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The Walking Dead actor stars opposite Dunham in her latest comedy – out in cinemas now – about a naive 26-year-old (Kristine Froseth) who begins an affair with an older employer.
In a new interview with W Magazine, Dunham opened up about her directorial process for Sharp Stick and the joys of working with Bernthal.
Speaking about filming sex scenes, Dunham said all she wanted was to “create an environment that allowed people to talk about sexuality that was actually safe”.
“I have to give credit to Jon Bernthal – I always joke that he should give a class on how to be a man in a sex scene,” she said. “He is so gentle and so thoughtful, he could literally have a side hustle as an intimacy coordinator.”
The Girls creator and star added: “I feel like there’s always been this anxiety I’ve had with directing men, this fear that I wouldn’t be strong enough or tough enough or show them what a boss I was.”
Dunham made her directorial debut in 2010 with the drama indie Tiny Furniture, followed by six seasons of comedy series Girls, for which she received eight Emmy nominations.
“I feel a lot of female directors have this self-consciousness about being able to match or show up to the way the guys do it,” she added.
“Jon let me be exactly the director that I am; he heard me and I didn’t have to be loud, scary, or dominant. He was coming right off the set of King Richard and he could have been so tired. Instead, he just held us all up.”
Bernthal starred alongside Will Smith in the Oscar-nominated film about tennis pros Serena and Venus Williams. He currently appears in FX’s chef drama The Bear.
Dunham added: “I used to joke that if I could direct shows with only women in them, I would. And now, I love directing men because [with] Jon, I didn’t have to yell through a megaphone.”
After the film’s January debut at the Sundance Film Festival, it received unfavourable views from critics, who labelled it “off-putting”.
Sharp Stick is out in cinemas now.