Actors use a variety of acting techniques to create believable characters, but do they really kiss?
And how do they kiss well enough to make us believe there is an emotional connection there? After all, the actors we see in these intimate moments are work colleagues, and they are surrounded by entire teams of crew members.
Love, marriage, intimate and emotional relationships are a part of most human lives and desires. It’s an area which can cause great joy, and great suffering, not just for the people involved but also for those around them.
Not surprisingly, relationships have been a key part of drama for millennia. A kissing scene has been very much expected in western screen drama from the birth of cinema onward.
The kiss scene can be a dramatic high point in theatre and movie scenes. The main characters have been dancing around their attraction in all the previous scenes, overcoming all sorts of barriers, and now they finally both communicate their feelings for each other with a dramatic and romantic kiss!
Or it can be a kiss of treachery, where one of the main characters is heading down the wrong road, and many twists and turns are about to ensue.
Do actors really kiss?
On stage, actors can kiss with closed mouths and use the movement of their head, shoulders and arms to create great intimate scenes, often pausing to hold the partner’s face in their hands as further lines are delivered. The stage kiss is dramatic and accompanied by exaggerated movement so it is seen from the back of the auditorium.
The same techniques work for many screen scenes too. But if this is the resolution of the main storyline it’s a big movie moment, and may demand several close ups. In which case, a deeper level of physical intimacy may help the screen magic work.
Open mouthed kissing is fairly standard in a cinema release film aimed at adults, often pulling on the lower lip of their screen partner. French kissing with tongues is unusual, even for close ups.
Ultimately this is something that the actors need to discuss in advance, ideally with the involvement of the director and the producer. Attitudes towards consent, pressure and safety have changed, allowing actors to air their concerns without it directly leading the curtailment or end of their career.
Most actors also prefer to practice their kisses before filming. It allows them to break through discomfort before they are closely surrounded by the crew, and to work out the best poses and actions for the camera.
Do actors enjoy kissing?
Each actor is an individual. So you can’t generalise when talking about what actors enjoy or dislike.
Some are method actors who trained for several years at drama school and got plenty of practice kissing an allocated fellow actor in one production after another. Others may have come into the acting profession with little formal training, and find the act of kissing strangers a daunting affair.
And even if an actor is comfortable with the stage or onscreen kiss, it’s just one way of playing a character. For many decades leading men filmed a passionate kissing scene with their lead actress, with everyone on set knowing they were gay. They were good at acting, which was their job.
Actors who perform a stage fight aren’t doing so with real anger overtaking them.
And, of course, whether it’s a cute love scene or a steamy sex scene, they aren’t actually alone in a room together, but surrounded by crew members, closely watched by the director, standing under bright lights and in close proximity to bulky equipment. It’s almost an industrial workplace. Not much of a romantic atmosphere!
There are, of course, plenty of real life partners who met on set. But they got together with their fellow actor through real chemistry and weeks of working together, and not because they shared one passionate kiss surrounded by other cast members and crew.
What about CGI kisses?
It is now possible to create screen kisses with CGI. Each actor separately films their kids with a placeholder. Then the footage is combined, creating the illusion that the actors really kissed.
Why go to this extra cost of both time and money for just a simple romantic scene? There are many conservative societies whose religious and cultural beliefs expect women to behave with great modesty and disagree with intimate contact between people who aren’t married.
Even in 1990s Bollywood, actors kissing on screen happened as a way for filmmakers to push audience boundaries rather than because it was part of the script formula. But while audience attitudes changed over time, there are still many Bollywood actors and actresses who refuse to film an onscreen kiss.
So here the GCI route is a compromise to protect the modesty of the actors involved but still give the audience the special screen moment they want.
A cheaper alternative was found for Salman Khan’s ‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’. The Bollywood icon kissed the actress Disha Patani only once she had duct tape on her mouth, working around his policy of no screen kissing.
Cinematographers also know how to get good camera angles that allow the suggestion of close physical contact, even where it is not real. Plus, not every moment of romantic engagement on screen needs a kiss.
But most Bollywood actors and actresses today really kiss on screen rather than using CGI, accepting it as part of a day’s work like any other acting scene
So do actors really Kiss?
Yes, usually the kissing scene you see on a TV show or in a movie shows a real kiss, but not a french kiss. However, it is not a romantic scene for the actor or actress, even if they share real chemistry, because they are surrounded by people and equipment, but the job of an actor is to convincingly pretend.