(Author’s note: This essay originally appeared in four parts and is compiled into one here)
Recently my wife and I watched The Proposal, the Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds romantic-comedy. Normally I’m not big on Sandra Bullock romantic comedies, though I did enjoy Two Weeks Notice. While The Proposal was enjoyable – if completely farfetched – I was struck by the nude scene Ms. Bullock performs halfway through the movie. Leading into the release of the film I’d heard all the fuss about her doing a nude scene for the movie and even if I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it – by the time it hit DVD I forgot all about it – it wasn’t unwelcome.
When I saw it I was pretty impressed about how well she’s holding up at 44 and then I remembered all the press leading into the film making a big deal about this being her first nude scene and this got me thinking about what other actresses waited until later in their careers – specifically, post-30 – to do nudity. Below Below are a dozen – a baker’s dozen – not necessarily the best debuts, and not necessarily actresses who went on to greater things, but just an even dozen, from oldest to youngest, of women who waited until they were beyond thirty to do nudity on film for the first time.
- It wasn’t a nude scene at all. Sure, she’s not in her clothes, but nudity usually requires seeing something more than her hands covering her delicate bits. Side-boob or naked legs and midriff doesn’t exactly define nudity for me.
- It wasn’t her first nude scene at all. If her scene in The Proposal counts as a nude scene then the shadowy sex scene she perform in Fire on The Amazon in 1993, when she was just 29, was certainly a nude scene, and therefore her first.
- One other quick note: this is not a porn site so if you want to find pics or videos of these scenes, you’ll have to do the hard work yourself.
Meg Ryan started her career as the fresh-faced girl next door , traipsing through Top Gun and many a light comedy, finally striking gold with When Harry Met Sally. But there’s a funny thing about actors who make it big largely on the back of comedic roles: they want respect, and to get respect they need to do drama.
Meg gave drama a try with DOA and The Presidio, two forgotten bombs best left to the sands of time. But even though those films failed she wasn’t about to just pack it in. No, she lobbied for the part of Pamela Courson in the incorrectly-named Jim Morrison biopic, The Doors. Not content with simply being cast in a drama she went ahead and gave up the first glimpse of her goods too. While she was good in the movie it did little for her career and she was soon right back to where she started.
Later, as her career started to wind down, she tried going back to the nudity well again in 2003’s In The Cut, a depressing and not very thrilling thriller that preceded her turn to plastic surgery. Sadly, it was probably the last time she was truly relevant as an actress.
Maria Bello was basically unknown until the year 2000. She had parts in a few movies and TV, most notably as Dr. Del Amico in ER, but nothing that just had to be seen. That’s why her blink-and-you-miss-it glimpse of her breast during a sex scene with Ben Stiller in 1998’s Permanent Midnight failed to make much of an impression.
Rather than pack it in and retreat to non-nude roles, this was only the beginning for her. Her turns in The Cooler and A History of Violence proved she was willing to take risks, going above and beyond mere nudity and proving that not only is she a capable and intense actress, but is also one who didn’t mind to demonstrating that age was not weighing her down.
3. Diane Keaton at 31 in Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Diane Keaton is hardly your conventional beauty. Tall, seemingly dressed rather mannishly and with prominent cheekbones, she is certainly not your usual beauty. Even so, she’s beautiful enough that she managed to land both Michael Corleone and Woody Allen, and talented enough that she won an Oscar.
Like Sandra Bullock, Keaton performed a nude scene in 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give that was regarded by the public and the Hollywood publicity machine as her first. Even she seemed to buy into the charade. Maybe this was because she was happy to play up the advertising hook of a woman of nearly sixty getting naked on screen for the first time and wouldn’t look half-bad, at that. Of course, it was just as likely that she preferred to forget her earlier turn in the seedy and depressing Looking For Mr. Goodbar, and I’m inclined to let her. After all, while that steaming pile of filth might have helped her to the Oscar (though she properly won for Annie Hall, the fact that her vastly different Looking For Mr. Goodbar came the same year couldn’t have hurt) it’s best treated as if it never existed.
