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Any fans of Werner Herzog watching his latest film Queen of the Desert, the biopic of British explorer Gertrude Bell that is having its world premiere at the Berlinale on Feb. 6, might be shocked to witness a scene in which Nicole Kidman and James Franco’s characters come together for a night of passion.
While hardly Fifty Shades of Grey material and unlikely to trouble classification boards, the iconic filmmaker’s debut delve into anything that could be considered remotely sexual seemed to surprise even the man himself.
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“It’s a scene of pure eroticism,” he told a press conference at the festival. “It’s the first erotic scene I think I’ve ever shot in my life.”
Franco, who’s filmed a number sex scenes over his career, claimed that he enjoyed seeing Herzog enter this new, unchartered territory.
“It was fun for me to watch Werner figure out these scenes; it was like watching a master tackling something fun,” he said.
Another distinctly un-Herzog moment in Queen of the Desert sees Bell (Kidman) take a shower amid the Middle Eastern sand dunes (shot in Morocco). But the director revealed that this didn’t actually appear in his original script.
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“We had a folded canvas bathtub that we had in our equipment in the caravan, and Nicole said to me, ‘Werner, I have to take a bath, I want to take a bath,” Herzog noted. “And I said, ‘Let me write it into the screenplay.'”
Kidman added that she actually read about Bell bathing outside under the stars in her diaries.
“I thought that was such a great addition because it really shows this woman’s love of the world,” she said. “I think a woman of that era who goes to live like that is an unusual, extraordinary person and I’m so glad that I got the chance to explore her for a portion of her life.”
The film could well have featured another ever-so-slightly sexual experience, but unfortunately it didn’t make the final edit.
“I had a long kissing scene with Nicole that got cut,” laughed Damian Lewis, who plays English Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie. “I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t a very good kisser or not. But I enjoyed filming it.”
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