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Charlie Kaufman on the year's most surprising sex scene—with puppets

Joshua Rothkopf
Written by
Joshua Rothkopf

As exciting as onscreen sex can be, it's notoriously hard on the actors: under hot lights, desperately trying to perform, all with a crew standing around doing its job (and desperately waiting for lunch). Evidently, it's no less easy when the actors are puppets.

"We took six months to shoot that scene," Charlie Kaufman says of the unusually tender and explicit bedroom sequence that's become a calling card of the new stop-motion-animated movie Anomalisa, out today. Kaufman, whose screenplays for Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind make him no stranger to male anxiety, speaks with a thoughtful sensitivity that suggests a side career in adult entertainment, should he ever want to pursue one. "These people are real," he continues. "We thought of them as live. This was not going to be a joke."

Anomalisa's puppets are silicone, but the sex is not a frantic wooden jumble like the comic coupling in Team America: World Police. There is an awkwardness, the kind that feels true to an intimate moment, along with flashes of carefully designed parts you won't ever see on a store-bought Barbie.

"We did tests, rehearsals, blocking," adds co-director Duke Johnson, Kaufman's creative partner. They worked from an audio track recorded offsite by actors David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, adding another layer of realistic fumbling. The result is a moment that's exquisite, unlike anything else this year. "There's a sadness to it," Kaufman offers. "The whole movie is about lack of connection." 

Read our five-star review of Anomalisa here.

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