When an actor is signed for a movie/show/series, they sign contracts for the working relationship of that certain movie/show/series. There is always going to be different scenes/scenarios to be shot during the shooting.

The question is, is there a law that obligates actors to perform anything and everything mentioned in the script? or can they simply pass on it, and not perform?

For example an actor does not like to go nude or shoot a sensual scene.But if it is a part of a script, can they choose to not do it? or do they HAVE to shoot because of the contract despite not having personal approval?

I have seen some examples like William defoe in Antichrist where a body double is advised to be used for naked scenes but once again is that advised by the script/director or the actor them self?

  • 7
    I guess that they are told what are they going to have to do while acting before signing the contract. And if they sign the contract knowing what they will do, they are obliged to do it. If they do not want to do it, they have to negotiate the terms before signing like which scenes will the actor do, what stunts will be for stuntmand and double to do and so on.
    – TK-421
    Sep 18, 2019 at 6:26

3 Answers 3


For example an actor does not like to go nude or shoot a sensual scene.But if it is a part of a script, can they choose to not do it? or do they HAVE to shoot because of the contract despite not having personal approval?

The choice is always the actor's.

The actor's contract will spell out what they are willing or unwilling to do. Some refuse different levels of nudity, some other things but they agree to perform what is in the script.

In most cases, the actor is working from a finished script (mostly) and is aware of what is entailed and signs on that basis.

If they are not happy to perform certain actions/scenes that would be brought up as part of their negotiations to sign on for the role.

Now it might be that the script changes but any changes that might impact on the actor within the scope of this question would have to be agreed.

It would be a very foolish director or producer who attempts to coerce an actor into performing a scene the actor violently disagrees with. The downsides are too deep.

If the actor changes their mind after agreeing to perform a scene then that's a contract issue which would have financial and other repercussions but no judge is going to compel an actor to a specific act they have ethical/personal issues with even if they previously agreed to perform it.

Further insight on specific entertainment contract law might be better served on Law.SE.

  • 9
    a good example of this is Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones. Originally, she was ok with doing the nudity, but changed her mind as the show went on. I believe they just got a body double for her and that was that.
    – DForck42
    Sep 18, 2019 at 13:20
  • 7
    I don't know if this applies to Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones, but for series actors typically only sign contracts for a few years at a time, and obviously can negotiate a different deal every time they need to get a new contract. And I would guess that the contracts used for series have special provisions for episodes/seasons not yet written. Sep 18, 2019 at 14:22
  • 10
    @DForck42 Not a body double, just no more scenes of gratuitous nudity after season 1. It’s unclear whether they actually changed the script to accommodate her but she does seem to have had an influence on the writing. Sep 18, 2019 at 14:43
  • 1
    Nice answer...but lets not forget that whole exploitation industry part of Hollywood... Sep 18, 2019 at 15:56
  • I don't recall where exactly I saw it, but I've read that according to SAG rules, the actor/actress can refuse at any point to do nude scenes and the director has to change it or get a body double, and they can't discriminate (not cast/fire, etc.) on willingness to do nude scenes.
    – Kevin
    Sep 18, 2019 at 21:01

The SAG-AFTRA union provides specific protections for actors for nudity and sex scenes. What You Should Know About Nudity Riders:

If your performance in a film will include nudity, partial nudity or simulated sex acts, be sure that you or your representatives have negotiated a nudity rider with production. The nudity rider should include a detailed description of the scene(s), the type of nudity or physical contact required, limitations on use of the footage and production stills (if any), and any other conditions that you and a producer have agreed upon. Remember, even if you have signed a nudity rider, you have the right to withdraw consent at any time prior to filming of the scene. As always, contractual minimums may not be waived by a performer.

The union's Basic Agreement (page 110, PDF page 126) discusses the minimum requirements, including early prior notification, a closed set, and written consent describing what will be shot in the form of a nudity rider. That consent can be withdrawn, and the production has the option to choose to use a double for the actor instead: "If a performer has agreed to appear in such scenes and then withdraws his or her consent, Producer shall have the right to double, but consent may not be withdrawn as to film already photographed."

