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Kristen Stewart and her ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ co-star on bringing lesbian sex to the cinema

Love Lies Bleeding,” starring Kristen Stewart as a gym manager besotted with a wayward female bodybuilder, is neither for the prudish nor the faint of heart.

Set in the late 1980s in an unnamed Southwestern locale, the gritty, bloody anti-romance could arguably be described as a cross between “Thelma and Louise” and “Natural Born Killers.”

The soul-crushing power of love — both romantic and familial — is a theme woven throughout the film, which debuts Friday. The central characters, Lou (Stewart) and Jackie (Katy O’Brian), are in a romantic entanglement strangled by obsession, drugs, broken dreams and an assortment of malignant narcissists.
The two women don’t fare much better when it comes to their relatives: Lou’s gangster father, Lou Sr. (Ed Harris), has a body count in the double digits, and Jackie’s estranged family has dismissed her as a “monster,” though the audience is not privy to why.

At one point in the film, Jackie — coming down from a steroid-fueled rampage — speaks on a pay phone to a young girl, presumably her sister, earnestly warning her to “never fall in love.”

Asked what interested her in a project that feels like a public service warning against love, Stewart said she was drawn to the emotion’s dark side.
It just felt like a love story that was showing all the dirty, real, good, fun stuff, which is all the bad stuff, actually,” she said in a joint interview with O’Brian and director Rose Glass. “Love can absolutely destroy you and others, and you don’t always make the most selfless decisions in love.”

Stewart also said: “There’s no fixed definition for love. It’s such a means to justify any decision that one might make recklessly.” Her character certainly makes reckless decisions, including committing multiple felonies, for the sake of love.
What the film lacks in emotionally healthy relationships it makes up for with unapologetically Sapphic sex scenes, a rarity in mainstream films.

Asked whether she had any reservations filming such intimate scenes, O’Brian unequivocally said no.

“I was excited, because I was like, ‘Ugh, finally, I get to do something real, that felt more real,’” she said. “My big thing was I just wanted to make sure Kristen was comfortable.”

However, O’Brian said it was “hard to feel sexy” while actually filming those scenes, because the house where they were filming felt like it was 112 degrees and she was made to wear multiple layers, including one that “felt like I was wearing a diaper” (though, according to Stewart, “it was a cute diaper”).

“It was kind of like once you got there, and you just saw how silly the theatrics of it were, it took a lot of the pressure off,” O’Brian said, “and obviously we worked with an intimacy coordinator and everything, and we talked about the scenes and comfort zones.”
Katy O’Brian, left, said she had no reservations about filming intimate scenes with Kristen Stewart for “Love Lies Bleeding.”A24
Stewart said most film sex scenes feel mechanical and unrealistic. She wanted to bring something different to “Love Lies Bleeding.”

“The run of the mill, like, just-go-for-it simulated sex thing is so rote, and it’s like actors do have this default thing where, like, ‘OK we’re supposed to make out and have sex now.’ That’s just not how people have sex, and I’m so sick of seeing it,” she said. “Really nailing the details and talking about the physical experience more so than even seeing it, like verbalizing it, talking to each other, sharing space, like having it not be cut up into a ton of different shots, it felt like … a really beautiful thing to deliver an experience that was, like, literal instead of faux.”

O’Brian added, “If anyone takes anything from this movie, it’s to ask your partner what they like. You don’t see that in a movie.”

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