4. Annette Bening at 31 in Valmont (1989)
Annette Bening is probably more well known today as the woman who tamed Warren Beatty, but she’s actually a talented actress in her own right, with three Academy Award nominations as an actress to his four as an actor. Granted, he has about a million more for writing, producing and directing, but that hardly counts.
Before nabbing Beatty she was largely unknown, appearing for years on TV and in the lame John Candy comedy, The Great Outdoors. Then, in 1989 things started to turn and she was cast as the lead in Milos Foreman’s Valmont, a role which required some little bit of nudity from her. Unfortunately, her big-break was upstaged by the release of Dangerous Liaisons and she had to wait until she disrobed again in Stephen Frears The Grifters – incidentally, Frears was the director of Dangerous Liaisons – for fame, and an Academy Award nomination to follow. As it was this film that led her to being cast in Bugsy, and which led her to marrying Mr. Beatty, we can all assume it worked out for the best.
5. Neve Campbell at 31 in When Will I Be Loved (2004)
In the mid-90s Neve Campbell looked like a star on the rise. She was in that hideous show that lots of people liked, Party of Five, she was the star of the Scream franchise and she showed more than a little range with Wild Things. She seemed to have it made.
Only, after Wild Things she sort of lumbered from one failure to another and her star rapidly began to fade. Robert Altman flung her a lifeline with The Company but her career continued to sink anyway. In what clearly looked like a last gasp to reinvigorate her career, she finally did, at 31, what she wouldn’t do for Wild Things, her first nude scene in the low budget and little seen When Will I Be Loved.
Despite the nudity there, with included a little showerhead ‘me time’ the movie failed to reignite her career and even after adding a little more nudity to the mix with the equally little-seen I Really Hate My Job, Neve has lately become just another member of the ‘Whatever Happened To…’ club.
6. Naomi Watts at 33 in Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Naomi Watts has had a very long career but outside of Australia – where she was raised – she was basically an unknown quantity for the first decade. When she was cast as Betty Elms in the pilot for the television series Mulholland Dr. – David Lynch’s Twin Peaks follow-up – she probably thought her breakthrough had finally come and and might finally achieve the same sort of success that close-friend Nicole Kidman had. However, when ABC failed to pick the series up, it started to look like the big break would have to wait.
Except, David Lynch wasn’t going to give up that easily and rather than scrap the pilot, he raised extra cash, expanded the script, filmed new scenes – including a dreamy lesbian scene between Watts and Laura Harring, which, at 33, was the first non-body double nude scene of her career – and turned his lemons into lemonade. Watts did too, moving on from there to an Academy Award nomination for 21 Grams and roles in several high-profile and acclaimed films.
7. Julianne Moore at 33 in Body of Evidence (1993)
Despite all the skin shown by Madonna, including some S&M work, apparently Madonna wasn’t the only one showing skin in Body of Evidence. Surprisingly, Julianne Moore joined her as well. Also surprising is that the woman who would be Amber Waves, and who has had numerous other nude scenes in her career, including a somewhat notorious one later that same year in Short Cuts, was able to wait until 33 to do her first. Given that she’s been nominated for a handful of Oscar’s since then one has to wonder what would have happened in her career if she’d made the effort years earlier.
8. Halle Berry at 33 in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999)
Halle Berry was definitely a beautiful woman from the beginning – how else to explain her title as Miss Ohio USA, 1987 – and it should come as no surprise that her early career in Hollywood was spent playing a pretty face and rarely being an actress. And despite playing to her beauty she always managed to keep her clothes on, no matter what sort of sexpot she played. It wasn’t until she finally decided she was really going to be taken seriously, in the TV biopic of Dorothy Dandridge that would win her an Emmy and prove the turning point in her career, that she finally did any nudity, even if only barely.
Given that she would later be paid $500,000 above her contract just to show her breasts in Swordfish, while was apparently paid nothing extra for Dorothy Dandridge and Monster’s Ball, the clear lesson to learn is that, if they want you take your clothes off in a movie that doesn’t look like it’s going to be an awards contender, make sure you get paid.
