JENNI MURRAY: Oh come on Claire. Why take on the role of Britain’s best-known scandalous woman, the Duchess of Argyll if you hate sex scenes?

  • Claire Foy is playing Duchess of Argyll in new BBC drama A Very British Scandal
  • Actress admits to feeling ‘exploited’ when having to perform fake sex on screen 
  • Jenni Murray will only be thinking of how Claire felt when watching drama

Oh, come on Claire Foy! If you find acting out sex on screen ‘the grimmest thing you can do’, why agree to play the part of Britain’s best-known scandalous woman, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll?

Claire must be one of the most in-demand actresses after her global success as the young Queen Elizabeth in The Crown. She can’t have needed the work, so why accept the part and then moan about sex scenes in a story about sex?

The tale in question is the BBC’s big, must watch, ‘proper’ drama over the holiday season, beginning on Boxing Day. It’s called A Very British Scandal and tells of the infamous Margaret, best known for a string of lovers and a well-known set of Polaroids which were revealed during a much-publicised divorce case in 1963.

The most famous of the pictures was known as The Headless Man and showed the Duchess on her knees and naked, apart from her pearls, pleasuring a male whose identity was never revealed. The judge, granting the Duke’s divorce, described Margaret as ‘a completely promiscuous woman whose sexual appetite could only be satisfied with a number of men’.

Claire Foy (pictured), who is playing Duchess of Argyll in new BBC drama A Very British Scandal, has revealed that she is not entirely happy with the way her sex scenes are filmed

It’s not, of course, the first time Claire Foy has performed sex scenes, notably in the film Wreckers in 2011 and in BBC Two’s White Heat in 2012. I do have some sympathy when she says, ‘basically, you feel exploited when you’re a woman and you’re having to perform fake sex on screen’.

Nevertheless, as long as sexual relations remain a frequent and increasingly explicit part of just about every film and drama that’s served up for us to watch, isn’t it just part of her job?

There’s no doubt there’s been considerable effort, since the MeToo movement gained such traction, to make these performances easier for actors and actresses alike.

In 1972 Maria Schneider described her humiliation when Bernardo Bertolucci, the director of Last Tango in Paris, included a rape scene involving Marlon Brando and some butter. She said it had not been included in the script and was far from consensual. I doubt with the introduction of intimacy co-ordinators such a lack of respect for a female performer could occur today.

These professional sex choreographers are on hand to direct such scenes in the same way a fight would be arranged, frame by frame. Performers are asked how far they are prepared to go, how much they’re ready to show and directors must follow rules.

Claire Foy, though, is not entirely happy with the way her sex scenes are filmed. In her case she felt ‘it’s sort of amazing the things that they are able to say that always just make me feel like a 12-year-old’.

Jenni Murray (pictured) said when she sits down to watch the drama, she will only be thinking of Claire and how uncomfortable she was feeling

Nor is she happy with the suggestion the Duchess was slut-shamed. She’s right. Slut should never be applied to a woman who enjoys sex and has multiple partners. What would you call a man in a similar position? A lothario, maybe, with no nasty implication at all.

I was really looking forward to Boxing Day and the two consecutive nights to watch a drama I hoped would have the same quality displayed in the earlier A Very English Scandal about Jeremy Thorpe.

It would, I thought, be a huge advance on the usual familiar and often giddy menu of Christmas such as Call the Midwife and Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

Now, when I sit down to watch what I believed would be a perfect bit of TV escapism I shall only be thinking of Claire and how uncomfortable she was feeling. Kind of spoils the illusion.

  • I know, from studying research in the U.S., about the damage to a child’s self-esteem caused by fictional characters who are rubbished for being fat or ugly. So, as one not generally given to support woke ideologies and a former fan of The Beano, I approve of the changes to the Bash Street Kids. Fatty is now Freddy and Spotty is Scotty. Quite right.

I am baffled by young people who insist on safe spaces and don’t want to be triggered by reading classics such as Kidnapped or Romeo And Juliet. Why can they not see that, from as young as 11 — as we learned from the pop star Billie Eilish, who says unsolicited porn from that age ‘destroyed’ her brain — the least safe space for them is their phone? 

I’d ground wills too, your majesty 

Jenni Murray said she knows how the Queen feels about her grandson flying a helicopter containing his entire family. Pictured: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their children 

I know how the Queen feels about her grandson flying a helicopter containing his entire family. Sleepless nights, apparently. Yes, William is an experienced and no doubt competent pilot, but I have no trust at all in the safety of his chosen mode of transport.

A very good friend thought he might become a helicopter pilot. In the queue to join a flight for a suitability test, he needed the loo. The helicopter he should have joined took off and crashed, killing everyone aboard.

As a young reporter, I narrowly missed a flight to do some filming of an air sea rescue. All the journalists aboard died in Weymouth harbour.

No helicopters for me and, William, granny knows best. The future of the monarchy depends on you.

You won’t get my cat in a fancy plastic carrier

Jenni admitted that she’s dreading the moment when she has to persuade her cat to enter her carrier prior to setting off for Christmas on the South Coast

I asked Suu, my sometimes-psycho cat, how she’d feel about me taking her shopping in a see-through trolley on wheels — like Kate Beckinsale. Short shrift is the only way I can describe her yowling response. So I dread the moment, prior to setting off for Christmas on the South Coast, when I have to persuade her to enter her carrier and be strapped into the back seat alongside Madge and Frida, the chihuahuas she hates. Please, traffic, be light.

Did Emma deserve to win?

Did Emma Raducanu deserve to be Sports Personality Of The Year with only one major achievement behind her — the U.S. Open?

At 19, she’s pretty, personable and looks good in diamonds and designer clothes, but Dame Sarah Storey has been winning gold medals in swimming and cycling for years. Her total of 28 Paralympic medals including 17 gold medals makes her the most successful (by gold medals) and most decorated (by total medals) British Paralympian of all time.

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson described her as ‘amazing — the greatest paralympic sportswoman ever who never gives up.’

It’s the sport that should matter, not a youthful, attractive, but still inexperienced personality.

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