielle regrets a very specific part of The Room
You could argue that there are a lot of moments the actors who appear in notorious flop The Room could regret. But in a Reddit AMA, Juliette Danielle — who plays Lisa, the woman at the center of a hilariously melodramatic love triangle — brought up one thing in particular. Danielle said that the first time she saw one of the movie’s famously long sex scenes, she was "mortified." Unbeknownst to her, a rose petal had stuck to her back, and on the big screen it looks a lot like a scab — not exactly the physical attribute you would choose to display to theaters full of strangers at midnight screenings.
Another director might have used a different edit to spare his actress, but not eccentric Tommy Wiseau. Danielle said that shooting the film’s sex scenes was uncomfortable but "pretty standard … The only difference is that Tommy used ALL the footage … rather than whittling it down to a short sequence like most do."
There was something else Danielle regretted about those particular scenes. She said that she’s not sorry that she made the movie, because its led to other opportunities, and she’s come to terms with being "Lisa from The Room" forever. But she noted, "I did regret making it only because of the nudity thing."
Maria Schneider felt humiliated by a scene from Last Tango in Paris
For decades, Bernardo Bertolucci’s explicit 1972 drama Last Tango in Paris has been hailed as provocative, innovative, and proof of his genius. It stars Marlon Brando as Paul, a 40-something widower in Paris, who has an affair with a sheltered 20-year-old named Jeanne, played by Maria Schneider.
At one point, Paul forces himself on Jeanne. This scene barely raised eyebrows when the film came out. But eventually it became notorious, partly because it has been revealed that on set, Schneider felt as attacked as her character.
In a 2006 interview, Schneider said that the scene wasn’t in the original script, and that the infamous use of butter was Brando’s idea. She only found out about that element right before shooting, and was furious. She said, "Nobody can force someone to do something not in the script. But I didn’t know that. I was too young … I cried real tears during that scene. I was feeling humiliation."
Brando was already dead by 2006, but in 2013, Bertolucci admitted to not telling Schneider about the butter in advance because he wanted to elicit a more natural response. He said that he didn’t regret this decision, but the actress told the Sydney Herald that she thinks of Last Tango as, "a lot of suffering, a lot of compromising." Her verdict on Bertolucci was also damning: "Bertolucci’s not a real maestro … I’m not friends with him."
Viola Davis killed her back in How to Get Away with Murder
Sometimes actors get caught up in a steamy moment — occasionally with painful results. In 2016, How to Get Away with Murder star Viola Davis admitted that she and co-star Billy Brown had taken their sex scene direction a bit too far. Brown was told to slam Davis up against a wall in a seductive, passionate way. Davis was up for it. "I said … ‘I wanna be sexy, I’m pulling out all the stops!’ So I went for it — and threw my back out," she told Jimmy Kimmel.
The injury was bad enough that Davis put a temporary hold on the especially intense love scenes. She also joked with Kimmel that she kept the slightly awkward injury a secret from her husband, Julius Tennon, who is also an actor. You may have seen him in ER, Friday Night Lights, Criminal Minds or Dazed and Confused – or How to Get Away With Murder. Tennon appeared in one episode of the show, and had his own love scene with his real-life wife that resulted in a different kind of mishap. In a different appearance on Kimmel, Davis revealed that she felt so safe and comfortable acting opposite her husband that she forgot to put her underwear back on!
Kristin Davis hated one Sex and the City love scene
When your show is called Sex and the City, you know you’re going to be spending a large portion of your work life faking scenes of passion. And Kristin Davis, who plays prim and proper Charlotte on the show, was apparently mostly fine with her character’s exploits — except for one.
In 2019, Davis told Andy Cohen that the one love scene she really hated was from season three. Charlotte goes to bed with investment banker Alexander Lemley, a gentleman in the streets and a foul-mouthed shouter in the sheets. Davis says that the actor playing Lemley had to yell certain derogatory words in her face at the — ahem — climax of the scene. "I really, really hated it. I hated it so much," she recalled.
That’s not to say Davis didn’t struggle with other scenes in the proudly raunchy show. In particular, there was one that you could call a self-love scene. "I wanted to do it, but I was scared. My heart was pounding. I had adrenaline like crazy," she remembered. But on the bright side, Davis added that she and co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon were "openly pleased" that their characters weren’t as shocking as Kim Cattrall’s Samantha. "Kim has been nude, very, very nude … I’m so glad I don’t have to be," Davis admitted.
Jason Biggs would cut this scene from American Pie
Given that American Pie is all about teenagers humiliating themselves while trying to satisfy their hormonal urges, you could understand if now-grown Jason Biggs was ready to disavow the whole thing. But Biggs, who played pie lover Jim Levenstein, said that he doesn’t regret the movie as a whole … just one scene.
In the scene in question, Jim sets up a webcam to record exchange student Nadia while she’s alone in his room. She changes into her underwear and sets about satisfying some of those aforementioned urges. Jim and his friends watch and then Jim joins her. Cue the aforementioned humiliation.
Embarrassing as the second part of the scene probably was for Biggs, it’s the secret filming part that he says he now finds disturbing. "It wouldn’t get made now and it couldn’t get made now. It would be unacceptable … The conversation [around teenagers and sex] now is totally different now to what it was 20-plus years ago, so the art that’s made surrounding it needs to be totally different," Biggs acknowledged in an interview with Buzzfeed News.
Nadia actress Shannon Elizabeth agrees. She told Page Six that she’s grateful to be remembered for the role, and she’s "honored" to be considered a sex symbol among teens at the time. But she adds, "If this had come out after the #MeToo movement, there would definitely be a problem. I think that it would have gone down differently."