9. Julie Andrews at 35 in Darling Lili (1970)
Julie Andrews was a Broadway success long before she transitioned to movies and winning the Oscar for Mary Poppins. When The Sound of Music threatened to pigeonhole her as squeaky clean she branched out, starring in the Hitchcock thriller, Torn Curtain, before hitting a snag with the bomb Star!
Perhaps her first nude scene in Darling Lili was an attempt to truly break free of her past roles, or perhaps it was done at the urging of her director of that film – who just happened to be her husband – or perhaps it was nothing more than just feeling like she wanted to do it. Nevertheless, the scene – a brief snippet at best – was not enough to reinvigorate her career. Ten years later she tried again with S.O.B., with only marginally more success.
10. Mimi Rogers at 35 in The Rapture (1991)
Mimi Rogers is a well respected, and daring actress, that the general public forgets was the first of the Mrs. Tom Cruise’s, probably because at the time of their divorce he wasn’t quite the tabloid fodder he’s become, and because she never went in for being a superstar, with the attending embarrassments.
Known for having a natural figure in the age of plastic-sculpted starlets, Rogers first dropped trou as a promiscuous woman-cum-born-again Christian in The Rapture. Since then she hasn’t shied away from further nudity, posing for Playboy in 1993, doing the almost movie-length-nude scene Full Body Massage in 1995, and even showing off, at nearly 50, her well-preserved physique in The Door In The Floor.
11. Laura Linney at 36 in Maze (2001)
Laura Linney had been in movies and TV since 1992, most notably in Tales of the City and as the put upon ‘wife’ in The Truman Show. Slowly but surely she began to make her mark, breaking through with You Can Count on Me, which earned her first Oscar nod.
It was shortly after receiving her first Oscar nod she performed her first nude scene, playing the object of an artist’s desire in Rob Morrow’s – that’s right, Northern Exposure’s Fleischman – directorial debut, Maze. With Rotten Tomatoes killing it and a total domestic gross of $26,041, one wonders what the impact of her nude debut could possibly have been on the film.
12. Kathy Bates at 43 in At Play In The Fields of The Lord (1991)
Kathy Bates certainly didn’t need to be pressured into appearing nude in any movie, because honestly, as an Oscar winner she’s probably got the clout to say no and really, nobody was clamoring for her to go full monty. It’s not surprising then, that when we do see her nude in About Schmidt, dipping nude down into that hot tub, it’s a disturbing scene that made me feel just about the same way Warren Schmidt does: I want to beat a hasty retreat. But it’s not like we weren’t warned that she might take her clothes off. After all, ten years before About Schmidt she slunk around, nude and mud covered in At Play In The Fields of the Lord.
If I had my choice she wouldn’t be on the list of those I’d pay money to see naked but, given how brazen she was with it and how little she cared about anybody’s reaction, I say kudos. Even if I don’t want to.
13. Rene Russo at 45 in The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)
Despite starring in the Lethal Weapon movies, Get Shorty and a number of other successful films, Rene Russo has never been a superstar, but she’s never really had anything to prove either. She wasn’t trying to be a sex symbol, by any means, just a decent actress and at that, she was a success.
Though she had started as a model, including doing some nude work, most assumed that as a born-again Christian Russo would be willing to play sexy but would eschew nudity. However, it wasn’t an ideological choice that kept her clothes on, rather it were the projects themselves and it wasn’t until The Thomas Crown Affair that she found a movie where the prospect of nudity seemed right and even if she waited until she was 45 to do it, nobody could argue she was passed her prime.
“Close But No Cigar” Award
Marissa Tomei at 29 in Untamed Heart
Anne Bancroft at 36 The Graduate (but it was a body double)
Part I concerned a baker’s dozen of women who had the nerve – the audacity – to wait until they were into their 30s and beyond before doing their first nude scenes. Well, this post deals more with a group of women who could hardly wait that long and instead broke their nude cherry practically right out of the box. But unlike Part I, which came with all the pesky back-story to dress everything up, this is more of a plain, old list.
