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Punch-ups, car chases, window leaps – for years, film and TV sets have employed stunt co-ordinators to oversee potentially dangerous scenes to make sure everyone involved is safe and feels comfortable.

So why is this such a relatively new thing for sex and intimacy?

While filming these sequences may not leave stars physically hurt, from Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct to Maria Schneider in Last Tango In Paris, there are well-publicised stories of the emotional scars some famous scenes have left on their stars. And earlier in 2021, Keira Knightley said she would no longer shoot intimate scenes for films or shows directed by a man and that she is not interested in “scenes where you’re all greased up and everybody is grunting”.

Michaela Coel as Arabella in I May Destroy You.
Pic: BBC/Various Artists Ltd and FALKNA/Natalie Seery
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Michaela Coel, star and creator of I May Destroy You, thanked her intimacy co-ordinator in her BAFTA speech. Pic: BBC/Various Artists Ltd and FALKNA/Natalie Seery

Following her leading actress win at the BAFTA TV Awards, for her portrayal of rape victim Arabella in the groundbreaking I May Destroy You, it was the unsung role of intimacy co-ordinator that Michaela Coel praised in her speech. For a show exploring issues of consent, Ita O’Brien’s presence on set, Coel said, was “essential”.

The role of intimacy co-ordinator has really come to the fore as a result of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in 2017 and the subsequent #MeToo movement, with directors and producers now paying a lot more attention to the way scenes of a sexual nature are shot and handled. And the issue has been highlighted again in recent weeks following allegations of misconduct made against actor and director Noel Clarke – which he “vehemently denies”.

“It seems crazy now that we’ve had stunt co-ordinators overseeing fights but we didn’t have a co-ordinator overseeing scenes that have intimacy, where people are just as likely to be mentally injured as physically if they’re not handled correctly,” intimacy co-ordinator Vanessa Coffey tells Sky News.

Keira Knightley at the London Film Festival in 2018
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Keira Knightley has said she no longer wants to do sex scenes with male directors

Her job is to speak to producers and directors about what they’re looking for, and actors about what they’re comfortable doing, and make sure everyone on set has an understanding of what is needed. Because, she says, “if you have the power to hire or fire somebody, you might not be getting a real answer from them as to whether or not they are happy… a lot of actors are worried that they’ll lose a job if they say no”.

Coffey has worked on series including Wolfe, War Of The Worlds, and I Hate Suzie, the comedy starring Billie Piper that was also up for several BAFTAs alongside I May Destroy You. One episode of the series is almost entirely focused on Piper’s character masturbating; with the wrong person in charge, it could have been incredibly uncomfortable to film.

Piper, she says, was “a wonderful person to work with because she comes with a lot of her own thoughts and ideas”, and they were all able to “have a bit of a laugh between takes, which certainly eases tension”.

Billie Piper in I Hate Suzie. Pic: Sky UK Ltd
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Billie Piper stars in I Hate Suzie. Pic: Sky UK Ltd

Sex on screen in 2021

From Bridgerton and Adult Material to It’s A Sin and Normal People, there has been a lot of sex on screen in the past year or so. And it’s in no small part down to intimacy co-ordinators that we’re seeing less of the “male gaze” and porn-style sex, and it’s becoming more realistic.

“I do think it is changing,” says Coffey, of portrayals of sex on screen. “Because [intimacy co-ordinators] just work on intimate scenes… we start to really have an eye to how to craft these moments and think about what position will tell a particular story as well. Whereas, if you’ve just left actors to it in the past, to ‘go for it’, you end up seeing a little bit maybe inside the actors’ personal lives rather than, ‘what is the story of the characters we’re telling in this moment?'”

Coffey, who previously worked as a lawyer before training to be an actor, has been in the role officially since 2018, but was also working unofficially before that after being asked to look over a nudity rider – a contract between an actor and the production they are hired by that defines what will happen on set when filming nude – for a colleague.

She is now one of about 20 intimacy co-ordinators in the UK, but numbers look set to rise; following Coel’s speech, Time’s Up UK, a charity set up following the Weinstein scandal, has called for the creation of an independent standards authority, and for intimacy co-ordinators to become mandatory on film and TV sets.

Intimacy co-ordinator Vanessa Coffey has worked on productions including I Hate Suzie, Wolfe and War Of The Worlds
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Intimacy co-ordinator Vanessa Coffey has worked on productions including I Hate Suzie, Wolfe, and War Of The Worlds

The importance of intimacy co-ordinators

So why is the role so vital? BECTU (the broadcasting, entertainment, communications and theatre union) says there is a higher risk of bullying, emotional manipulation and sexual harassment on set in scenes with intimacy, and someone co-ordinating the scenes can help prevent this.

“We’ve seen some really powerful examples historically,” says Coffey, of scenes that have affected actors long after release. “One of the classics to talk about is Last Tango In Paris, the [Bernardo] Bertolucci film.

