Filming nude scenes in Red Sparrow empowers Jennifer Lawrence

WASHINGTON • Actress Jennifer Lawrence has generally avoided taking on roles that require sex or nude scenes since hackers stole a trove of her private nude photographs and published them on the message board 4chan.

But then she read the script for Red Sparrow, a movie that opens worldwide this week. It features her as a Russian ballerina who attends a sort of spy school and trains to become an intelligence agent who often uses her sexuality to achieve her goals.

The role requires a good bit of nudity, something which she had to come to terms with, as she discussed during an interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday.

Her discomfort with scenes featuring sex and nudity is welldocumented.

Before filming her first real sex scene with Chris Pratt in the 2016 film Passengers, she got "really, really drunk" to calm her nerves, she said at a roundtable discussion hosted by The Hollywood Reporter in 2015.

Being drunk for the entirety of Red Sparrow was not an option. So she focused on what bothered her about appearing naked on screen: the fact that the choice to be seen nude was taken from her when her photos were leaked.

"I read this script that I'm dying to do. And the one thing that's getting in my way is nudity," she said on 60 Minutes. "And I realised there's a difference between consent and not."

That is not to say it was easy.

"The night before, I didn't sleep at all and I was obviously really nervous because it is the actual nightmare of standing in front of a classroom naked," she told Today Australia.

It did not help that in one scene, freezing water is poured on her bare skin.

"I was terrified. I don't think I have ever been so scared of doing a movie before in my life. It was a lot of firsts for me," she said. "Cool, so I'm really naked getting freezing cold water poured on me."

Regardless of her fear, as she said on 60 Minutes, "I showed up for the first day and I did it".

She said she "felt empowered" by filming the nude scenes, as if she had regained part of herself.

"I feel like something that was taken from me, I got back and am using in my art," she said.

"But I did feel like I took the power out of having my body taken from me. I felt like I took it back and I could almost own it again."

Lawrence, 27, was originally worried about how audiences would react.

As one of Hollywood's most popular actresses, she is often criticised for how she uses her body.

When she bared her breasts in Vanity Fair just weeks after the photo leak, some derided her and called her hypocritical.

Just last week, she had to defend her choice to wear a slightly revealing Versace dress for a photo shoot in chilly London.

She eventually decided she just did not care.

"It's my body and it's my art and it's my choice," Lawrence said on 60 Minutes, adding: "And if you don't like boobs, you should not go see Red Sparrow."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2018, with the headline 'Filming nude scenes in Red Sparrow empowers Lawrence'. Subscribe