As an aside, there are a number of actresses here who somehow did nudity before the age of 18, but just because I’m an attorney, I don’t know exactly who this was done: it’s not the type of law I practice. Nevertheless, the more research I did for this list, and the younger the ladies got, the creepier it made me feel.
Just a note: I did my best to base the ages of the actress in question on their age at the time of the film’s release as listed on Wikipedia or the IMDB, if one was indicated. As the movies were filmed before the release date it’s safe to assume that many of these girls did their first bit of nudity far earlier than their ages indicate. However, I didn’t feel like trying to dig up filming dates to base ages, so I went with what I could verify. Also, in some cases, I counted the festival release as the release date, which is how Kate Winslet – for instance – managed to come in at 20 instead of 21.
Lastly, as with the previous list, this is not a porn site so if you’re expecting me to put pictures of naked actresses up here, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.
1. Kate Winslet at 20 in Jude (1996) (pictured left)
2. Mena Suvari at 20 in American Beauty (1999)
3. Kelly Macdonald at 20 in Trainspotting (1996)
4. Jennifer Connelly at 19 in The Hot Spot (1990)
5. Jennifer Jason Leigh at 19 Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
7. Nicole Kidman at 19 in Windrider (1986)
8. Thandie Newtown at 18 in Flirting (1991)
10. Melanie Griffith at 18 in Smile (1975)
11. Angelina Jolie in 18 Cyborg 2 (1993)
13. Sophia Loren at 17 in Era Lui!… Si! Si! (1951)
14. Thora Birch at 17 in American Beauty (1999)
16. Keira Knightley at 15 in The Hole (2001)
17. Milla Jovovich at 15 in Return of the Blue Lagoon (1991)
Close but No Cigar Award
Cybil Shepherd at 21 in The Last Picture Show (1971) (pictured left)
Demi Moore at 21 in Blame It On Rio (1984)
Reese Witherspoon at 21 in Twilight (1998)
Kate Hudson at 21 in Almost Famous (2000)
A Quick Note
It’s interesting to note that while some actresses disrobed for some less-than-quality work not every one of them disrobed for crap that they would be embarrassed about. In fact, while some of the films might sound like crap now it’s possible that at the time the film was being made it actually seemed reasonable. After all, while Angelina Jolie was in the lousy Cyborg 2, she wasn’t the only one who was fooled into that, as Jack Palance fresh from an Oscar win, and that kooky Elias Koteas, fresh from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also wound up in it.
That being said, one should not just assume that nudity early in a career is enough to bring the type of roles that would lead an actress to fame and fortune, because many girls have stripped down only to go nowhere. Certainly a list of those young ladies could run for pages but would largely be uninteresting because nobody would ever know who they were. No, you need more than just plain nudity, you need some talent and some luck and the luckies wind up in this list, the unluckies in the dustbin.
Part III: Academy Award Winners
In part I of the Award Winning* Grin and Bare It series we looked at a baker’s-dozen of actresses who waited until after thirty to disrobe for the first time. In Part II we looked at sixteen who couldn’t wait that long.
Now, in part III we look at something I mentioned in part II, that being that not all the actresses who did nudity early in their careers disrobed for absolute dreck. Given that many of the women mentioned in that piece have gone on to have long and distinguished careers, this lead me to wonder about the correlation between nudity and the Academy Awards, namely, how prevalent is nudity amongst the ladies who have an Oscar sitting on their mantles.
Caveat the first: because Hollywood was ruled by the vestiges of the production code for so many years there are obviously decades where there was no film nudity – at least not mainstream films. As such, there has to be a cutoff point between the dark ages and the enlightened ages, and arbitrarily I settled on 1970.
Caveat the second: I still do very little thinking about actors with wangs, so no men will be contemplated for this piece. Sorry.
Caveat the third: this is not a porn site, so if you want pictures of nude women, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
After taking a look at all 39 women who won best actress since 1970, it’s clear that adding a little nudity to the resume did not stand in the way of success. After all, of those 39 women 31 have done some sort of nudity, and only three of those performed their first nudity after winning.