“Obviously that was in the ’70s, so we’re talking about well before the concept of intimacy co-ordinators was ever considered. But you had a performer in that [Schneider] who says afterwards that she felt raped, having done a scene where she didn’t consent to a lubricant being used. She didn’t know that that was what was going to be happening within the scene with the other performer.”

In an interview that resurfaced in 2016, Bertolucci admitted to conspiring with actor Marlon Brando to add butter without Schneider’s consent, saying: “I wanted her to react humiliated.” Schneider struggled with drug addiction and depression following the film. She died from cancer in 2011, aged 58.

Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando in Last Tango In Paris
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Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando in Last Tango In Paris, released in 1972

In March, Sharon Stone’s memoir detailed the background of her famous “missing underwear” scene from 1992’s Basic Instinct; in an extract published in Vanity Fair, she claimed she was misled while filming.

“That was how I saw my vagina-shot for the first time, long after I’d been told, ‘We can’t see anything – I just need you to remove your panties, as the white is reflecting the light, so we know you have panties on’,” she said. In the end, Stone said, she agreed to the scene being used “because it was correct for the film and for the character”.

A representative for Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven said he did not want to comment on Stone’s claims.

There are, Coffey says, “some fairly extreme examples out there of people’s boundaries having been quite severely crossed – not just pushed, but absolutely crossed”.

She continues: “People walking away from productions talking about the awkwardness of something that happened… as well as having been on the receiving end of something that might go as far as being called assault.

“I speak to actors all the time who, even in very recent times, have come away from productions feeling that either they or that somebody on the production hadn’t done the right thing and that boundaries had inadvertently been crossed.”

And it is not just women, but men as well. “A lot of the men I’ve spoken to have been so worried about the boundaries they might inadvertently have crossed, too, not having had a really open conversation with, say, a female performer, for example.”

Olly Alexander leads the cast of It's A Sin. Pic: Channel 4
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It’s A Sin star Olly Alexander has praised the show’s intimacy co-ordinators for helping with sex scenes. Pic: Channel 4

Where can actors and others in the industry go for help and advice?

In 2019, Directors UK issued guidelines for directing nudity and simulated sex in British television and film for the first time. In 2020, BECTU created a specific branch for intimacy co-ordinators. And there is also Time’s Up UK.

Following the allegations made against Clarke, there have been calls for more to be done. In a recent interview with Sky News ahead of the BAFTAs, Time’s Up UK chief executive Dame Heather Rabbatts said the charity had made progress since it was set up in January 2018, but there is always more that can be done.

“I think when we see allegations of any kind in the media about things that have gone on before in our industry, we do sit back and think, ‘how can we make this different going forward’, or ‘what have we already got in place that we’re not using?'” says Coffey.

“Within the [Directors UK] guidance, it says that you should never have to do a naked audition, for example. If you need to see what somebody’s body looks like, at most you should ask them to wear a bikini or trunks, and have a chaperone present. So there are safety precautions that we have in place that I think are worth highlighting.”

As the problems in the industry have come under the spotlight in recent months and years, a lot has been said about power dynamics on film and TV sets.

But it’s not power that’s the problem, says Coffey, it’s about how that authority is used. And that’s where an intimacy co-ordinator can help.

“To me, power is not a bad thing,” she says. “We have power dynamics on set and we have them for a reason and they’re there to keep people safe – it’s the abuse of power that’s a problem.”

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Wayne Lineker thanks friend for taking him to hospital after Ibiza incident

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Wayne Lineker thanks friend for taking him to hospital after Ibiza incident

Wayne Lineker has thanked a friend for taking him to hospital after a “disturbing” incident in Ibiza earlier this week, which left him with “stitches and a swollen lip” after he tried “to protect a girl from being harassed”.

The 62-year-old, who is the younger brother of former England footballer Gary Lineker, shared an Instagram story praising his pal after a video circulated earlier this week, showing him in an altercation outside a bar on the Spanish island in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

He was reported to have been knocked out for several minutes after being punched in the jaw by another man following a confrontation.

Wayne re-shared a photo showing him drinking a couple of raw juices and gave “very special thanks” to his friend, cafe owner Daniel Onions.

Wayne thanked him “for looking after me for many hours after the event took place, taking me [to] hospital, and making sure I got home safe and ok”.

Onions re-shared his post, commenting: “What friends are for”.

The Celebs Go Dating star later shared a short video on Instagram, with two of his resort employees joking with him that “sometimes, you’ve just got to take it on the chin”.

Proving the blow hadn’t knocked his sense of humour, Wayne annotated the video, writing: “Hahaha gotta see the funny side. Take it on the chin.”

Earlier this week, Wayne shared a photo showing him in sunglasses, and with a cut to the right side of his chin, giving a thumbs up, at his friend’s wellness cafe.

Wayne has his own businesses in Ibiza, and owns the beach resort O Beach on the island, and has other resorts on the Spanish mainland and in Majorca.

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Wayne wrote: “I wanted to write this post to let everyone know that I’m doing ok… I have a few stitches and a swollen lip.

