Why Henry Cavill wanted to censor sex scenes in ‘The Witcher’
(Credit: Netflix)


Why Henry Cavill wanted to censor sex scenes in 'The Witcher'

After first airing in December 2019, the popular Netflix series The Witcher became a stand-out hit with streamers around the globe. Based on the book series of the same name by Andrzej Sapkowski, the series starred Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra in the two lead roles as Geralt of Rivia, the “witcher”, and Yennefer of Vengerberg, a sorceress who becomes entangled with Geralt. 

As the drama unfolds, the characters enter into a complex romantic relationship. Audiences and critics alike have lauded both actors for their compelling portrayals. However, according to several reports, both actors stood at odds with showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, who encouraged them to engage in more intensely sexual scenes. 

While such disagreements between director and actor can arise from a degree of awkwardness between the actors, Cavill and Chalotra felt the sexual scenes would mar the tone of their on-screen relationship. Ultimately, Cavill argued that the explicit scenes were unnecessary for the narrative development and, in a sense, cheapened the story for a moment of offbeat eye candy to entice the audiences. 

In a 2023 interview, Cavill discussed his and Chalotra’s careful approach to acting. “Well, one always rehearses these things to a degree,” he said. “Anya is an exceptional actress, and when it comes to these things, we do like to keep it fresh and as real as possible. And so if one rehearses, then it takes some of the magic out of the moments.”

According to Cavill, Chalotra likes to rehearse scenes several times, yet he feels that, when it comes to intimate scenes, a fresh approach is best. “We just wanted to be very careful that it was true and real and it didn’t turn into something that we, as actors, didn’t believe it should be,” he added. 

Later, he discussed how he had to put his foot down when asked to shoot needlessly explicit sex scenes with Chalotra. “We wanted it to be emotional rather than sexual,” he said. “It was really, really important, and we had to lean away from what was originally on the page.”

Striving to maintain an emotional connection, Cavill and Chalotra remained as chaste as possible, railing slightly against Hissrich’s vision. “These are people who believe one thing about the fate of another and then find out something else is true. That’s not how they behave,” Cavill argued. “How they behave is they just want to be with the person and emotionally recognize their existence again in that shared space. So, Anya and I worked to make sure that that was an emotional beat rather than anything else.”

Despite pushing for explicit scenes in season two, Hissrich later agreed that sex scenes can seem cheap when used unnecessarily. “I feel the same way about sex, nudity, violence, and all of those things, that they have to be story-driven,” she said. “I think that using those things to shock audiences is a really cheap way for a writer to get attention to a specific scene.”

“I’ve always said that if someone has to be having sex behind you to make the scene interesting, then I’m not doing my job,” Hissrich continued. “The person who’s talking in a scene needs to be the focus. The story is much more about the evolution of a family. And so we didn’t need to have a lot of sex. We didn’t need to have a lot of nudity. I think you feel it as a whole in the show.”

Watch the trailer for The Witcher season two below.