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View Full Version : How are child actors prepared for "adult scenes"?


SSG Schwartz
09-30-2007, 03:44 PM
In the movies, you will see children doing things like cussing, smoking or standing around naked adults. Are these children given any special preparation or are they considered to be actors and will do whatever the script says? Also, at least with respect to the nude scenes, how do the adults keep the ick factor down?

If this should be in GQ, move it please.

SSG Schwartz

lissener
09-30-2007, 03:47 PM
Mostly by the editor.

Zebra
09-30-2007, 03:52 PM
The kid who played Danny in Kubrick's The Shining, had no idea he was making a horror movie.

Basically this varies from production to production. But they don't have to 'do' quite a bit of the adult stuff.

vivalostwages
09-30-2007, 03:54 PM
In the movies, you will see children doing things like cussing, smoking or standing around naked adults. Are these children given any special preparation or are they considered to be actors and will do whatever the script says? Also, at least with respect to the nude scenes, how do the adults keep the ick factor down?

If this should be in GQ, move it please.

SSG Schwartz

It depends on the child's maturity, their contract, their parents, etc. In movies like Birth and The Door in the Floor, it is made to look as if the child is seeing a naked adult. However, their scenes were filmed on different days when they were not together on the set (though each actor speaks to the other as if that other person were really there), and it is put together later.

In a film like The Missing, the director tried to prepare the younger actress for a tough scene, but she said it was just a movie, they were just acting, etc., so it wasn't as if she was traumatized.

In the original The Shining, the young boy playing Danny said many years later that he had learned only bits and pieces of the script and was kept in the dark as to what it was all about. Very young actors wouldn't read a whole script anyway, in most cases. They don't need to and it would very likely bore them.

Martiju
09-30-2007, 03:59 PM
I heard an interesting interview on the BBC about this recently. The director of a TV drama with a variety of adult themes (along the lines you described) said that their main approach was to talk to the children and explain that it was all pretend. He mentioned a scene where the parents were screaming abuse at each other whilst the child looked on and said how they prepared the child and then how, between takes, the child was perfectly able to see that the people didn't hate each other but were acting. The children in question were between 5 and 10 years old, from memory.

It makes sense when you think about it, cos kids play pretend all the time and seem perfectly able to cope.

Mind you, if your point is more about whether they should be exposed to nudity, swearing, etc. at all, then that goes deeper. I'm sure there are regulations on this but would imagine if it's integral to the scene then there wouldn't be a problem provided the parents allowed it.

Evil Captor
09-30-2007, 04:02 PM
You have to wonder how Brooke Shields was prepared for "Pretty Baby." That said, acting in the movie as a child does not appear to have done her much harm -- she seems to be one of our more level-headed actresses.

ivylass
09-30-2007, 04:08 PM
The child actress in Bastard Out of Carolina is brutally raped by her mother's boyfriend. It's a very hard scene to watch and I can only imagine how they got her through it.

I was watching a bio on Jodie Foster. She says during the pinball machine rape scene in The Accused, she remembers the director yelling action, and then cut, but she doesn't remember anything in between. She says the male actors who portrayed her rapists were so traumatized she had to play "mother" to them afterward and make sure they were okay.

John DiFool
09-30-2007, 04:22 PM
The kid who played Danny in Kubrick's The Shining, had no idea he was making a horror movie.

That old yarn always stretched my credulity a bit. In several scenes he was either being chased by an insane Jack Nicholson, or was doing something creepy himself (screaming "Redrum!"). Perhaps (c.f. the bathroom "Here's Johnny!" scene) he was never around when Nicholson was going batshit, just seemed that way via expert editing.

SSG Schwartz
09-30-2007, 04:24 PM
Mind you, if your point is more about whether they should be exposed to nudity, swearing, etc. at all, then that goes deeper. I'm sure there are regulations on this but would imagine if it's integral to the scene then there wouldn't be a problem provided the parents allowed it.


No, I have no opinion on if it should be done. I am only interested in how it is done.

SSG Schwartz

BubbaDog
09-30-2007, 04:35 PM
The child actress in Bastard Out of Carolina is brutally raped by her mother's boyfriend. It's a very hard scene to watch and I can only imagine how they got her through it.
This movie was the first thing I thought of when I saw the thread title. I felt sorry for Jena Malone and Ron Eldard for being the actors that had to portray the rape scene. Acting can be a very emotionally tough profession.

Kamino Neko
09-30-2007, 04:56 PM
The child actress in Bastard Out of Carolina is brutally raped by her mother's boyfriend. It's a very hard scene to watch and I can only imagine how they got her through it.

Just to nitpick the phrasing - the CHARACTER was brutally raped by her mother's boyfriend. The way it's phrased here, it sounds like the actress herself was raped on screen.

