Tag Archives: Magic Mike

Pecs appeal: what The Guest reveals about Hollywood’s new stripping sexism

15 Sep

Ye gods, but Dan Stevens is gorgeous in new movie The Guest. You hardly recognise him from Downton Abbey: the puppy fat is replaced by cheekbones, the floppy fringe by manly stubble, the limpid blue eyes are now focused laser beams of energy. He needs to be gorgeous: the more interesting first half of the movie, before things go pear-shaped and daft-thrillery, is all about how he wins over a family, one by one – the mother through sensitivity, the father through beer, the young son through help with bullies. But does he really have to win over the 20-year-old daughter by stepping from a steamy bathroom in the skimpiest of towels? Those pecs! Those lats! Those abs! She swoons.

If Stevens becomes a star on the back of this, and he surely will, his personal trainer deserves 10%, along with his agent and manager. In fact, it’s a little surprising there’s not yet an Oscar category for that. And what’s interesting is how thoroughly gratuitous nudity in Hollywood has now been turned on its head.

Right into the ‘90s it was almost impossible to be an actress and not get your kit off, unless you were Meryl Streep. It’s why columnist Julie Burchill used to call acting a form of legalised prostitution. Even the respected auteur Robert Altman pressurised Greta Scacchi (unsuccessfully) to show off her celebrated bust in The Player, despite a prior agreement: “When it came to the day of the shoot,” Scacchi later recalled, “he told me ‘Get yourself on the set, take your knickers off and do what you’re paid to do.’” Demi Moore was paid a record $12 million to strip off in Striptease. Halle Berry is rumoured to have been given an extra $500,000 to show her boobs in Swordfish, though she denies any extra fee.

How times have changed in the new millennium. When Alice Eve gratuitously stripped in front of Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness, the backlash was huge, to the point where the scriptwriter apologised – and even then she only undressed to bra and pants. There is no expectation now that beautiful and talented actresses such as Jennifer Lawrence will have to get naked to get ahead. It’s one reason, aside from righteous indignation at the appalling invasion of privacy, that the recent hacking of nude celebrity pictures has aroused such interest: in the ‘90s, it would have been nothing people hadn’t seen before, on screens 40 feet high.

No such reticence applies to the male physique, and I blame Brad Pitt. When he took his shirt off in Thelma & Louise, revealing the washboard abs beneath the cheeky grin, it opened the doors for equal opportunities sexism. Since then, Matt Damon, Tobey McGuire, Will Smith, Ewan MacGregor, Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, Hugh Jackman, Tom Cruise, Gerard Butler, Ryan Reynolds, Channing Tatum… actually, it would be quicker to make a list of actors who haven’t had to bulk up and strip off.

And now, finally, there are signs that the more insidious sexism in Hollywood may gradually and grudgingly be coming to an end. It’s long been argued by movie execs, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, that films with women in the lead roles don’t make money. None, therefore, were made… so none made money. Bridesmaids in comedy, and in the blockbuster market The Hunger Games and Gravity (though its director initially had to fight the studio to get them to okay a female lead), have demonstrated the fallacy, and execs are, according to the New York Times, taking note.

There’s still a ways to go, and still a big disparity in pay cheques. But, in liberating Hollywood’s women, must we objectify Hollywood’s men? How long before aspiring male actors are simply reading for the part of “Hunky Boyfriend: must be prepared for Shower Scene”?

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Steven Soderbergh: not shy, but he is retiring

28 Jan
Image

Sex, Lies & Videotape: made when Steven Soderbergh was just 26 —
the same age I was when I put it on Time Out’s cover

Steven Soderbergh has just confirmed his retirement from directing, having celebrated his 50th birthday. In early 2011 he denied the rumours, blaming them on a drunken conversation with Matt Damon and calling him “about as discreet as a 14-year-old girl”. Then that summer he semi-confirmed them, calling it a sabbatical. Now, in a forthcoming interview with the New York Times (http://bit.ly/WvVXay), he says he is putting down the camera for good, and picking up a paintbrush instead.

“The tyranny of narrative is beginning to frustrate me,” he explains. “Or at least narrative as we’re currently defining it.”

I feel proprietorial about Soderbergh. Sex, Lies & Videotape, made when Soderbergh was just 26, was I think the first Time Out cover I ever did. I too was just 26, and filling in while the Editor was away (Simon Garfield it was, now a prominent author of non-fiction books). It was bold to put an unknown, low-budget indie on the cover, in the days before indie films were a powerful force (Sex, Lies… was instrumental in making them so), but we all loved the film.

To be honest, it helped when the film company unearthed some Greg Gorman pics of Laura San Giacomo lounging on a bed in black leather boots (above). The title helped, too. “Sex” sells, of course. With “Lies”, you’ve got your conflict. “Videotape”, well, how better to win over the home rental market once the theatrical release is over? There’s a lesson there still for aspirant film-makers. A great title is worth millions in marketing.

That early commercial nous explains, in hindsight, how this indie auteur can have forged a parallel career as one of Hollywood’s most successful mainstream directors, balancing the likes of Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven and Magic Mike with Schizopolis or The Girlfriend Experience – and, in Traffic, fusing the two worlds. Not all his films are brilliant, but they are never dull.

He’s clearly a funny guy, too. Take this from the aforementioned New York Times interview, on his frequent collaborator George Clooney: “He inspires people. He listens. He’s generous. He’s loyal. He’s funny, which is crucial. He solves problems better than anyone I know. That’s why people keep telling him to run for office, but he’s too smart for that. If there were 500 of him, you could take over an entire country—but of course three weeks later you’d lose it again because of all the parties.”

The film world will be the poorer for his departure.

Soderbergh’s final film, Side Effects, opens in the UK on March 15

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