Lars von Trier has been answering questions on the lingering claims that he once stripped naked in front of Nicole Kidman while filming 2003 movie Dogville.
Trier, who is no stranger to sexual misconduct accusations, once admitted that he enjoyed “slapping asses” on set and felt disappointed that he could no longer do so. On top of that, Icelandic pop icon Bjork once ran away into the woods in a bid to be away from the director during the making of Dancer in the Dark. Years later, inspired by the #MeToo movement, Bjork and her label would come forward with the accusations against Trier – something he went on to wholeheartedly deny.
Those accusations came hand in hand with Peter Aalbæk Jensen, the co-founder of his film company Zentropa and regular producer on Trier’s films who was repeatedly accused of “groping breasts” on set. “Well, you know Peter,” Trier says in an interview with the Guardian. “He’s crazy. I’m crazy. Zentropa is crazy, to some degree. But when I look at the corporation – in this house, for instance – the young people are all having a good time.”
Trier is well known for his intense working conditions, an emotion that is depicted throughout his leading feature films. During the filming of Dogville, Kidman made no secret of the difficulties on set with the director and detailed a three-hour argument in the forest over scene debates. Paul Bettany, who starred opposite Kidman in Dogville, described his time on the film as “eight enormously long weeks in the most depressing place I have ever been to in my life”.
It was during the filming of Dogville that some of the details around Trier’s on-set mind games began to emerge. According to reports, the Danish director approached Kidman on day one of the project and randomly told her he was taking a break in order to look at a stash of pornography which was owned by Bettany. Without adding any more detail, Trier left Kidman stood there and chose to spy on her reaction from the safety of a nearby fire escape.
“One day it would be a fairytale; the next it was a nightmare,” Kidman once said about her time working with Trier on the film. “Lars was gentle with me – he was gentle and soft, and then he would beat me up emotionally when he felt he needed that.”
However, one story loomed longer than most from the filming of Dogville. A story that most put down as an urban myth, a tale that has been embellished over the years; did Lars von Trier really strip naked while filming a scene with Oscar-winning actor Nicole Kidman?
“I did what?” Trier said when asked by Guardian journalist Xan Brooks. “Well, again, as with Peter, it sounds likely,” he added.
“But Nicole was ready to come back and do more films with me, so it can’t have shocked her very much.
“But, yeah, it’s a crazy business. And it was a little bit our lives, as well. That’s where the films came from – that sense of freedom.”