Joanna Lumley brands sex scenes 'revolting'

‘I find them intolerable!’: Joanna Lumley calls for the film industry to axe ‘revolting’ sex scenes and reveals she felt ‘exploited’ when going topless in movie roles

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Joanna Lumley has reflected on the ‘exploitive’ movie industry, hitting out at the appetite for sex scenes and nudity on screen. 

The actress, 77, revealed she has always hated shooting sex scenes, likening them to making ‘soft porn’, admitting she would like them to be cut altogether.

Reflecting on her early years in the film and TV business, she told The Guardian that it was commonplace that actresses be required to strip off for film roles, noting: ‘It was standard and it was this, “You’re not a real actress unless you take your top off.” 

‘Nobody liked it, like nobody likes intimate kissing or sex scenes. All this ghastly stuff we have to pretend to do.’

While she admitted it is a ‘nice thing’ that modern film sets have intimacy coaches, she confessed she’d still rather sex scenes were scrapped altogether. 

Not impressed: Joanna Lumley has reflected on the ‘exploitive’ movie industry, hitting out at the appetite for sex scenes and nudity on screen

Three in a bed: The actress, 77, revealed she has always hated shooting sex scenes (pictured with Leslie Phillips and Brian Rix in 1973’s Don’t Just Lie There, Say Something!) 

‘I find them intolerable!’ she mused: ‘I think they’re revolting, I don’t know why people write them and I don’t know why we watch them. We wouldn’t have films of people sitting on the loo. There are some things which are private.’

Asked if she felt there was an exploitative element to her topless scenes, Joanna replied: ‘Oh, it always is. But there are lots of other things you have to do in life which are horrible, and you never wanted to do them, and you find yourself caught up with them.’ 

Joanna famously appeared topless in the 1971 film Games That Lovers Play, in which she starred alongside Penny Brahms as a brothel owner. 

During a 2021 interview with Esther Rantzen on her That’s After Life! podcast, the Absolutely Fabulous star said she quickly realised there were different expectations for male and female actors when it came to showing skin on-screen.

‘You’d never see the front of a man but you’d always see the front of a woman,’ she explained.

‘All women were expected to go topless, Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Christie, we all had to take our top off. It was part of the titilation of the time. 

‘Yes, I was in a film called the Breaking Of Bumbo and I was in that with the gorgeous Richard Warwick we were doing one of these love scenes where we walked towards each other both naked as the day were born, but guess what you saw Richard’s back and bottom and you see all my front. 

‘That was par of the course. I hated nude scenes. I never longed to strip off and run into the sea. I’m quite a prude.’

In 2018 Joanna stated she felt pressured to appear topless as she feared not being taken seriously as an actress, and in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, claimed sexual harassment ‘was – and is – everywhere.’ 

Revealing: The Absolutely Fabulous star (right) famously appeared in a topless scene for the 1971 film Games That Lovers Play (pictured with Diane Hart) 

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