Samantha Morton on being called “difficult” on set

Samantha Morton on labeling "difficult"

Samantha Morton
photo: Vivien Killilea (Getty Images)

Samantha Morton has had an enviable career with a wide range of projects (many of them Excellent) under her belt. But as we know all too well, being a woman in the entertainment industry is never easy –In fact, it can be extremely difficult if you get stuck on the label, well, difficult.

For Morton, the word was used against her when she was just a teenager playing a young victim of sex trafficking band of gold. “I’ve had a lot of very, very intense sex scenes with older actors,” she tells Max Gao in her AV club Random Roles Interview. “Sometimes they were supporting actors – like extras – and I wasn’t protected. I was told I was difficult if I didn’t want to take my bra off; I was told I would be difficult if I was late to set. And I was late to set sometimes because I was on my period and I was trying to hide the tampon tape, so I was treated horribly by male directors and male producers at the time, and it was horrible.”

Morton says she’s “become very open.” a young age, partly because she “came from a very working-class background where I had to fight for myself.” Unfortunately, she gained “a reputation for being difficult” just for saying “no” to things: “I remember I was doing a film for a director in Israel, and that director one day with his big megaphone like a Tennis referee in front The whole crew said, “Take off your bra. I want to see your nipples,'” she shared. “I was a bit older then, and I had a kid at the time, and I just burst into tears. I said no. Don’t talk to me like that. That’s not how you talk to me.’ And what do I get? ‘She’s difficult.’”

The young actor had to learn “how to be articulate and ask for help constructively, rather than responding emotionally to the demands that were placed on me as a child,” she explains. “It was really tough and I learned to protect myself and other actors.”

For example: “When I went to do whores Years later we had to strip a lot of actresses naked. I tried to protect her even though now we have female directors, female producers. We still have male first ADs that the actresses handled terrible‘ she reveals. “We’ve come this far, but the training for the crew members has to change. Everybody can [work in] Costume, makeup, hair, camera, electrics. You work a couple of film sets and then you get hired, but there’s not even a code of conduct that we’re taught [for] me.”

Morton hopes that actors’ unions could incorporate just such a code of conduct into contracts for everyone on set to “treat people with respect and dignity.” This is especially important for young women moving into the industry, she says: “I think the term ‘actress’ is often associated more with diva or trickery than with a colleague and a worker who has rights. We should treat each other with respect and treat each other as we would like to be treated.” Samantha Morton on being called “difficult” on set

Andrew Schnitker

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