HBO’s Westworld is now under fire for asking more than 50 extras to sign a consent form agreeing to participate in “graphic sexual situations,” which include “gential-to-genital touching” and contorting to “form a table-like shape while being fully nude,” Deadline reports.
Central Casting, a casting company hired by HBO to cast Westworld‘s background players, reportedly offered 57 extras a consent agreement that states as follows.
“appear fully nude; wear a pubic hair patch; perform genital-to-genital touching; have your genitals painted; simulate oral sex with hand-to- genital touching; contort to form a table-like shape while being fully nude; pose on all fours while others who are fully nude ride on your back; ride on someone’s back while you are both fully nude; and other assorted acts the Project may require.”
Based on the SAG-AFTRA scale, background performers are usually paid $157 a day. But a source familiar with the Westworld shoot said that the extras were offered up to $600 to get them to sign the consent form.
While nudity in film and TV is nothing new in the last several years, especially in the present day, a contract requiring Westworld extras to perform simulated sexual acts such as the ones mentioned in the form go beyond the normal confines of decency. For many of these hard-working actors, landing a role on HBO’s Westworld is a big career opportunity. But being put in an uncomfortable position where they’ll be hard-pressed to say no reeks of coercion and exploitation.
Some of the background actors cast for HBO’s Westworld were asked for comment regarding the controversy. One veteran described the experience as “very disheartening.”
“I was dumbfounded,” said another.
Terri Becherer, the union’s National Director of Specialty Performers, released a statement in direct response to the racy Westworld casting contract.
“We believe in the First Amendment and support a creator’s right to tell their story, but this seems to go far beyond the scope of what background actors are asked to do in the course of their day.”
Terri also added she is worried that the extras cast for Westworld “may find the consent form intimidating and could be construed by our members that they don’t have the right to withdraw that consent.”
The union said that they will have a representative show up on the set of Westworld on Wednesday “to answer any questions.”
The producers for HBO’s Westworld assured SAG-AFTRA that they will comply with the rules stipulated in the union’s Television Agreement. This means that Westworld’s extras have the right to withdraw their consent to perform “simulated sexual acts” anytime during the show’s filming. The Television Agreement also states that the set will be closed to anyone not involved with the production. Lastly, no photography will be allowed without the background actor’s consent.
On Wednesday night, HBO released a statement to EW denying any involvement in the production of the controversial contract offered to Westworld background actors.
“The document that the background actors were given was created by an outside extras casting vendor. It was not requested, written or approved by HBO, Warner Bros. Television, or the producers, and contains situations that we do not require of any actor.”
In response to HBO’s statement, SAG-AFTRA said, “The Union is very pleased to hear that HBO is doing the right thing now but it is disappointing that we had to take such public measures to ensure compliance with our contracts and protect our background actors.”
HBO has come under fire on multiple occasions for gratuitous nudity in many of their shows. HBO shows that went controversial in the past for racy sexual scenes include Game of Thrones and True Blood.
HBO’s Westworld is an upcoming television series based on the 1973 science fiction film written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton. The film tells the story of amusement park robots that go on a killing spree after a power surge caused them to malfunction. Jonathan Nolan serves as the executive producer along with Joy, J.J. Abrams, and Bryan Burk. Westworld is scheduled to hit TV screens next year.
To see HBO’s teaser for Westworld, see the video below.
[Photo courtesy of HBO]