While it is, I admit, possible the actress was, herself, a rape victim (though I certainly hope not), that wasn't what you were watching on the screen when you watched Bastard Out of Carolina.

ivylass
09-30-2007, 05:00 PM
Just to nitpick the phrasing - the CHARACTER was brutally raped by her mother's boyfriend. The way it's phrased here, it sounds like the actress herself was raped on screen.

While it is, I admit, possible the actress was, herself, a rape victim (though I certainly hope not), that wasn't what you were watching on the screen when you watched Bastard Out of Carolina.

Okay, how does "The child actress in Bastard Out of Carolina was involved in a brutal rape scene by the actor who played her mother's boyfriend" sound?

I think everybody here knew what I meant. The point is, it was a very traumatic realistic scene and I don't know how they got the girl through it, unless she's an experienced professional. I don't know that much about her.

silenus
09-30-2007, 05:03 PM
I haven't sen the movie being cited, but how much of the scene is in one continuous cut? You can really do a lot with a skilled editor and the human imagination.

monstro
09-30-2007, 05:07 PM
Okay, how does "The child actress in Bastard Out of Carolina was involved in a brutal rape scene by the actor who played her mother's boyfriend" sound?

I think everybody here knew what I meant.

It seems this board is a magnet for language nitpickers. They drive me berserkers.

But good call on Bastard Out of Carolina. The scene makes me cry every time I see it.

Q.E.D.
09-30-2007, 05:10 PM
You can really do a lot with a skilled editor and the human imagination.
Not only that, but special effects techniques have allowed movie makers to insert characters into scenes they never even saw. Every movie which has a single actor playing simultaneous multiple on-screen roles does this seamlessly.

alphaboi867
09-30-2007, 05:18 PM
...However, their scenes were filmed on different days when they were not together on the set (though each actor speaks to the other as if that other person were really there), and it is put together later...

Now and Then has a scene where the four leading actresses (all teenage girls) come across their nemesises, the Wormer brothers (teen & pre-teen boys), skinnydipping. They then proceed to steal their clothes and the boys are forced to chase them through the woods to get them back. The girls were never present onsite at the same time the boys were. Of course the young actors still had to deal with a female directer, a largely female crew, and a few of their mothers while wearing nothing but flesh-colored socks. :o It's become very rare (at least in American films) for minors to due actual nude scenes even though it's not illegal.

BubbaDog
09-30-2007, 05:27 PM
I haven't sen the movie being cited, but how much of the scene is in one continuous cut? You can really do a lot with a skilled editor and the human imagination.Do you mean Bastard Out of Carolina?
The scene was in a car with the girl sitting on the actors lap. The camera was on both of their faces together as they both had to move and react to the situation. While there were changes to the scene I don't think the editor had to do much with it. It was the emotional drama of the looks on their faces, especially the girl's that made it so horrifying to watch.

Baraqiyal
09-30-2007, 05:40 PM
I know that in "Pet Sematary", the young actor was replaced with a mechanical doll when he went on his murder rampage.

jacquilynne
09-30-2007, 05:41 PM
Keep in mind, too, that children may have limited or different concepts of what things like rape actually mean. You tell the kid they're supposed to act afraid or hurt or whatever, and they can do that (that's why they're in the movie) without necessarily understanding what the bad person is theoretically doing to them.

RickJay
09-30-2007, 05:50 PM
Jena Malone was 12 when she filmed that scene; still a child, but I'm sure she knew what rape was.

Still, such scenes can be made to look at lot more graphic and horrible than they really are. You can play a lot of tricks with a camera.

Q.E.D.
09-30-2007, 05:52 PM
It was the emotional drama of the looks on their faces, especially the girl's that made it so horrifying to watch.
Bear in mind that the emotional component that's so overwhelming in the final cut, is virtually absent on set. If you've ever seen a movie scene being shot, you know it bears little resemblance to what you see on the screen.

Catamount
09-30-2007, 08:06 PM
I knew a guy who played a priest in a Lifetime movie once. There was a scene where the little girl came into the church to deal with being sexually abused by some family member and the priest basically told her that she was a bad person and it was all her fault. He said that his dialogue and her reaction shots were done separately. She came on first and the director told her there was a monster that was chasing her to get her to look horrified and guilty. Then she left and Guy I Knew came on and said his lines while looking at a yardstick that was placed where the little girl was seated.

silenus
09-30-2007, 08:12 PM
IIRC, the director twisted Brooke Shield's big toe to get her to make an "orgasm" face for Endless Love. I'm willing to bet that the director took a similar approach to Bastard Out Of Carolina.

ivylass
09-30-2007, 09:18 PM
Do you mean Bastard Out of Carolina?
The scene was in a car with the girl sitting on the actors lap. The camera was on both of their faces together as they both had to move and react to the situation. While there were changes to the scene I don't think the editor had to do much with it. It was the emotional drama of the looks on their faces, especially the girl's that made it so horrifying to watch.

