Maggie Gyllenhaal’s new comedy about the invention of the vibrator required a light hand (pun extremely intended!) when it came to shooting scenes of Victoria women, uh, enjoying their treatment. So how does a filmmaker shoot such delicate material? “We had orgasm rehearsal!” Hysteria director Tanya Wexler explained. “We didn’t want it to sound porny, but we also didn’t what it to sound incredibly absurd.”
Seeing as how this is cinema, not Skinemax, Wexler and her male leads Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce also had to get crafty with how they shot scenes featuring the good doctors, er, tending to their lady patients before the ingenious invention arrives. “They can’t just kind of fake it,” Wexler said (pun unintended!). “There was a lot of uncomfortable brainstorming until Hugh was like, ‘Can we just use a sandbag?’ Jonathan, after two days of shooting, comes up to me and says, ‘I rubbed the skin off the knuckles of my hand.’” We call that dedication to the craft!
While Gyllenhaal’s brassy protagonist Charlotte doesn’t face any problems that are quite so graphic, she still got inventive developing her character. “I wasn’t concerned at all with her being historically accurate,” Maggie explained. “I just wanted her to be alive and wild and full of being a woman. She could be from any time, any planet.”