A kiss is just a kiss, according to “As Time Goes By” songwriter Herman Hupfeld.
Tell that to select Hollywood stars who see smooches differently. Most stars dutifully do as their directors tell them, be it saving a damsel in distress or planting a wet one on her before the end credits roll.
A select group of stars, however, won’t commit to that act, and they have various reasons for it.
Some, like veteran actor Neal McDonough of “Yellowstone” and “Justified” fame, refuse to kiss anyone other than their wives – on screen or off. McDonough has been married to model Ruve Robertson for nearly 20 years, and he says his no-kissing policy damaged his otherwise bustling career.
The deeply religious McDonough got fired from the short-lived ABC show “Scoundrels” when he refused to shoot sex scenes with co-star Virginia Madsen. That caused his phone to stop ringing, the actor said.
“After that, I couldn’t get a job because everybody thought I was this religious zealot.”
Producer Graham Yost, who worked with McDonough on HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” brought him back from the creative abyss. Yost hired the actor to play a villain on the third season of FX’s “Justified,” a gig he says re-ignited his career.
It won’t surprise Kirk Cameron’s fanbase that he holds a similar worldview when it comes to his craft. The “Growing Pains” alum is one of show business’ most openly Christian performers, and he similarly refuses to kiss anyone but his wife with or without cameras rolling.
It’s been his practice for some time, but it didn’t stop a powerful moment from his 2008 hit “Fireproof” from happening. The scene in question asked Cameron to kiss his on-screen wife, played by Erin Bethea.
The scene mattered, so the “Fireproof” team got creative. They brought in Cameron’s wife, Chelsea Noble, who he met on the set of “Growing Pains,” and had the two share a kiss. The sequence was shot in silhouette, obscuring Noble’s face enough for audiences to believe Cameron’s firefighter was kissing Bethea.
The father of six isn’t interested in winning over mainstream Hollywood studios or casting directors. He works steadily in the faith-based space, including his 2022 hit “Lifemark.”
Actor Penn Badgley doesn’t mind an occasional on-screen kiss, but anything beyond that crosses a bold line for him these days. The actor anchors “You,” the Netflix drama about a serial killer who falls for a different woman each season, while the body counts rise around him.
The show’s steamy nature suggests a crush of sex scenes, something the actor finds increasingly uncomfortable. He even nearly turned down the show initially for that reason.
“My fidelity in my relationship … it was one of the reasons that I initially wanted to turn the role down,” Badgley said. “I didn’t tell anybody that. But that is why.”
Badgley’s wife, Domino Kirke-Badgley, suggested he take the role despite that aspect of the series. The saga’s fourth season features fewer sexual encounters, and Badgley is fully clothed during them.
Other stars never faced a hiccup of professional grief for their stances.
Take Denzel Washington, the beloved actor and two-time Oscar winner. He is often cast as the romantic lead, but he refused to kiss his comely co-star in one 1993 thriller.
Washington teamed with Julia Roberts for “The Pelican Brief,” a film which could have seen the two exchange a lip lock … or more. Their characters shared a romantic bond, full stop. The kiss never happened, though.
Roberts was game for the moment, but Washington demurred, but for a reason unrelated to Roberts. The actor previously kissed a white actress on screen, Mimi Rogers, in an early cut of 1989’s “The Mighty Quinn.” Test screenings found Washington’s most faithful audience, black women, disliking the sequence. The film’s final cut left the moment out, and it inspired him to do the same with any Roberts kiss.
He explained his rationale to Newsweek in 2002.
“Black women are not often seen as objects of desire on film. They have always been my core audience.”
Some stars don’t mind kissing on screen, but some actors leave them so cold they’d rather avoid that act entirely. Lindsay Lohan, no stranger to tabloid headlines over the years, balked at kissing her co-star Charlie Sheen during the production of 2013’s “Scary Movie 5.”
Why? She felt uncomfortable with Sheen’s notorious partying, leaving the production to use body doubles to complete the necessary scenes. Sheen, rarely shy about sharing his opinions, reportedly went along peacefully with Lohan’s request.
Ironically, Lohan’s first on-screen kiss in the “Freaky Friday” reboot gave her the jitters, too, but co-star Jamie Lee Curtis broke the ice off-screen by smooching her romantic target, actor Chad Michael Murray, to show her it wasn’t a big deal.
The most curious of Hollywood’s non-kiss kisses? The 2023 comedy “You People” cast Jonah Hill as a Jewish broker who falls in love with a black designer, played by Lauren London. The actress dated famed rapper Nipsey Hussle for years before his 2019 murder in a South Central Los Angeles parking lot.
Comedian Andrew Schulz, who has a small role in “You People,” shared how the film’s Hill-London kiss never actually happened. The production used FX to make it look like the duo kissed at a key moment in the third act.
Media reports wondered if London’s ties to her late partner influenced the decision. The Los Angeles Times blamed the almost-kiss on the COVID pandemic, not any personal or religious reasons. Neither Netflix nor the actors in question publicly weighed in on the matter.
Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.