Why Mahershala Ali Said He Wouldn’t Do a Sex Scene for ‘Benjamin Button’

Actors are sometimes expected to film sex scenes. But not all actors are interested in simulating sex. Mahershala Ali refuses to do them and almost lost out on his first movie role. This is what he said about his role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Mahershala Ali played Tizzy in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’

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The 2008 movie showed Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) aging backwards. Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) takes him in as a newbown. Tizzy (Ali) starts to date Queenie and tries to convince her to leave the baby behind, but she decides to keep Benjamin.

This was Ali’s first movie, and it was awarded three Oscars. It won for visual effects, makeup, and art direction.

He went on to get more film roles. He eventually won his first Oscar for best actor in a supporting role for Moonlight. He then won again for his supporting role in Green Book.

Ali refused to film a sex scene

Mahershala Ali attends the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards
Mahershala Ali attends the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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Ali appeared on Common’s podcast Mind Power Mixtape. He revealed that he was ready to walk away from the role if his character has a sex scene.

“So my old agent called me and said, ‘Mahershala, you got the part.’ And I said, ‘There’s just one thing … There is that one sex scene where they kiss … If there’s a sex scene, I can’t do it,’ ” the Oscar winner said.

One thing he refuses to do is simulate sex on screen. The scene that was written for the movie was a suggestion that his character was about to have sex.

“Taraji and I begin to kiss, and we fall out of the frame … It wasn’t clear if [David Fincher] was trying to have like some bumping and grinding … which I doubt he was,” he said. “But for me even … at that time, 15 years ago, I was still like, ‘OK, I can only go up to this point,’ just because of — just trying to hold a space of respect for my religion.”

He was told he’ll never be a lead

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The actor made it clear early in his career that he didn’t want to do sex scenes. He was told his career would never go far because of this.

“Before that, in 2002, I told the head of casting at Fox, ‘I don’t do sex scenes,’” he said, according to W Magazine. “And she’s like, ‘You’ll never work. You’ll never be a lead.’ And what was great was I walked out of there feeling like, if I do then it’ll be evidence that god is real. I felt that way about it. I didn’t say that to her, but it didn’t shake me.”

Most of Ali’s roles are supporting, but he has become a recognizable actor for his award-winning roles. It just goes to show that he was still able to find success and stay within his boundaries.