Steve Ryfle wonders whether being pictured nude in magazines can help an actress’ career.
There’s nothing like a little exposed skin to boost a starlet’s public profile. Plaster a titillating image of her nude frame on the cover a glossy monthly, and she’s instantly grabbed the attention of millions. When 20-year-old Scottish diva Keira Knightley and 21-year-old Scarlett Johansson stripped and strategically struck PG-13 poses for the cover of the March issue of Vanity Fair, the press types deemed it a risky and risqu? move (one British tab called the pic “shocking and provocative”). But it’s nothing new: from Marilyn to Madonna and beyond, lots of actresses have flashed a little flesh in mainstream mags as a way of upping their, ahem, visibility.
If you’ve been perusing the newsracks in recent years, you may have noticed Rachel Weisz, she of the “Mummy” movies fame, clad only in a boa constrictor for the April 2004 cover of Esquire. You may have been nonplussed by the sight of a topless Paris Hilton (covering her assets, of course) on the October 2005 cover of Vanity Fair. Sharon Stone graced the cover of December 1999′s Esquire in the buff, while in 2003, Britney Spears went pantless for Esquire and topless for Elle. And if you got past the cover of the Knightley-Johansson issue of Vanity Fair, you’d have found a photo inside of Angelina Jolie, reclining nude in a bath tub. In May 2003, all three Dixie Chicks dropped their drawers for the front of Entertainment Weekly.
Yes, it’s legal eye candy for adolescent boys of all ages, but other than a momentary blip on the tabloid radar, do stars reap any long-term benefit by baring it all?
“Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson can only benefit from their recent unclothed appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair,” says Mr. Skin, otherwise known as James McBride, a movie nudity expert who runs MrSkin.com and author of “Mr. Skin’s Skincyclopedia.” “After all, here we are talking about them. Both Keira and Scarlett, although they’re young, are established Hollywood stars and this blast of bare flesh is going to propel them upward into the next echelon of fame. That cover is being, well, covered all over the world, and it will be collected, fussed over and looked back on fondly for decades to come. As to which woman will benefit more, well Scarlett actually shows more skin in the photo.”
In another column, Ryfle considers the issue of celebrities getting naked for the silver screen.
In this day and age, few celebrities are shy about baring it all onscreen. So when bashful Natalie Portman asked director Mike Nichols to cut her nude scenes from the upcoming flick “Closer,” it was newsworthy. Portman — for now, at least — is that rare star who chooses to keep herself under wraps, while much of Hollywood, male and female, is dropping its drawers.
Almost every actress currently on the A-list has done a nude scene or two. Some of them did it a few years before becoming mega-famous, like Reese Witherspoon (“Twilight”) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (“The Mask of Zorro”). A few actresses used an attention-grabbing nude scene to help catapult their careers — witness Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”) and Kate Winslet (“Titanic”) — while others have continued taking it all off long after their star status was cemented, like Angelina Jolie (“Taking Lives”) and Nicole Kidman (“Cold Mountain,” among others). And then there was Meg Ryan, trying to rekindle her career by letting it all hang out (“In The Cut”).
“Halle Berry proved that one could garner high accolades while getting down and dirty with her naked sex scenes in ‘Monster’s Ball’,” says Mr. Skin, otherwise known as James McBride, a movie nudity expert who runs MrSkin.com and author of an upcoming book, “Mr. Skin’s Skincyclopedia.”
What are the benchmarks by which all nude scenes are measured? McBride says the first on-camera nudity by a major celebrity occurs in the “Ecstasy” (1932), in which Hedy Lamarr skinny-dips “and her chest is clearly visible,” he says. Another historic scene, he says, is the wet-dream sequence in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” when Phoebe Cates takes off her bikini top. “In my skin-pinion, all previous celebrity nude scenes led to that moment and its greatness looms permanently over all that have come since.”
Some photos from the films in question are thumbnailed below.
Click for larger images.
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