What Happens When Actors Get Turned on While Filming Sex Scenes?

Intimacy coordinators have protocol in place for unplanned on-set arousal

Two actors, a man and a woman, about to kiss. Do actors in movies and TV get turned on when acting out sex scenes? An intimacy coordinator shared what happens in these situations.
There's an unsurprisingly fine line between pretending to get turned on by someone and actually getting turned on.
Fabio Formaggio / EyeEm

From riding the bus to alien egg implantation fantasies, we can’t always control what turns us on. This can sometimes be inconvenient, like, say, when you’re trying to film a sex scene and accidentally get aroused for real. It seems only natural that two probably attractive movie stars pretending to get it on might end up actually getting each other a little hot and bothered. It’s something we’ve all wondered, and yes, according to a real-life Hollywood intimacy coordinator, it does happen.

Intimacy coordinator David Thackeray, who has worked with studios like Netflix, Warner Bros, Apple TV, BBC and HBO, recently told Insider that arousal during sex scenes is very common — so common, in fact, that warning cast and crew of the possibility is part of his job. “Just making sure it’s out in the room by going, ‘Hey, this can happen,’” Thackeray said. “The worst thing we can do is gawk or make it a massive deal. I will say for the crew as well, making sure they’re aware of what scene is being shot, what nudity is gonna be seen. You don’t want them to be surprised.”

When it does happen, intimacy coordinators follow specific protocol to keep everything professional and ensure everyone feels comfortable. According to Thackeray, an intimacy coordinator will usually call a time-out — which can also happen for various other reasons including bungled choreography or modesty garments knocked askew — to let the actor cool down, while also normalizing the situation.

“Just making it really clear that’s normal and that the worst thing you can do is carry on,” Thackeray said. “So we call that a time-out. Give them five minutes then I come in and check in … Then we come back into it when they’re ready.”

So if you’ve ever been watching one of Bridgerton‘s infamously steamy sex scenes and wondered how these attractive people are getting all up in each other’s business pretending to have sex without getting turned on, chances are there was some unplanned arousal along the way. But while a surprise boner may delay production, it’s nothing a little time-out and a touch of professionalism can’t fix.

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