Miles Teller called out his co-star’s bad breath in their kissing scene
Scene etiquette can make or break an acting partnership: Just ask some of the famous actors who refused to touch each other on screen. Miles Teller apparently wishes that he hadn’t had to get up close with one particular partner for their very first kissing scene.
In 2013, Teller starred opposite Shailene Woodley in teen romance The Spectacular Now. The couple’s smooching scenes earned them a nomination for Best Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards — but the prize should have gone to Teller, because it required a lot of acting to make it look like he was enjoying at least one of those kisses. According to Teller, Woodley preempted their first onscreen kiss by swallowing what he called "dirt supplements." They tasted exactly how they sound, he added.
However, while he may not have enjoyed their love scene, Teller apparently got on with Woodley overall. The pair went on to star together in the Divergent trilogy — in a kiss-free relationship — and were often pictured hanging out at fancy Hollywood events. In a 2014 profile of Woodley, Teller described her as, "just like a positive energy force that’s very infectious." Woodley has compared their relationship to other famous platonic friendships: Their Divergent co-star Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, and Julia Roberts and George Clooney. But Teller and Woodley may not be locking lips again any time soon.
Salma Hayek was bullied into performing a love scene
But in a 2017 op-ed, Hayek wrote that Weinstein started sexually harassing her, becoming enraged when she turned down his advances. After it became clear that she would not give in to his demands, Hayek said that Weinstein tried to destroy her Kahlo biopic.
According to Hayek, Weinstein told her five weeks into filming that she had to appear in a fully nude love scene with another actress, or he would cancel Frida. Hayek felt she’d exhausted all other options and shot the scene, but it took a mental toll on her. On the day of shooting, she had what she describes as a nervous breakdown: "My body began to shake uncontrollably, my breath was short and I began to cry and cry, unable to stop". It wasn’t that she was uncomfortable about acting an intimate scene with another woman: It was that she felt forced into it by Weinstein.
Hayek was nominated for multiple awards for her portrayal of Kahlo, and became the first Mexican actress nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. A spokesperson for Weinstein denied Hayek’s version of events. In March 2020, Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes against two different women.
Anna Kendrick tried to get out of kissing a co-star
Anna Kendrick is known to speak her mind, and she doesn’t hold back when she’s talking about love scenes with co-stars — except when it comes to their names. In her memoir Scrappy Little Nobody, Kendrick admitted that sometimes, how you feel about your cast mates affects your enthusiasm for intimate scenes. She said she once argued with a director over kissing an actor who was playing her boyfriend. "I felt like there was simply no motivation for them to kiss in that moment," she wrote. The director explained that they were meant to be a happy couple, which involved kissing. "So we kissed. But I wasn’t happy about it!" Kendrick added, without revealing who she was talking about.
There are two actors we can rule out. Kendrick described kissing Chris Pine in Into the Woods as, "Cinnamon in a meadow. Dreams." And she has no regrets over the kiss she shared with Blake Lively in missing-person thriller A Simple Favor, although it required some choreography between the two actresses. "I remember Blake and I both feeling like neither of us wanted to be the aggressor … [the characters] both get caught up in it and it’s a little uncomfortable," Kendrick said. But it was still a good day on set. "Yeah, it was a fun day," she confirmed.
Margot Robbie does not recommend trying this at home
Now she’s an Oscar-nominated actor, DC super villain and owner of a production company focused on magnifying female filmmakers. But the first time many American viewers met Margot Robbie was when she played Naomi Lapaglia, the fictionalized second wife of real-life conman Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street.
The film required Robbie to perform several memorable love scenes with DiCaprio, but the one that left a mark — literally — involved rolling around in piles of fake money. Robbie said it caused an unexpected injury. "I got a million paper cuts on my back from all that money!" she said, adding that the crew told her, "You look like you’ve been whipped a million times." Her takeaway: "It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. If anyone is ever planning on having sex on top of a pile of cash: don’t."
There was another love scene in the film that posed different kinds of challenges on set. If you’ve seen Wolf of Wall Street, you can probably guess that it’s the one in the nursery. Robbie said she had to perform those moves (and lines) in front of an all-male crew of 30 — plus DiCaprio — for 17 hours in a very cramped bedroom. She described it as "very weird," but said, "you have to bury the embarrassment and absurdity, really deep, and fully commit." But stay away from fake money.
Michael Lerner fell hard for Allison Janney in Life During Wartime
We’ve heard many bizarre reasons actors needed body doubles during love scenes. But Michael Lerner might have wished he had a stunt double on the set of 2009 drama Life During Wartime. According to his co-star Allison Janney, the pair had a sex scene that ended with Lerner taking two trips: One to the floor and one to the ER.
The pair was filming in a location with a marble floor, and the fake sweat meant things got a little too lubricated. Janney said Lerner had to push her up against a wall, and he slipped on the wet surface. She remembered, "He slips and he drags me down with him. He falls on his knees and I can’t stop laughing." Lerner wasn’t laughing though: "He really hurt his knees. He had to go to the hospital … So that was my first sex scene."
That less-than-successful first go didn’t put Janney off intimate scenes for good. She went on to win an Emmy for Masters of Sex, a role she’d accepted knowing full well that it might involve more love scenes and nudity. She said that she still finds those kinds of moments "nerve-wracking," but adds that the show made her less afraid of them, because it’s never gratuitous. But she still doesn’t enjoy reliving them. "I watch with my hand over my eyes," she admits.