Oscar Isaac Sang to Jessica Chastain on ‘Scenes From a Marriage’ Set to Ease Sex Scene Nerves

Chastain is often "embarrassed" by sex scenes, so Isaac went the extra mile to ensure she was comfortable.
Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac
Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac
Rocco Spaziani/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

HBO’s reimagining of Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes From a Marriage” reunites Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac after “A Most Violent Year” in the story of a longtime couple’s fracturing relationship. For Chastain and Isaac, the series presented the challenge of acting out sex scenes with a scene partner who has been a friend for well over two decades. The two actors attended the Juilliard School together and have remained friends ever since.

“Sex scenes to me are embarrassing,” Chastain recently told Vulture. “I’m fine talking about them. For one scene, the intimacy coordinator came in after the first take and said, ‘It doesn’t look like you guys are having sex.’ That was the note. I was like, ‘We’re not having sex.’ [Laughs.] Both Oscar and I were like, ‘Okay, great, thanks.'”

Chastain continued, “I said, ‘Well, I think it’s just a romantic moment?’ She said, ‘Maybe more up-and-down action?’ See, it’s just embarrassing! So the next shot, it’s just like [moves her body awkwardly up and down]. I know it looks sexy, but it’s not. Oscar is such a good friend. Because I was so nervous, he played music and we drank a little bit of bourbon. He’d say, ‘Just pretend there’s nobody else here. It’s okay.’ And there’s a song I really like, so he’d start singing in between the takes. So I was like, ‘Okay, just lock eyes on him.’ The most beautiful part of one of the love scenes is the love in their eyes when they’re looking at each other. And he helped create that.”

HBO’s “Scenes From a Marriage” is directed and written by Hagai Levi, the Israeli filmmaker best known for developing the therapy drama “In Treatment” and Showtime’s long-running series “The Affair.” “Scenes” began its run on September 12 on HBO after world-premiering at the Venice Film Festival.

“Affecting and exquisitely acted, Hagai Levi’s update of Ingmar Bergman’s seismic 1973 miniseries finds its own path, albeit one in parallel to many well-traveled routes,” IndieWire’s Ben Travers writes of the series in his review. “Not only does the handsome couple [Chastain and Isaac] first introduced in ‘A Most Violent Year’ still carry a casual chemistry that can be dialed up or off in an instant, but they both fight for their characters in such a way that makes them identifiable and convincing individuals.”

“Scenes From a Marriage” continues its run Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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