Hollywood’s romance with true-crime stories continues in Ben Stiller’s new Showtime mini-series Escape at Dannemora, which chronicles the real-life prison break of convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat. Sure, it includes the expected fare — tense stares, government interrogations, gory violence — but there’s also something we don’t see often on television. Patricia Arquette plays Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell, a married prison employee who aids Matt and Sweat in their prison break —while carrying on affairs with them both. Tilly, a middle-aged, plus-size mother (Arquette gained weight for the role), is shown in sex scenes with both Matt and Sweat, played by Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano, respectively.
“You never see a middle-aged woman who doesn’t have a certain kind of body or look a certain way be sexual, or have the right to her sexuality, or enjoy her sexuality,” Arquette told Vulture at the NYC premiere. “You’re more likely to see dinosaurs in movies, or unicorns in movies, or anything in a movie, than you are to see a middle-aged woman who is sexual. And that’s kind of crazy, you know?”
Arquette said she found the sex scenes “terrifying personally” — some of them are jarringly violent — but was appreciative of the conversation she was able to be a part of through the role. The show did not employ an intimacy coordinator to oversee the sex scenes, although the use of them has been growing in popularity to avoid sexual harassment on set. “I’m a powerful woman, a successful woman. So I don’t feel a huge power dynamic. I feel like I can say what’s going on for me,” said Arquette. “But we took it very slow, and Ben told me all the camera angles, and how we were gonna shoot it. We talked about the emotional underpinnings of every scene. But I do think, in general, [using an intimacy coordinator] should be the norm, and the actors can decide they do or don’t want the use of that as much as they want. Horrible, horrible things have happened, and I don’t want that to ever happen to a young actor.”