Meg Ryan Strips for (Movie) Action

09/10/2003 AT 01:00 PM EDT

Meg Ryan, usually perceived as sweetness personified, is causing tongues to wag at the current Toronto Film Festival with her sexually explicit murder mystery directed by Oscar-winning director Jane Campion, Reuters reports.

"In the Cut" presents the "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail" star, 41, as a lonely writing professor who becomes involved with a crass detective (Mark Ruffalo) during the investigation of a series of murders.

Film critic Rex Reed, writing in Wednesday's New York Observer, notes Ryan's full-frontal nudity in the role (he also called the movie illogical and uninteresting). The New York Post also focuses in on Ryan's baring it all.

According to Reuters, Ryan preferred not to do the steamy scenes but put her faith in Campion, who won a 1993 Oscar for her screenplay of "The Piano."

Speaking at a Toronto press conference Tuesday, Ryan said: "I think the scenes are really good though, I think they're very honest. Jane didn't want them to be coy, so I don't think they are at all. And I love how much dialogue is in those scenes. That's what makes them really intimate."

Ryan said the scenes were filmed with a minimum of people on the set, and Campion did everything possible to put her actors at ease, including offering to take off her own clothes.

"I think she's very trustworthy," said Ryan.

Ruffalo, 35, however, was hard to calm. "I was really scared," he said of shooting the love scenes. "And (Ryan) was with Russell Crowe. All I could think of is 'what am I going to be like compared to Russell Crowe?'"

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