I remember a scene in a living room of a house. First he beat her, then he threw her down on the floor.

That's a movie I can't really sit through, so I only got bits and pieces of it.

ZipperJJ
09-30-2007, 09:33 PM
I haven't seen it in a long time, but the Australian movie Rabbit-Proof Fence had some bits in the "making of" vignette about preparing the child actors for a horrifying scene in which some Aborigine girls were physically ripped away from their mother.

Since the actors were actually Aborigine and they already knew about this part in their culture's history, they couldn't really be kept in the dark about what was happening. But, at the same time, they were actually mature enough to realize the importance of making this movie. So, they just had to have a lot of hugs and kisses before, during and after the scene and a lot of dialogue with their mom and other people on the set about how to deal with it.

Terrific movie, btw.

Voyager
09-30-2007, 10:29 PM
You have to remember that the filmed scene is often the umpteenth take, and that the actors have no doubt rehearsed it before. Plus, while it looks like a bedroom or hotel corridor to you, in reality the actor or actress can see the end of the set, and the cameramen, and the director, and the lighting guys, and his or her parents, so I don't think any kid gets confused about this kind of thing.

I haven't seen the Bastard out of Carolina movie - was it one uncut scene? If not, it is possible it was broken up as the camera moved, and the scene wasn't even shot in sequence. As for the Shining, perhaps Nicholson had kidded around with the kid just before the take, so the fear factor was reduced. I've seen kids switch from kidding around to their character instantaneously. I think adults think through a role a lot more than kids do.

A more serious problem is hazardous stuff. A friend shot a Daniel Stern movie which was mostly done on location in a park, and was shot a lot later in the year than the movie was set. The kids got really cold, and some scenes involved them in water. They had to be dried off and warmed up almost immediately. His mother said everyone was miserable all the time. The movie was a bomb also.

My daughter had to eat lobster for a scene, during a period when she was a vegetarian. She did it, but they had stuff ready to let her rinse out her mouth.

Elenfair
09-30-2007, 11:13 PM
Kids are surprisingly resilient. They also snap into character very fast -- they understand playing "makebelieve" pretty well. Younger kids can be more difficult to work with. Some directors are very crafty. They will plan their shots in such a way that they will get reaction shots from the young kids, get coverage, all that... and then get the close-ups (close-up, oneshot, twoshot, whatever... or do it in whatever order) --the point being that they will pull the small kids away for the intense language-nasties or physically violent/possibly traumatic bits needing to be filmed. Scenes are never shot in sequence . :)

Theatre is a different matter. There, we tend to cast older kids who look younger than they are. We also hire social workers and/or mental health specialists to make sure the kids are okay, both in theatre and screen work, if necessary. There are also union rules at play.

NDP
10-01-2007, 01:27 AM
My daughter had to eat lobster for a scene, during a period when she was a vegetarian. She did it, but they had stuff ready to let her rinse out her mouth.

Couldn't have the props people prepared some kind of faux-lobster meat made out of non-animal products? I wouldn't think the cost of doing that would've been too much of a budget-buster.

lawoot
10-01-2007, 03:22 AM
IIRC, the director twisted Brooke Shield's big toe to get her to make an "orgasm" face for Endless Love. I'm willing to bet that the director took a similar approach to Bastard Out Of Carolina.

Brooke Sheilds was off-camera, having her big toe twisted?

:D

Abby_Emma_Sasha
10-01-2007, 04:56 AM
IIRC, the director twisted Brooke Shield's big toe to get her to make an "orgasm" face for Endless Love. I'm willing to bet that the director took a similar approach to Bastard Out Of Carolina.

I doubt it. Jena Malone is a good little actress, and Bone wasn't having an orgasm. She was being raped and the look on her face was sheer terror.

missbunny
10-01-2007, 06:41 AM
She says the male actors who portrayed her rapists were so traumatized she had to play "mother" to them afterward and make sure they were okay.

I think you're right, that sometimes it's the people playing the "bad" part that are more affected by the scene.

I am in an acting class with me and six guys. (That's just how it turned out; it wasn't planned that way.) A few weeks ago we were doing a scene when one of them made an extremely vulgar sexual gesture to me as part of the scene. It was funny and it totally worked, but afterward he and several others (at different times) came up to me and apologized profusely for possibly having offended me. Which they didn't at all, it was hilarious and would have brought down the house if it were in a show, but they all felt really bad about it. Not me though!

