“Poor Things” Director on Why Emma Stone Didn't 'Shy Away from' Sex Scenes: 'She Had to Be Free'

Director Yorgos Lanthimos said the sex scenes were "very important" to the journey of Emma Stone's character

<p> 20th Century Studios</p> Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in "Poor Things"

20th Century Studios

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in "Poor Things"

A nonjudgmental approach to sexuality was important for Emma Stone's latest movie, said director Yorgos Lanthimos.

Lanthimos, 50, explained during a press conference at the New York Film Festival on Friday why the sex scenes in Poor Things were key to the journey of Stone's character Bella Baxter.

"It was a very important part of her journey. We felt that we shouldn't shy away from it," he said. "It would feel very disingenuous to tell this story about this character who is so free and so open, and then be prude about the sexual aspect of it."

Based on the 1992 novel by Alasdair Gray, Poor Things is about a woman given a clean slate via an experimental procedure from a mad scientist of sorts, Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). Reborn, Bella gradually discovers the wonders — and dangers — of the world. Her personal sexual awakening is among those discoveries.

Related: 'Poor Things' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Says Star Emma Stone Had to Have 'No Shame' Filming Movie's Sex Scenes

<p> 20th Century Studios</p> Ramy Youssef and Emma Stone in "Poor Things"

20th Century Studios

Ramy Youssef and Emma Stone in "Poor Things"

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Poor Things also stars Mark Ruffalo, Ramy Youssef, Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Abbott, and it earned an R rating for "strong and pervasive sexual content, graphic nudity, disturbing material, gore and language."

"It was clear from the beginning, but also from the novel, from the script, from my discussions with Emma, as well, and how we came up with those scenes," Lanthimos said of devising the scenes of sexuality. "She had to be free; there should be no judgment."

Lanthimos explained, "The same way she learns about language and human suffering and love and science and politics, the same way she should be equally free about sex and anything else."

The director, who also worked with Stone, 34, on the 2018 film The Favourite, praised the actress's performance and how she captured the character's arc.

"She's just incredible," Lanthimos said of the Oscar winner. "The vulnerability of it and the sensitivity and the humor of it — it's just so difficult to do. I just don't know how she did it."

Stone, who couldn't participate in the press conference due to the ongoing actors' strike, previously told Vogue that making Poor Things was "freeing" for her.

"Yorgos is European, so he has a little bit more freedom around these things, but I’m from Arizona, and I had my own version of growing up as a girl in American society," she said in May.

<p> 20th Century Studios</p>

20th Century Studios

Stone added, "She was the most joyous character in the world to play, because she has no shame about anything. She’s new, you know? I’ve never had to build a character before that didn’t have things that had happened to them or had been put on them by society throughout their lives. It was an extremely freeing experience to be her."

Poor Things is in theaters Dec. 8.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.