Strippers cast in Lucy's lusty film

17:00, Sep 12 2009
sparta
SKIN BATTLE: The R-rated production features naked battle scenes in bath houses and explicit orgies.

LUCY Lawless's big-budget American television production Spartacus is so explicit that strippers have been cast as extras.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand, a 13-part pay-television series about the leader of a slave revolt in ancient Rome, has been in production in Auckland's Mt Wellington since March, with a cast featuring Kiwi actors Lawless, Guy Parker and Manu Bennett, and direction by Michael Hurst.

Promoted in trailers as "the boldest show on television", the R-rated production has been the talk of the local film industry for its raunchiness, including explicit orgies and naked battle scenes in bath houses.

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TV's boldest: Will NZ viewers get to see Lucy Lawless in the raunchy 13-part Spartacus: Blood and Sand?

With many local actors unaccustomed to simulating sex and spending long hours naked on set, the production has sourced extras through Go Wild Adult Entertainment, a company which supplies erotic dancers and jelly wrestlers. Managing director Shelley Meecham confirmed she was providing talent to Spartacus, but was unable to comment further because of a confidentiality agreement.

Auckland stripper Ryan Marston, who had not sought work on Spartacus due to prior commitments, estimated about 20 male and female local strippers had worked on the series.

Reports from his colleagues were that the shoots were "pretty hardcore". "In the beginning all the male scenes were filmed the fight scenes, the bath scenes. Then the girls have come in and done their lesbian scenes and their harem scenes. Some of the dialogue is pretty horrific, apparently. I'll be amazed if it makes New Zealand TV."

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One of the performers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the sex scenes had been "good fun".

"There's full-frontal nudity, but as soon as they say 'Cut', somebody chucks you a towel. It's not all orgies, it's one-on-one too. It's not porn, as people are billing it."

The producers had cast strippers as extras because many actors would find the demands on them daunting. "Rather than browsing through all the agencies finding someone prepared to do sex scenes, it's easier to go to one agency that takes care of people that are fine being naked."

Attempts to keep the production "as historically correct as possible" extended to fitting female performers with pubic-hair wigs, or "merkins".

Lawless, who plays Lucretia, owner of the gladiator camp, shocked fans in July when she revealed she would perform naked sex scenes in the series, produced by her husband, Rob Tapert. "You see plenty," she said then. "I'm a little traumatised."

Lawless told the interviewer she had been fitted for a merkin, which was "pinned to the wall" on set. "There's all these, like, little beards in the makeup trailer."

Her revealing performance would likely rule out a reprise of her most famous role on family-friendly Xena: Warrior Princess, she joked.

Producers of the show, scheduled to screen in the United States in January, did not respond to a request for comment. A TVNZ spokeswoman said the network would view the show later this month before making a decision on negotiating to buy it.

Sunday Star Times