“It could have been much worse so I count myself very fortunate I wasn’t standing two yards further back, as my head would have impacted the wall.

“Obviously the video is very disturbing to see especially for my family.

“The papers were very accurate and it was a simple case of me just trying to protect a girl from being harassed.

“Thank you everyone for all your messages of concern the support has been really overwhelming.”

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His nephew, and son of Gary Lineker, commented: “LOL: “Lowest of the low”.

Wayne is understood to be estranged from his brother and has previously said they no longer talk.

It’s not known if anyone has been arrested over the incident.

Sky News has contacted Wayne for further comment.

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Taylor Swift travel warning issued for Cardiff ahead of Eras Tour performance

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Taylor Swift travel warning issued for Cardiff ahead of Eras Tour performance

Members of the public have been warned to plan their travel as Taylor Swift descends on Cardiff next week.

Thousands of her fans – known as Swifties – are expected to gather in the Welsh capital on Tuesday for the American singer’s Eras Tour.

Last week, the 34-year-old superstar took Edinburgh by storm.

Swift then performed in Liverpool on Thursday and will do two more concerts in the city on Friday and Saturday before arriving in Wales.

The UK leg of the tour will come to an end next week with performances at Wembley Stadium in London.

She will then go on to Ireland followed by a string of gigs in mainland Europe before further shows at Wembley in August.

Principality Stadium, best known as the home of Welsh rugby, will be transformed for the Cardiff event.

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The council said it expects the M4 to be “very busy” due to the concert and has said the public should “plan ahead”.

The gates to the stadium are set to open at 4pm, but there will be a full road closure in the city centre from 12pm until midnight.

Cowbridge Road East, Castle Street and Duke Street will stay open until 3pm, the council confirmed.

A park and ride facility at Cardiff City Football Club will be in operation for those hoping to avoid congestion.

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Transport for Wales are set to provide extra capacity on routes in and out of Cardiff on Tuesday.

But trains are also expected to be very busy with passengers urged to allow plenty of time for their journey.

After the event, there will be separate queues on Central Square for all lines, while the queues for the South Wales Valleys services will be at the rear of the station.

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Latitude Festival cuts ties with sponsor Barclays after acts pull out

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Latitude Festival cuts ties with sponsor Barclays after acts pull out

Latitude Festival has dropped its sponsor, Barclays, after a number of musicians and comedians dropped out in protest over the bank’s ties to the Israel-Hamas war.

Latitude Festival told Sky News: “Following discussion with artists, we have agreed with Barclays that they will step back from sponsorship of Latitude Festival”.

Comedians Joanne McNally, Sophie Duker, Grace Campbell, and Alexandra Haddow all announced they would be boycotting the event last week.

Musicians including CMAT, Pillow Queens, Mui Zyu, and Georgia Ruth had also pulled out of the event.

Palestine Action, a group whose members attacked 20 of the bank branches across England and Scotland last week, has accused Barclays of having financial interests in both Israel’s weapons trade and fossil fuels.

Barclays says while it provides financial services to “public companies that supply defence products to NATO and its allies” it does not directly invest in the firms.

Pic: Palestine Action/X
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Pic: Palestine Action/X

Taskmaster star McNally, who had been set to close the festival wrote in an Instagram story last week: “I’m getting messages today about me performing at Latitude when it’s being sponsored by Barclays.

“I’m not longer doing Latitude. I was due to close the comedy tent on the Sunday night, but I pulled out last week.

“I’m on the old artwork but I haven’t been listed on the site since I pulled out a week ago.”

Duker had shared a photo of her at a previous Latitude Festival, and confirmed she would be boycotting the event.

She wrote: “I am committed to minimising my complicity in what I consider to be a pattern of abhorrent, unlawful violence”.

The 34-year-old comedian also said her pro-Palestinian stance “has gained me violent abuse, targeted pile-ons and death threats”.

Fellow comedian Grace Campbell, who is the daughter of Sir Tony Blair’s former spokesman Alastair Campbell, shared Duker’s post in an Instagram story, announcing she was also pulling out of the festival.

Meanwhile, comedian Alexandra Haddow said she too would no longer appear, writing on Instagram: “I can’t in good conscience take the fee.”

In a post shared on her Instagram account last week, Irish singer-songwriter CMAT said: “I will not allow my precious work, my music, which I love so much, to get into bed with violence.”

Barclays has been approached for a comment.

In response to the exodus of acts, Barclays previously defended its position, saying it recognised “the profound human suffering” caused by the Israel-Hamas war.

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“We provide vital financial services to US, UK, and European public companies that supply defence products to NATO and its allies,” it said in a statement.

“Barclays does not directly invest in these companies. The defence sector is fundamental to our national security and the UK government has been clear that supporting defence companies is compatible with ESG considerations.

“Decisions on the implementation of arms embargos to other nations are the job of respective elected governments.”

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Latitude Festival at Henham Park in Suffolk, held from the 25-29 July.

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