What is the Pillow Technique in Acting? Uncover the Comfy Secret to Stellar Performances!

The pillow technique is used in staging and filming steamy scenes that can be awkward for performers. It involves placing a soft, non-rigid object, like a pillow or cushion, between the actors’ bodies during rehearsal to maintain a respectful distance and give them a sense of security.

The pillow technique helps create a safe and respectful environment in an emotionally and physically taxing intimate scene by:

  • Establishing boundaries between performers.
  • Preventing unintentional physical contact.
  • Alleviating potential discomfort or unease.

Jake Gyllenhaal on the Pillow Technique

The pillow technique was used in notable Jake Gyllenhaal films like Brokeback Mountain and Nightcrawler. You can imagine the kind of pressure Jake Gyllenhaal felt while filming Good Girl (2002) with long-time crush Jennifer Aniston.

On a 2021 appearance on the Howard Stern show, Jake said the pillow technique was preemptive and used generally while filming Good Girl. He said, “I think that was actually a Jennifer suggestion… She was like, ‘I’m putting a pillow here.’ That was it, that was all she said.”

Howard joked, asking whether the Brokeback Mountain Actor felt a protrusion while filming intimate scenes with Jennifer Aniston. Jake Gyllenhaal laughed off the choice of words and explained that sex scenes are technical and weirdly awkward because there are maybe 30, 50 people watching it… Maybe if you have a closed set, it’s less. That doesn’t turn me on. Most of the time, it’s oddly mechanical, right?”

Jake Gyllenhaal also revealed a sex scene is just like a fight scene where actors have to choreograph.

Without putting a pillow in between, such a good person might be tempted, and a good girl might also turn.

The Impact of the Technique on the Film Industry

Jennifer’s suggestion turned out to be revolutionary. The pillow technique encourages open conversations between directors, intimacy coordinators, and actors to maintain respectful practices on set.

Intimacy coordinators reduce the risk of misconduct by:

  • Advocating for actors.
  • Facilitating communication.
  • Overseeing the execution of the technique.

The technique’s success has led to innovation and the development of other methods inspired by its approach. These new techniques foster communication and collaboration for various scenes and situations, leading to higher-quality performances and a healthier working environment.


The pillow technique in acting serves as a valuable tool for performers. It helps them connect with their emotions, reduce stress, and enhance their performance quality. By combining relaxation, visualization, and self-inquiry, the method is effective and efficient for actors.

In summary, the pillow technique is a versatile and powerful approach for actors seeking to improve their emotional depth and delivery. Its ease of use and accessibility make it a popular choice for professionals and beginners.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the pillow technique only used for sex scenes?

While often associated with filming sex scenes, the technique can still be applied in various situations. It’s a versatile method that helps actors maintain physical boundaries and comfort levels during emotionally or physically intense scenes.

Can the pillow technique be applied to other types of intimate scenes?

Yes, the technique can be used in intimate scenes beyond sexual situations. For instance, actors can apply this method during intense emotional exchanges, fight scenes, or moments that require close physical proximity.

Are there any potential drawbacks or limitations to using the pillow technique?

While the technique offers numerous benefits, it may require additional rehearsal time to ensure the scene’s authenticity. Furthermore, there may be occasional situations where the technique is not feasible or impactful enough to convey the depth of a scene. However, overall, it is regarded as a valuable tool for actors and filmmakers alike.