‘People Found It A Little Too Much’: Poor Things’ Director Had To Fight For Emma Stone’s Unabashed Sex Scenes, And I’m Happy He Did

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Written By Maya Cantina

It’s pretty incredible that Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things exists. It’s a bold take on the classic story of Frankenstein with the twist of Emma Stone’s Bella Baxter being a full-grown woman who gets a baby brain placed into her body and discovers the pleasures and pitfalls of the world without the weight of society to bring her any shame about how she decides to live. The movie is ridden with sex scenes, which, as director Yorgos Lanthimos recently explained, was not an easy sell for movie producers. 

If you’ve seen Poor Things, which has earned Emma Stone rave reviews from critics and on CinemaBlend’s best movies of 2023 list, it’s not hard to imagine the science fiction black comedy being a hard sell. But, here’s what Yorgos Lanthimos recently said on the subject: 

I explored options with other producers, but it didn’t go anywhere. A story about a woman’s freedom in all aspects of society, humanity, or however you want to put it, wasn’t something that interested people a lot.

During an interview with Variety, Lanthimos recalled Poor Things being shut out by numerous Hollywood producers before the movie found its home with Focus Features. As he continued: 

I think some people found it a little too much in terms of Bella’s freedom around sexuality. The setup itself — a grown woman with the brain of a child — people didn’t know how to respond to it.

Considering all the doors being proverbially slammed in Lanthimos’ face regarding telling the sexual and general awakening of Emma Stone’s Bella Baxter, there certainly could have been a version of this where Lanthimos had decided to compromise the movie’s vision (and one of the book’s author, Alasdair Gray) and sanitize the sex scenes in Poor Things. Sure, it might have been a bit more “accessible” and less unsettling to watch without as many sex scenes, but I ultimately admire Lanthimos for sticking to his guns and making such an unabashed movie. 

The high-handed amount of sex in Poor Things is, of course, purposeful because it frames its protagonist in the perspective of a woman who is exploring pleasure to its fullest potential simply because she wants to. As Bella Baxter goes on this journey of self (and sex) discovery throughout the film, it’s probably uncomfortable because we just don’t see this kind of storytelling when it comes to women. It’s a rather unheard of narrative. So while I’m sure Lanthimos had his battles to fight, I’m happy he did it because it ultimately brings to light something that’s rather unique to see in film. 

Since Poor Things premiered at the Venice Film Festival and joined the 2023 movie release schedule, it’s been awarded a lot for its boldness, earning the festival’s Golden Lion and being placed among award contenders. Could the movie give Emma Stone her second Oscar win? We’ll keep you updated. Poor Things is now playing in theaters. 

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