Interview: Coming Soon Director Colette Burson and the Search For the Female Orgasm
Q: How do you make a woman have an orgasm?
A: Who cares?
Obviously Colette Burson does. She cowrote and directed a whole movie dedicated to the subject. Coming Soon, which opens May 12 at Village East Cinemas, stars Mia Farrow, Ryan O'Neal, Spalding Gray, Peter Bogdanovich, Gaby Hoffmann and newcomers Bonnie Root, Ryan Reynolds, Tricia Vessey, James Roday and Ashton Kutcher. It's a comedy with a killer climax. I use the term "comedy" loosely. I'm not sure it's so funny. Young girls searching for orgasms is scarier to me than that guy with the knives for fingers, the dude with the hockey mask or the flasher who knows what you did last summer.
It's just like a woman for you to show up late.
Yeah exactly. I was running around like crazy. (laughs) You're making me nervous with those orange sweatpants.
Wendy: Feel free to tell him to fuck off anytime.
So I hear you're having problems with distribution?what's up with that?
Well, I have a distributor now, so I don't know if I'm having problems?hopefully not. Although I was having problems for a long time, despite the fact that I always had great screenings. Women buyers would strongly recommend the film, but each time Coming Soon was about to be bought, it would go to the guys in marketing, who would always come back and say, "There's no market. We have no idea what do to with this thing."
Wendy: Did they say why?
At one point it went to Fox and they said it was too "controversial." In general I felt like they were confused. I never got a clear answer beyond, "We don't know how to market this. We're not comfortable marketing this."
Why do you think they were uncomfortable?
I imagine that when the film is screened you've got an older guy sitting in the room and, you know, maybe there is a male assistant and maybe a woman there, and at the end of the movie, it's always about somebody putting their ass on the line. Some guy has to say, "I think we should invest in a movie called Coming Soon about girls orgasming." And I think they feel uncomfortable. Whereas if it's a movie like American Pie, what with the dick and the pie, the marketing is very easy. But a girl having an orgasm in a jacuzzi...it's not their experience. It's a huge hump they can't get over. If you look at the advertising for Big Daddy, for example, it's interesting to see how it was marketed. It's Adam Sandler and this kid, and they are pissing against a wall. Two guys. You'd never see a woman squatting. I think it's reflective of society and how people are less comfortable with women's sexuality and their bodies. Imagine Rosie O'Donnell and Anna Paquin squatting. People would go, "Oh gross." You'd never see that.
By extension, these guys who run marketing divisions feel very comfortable about boys' sexuality, and not so much about girls'. I was very surprised that I ran into so much controversy while making this movie. I never thought it was controversial. To me, that's a joke. We are not nearly as liberated as we think we are. Even in New York and L.A.
Wendy: The girls are not even that young.
Right. I even added a line that says, "Are we 18 or what?" Letting the audience know their age. But it's stupid, because in Risky Business Tom Cruise is in high school, he has sex with a whore in a train and that's fine and it got an R. I got an NC-17. Twice. The MPAA told me they were uncomfortable with the idea of girls and orgasm. I actually got a woman on the phone who I told, "I can't help but point out that if this film were about boys, I don't think you'd have a problem." She said, "Colette, that may very well be true, but it's the job of the MPAA to judge a movie in the place of parents, for the parents, in case they can't see it, and if the parents were to see your movie, and the double standard exists, then they would judge it with that double standard. Therefore it's fine that we judge it the way we do."
I don't think that the problem men have is with chicks having orgasms.
I think it's that they're getting sex in high school, and we didn't. I didn't get laid until I was almost 19. These girls are young and getting some. Maybe we men are just jealous.
Gosh, George. (laughs) I've never heard that analysis before. I have heard a lot of people weigh in, but I have never heard that. I feel like it may come a little too much from your personal experience.
It's true, men are just jealous.
Wendy: Please. You're just jealous. I know that when George was watching the film he was just cringing. George was three feet tall in high school.
(laughs) I think this cringing thing is very interesting. There are many guys who "get" this movie and are very cool. The ones who don't fall into two categories: either they totally trivialize it and say, "It's just Clueless"...like a New York Clueless. Or they're really uncomfortable and don't understand why.
