By Emerson Pearson.

Joe Alwyn and Paul Mescal are getting honest about sex scenes and actor’s anxiety.

The two UK-born heartthrobs sat down for a conversation with each other for Variety in which they traversed over topics like the safety of on-set sex scenes and the anxiety that comes with acting in a major film.

The two actors had very successful and busy years. Alwyn traveled the festival circuit, playing a mysterious Englishman in “Stars at Noon” and a medieval uncle in Lena Dunham’s “Catherine Called Birdy”. Mezcal starred in “Aftersun,” the directorial debut for first-time filmmaker Charlotte Wells.

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Along the conversation, Mescal brought up the topic of sex scenes: “[…] I’d like to get into that a bit, because obviously I think it’s fair to say we’ve done our share of intimate scenes. How did that experience on ‘Stars at Noon’ differ from ‘Conversations’?”

Alwyn explained the safety and production behind the sex scenes in his latest film, “‘Conversations With Friends,’ there’s an intimacy coordinator. The scenes are spoken about. They’re rehearsed. Every movement is almost choreographed like a dance or a fight. And they’re quite blocked, even though there’s freedom within it. But I trusted Claire and I trusted the crew. And Margaret, obviously. And you feel safe within that. I think trust and feeling safe is the main thing.”

Joe Alwyn for Variety
Joe Alwyn/Credits: Alexi Lubomirski for Variety
— Alexi Lubomirski for Variety

Mescal pointed out how safety behind sex scenes on set is of utmost importance even if you want the scene to appear natural.

That is the main thing, totally. But it is interesting, with that question, being it’s a hot topic in the industry. I think you’re right that you never want scenes around intimacy to feel stale. But ultimately they have to feel safe. And I think you can feel safe multiple ways, and that’s through trust.”

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Alwyn also inquired about his fellow actor’s anxiety on set: “Absolutely. I wanted to ask you, which is kind of off topic, but I remember us speaking before about anxiety and shooting and being able to get outside of anxiety in order to do the job. How are you finding that?”

Mescal explained how he repurposes his anxieties into his acting job on set.

“It’s that cursed feeling of, once you feel like it’s disappearing, it comes back and hits you like a ton of bricks. But I was talking to somebody about that. They said, ‘I don’t think it’s ever going to leave you, because it’s a personality type.’ But for me, it’s trying to use that anxiety or fear or fear of failure — repurposing that to be like, “What I’m doing matters to me.” Might not matter to everybody, but it matters to me at that moment.”

Paul Mescal/Credits: Alexi Lubomirski for Variety
— Alexi Lubomirski for Variety

Alwyn ended the conversation with praise for female director Lena Dunham’s vitality and energy on set.

“She’s a force. And full of energy, positivity, creativity. I think maybe also because she performs herself, she has a good understanding of what an actor might want. She really takes care of people. She will come in and tell you what she liked, or she’ll give you a thumbs-up. And, also, she’s just so funny.”


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Ellen Bullock