The numbers become all the more striking when the length of time for the survey is shorted. For example, 21 of 30 winners between 1979 and 2008 had done some bit of nudity prior to or contemporaneous with their win, as did 18 of 20 from 1989-2008 and all ten from 1999-2008 (yes, this includes Julia Roberts, winner in 2000 for Erin Brokovich, who inadvertently showed a bit of nipple while rolling around on a bed with Richard Gere in Pretty Woman).
While it is obvious that nudity did not stand in the way of winning, the bigger question is just how instrumental was the nudity to the win. When looking at that question, it’s clear that while a little nudity never stood in the way, nudity in the winning film seems to have had little effect on the outcomes. Considering that only 12 of the 39 winners actually did nudity in the winning film and that, unlike the steady rise in percentage of Oscar winning actresses doing nudity we move forward from 1970, the percentage of winners who did nudity in the winning film itself remained relatively flat, with the 12 winners spread fairly evenly across the entire sample.
The conclusion to be drawn from this, if any, is that, while nudity in your career doesn’t necessarily harm your chances of winning an Academy Award, nudity in the film itself means very little to the outcome of the race.
The overview of the Best Actresses of the last forty years turned up interesting results, but far more fascinating was considering the Best Supporting Actress winners.
Unlike the prevalence of nudity on the resumes of the best actress winners (nearly 80%), less than half the women who won a best supporting actress Oscar (19 of 39) have ever performed a nude scene on film and on 15 of those 19 did so prior to or contemporaneous with their Oscars. Tellingly, this number drops even more sharply when we consider the actress winning an Oscar for the same film in which she appeared nude. In the best actress category, 12 of 39 won; in the best supporting actress category there were just three and those three woman all won after 1980, two since 1996.
The obvious conclusions to be drawn here mirror the conclusions regarding best actress nudity: while the nudity did not harm an actress chances of winning an Oscar, the fact that so few won in a role in which they performed nude says that nudity had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the outcomes of the race. But this conclusion is far too easy.
The more interesting conclusion to be drawn from this list is that it, while nudity doesn’t necessarily hurt a woman’s chance at winning best supporting actress, being a ‘star’ with a capital ‘S’ does. After all, consider the winners over the last forty years and you will find very few women who were ever capable of carrying a movie on their own – at least at the box office – and even fewer who were at the height of their powers when they won the academy award. And if nudity has no effect it is only because nobody wants to see a character actress nude and on the whole, those are the women who win in the supporting actress category.
I will acknowledge it now that, without considering all the nominees during the same time period for their nudity and tracking how this might have skewed the outcomes, if at all, the results here are somewhat biased. Considering all the winners and nominees for the same time period would have made this piece so much the better but unfortunately, this writer has a real job and since this little bit of tom-foolery-called-a-blog has yet to pay a single bill, you’ll have to live with a quick survey of the 78 winners and just have to deal with the fact that I didn’t have time to get around to the 312 losers.
*Best Blog Series Written About Nude Women By Somebody Living In My House, 2010
Part IV: Well, I Never…
Parts I, II and III of this series dealt with the women who did nudity at some point in their careers, either earlier or later, and what relationship nudity and the Academy Awards have. Now, in Part IV we take a look at a few who haven’t, or at least haven’t yet, bared all for the sake of cinema. But while this list would have been easy to compile and could have been fifty women long – after all there were something like 25 Oscar winners from the last 40 years who haven’t done nudity, and I’m sure any idiot could have turned up 25 more – there needed to be some ground rules in order to keep things under control.
First, the women had to have been working during the nudity era, so sorry, ladies of the 30s and 40s, you are out.
Second, the woman had to be somebody worth seeing nude during the period where they could have been nude, so even though Vivien Leigh and Judy Garland were attractive ladies, by the time they could have been doing nudity, nobody would have wanted to see it.
Third, no starlets on this list. Meghan Fox can say now, after riding a couple of years hot streak in the business, that she’s never going to do nudity but in ten years, when she’s struggling to prove she has ‘talent,’ things might change. So everybody on the list had to have a career of at least 20 years to be mentioned.
