Lena Dunham Jokes Costar Jon Bernthal Should Teach a Class on 'How to Be a Man in a Sex Scene'

"Jon let me be exactly the director that I am; he heard me and I didn't have to be loud, scary, or dominate," Lena Dunham told W magazine

Lena Dunham, Jon Bernthal
Jon Bernthal; Lena Dunham. Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Getty; Tommaso Boddi/Getty

Lena Dunham is singing Jon Bernthal's praises for his on-set demeanor in their movie Sharp Stick.

Dunham, 36, wrote and directed the film, which hits theaters Friday and stars herself alongside Bernthal, 45 — the latter playing a man having an affair with a younger woman (Kristine Froseth) while his wife (Dunham) is pregnant.

In an interview with W magazine published Tuesday, Dunham said of her costar, "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."

"He is so gentle and so thoughtful, he could literally have a side hustle as an intimacy coordinator," the Girls creator added.

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Lena Dunham, Jon Bernthal
Sharp Stick (2022). Courtesy Image

"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," she also said. "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. Jon let me be exactly the director that I am; he heard me and I didn't have to be loud, scary, or dominate."

"He was coming right off the set of King Richard and he could have been so tired. Instead, he just held us all up," the actress and filmmaker continued. "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."

Asked if there were specific challenges she faced making Sharp Stick that she hadn't had in her career before, Dunham said, "I knew the ways I'd felt, even when I was directing myself — overexposed, or scared, or not seen. I worked with an amazing crew on Girls, but sometimes just the fact of having to enact these scenes, even though I wrote them, was anxiety-inducing under the best circumstances."

"Now, at 35, all I wanted was to create an environment that allowed people to talk about sexuality that was actually safe," she told W.

Sharp Stick marks Dunham's first big-screen directorial project since 2010's Tiny Furniture, in which she also appeared alongside a cast including her Girls costar Jemima Kirke.

At the film's Los Angeles premiere last month, Dunham told PEOPLE that Scott Speedman, who plays a porn star in the film, was "such a joy" on set, adding, "And what I love is that his character, despite having this toughness, women have responded and are really saying that his character makes him feel really safe. That was the goal."

Speedman, 46, said that although he loved the script, the role "scared" him initially — but he ultimately decided to do the movie after having a conversation with Dunham.

"Once she really talked me through, then it all made sense to me and I wanted to jump in and do it," the actor told PEOPLE. "Five or six years ago, I probably would've been scared off from doing this. But I had a blast doing it."

Sharp Stick is in theaters Friday, and hits streaming platforms on Aug. 16.

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