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Naked ambition in Hollywood

Lethal Weapon

More movie stars baring it all

January 23, 1997
Web posted at: 12:04 p.m. EST (1704 GMT)

From Correspondent Jill Brooke

NEW YORK (CNN) -- American movie audiences have always been a little squeamish about nudity on screen. So have film directors, worried that an R or NC-17 could put a dent in box office earnings.

Nudity is making a play for mainstream acceptance in a spate of recent Hollywood films, and there are signs Americans are becoming more comfortable with naked bodies on the silver screen.

The body in all of its natural splendor may be considered art in painting and sculpture, but it has long been saddled by a roguish profile in American cinema.

Actress Demi Moore could never make sense of Hollywood's aversion to the natural body, an attitude fully fleshed out with her appearance in "Striptease."

"It is very natural for me to be naked," said the actress famous for her nude Vanity Fair magazine covers. She says that she and husband Bruce Willis encourage their children to view the body as "beautiful and natural."


But many people who have seen Hollywood's take on nudity might not agree that the body is always beautiful. The prominent placement of Michael Douglas' free-breathing derriere in "Basic Instinct" is an example many audiences could have done without.

Mel Gibson's on-screen revelations, however, have been considered a triumph of the human form by many, mostly female, audiences.

Many actors say they do nude scenes for art. "The English Patient" was one recent film not shy about nudity and its place in the story. While nudity can make a good film great, it rarely manages to salvage a bad film; witness the box-office bust of Pamela Anderson's "Barb Wire."

There was a time that barely any actor wanted to be nude. But an infusion of critically acclaimed films have loosened up some long-held views on nudity. "The Piano" won an Oscar, as did "The Crying Game."


Now there's Oscar buzz for Kristen Scott Thomas of "The English Patient" and Courtney Love in "The People vs. Larry Flynt."

But the jaded in Hollywood say that actors who once shunned appearing in the buff now lust for a nude scene merely to show off bodies honed by personal trainers.

Still, some actors, protest that there is little passion for filming nude scenes.

"It's a lot more uncomfortable than I thought," remarked "Flynt's" Courtney Love. "When there's a bunch of people in the room, it's kind of weird.

That is, unless they're giving you an award for your body of work.


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