Fourth, there are plenty of women who could have made the list but did not primarily because they were TV actresses. So no Charlie’s Angels here – Jaclyn Smith, I see you. Although, exceptions are made if the TV was pay TV, a la HBO, which allowed nudity.
Unlike the previous lists I need not put out the caveat that this is not a porn site and if you’re hoping to find nude women here, you’re out of luck, because, as this is a non-nude list, there are no nude women.
Lastly, don’t bug me with any of your nonsense about Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon or Catherine Zeta-Jones. Aside from some of them not quite having a long enough career to meet my criteria, all three has some nudity in their past, whether they want to admit it or not.
1. Claudia Cardinale
Perhaps best recognized in this country for portraying the prostitute, Jill, the widow of would-be rancher Brett McBain, in Once Upon A Time in The West, Cardinale was a voluptuous Italian beauty who played for such directors as Fellini in 8 ½ and Herzog in Fitzcarraldo. But though she played a number of prostitutes in her career, and though she’s Italian and they’ve never been averse to nudity, Cardinale more-or-less managed to remained clothed throughout and at this point, as a 71 year-old-woman, one hope sshe keeps the streak alive.
Sometimes it’s amazing to think of the long career that Cher has had, stretching all the way from that nonsense with Sonny Bono in the 60s, to her Oscar for Moonstruck, the duet she sang with Beavis and Butthead, and that insipid resurgence she staged in the late 90s thanks to Auto-Tune. But though she might once have pushed the boundaries of tasteful awards show attire, and though she might prance around on the U.S.S. Missouri in her underwear in the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video, it’s hard to believe she never disrobed in a movie.
3. Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher might be a bit of a hag now – worn down by age and drug use, to the point where she’s more prone to parodying herself on 30 Rock than doing anything else – but there was a time when Princess Leia knew how to rock a metal bikini. For proof, just watch Return of the Jedi like it’s the first time all over again. But while it might have been thrilling at one time to contemplate seeing her nude, now one can only hope she saves us all the misery.
A vision of class and beauty, Audrey Hepburn is somebody you would completely expect to see on a list of women who never did a nude scene – and because she’s dead, she never will. But given that she played one of the cinema’s most famous prostitutes – Holly Golightly – and given that she played the adulterous wife in Two For The Road, it’s a wonder that she didn’t give nudity at least a try. After all, it was the 60s and she was European, but alas, some things were never meant to be.
Liz Taylor was possibly one of the last true stars to emerge at the tail-end of the studio system and she made sure to live life like a star. From the beginning she made a string of successful films, appearing opposite everybody from Rock Hudson to James Dean to Richard Burton, was the first actress to be paid a million dollars for, took more than her fair share of husbands, and won a pair of Oscars in the process. But though her career really headed into decline in the late-60s, when mores were changing and nudity was much more acceptable, she didn’t stoop to use nudity to boost her flagging career. Instead she just faded into a sort of pseudo-obscurity where she became famous for being famous more than for anything else. Now that she’s well past her prime, let’s hope she doesn’t do something drastic to reignite her career.
6. Sarah Jessica Parker
I’ve never been particularly interested in Sarah Jessica Parker, clothed or unclothed, because she’s just not an actress that every did anything for me. Still, there is a bit of irony in knowing that despite being the star of a TV show and movie called Sex and the City, and despite playing a character in State and Main so infamous for taking her top off that everybody can draw her breasts from memory, SJP remained blissfully well-dressed at all times.
7. Cathy Moriarty
Maybe not as well known now as some of the others, but there was a time when Cathy Moriarty was a star on the rise. Right out of the gate she earned an Academy Award now for her portrayal of the alluring Vicky Lamotta in Raging Bull and with her smoky voice she could have been a real star. However, with only a handful of roles in the 80s, including playing a tranny in Soapdish, her star kind of flickered. But rather than fall into the trap many other girls to jumpstart a flagging career, she never bared all and continues to be a modestly employed actress, if not one that is terribly well-known.