Emma Stone’s new film Poor Things includes a sex scene that had to be edited in order to fit in with UK law.
The film, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite, The Lobster), includes a scene so contentious that if left uncut would have contravened the UK’s Protection of Children Act 1978.
The darkly comedic fantasy film sees Stone’s character being brought back to life by Willem Dafoe, who plays a Frankenstein-like scientist in the film.
In the scene in question, two young boys watch Stone’s Bella Baxter working as a prostitute, after their father has hired Bella to teach them how to have sex.
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which is responsible for the classification and censorship of all films and video works exhibited in UK cinemas or released on physical media, is clear that the film could not have been shown, even with an 18 certificate, unless the scene had been modified.
“We originally saw this film for advice. We informed the distributor we would be likely to classify the film 18 on condition that changes be made to one short sequence depicting sexual activity in the presence of children,” said a BBFC statement.
“This is in accordance with the Protection of Children Act 1978. When the distributor submitted the film for formal classification, the scene had been re-edited, and we were able to classify the film 18.”
Lanthimos discussed the film’s most explicit sequences during a discussion at last year’s Venice Film Festival.
“It was very important for me to not make a film which was going to be prude because that would be completely betraying the main character,” he said. “We had to be confident and again, like the character, have no shame.”
“We sat down with Emma at some point, especially for the sex scenes, we just sat down and decided, ‘What kind of position would they be in here? What kind of thing would they do there?’ What’s missing from the experience of sex and the different desires that people have that we need to portray to make enough of a representation of human desire and its idiosyncrasies?”
Poor Things also stars Mark Ruffalo and Ramy Youssef and is adapted from a 1992 novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray.
On Sunday (January 7), it won two Golden Globes, for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and for Stone as Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. It was nominated for four further awards, and is expected to be in the running for several Oscars.
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