Meg Ryan bares all, makes leading man nervous. The queen of perky dismisses her steamy scenes in ''In the Cut'' as no big deal, but Mark Ruffalo had performance anxiety
Meg Ryan
Credit: Ryan & Ruffalo: Andrew Wallace/Reuters/Newscom

Reporters in Toronto can’t seem to stop talking about Meg Ryan’s steamy sex scenes in ”In the Cut,” which had its world premiere Tuesday at the Toronto Film Festival. At a press conference, they kept asking her about the skin shots, despite her repeated contention that they weren’t that big a deal. ”There are some things in the movie that were much more difficult than the sex scenes,” said the romantic comedy queen, ”like playing a character who doesn’t talk much, which is something new for me.”

In the movie, directed by Jane Campion (who famously coaxed daring nude scenes from Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter in ”The Piano”), 41-year-old Ryan plays a professor drawn into an affair with a kinky homicide detective (”You Can Count on Me”’s Mark Ruffalo) who may himself be guilty of the brutal serial killings he’s investigating. Talking to reporters, Ryan insisted that ”In the Cut” wasn’t a huge departure for her, even though she’s best known for her America’s sweetheart roles in movies like ”When Harry Met Sally” and ”You’ve Got Mail.” She said: ”I’ve done 30 movies and I’ve done seven romantic comedies. So I don’t know what the typical Meg Ryan movie is.” Besides, she’s done nudity before in a handful of movies, including ”The Doors” and ”Flesh and Bone.”

Still, she proved bolder than the oft-nude Nicole Kidman, who was initially offered the part but who said she found it too emotionally wrenching in the wake of her divorce. (Kidman did produce the movie, though.) Jennifer Jason Leigh, who plays Ryan’s sister, said that, for Ryan’s fans, ”it’s a shock for [Ryan] to do this. But she does it like nobody’s business. She’s jaw-droppingly good.” Leigh added: ”I think it was actually kind of easy for her [to do the sex scenes]. It just wasn’t asked of her before.”

It was not so easy for Ruffalo, who suffered from some performance anxiety. He said Campion ”wanted the character to be such a competent and confident lover that she kept shouting things like, ‘You’re not at school anymore. You know what you’re doing.’ It was very stressful.” Plus, there was Ryan’s romantic past to contend with. ”I was scared. I was really scared. And she was with Russell Crowe. All I could think of is ‘what am I going to be like compared to Russell Crowe?”‘

Besides ”In the Cut,” there’s been a lot of unexpected nudity this week in Toronto. William H. Macy, who has a similarly explicit love scene with Maria Bello in ”The Cooler,” did a striptease at the movie’s premiere on Tuesday, showing off his blue boxers, the Ottawa Citizen reports. And Nicolas Cage got an eyeful at the premiere of his ”Matchstick Men” over the weekend, where a female fan flashed him during his stroll down the red carpet.

In The Cut
  • Movie
  • 118 minutes