Published: April 27, 2018
For the quiet—but intense—Disobedience (out April 27), Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams had to tread respectfully in the shoes of lover shiding in a conservative Orthodox Jewish community.
SPIRITUAL IDENTITY AND sexual freedom are at odds in Disobedience, Sebastián Lelio’s emotionally wrought tale of forbidden love centered on a pair of women from an Orthodox Jewish community who fall for each other—and apart—under the scrutinizing gaze of family and peers. Now producer-star Rachel Weisz (who plays Ronit) and co– leading lady Rachel McAdams (who plays Esti) talk about probing into the conservative community, and the nuances of shooting one of the most beautiful sex scenes of the year.
Why is it essential now to tell a story about oppression of identity?
RACHEL MCADAMS: There’s always oppression out there to fight against and to disobey, so it felt timely, but it’s also a story that needed to be told for the specifics—that this is a corner of the world where being gay is still not embraced.
Is the film criticizing religion?
RACHEL WEISZ: Judaism isn’t the antagonist, but [Esti] can’t be who she is and love who she wants to love. The film shows the great beauty of spirituality, but there’s a dilemma: You can’t be gay and be in that Orthodox religion…. That’s an incredibly interesting one for Esti, because she loves the community.
MCADAMS: Sebastián embraced the beauty and complication of the religion, which exists in every religion. The film is an exploration rather than a damnation.
Is there significance to the way you presented the big sex scene?
WEISZ: Sebastián storyboarded it precisely a couple weeks before we shot it. He made it clear everything he wanted: the wetness, me spitting in Rachel’s mouth, and [a focus on] Esti’s orgasm.
MCADAMS: Often, you’re trying to decide if a sex scene is gratuitous or not. But this scene felt so integral to the plot and moving the story forward. The characters need this release to open up…. There was energy to that scene that I haven’t experienced in any other sex scenes [with men] in my career. There was camaraderie to it. We both felt safe and free…. All those things that you love about being a woman, you get to be with [in the scene], so I understand the attraction and appeal to that in a sexual context.
I certainly hope you were comfortable, knowing Rachel would spit in your mouth.
MCADAMS: It’s provocative [and] brings the audience into something intimate…. The makeup department tested out diferent flavors of lube the night before to use as the spit. We settled on lychee-flavored!
What was it like performing a sexuality you don’t identify as?
MCADAMS It’s just humans being with humans. I didn’t think of it as gay versus straight…. I overheard a couple after a screening say, “We don’t spit in each other’s mouths. That’s not a lesbian thing!” I never thought of it as a “lesbian thing,” it’s just a unique sexual thing between these two people, not necessarily between two women.
Are people still uncomfortable watching gay sex in movies?
WEISZ: Straight men are used to seeing it in pornography, but this isn’t that. It has love, sadness, pain, and power; it’s full of emotion. It’s not at all for the titillation of a man. And that’s so underrepresented. Gay women I’ve spoken to…they felt represented, massively happy, and relieved that their sexuality is represented in film.
MCADAMS: It comes down to a lack of exposure or understanding. We haven’t told enough of these stories. Or they‘ve been categorized or put in a certain box. It’s hardwiring, and we’re loosening it up!
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