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The Naked Truth: Some Directors Aren’t Afraid of Nudity… Seriously, Not Afraid

If you spend a lot of time analyzing movie sex scenes like we do, you might find yourself rolling your eyes at how many on-screen couples manage to have sex without ever showing any skin… or who fall asleep with a sheet covering them just so… or who always put on a shirt and underpants when they get out of bed to pee, no matter how raunchy things just got. Where’s the nudity? Where’s the raunch? For further feverish research on your own time, you might want to look up the work of the following ten directors who are very, shall we say, comfortable with on-screen nudity. And we mean the real kind — not the CGI kind. Only after we finished this list did we realize it was entirely male, which we suppose shouldn’t surprise us — after all, most of the nudity is female. But we dug up male nudity — or, at least, equal-opportunity nudity — where we could. You’re welcome!

1. Edward Zwick
Edward Zwick may not have directed as much on-screen nudity as the other people on this list (unless we missed something in 1989′s Glory), but he takes the number one slot because he is the only director on the list, who got naked himself while shooting a nude scene.

2. Philip Kaufman
Philip Kaufman’s 1990 Henry & June was the first film released by a major studio to be rated NC-17. If you want to know exactly how nude this film gets, you could rent it. (For the record there was once an unintentionally hilarious “parents’ guide” to the film. Apparently parents need to be warned about any “moaning” in the movie, in addition to scenes when “There are two women that are briefly shown doing an acrobatic trick nude.”)

3. Blake Edwards
Some of this director’s nude (or near-nude) images are surely burned into your brain: Bo Derek on the beach in 1979′s 10 (oh yeah, and the full-on nude orgy in the same pic); the glow-in-the-dark condom scene in 1989’s Skin Deep; a topless Julie Andrews (!!) in 1981′s S.O.B…. It’s okay. It’s okay. Edwards was married to Mary Poppins until his death in 2010. And it was all very meta: S.O.B. is a film within a film about a fading movie producer who wants to get a famously wholesome actress (whom he happens to be married to, get it?) to appear nude on screen to resurrect his career. So it was a statement about gratuitous nudity, you see?

4. Bernardo Bertolucci
He made Last Tango in Paris (1972). Can we just stop right now? Alright, he also made The Dreamers (2003), in which a young American student hangs around nude with a Parisian brother and sister. As you can imagine, all sorts of sex games ensue. And who could forget Rachel Weisz’s breasts and pubic hair in 1996′s Stealing Beauty?

5. Michael Winterbottom
How could you not shoot nude scenes with a name like that? Winterbottom (see, you’re giggling, right?) is most famous for the porn-lite movie 9 Songs (2004), which follows one couple’s sexual activity — masturbation, bondage, oral sex, erect penises, labia, unsimulated intercourse, the lot. He warmed up for this film with 1998′s I Want You, about a mute 14-year-old boy who likes to record couples, in all their naked glory, having sex. Somehow, it’s still rated R.

6. Steven Soderbergh
So there’s no dog poop in Soderbergh’s films, and you probably won’t find any snuffed chickens, either. This director manages to be incredibly racy (e.g. Sex, Lies & Videotape, 1989) while maintaining his mainstream Hollywood status with movies likes Contagion, Erin Brokovich and the Ocean’s Eleven franchise. You’d think that to achieve this, you’d have to focus exclusively on female nudity — but he proved this theory wrong with Magic Mike (2012). Okay, sure, there was plenty of female nudity in there, too, but we’ll take it. In 2009′s The Girlfriend Experience, about a Manhattan call girl, Soderbergh tried — unsuccessfully, in our opinion — to prove that porn star Sasha Grey could actually act. But with that film he did manage to make one of the raciest R-rated movies we’ve ever seen.

7. John Waters
Like Lars Von Trier, John Waters is a fan of equal-opportunity, full-frontal nudity and unsimulated sex scenes — but only Waters includes real live chickens between his actors’ bodies while they do it (that was 1972′s Pink Flamingos). And while we find it hard to defend his infamous dog poop scene, we will say that most of his nudity makes a point — his life’s work examines sexuality, homosexuality, and gender issues. Pink Flamingos was part of a trio that Waters labeled the Trash Trilogy, along with Female Trouble (1974) and Desperate Living (1977). These early films are the filthiest and starred his personal troupe of actors known as the Dreamlanders, including Divine and Mink Stole (with names like that, you could hardly expect them to keep their clothes on); he’s also a fan of casting porn stars.

8. Adrian Lyne
Adrian Lyne’s movies are pretty much synonymous with dark sex — think, 9 1/2 Weeks (1986), Indecent Proposal (1993), Fatal Attraction (1987), Lolita (1997), and Unfaithful (2002). But on the set, while shooting nude scenes, Lyne claims the atmosphere is much lighter. He says he sets the mood by acting like a “demented cheerleader,” shouting encouragement like, “Good, good, good. Give me a little more of that. Show me your beast. Water, water! Great!” He’ll even pop a bottle of bubbly to help his actors relax, like when shooting that kitchen sink scene between Glenn Close and Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction.

9. Judd Apatow
Judd Apatow was so annoyed at a test audience’s squeamish response to male genitalia in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) –which he wrote and produced — that he announced, “I’m gonna get a penis or a vagina in every movie I do from now on.” That might explain the closing-credits montage in Superbad (2007), which Apatow produced. “America fears the penis,” he said. “And that’s something I’m going to help them get over.” Apatow also produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), which features Jason Segel’s awesome nude breakup scene.

10. Lars Von Trier
Is there anything Lars Von Trier is afraid of when it comes to movie-making? This Danish filmmaker makes very smart films, which might make you feel like less of a perv about all the nudity. He is one of the founders of the purist avant-garde film movement Dogme 95, which shuns special effects and other Hollywood gimmicks — which is perhaps why he’s known for showing unsimulated sex in his films like The Idiots (1998) and Anti-Christ (2009). His company, Zentropa, also produces hardcore pornography. He’s really not afraid of nudity.

Author: Em and Lo

Want to see Bertolucci’s The Dreamers? Click here for the movie’s schedule on SundanceTV.