The blog Film Independent answers some more questions about the rules in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Nudity Clauses but Were Too Shy to Ask. Well known actors have the bargaining power to negotiate detailed nudity riders with greater protections, but abuses still happen:

Feldman inserts up to 40 extremely specific provisions in a fully negotiated "nudity rider" — the addendum to a performer's contract that spells out the exact requirements and restrictions of any such scenes — everything from fluorescent-colored pasties ("It prevents a shot from accidentally capturing something it shouldn't") to the guarantee of a closed set ("If you have 100 people potentially shooting something with a phone, iPad, whatever, these things become opportunities for something to slip out or be hacked, either maliciously or just through inattention").

Authentic Talent & Literary Management founder and CEO Jon Rubinstein, whose company reps Brie Larson and Vera Farmiga, says abuses continue to be rampant. "Mostly, where you get into trouble is where a producer or director approaches an actress directly on a set and asks for something that wasn't negotiated," says Rubinstein.

"It's, 'Look, the whole crew wants to go home. It's midnight. We're all exhausted. We just have to get this one last shot. The way that we've been doing it isn't working. Can you drop the towel?' Or, 'That shirt doesn't look right, why don't you just lose it?' Then suddenly you're standing there and you've got 20 people waiting for you, and you go, 'Ugh, fine.' That happens all the time."

Such a scenario appears to have played out on Lost for star Evangeline Lilly, who recently said she "had a bad experience on set with being basically cornered into doing a scene partially naked, and I felt I had no choice in the matter. And I was mortified and I was trembling when it finished."

Some producers, notably HBO, have recently started hiring intimacy coordinators so that there is a single person responsible for communication, consent, and collaborating with all parties on intimate scenes. You can read an interview with intimacy coordinator Alicia Rodis on how the job works. The union is working with Rodis to develop new polices, so there are likely to be more protections for all union actors in the future.


Actress Terri Garr related an anecdote about this:

In the original Close Encounters of the Third Kind script, she was supposed to do a topless scene. Richard Dreyfuss was supposed to look at her bare breast while she slept, at see it as the same shape as the tower he was obsessed with.

In the days leading up to shooting that scene, Terri said she was nervous about it. She said that she planned to talk Stephen Spielberg out of it. The fact that she would think she could do that, even though she originally agreed to do it, says that actors don't always expect they'll have to do everything in their contract or in the script.

Terri went on to say that on the morning the scene was supposed to be shot, Spielberg told her that the scene had been rewritten and she wouldn't have to be nude. (IMHO, this could have been a director's trick: he may have known all along that he wouldn't be shooting that scene, but he wanted Terri Garr to think she'd have to be exposed, in order to get a particular performance out of her. In CE3K her character is guarded and superficial and doesn't want to be "exposed" emotionally.)

  • 3
    He also could just have been a nice guy, and could easily work around her change of attitude. He was used to working with difficult stars, after having dealt with Bruce the shark in Jaws.
    – Barmar
    Sep 18, 2019 at 18:21
  • 4
    "The fact that she would think she could do that, even though she originally agreed to do it, says that actors don't always expect they'll have to do everything in their contract or in the script." - I'm no particular fan of nudity, but this sounds as though it just genericises one actresses' behaviour to the entire profession. If you're an adult, don't agree to do things you won't do.
    – Rob Grant
    Sep 18, 2019 at 18:30
  • 4
    @RobertGrant Or that actors, like everybody else, take what sounds like a good job opportunity even though they don't love every aspect of it, with a mindset of "I'll cross this bridge when I get there".
    – xLeitix
    Sep 19, 2019 at 10:03
  • @xLeitix it's not like a long-term job. It's a specific contract for a single project. It's not the equivalent of a permanent job contract saying "reasonable expections" and that being a debatable term defined over a long period, and an out-of-the-blue request can be challenged. I wonder how said actors would appreciate the production company writing down a salary they have no intention of paying and saying "We'll cross that bridge when we get there." Can't demand employers fulfil obligations if employees can just renege.
    – Rob Grant
    Sep 19, 2019 at 11:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .