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Jennifer Neala Page comes out on top in her sex scene with Joaquin Phoenix in ‘The Master’

Thelma Adams
The Reel Breakdown
September 14, 2012
Jennifer Neala Page
Jennifer Neala Page

Curvy British-born actress Jennifer Neala Page has returned to Los Angeles, and looking back, she says the Toronto International Film Festival is a "blur" -- a blur that put her in the orbit of one of the festival's hottest films, "The Master." The 5-foot-3 blonde pops as Winn Manchester, a girl whom Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell picks up in a pub and takes back to her place for a tumble.

"It was my first sex scene on film." Page told Yahoo! Movies. The 25-year-old actress, who appears topless, continues: "I spent a lot of time straddling Joaquin; I wasn't completely naked. What's so interesting is that I had all these fears and worries. When you're in that moment, you don't really think about it. It was totally transcendent. I felt weirdly comfortable. And we were joking and laughing; it didn't feel strange. "

Just curious: What cheats did the director, Paul Thomas Anderson, employ so that Page wasn't at-the-doctor's-office naked on the set and in bed with another actor? "There are little shorts that they have, and you can't see them because of the angles." Did Joaquin wear them, too? "Yes, Joaquin as well."

[Related: Bubbly Blond Amy Adams is the steely missus of 'The Master']

Page -- who plays writer Mary Shelley in the gothic comedy series "Living with Frankenstein" -- found shooting the sex scene surprisingly subdued. "I felt much more comfortable than I ever imagined. It was very sensitive," Page said. "It was quiet and peaceful. They took it so slow, and Joaquin was very considerate. It was a closed set."

Given that the scene is a duet between Page and Phoenix, and he's the more experienced party, did Phoenix do anything to help put her at ease? "Yeah, he was asking me questions about arriving in L.A. and laughing at the situation that we met in. And he was telling me how he enjoyed the months working on the movie."

As for Phoenix, "I thought he was kind of a normal bloke," Page said. "He was very kind, very relaxed, and very funny. He did smoke cigarettes, but [that was] in terms of the character as well, because Freddie is a crazy smoker."

[Full Coverage: Yahoo! Movies at the Toronto International Film Festival]

They spent a lot of the bedroom scene staring into each other's eyes and talking; what does she remember? "What's strange for me, looking back, is how kind of normal and instant the scene went. I felt like we got there immediately. I don't know if it was because my character was new in Freddie's life and everyone made me feel comfortable. I anticipated it because it was my first job, and I hadn't been in Hollywood long, and I had to do a good job because I was working with Hollywood heavyweights. And, secondarily, anything intimate you worry."

What was her reaction when she saw "The Master" in Toronto, surrounded by cast members and an audience? "I don't like seeing myself onscreen, no matter what. But even when I arrived onscreen, I felt it was part of the story. My scenes were shot so beautifully. Because of that, you don't think about things -- you accept it and you're in the world with them."

Did Page get any feedback about not being model thin in her nude scenes? "I definitely do have more flesh," said Page. "I'm a normal girl. Coming to Hollywood, I've got curves and bumps. By the way, when I saw the script breakdown for a 1950's girl, I thought, that's me! Obviously, there are jobs out there for more curvy girls, so I'm happy about that. I guess it is square peg, round hole. I knew I wasn't going to look like a supermodel, so I accepted it and I'm happy."

[Related: Toronto Film Fest: Bill Murray depicts a swinging FDR in 'Hyde Park']

Were there any parting words with her co-star on set? "Joaquin said thank you, and we had a great time working together, and that was the end of it. He was very courteous." That says a lot given the furor over Phoenix's sometimes-erratic behavior. It's comforting to know that in a potentially awkward situation that could have been difficult for a newcomer, the two-time Oscar nominee went out of his way to make her feel comfortable. That's a side of Phoenix that we don't often hear about.

See the trailer from 'The Master':

'The Master' Theatrical Trailer

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