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Monday 20 August 2018

'We had to make it as awkward as possible' - Saoirse Ronan on week-long sex scene shoot for On Chesil Beach

Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan in On Chesil Beach
Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan in On Chesil Beach
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Saoirse Ronan has revealed it took a week to shoot the painfully awkward sex scene for her new film On Chesil Beach.

In the big screen adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel, the 24-year-old actress plays Florence, a young English woman whose disastrous attempt at intimacy with her husband on their wedding night impacts on their marriage.

Saoirse Ronan attending a special screening of On Chesil Beach at the Curzon Mayfair, London
Saoirse Ronan attending a special screening of On Chesil Beach at the Curzon Mayfair, London

Set in 1962 it charts the early days of the couple's romance through to their wedding night and beyond, and reflects on why Florence has such a repulsion about one aspect of intimacy in particular.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio 1 on Monday, Saoirse described the scene as "so awkward".

Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle in 'On Chesil Beach'
Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle in 'On Chesil Beach'
MUTUAL ADMIRATION: Ian McEwan and Saoirse Ronan attend a screening of On Chesil Beach. Photo: Getty

She added, "Also, because of the time as well there’s just such a lack of communication.  Relationships are difficult enough at the best of times, but at least if you can talk to your partner about how you’re feeling you can make some sort of progress.  But people were just sort of expected to keep their mouths shut and just get on with it.

"Through flashbacks we see why Florence has such a repulsion towards sex and one part of it in particular, one aspect, in particular, which I don’t want to give away.  They have this massive argument and it takes them out on to the beach and we watch this couple kind of come to a fork in the road."

Saoirse revealed that it took a week to film the sex scenes on the bed, scenes which were carefully choreographed to be as awkward as possible.

"Those scenes had to become so technical and each move had to be discussed beforehand because it is so awkward.  And we needed to make it as awkward as possible," said the star.

"I remember when Girls came out, Lena Dunham's show, the sex scenes in that are great, but they're messy and real and awkward and nobody looks good in them so it's really refreshing to be part of a story where there's a bit of reality to that part of a relationship."

Saoirse is currently appearing opposite The Handmaid's Tale star Elizabeth Moss and Annette Bening in period drama The Seagull, which just released in the US, and is taking several months off before Mary Queen of Scots hits the screen in December.

Bleak honeymoon: Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan in On Chesil Beach
Bleak honeymoon: Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan in On Chesil Beach

"It's a period drama but it's kind of a thriller," she told Ryan Tubridy.  Beau Willimon, who created House of Cards, wrote this script so it's got this amazing pace to it in the way that only a political drama or thriller would.  So it's brilliant.  It's got a real beat to it."

While Saoirse plays Mary Queen of Scots, fellow Oscars 2018 nominee Margot Robbie plays Queen Elizabeth I.  They only share screen time briefly, but Saoirse describes their face off as "explosive".

You can listen back to the full interview on the RTE Radio 1 website. On Chesil Beach opens in Ireland on Friday.

Read more: On Chesil Beach author Ian McEwan says Saoirse Ronan is a 'writer's gift'

WATCH: Saoirse Ronan is riveting in this exclusive clip from new film On Chesil Beach 

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