February 23, 2024

SPOILER ALERT: This story contains descriptions of key scenes and storylines in “Saltburn.”

Oscar-winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell’s new twisted thriller, “Saltburn,” includes several graphic scenes that have left moviegoers debating whether to be titillated or disturbed.

“It gets under your skin,” Fennell told me Tuesday at the film’s Los Angeles premiere. “We just want to make something that makes people feel something. I want to make stuff that you go and sit in a dark room full of strangers and you don’t know what you’re going to feel and you don’t know where you’re going to be probed. And everyone has a different take on it.

“Some people are screaming, some people are squealing,” she continued. “Some people are turned on, some people are freaked out and some are furious. Some people don’t really care. What you want is for people to spill out into the street and want to go and have a drink and talk about it.”

While I certainly wasn’t drinking on the carpet, I did talk to stars Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan about the Amazon movie’s most explicit scenes. In the film, Keoghan stars as a university student in mid-2000s England who becomes dangerously obsessed with an aristocratic classmate, played by Elordi.

In one scene, Keoghan watches Elordi masturbate in a bathtub. Keoghan is seen licking up Elordi’s semen around the tub’s drain. “I was like, ‘Thank God, it’s mine,’” Elordi cracked. “I was very proud. I was very proud to have Barry Keoghan guzzling it like that.”

When I tell Keoghan what Elordi said, the Oscar nominee exclaimed, “He doesn’t text me back or ring me back. It’s so weird. He’s pretending to like me. It’s weird, man.”

Keoghan drops his pants multiple times during the film. In one sequence, he humps the ground of a cemetery plot. I kid you not.

“The gravesite was sort of like a collaboration with me and Emerald,” Keoghan recalled. “On the day, I was like, ‘Can I try something?’ I wanted to see what the next level of obsession was. So I asked for a closed set. I wanted to see where it went. It could have gone completely wrong but I think it moved the story.”

Fennell explained, “If you’re taken over with grief and horror and love and sadness, people do crazy things. And that’s what this film is about.”

Archie Madekwe marveled over getting up close and personal with Keoghan during a late-night bedroom romp. “It was a real pinch-me moment to have a scene with an actor I’ve respected for so long,” Madekwe said. “He has such an intensity. He has these eyes that Emerald describes as ‘shark eyes.’ You just don’t know what he’s thinking.”

As for movie’s final scene where Keoghan goes full Monty dancing to Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2001 hit song, “Murder on the Dancefloor”– Keoghan insisted it was cold during filming.

I remarked, “It certainly didn’t look cold.”

Keoghan laughed. “No comment,” he said, before skedaddling away for a cast photo at the top of the carpet.

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