I know I'm uncomfortable and I know why. I didn't get any in high school.
There's a demographic for this film that's really bad. It's men in their late 40s and 50s.
Wendy: That's you, George.
Unfortunately they rule the world. Which is why Coming Soon is opening in one theater and not 1800. I think it reminds the men in their late 40s or 50s who rule the entertainment industry about their daughters. In Coming Soon the girls look sweet. They have flowers in their hair. They want to go to Harvard. And they want an orgasm. That's the part they don't tell their parents in the movie. That is a father's secret fear?that their daughters are sexual. It's easier with like Britney Spears. She's sexual in a slutty way, she's packaged in that way, in the Catholic school uniform. She can be objectified and yet she's separate from their lives.
If I ever have a daughter, she's not allowed out of the house until she's 30.
(laughs) I think that's what all those guys think. They know their daughter is trying to get into Harvard, but they don't know maybe she's having sex and it's really bad. And the way you feel about your body, and your sexuality, as a teenager, can fuck you up for life.
What's wrong with bad sex for girls? If I had a daughter, it'd serve her right to have bad sex. She shouldn't be having it anyway.
Having bad sex means she's gonna have a bad body image.
Wendy: Sex is always bad the first time, isn't it?
Well, you know, that's interesting. My distributor wanted the tag line on the poster to read "The first time is the best time!" Of course I hated that... I wanted it to be "Coming Soon: Did you think you never would?" The compromise line which is being used now is "It's all about feeling good."
How was sex the first time for you, Colette?
Oh Jesus. (laughs) You know, I hardly know how honest to be. I was the world's biggest cocktease. And I remain that way today. Oh God! I'm kidding. Really, I'm kidding! I have a boyfriend. I'm deeply in love with him. We've been going out for eight years. And he gives me very good orgasms.
Oral or with a dick or a hand?
I said mouth, hand or dick? That's three.
Mostly both. The hand is involved, but not at the climactic moment. It would be if I needed it to be involved. I happen to be very orgasmic.
Do you masturbate often?
I dunno. Hourly?
Fuck off, George. (laughs) Well, the moment in the movie in the hot tub... That really happened to me. And there were other people in the hot tub. I think I was 15. At first it was an accident. I realized it was erotic. It was a jet. Then I sort of adjusted and didn't want to leave that jet.
Was that your first orgasm?
No. My first orgasm was dry-humping in jeans. I thought the end of the world was coming. He was on top of me, kissing, and I was 13 or 14, he was rubbing his crotch against mine. Apparently the Amish are really into that. If you haven't experienced sex, it's really fun. I got a lot of juice out of that for several months. But I never connected that to masturbation until I read about it in Our Bodies, Ourselves.
Half the time I can't find the clitoris.
I'm not surprised. (laughs) Sometimes I think this movie is a great litmus test for where people are at sexually. It's a comedy. It's not a big heavy thing. But it's a subversive comedy. Sometimes even women have walked out of the film. Angry. Or offended. I can tell afterwards. I've seen this film screened with many different audiences and sometimes women don't even want to talk to me. I can tell they're angry. Women and men. And when I look at them, I think, "They look like they're really uptight and bad in bed." One time this guy came out of the theater. He was sort of a friend of mine going in... (laughs) He avoided me going out. He went up to my editor and said, "You know, this movie really gets to me. It's as if those girls think they have a right to have an orgasm."
Wendy: Oh. My. God.
It's shocking. You don't expect it. My editor said to him, "If this were about boys, you wouldn't have a problem." I would never have believed it before making this movie.
I thought sex felt good for women even if they didn't have orgasms. But I mean, for men, if they don't, it's painful.
What the fuck are you talking about? Women tell you they feel good, but that's a lie. You know that feeling you get just before you get off? What if the get-off part never came?
I take Prozac, I know that feeling well.
(laughs) I think some girls are so alienated from their bodies that they don't even feel good. Even the part about feeling good is a lie.
Coming Soon opens Friday, May 12, at Village East Cinemas, 189 2nd Ave. (12th St.), 529-6799.
New York’s Top Public High Schools
Op-Ed: How the U.E.S. Dies
New York’s Top Public High Schools
Op-Ed: How the U.E.S. Dies
In Each Picture, a Story