Filmmaker Nicolas Roeg has opened up on the controversy surrounding the famous sex scene in Don't Look Now in a book of memoirs based on his 60 years in the film industry. The tome, titled The World is Ever Changing, features Roeg's experiences on some of his most famous productions and he has confirmed actors Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie did not have sex in a saucy scene in his 1973 classic, contrary to a longrunning rumour.
He tells BBC News, "With that particular scene of course it is untrue at the same time of being true. You didn't see any sexual act or scene on screen so it must have been masterfully truthful as people can identify with it... It was the first time they felt united again... the scene was explicit because it showed their true love."
The raunchy scene in the 1973 film has become the stuff of Hollywood legend, despite denials from the stars and producer Michael Deeley, who spoke out in 2008 in a bid to quash the sensational story.
But the saga has come to the fore again thanks to former Variety editor Peter Bart's new book, Infamous Players: A Tale of Movies, the Mob, (and Sex).
Bart claims he saw Sutherland and Christie filming the thriller's bedroom scene, explaining, "It was clear to me they were no longer simply acting: they were f**king on camera."
But Sutherland has spoken out to dismiss Bart's version of events, insisting the writer was not even on set at the time the scene was shot.
In a statement obtained by Reuters, he says, "Not True. None of it. Not the sex. Not him witnessing it. From beginning to end there were four people in that room. Nic Roeg (director), Tony Richmond (cinematographer), Julie Christie and me. No one else."
Sutherland and Christie were rumoured to have enjoyed an onset affair and the actress' then-boyfriend Warren Beatty was reportedly so upset about the saucy scene, he demanded movie bosses cut the footage.
Director Nicolas Roeg's movie, about a couple mourning the death of their young daughter, came first in a survey of 150 actors, critics and filmmakers, including Mike Leigh and Sam Mendes.
Don't Look Now features a sex scene between Christie and Sutherland spliced with shots of the pair getting dressed afterwards, a sequence which Roeg credits with giving the film a timeless appeal.
He says, "Sex, whether you like it or not, is the prime force of life. There is no other reason to be here. I think people secretly connected to Don't Look Now. Maybe that's why, after all this time, people see the film more clearly."
Second in the rundown, compiled by Time Out magazine, was the 1949 film noir The Third Man, while Distant Voices, Still Lives, starring the late Pete Postlethwaite, came third, followed by Ken Loach's Kes. Danny Boyle's 1996 drama Trainspotting was the only movie from the past 15 years to feature in the rundown, at 10.