I just filmed a video yesterday and even with adults they film everything so out of order that if you didn't know what the story was, you'd never figure it out. People talking to emptiness, people going into rooms that are going to be different rooms on screen, people who weren't in a room together who are going to be after editing. It's really fascinating to watch .

missbunny
10-01-2007, 06:48 AM
That old yarn always stretched my credulity a bit. In several scenes he was either being chased by an insane Jack Nicholson, or was doing something creepy himself (screaming "Redrum!"). Perhaps (c.f. the bathroom "Here's Johnny!" scene) he was never around when Nicholson was going batshit, just seemed that way via expert editing.

I wasn't there of course but they could have edited all that together.

They tell the kid, Hey we're gonna play hide and seek in this hedge! And they make it a game but tell him he's supposed to pretend to be scared. They could have been playing carnival music during it, they could have been stopping every 20 seconds and telling jokes, etc. And then later on they film crazy Jack and add in the scary music and the screaming. The kid might never have seen or heard any of that.

Voyager
10-01-2007, 11:20 AM
Couldn't have the props people prepared some kind of faux-lobster meat made out of non-animal products? I wouldn't think the cost of doing that would've been too much of a budget-buster.
This show was filmed on location in New Jersey. I doubt they could have come up with something realistic enough (it was a big lobster - that was part of the gag. It was okay - she learned she had to suffer for her art (and her paycheck.)

Cervaise
10-01-2007, 11:26 AM
I know that in "Pet Sematary", the young actor was replaced with a mechanical doll when he went on his murder rampage.Technology's amazing, isn't it? They can do anything these days. I mean, Anthony Hopkins was replaced with a mechanical doll years ago, and nobody seems to have noticed.

Elenfair
10-01-2007, 11:29 AM
Couldn't have the props people prepared some kind of faux-lobster meat made out of non-animal products? I wouldn't think the cost of doing that would've been too much of a budget-buster.

No, but it's a time buster. And you can find a child who won't complain and cast accordingly. So most child actors will just suck it up and "suffer for their art" ;) Seriously though -- if you had to bend to every actor's whim, you'd never get anything done... especially if you already have to contend with the leads' quirks, half the time! (You also have to think about the fact that not all directors are like "Two Takes Frakes" -- some will shoot and reshoot the same damned thing from a gazillion angles, plus coverage and making 30 damned fake lobsters for a gag just wouldn't be feasible... )

Aaaah, the fun, the fun...

To be honest, most child actors are pros at what they do. They're well rehearsed, well coached, and true pros. Their parents sometimes are fit to be tied (stage parents drive me nuts) and the kids can be over-managed and over-worked and downright abused if you ask me... but on the set? They're consummate professionals. They get the job done from "action" to "cut".

:)

OneCentStamp
10-01-2007, 11:32 AM
I mean, Anthony Hopkins was replaced with a mechanical doll years ago, and nobody seems to have noticed."Can you hear it, Clarise? The squeaking of my cams?"

Zsofia
10-01-2007, 12:57 PM
"Can you hear it, Clarise? The squeaking of my cams?"
<snerk>

Voyager
10-01-2007, 03:18 PM
No, but it's a time buster. And you can find a child who won't complain and cast accordingly. So most child actors will just suck it up and "suffer for their art" ;) Seriously though -- if you had to bend to every actor's whim, you'd never get anything done... especially if you already have to contend with the leads' quirks, half the time! (You also have to think about the fact that not all directors are like "Two Takes Frakes" -- some will shoot and reshoot the same damned thing from a gazillion angles, plus coverage and making 30 damned fake lobsters for a gag just wouldn't be feasible... )

I never saw a kid complain on the set. And she was an established character. However, her partner bad guy, in the first show they shot, was a real pain in the ass about showing up on the set and learning lines - so my daughter picked up most of his. :) He would up getting fired, though he had a perfect look.



To be honest, most child actors are pros at what they do. They're well rehearsed, well coached, and true pros. Their parents sometimes are fit to be tied (stage parents drive me nuts) and the kids can be over-managed and over-worked and downright abused if you ask me... but on the set? They're consummate professionals. They get the job done from "action" to "cut".

:)
A bunch of the shots in one of these shows were done at night, so the actors went to school all day and then had to start working. Lots of stuff violated union rules, but in the East SAG might as well not be there. But I'm in awe of most kid actors. One, who is now very well known, had to do a scene at about 12:30 am when she was about 10 years old. She was the very image of a kid about to lose it through tiredness, bugging the crew and looking to be on the edge of a tantrum. But when the cameras were rolling, she was right there, and did it perfectly. Kids who had it could turn on and go into acting mode.

I never ran into any obnoxious parents on the set. In agents' offices, plenty. For those who haven't done it, kids always audition without parents present, so it is easy to tell who wants to do it and who doesn't.

In fact, more parents seem to knuckle under than make trouble. Our manager told us to never sign a contract without calling him first. In one shoot he negotiated a lot of extra travel money, which the other parents signed away.

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