The Muslim actor agreed to star in director David Fincher's 2008 fantasy romance on the condition he would not have to simulate intercourse in a scene featured in the original script.
"So my old agent called me and said, 'Mahershala, you got the part.' And I said, 'There's just one thing... There is that one sex scene where they kiss... If there's a sex scene, I can't do it,'" he recalled during an appearance on rapper Common's "Mind Power Mixtape" podcast. "I don't do simulated sex."
And the two-time Oscar-winner Mahershala didn't dare take things beyond a certain point when the time came to film the sexy scene with Taraji during the shoot.
"(In the final shoot) Taraji and I begin to kiss, and we fall out of the frame... It wasn't clear if (Fincher) was trying to have like some bumping and grinding... which I doubt he was. But for me even... at that time, 15 years ago, I was still like, 'OK, I can only go up to this point,' just because of - just trying to hold a space of respect for my religion."
The movie was fronted by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. It was also supported by the likes of Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas, and Tilda Swinton. It received 13 nominations at the Academy Awards and won three for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects.