Denise Gough was “over” the idea of nudity and sex scenes for actresses on film, and in the indie romance “Monday” there are quite a lot of them. But Gough says she knew her co-star Sebastian Stan would be a trustworthy partner on screen.
One of Stan and Gough’s first moments is the two of them curled up asleep and naked on a public beach, leading to them eventually riding through the streets of Greece nude on a moped. But in speaking with TheWrap, both Stan and Gough said “Monday” director Argyris Papadimitropoulos earned their trust after seeing his film “Suntan” and knew that he wouldn’t “pull any punches.”
“It was feeling absolutely safe, and I wouldn’t have known how to trust Argyris if I hadn’t seen’ Suntan.’ I had to see proof that this body was going to be OK with him. It’s a big thing to ask of an actress to do that,” Gough said. “And Sebastian met me halfway. It was a big thing for me to do that, and now I’m so proud of it. It’s like a reclamation. It’s such an empowering thing when done in such a respectful way.”
“If it was truthful and made sense, then OK. Obviously trust was a big thing here,” Stan added. “I knew we were trying to tell such an honest depiction of a relationship that we were going to be open to whatever that meant, as long as it remained truthful and made sense.”
“Monday” begins as a whirlwind romance in Greece over one long weekend. Stan and Gough play two American ex-pats in Greece who are literally pushed together at a party and have a drunken fling. But the film then spreads out over weeks and months as we surprisingly see this couple turn from awkward strangers to intimate partners. The film’s editing and cinematography in its many party and rave scenes early on matches that energy as the couple’s relationship begins to get rocky. And by the end, “Monday” is a sobering look at the messiness of love.
Gough said that though there’s a lot of energy and sex on screen, the director managed to remove the objectification from the nude scenes and knew she’d be in “really safe hands.”
“It’s glorious how he uses the camera. They have a less f—ed up version of sex in Greece on film,” Gough said. “Sebastian did as much as I did to carry those scenes so it never felt like, ‘oh we’re going to watch a woman having sex with a man.’ It was like, we’re going to watch a couple have a relationship, and that’s part of the relationship.”
But beyond the nudity, Stan and Gough said they had to do a lot of mental preparation to match the characters’ intensity, with many of the moments being improvised and spontaneous, something that was worlds apart compared to Stan’s franchise parts.
“It’s liberating. You come in here, it’s not about trying to look a certain way or what the cool shot is, though I did feel Argyris made us look pretty f—ing cool,” he said. “It feels like it’s a collaborative experience. You’re much more involved as an actor I felt. Both of those backgrounds, you’re not so involved in the creation of the character and the scene and the story as we were here. OK, take this character and now make it your own.”
“We built a relationship for real. I was looking into somebody else’s eyes the other day and really intensely at work, and I thought this is bizarre. I create intimacy really quickly with a lot of people,” Gough added. “And sometimes it just is really easy and joyful and brilliant, and other times it makes you feel really raw and strange, and we had all of that.”
Stan and Gough go through all the beats of a relationship, including a hilarious scene where they try and fail to move a bulky couch up a flight of stairs, to another moment where Stan cooks for Gough by chopping onions while wearing nothing but a scuba mask and underpants, something he says his director has really done.
“We did all the raw stuff, all the angry stuff, all the fun stuff. It was a lot of looking into eyes and going, ‘Yeah, jump? OK, jump,’” Gough said. “There’s a lot of truth in all of it, you go ‘That’s completely mad,’ and then you go, ‘Oh no I’ve done that.’ That’s the thing with relationships. You watch the film, and you’re so used to watching romanticized ideas about love that you think that’s what’s real.”
“Monday” opens in theaters and on demand via IFC Films on Friday.