The 46-year-old actor, who has starred in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “House of Cards” and “Moonlight,” got candid on Common’s “Mind Power Mixtape” podcast about his personal and professional life.
When speaking about his role as Tizzy Weathers in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” opposite Taraji P. Henson, he revealed why he refused to film a sex scene with the actress. It turns out it was a request he made before he ever made it to set.
“So my old agent called me and said, ‘Mahershala, you got the part,'” Ali recalled via Page Six. “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.'”
Ali is reportedly an Ahmadi Muslim. He went on to tell his agent: “I don’t do simulated sex.”
Director David Fincher supported his request, resulting in the actor and Henson kissing in a scene.
“It wasn’t clear if [Fincher] was trying to have like some bumping and grinding…which I doube he was,” Ali continued. “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.”
Ali was the first Muslim actor to score an Oscar for his role in “Moonlight” in 2017. Two years later, he became the first Black actor to win two Academy Awards in the same category, according to reports.
In 2019, Ali also took home a Golden Globe for his role as the real-life Don Shirley in “Green Book.” His win came amid some backlash he faced from Shirley’s real family, who claimed his portrayal of the musician was not accurate.
After his win, Ali addressed the controversy backstage at the awards show.
“I will say this, my job is always the same: I have to look at what I am doing and be responsible for it.”