Sasha Grey Interview
Why is she famous?
You canít count on your fingers the number of times youíve seen photos of Lindsay Lohanís nether regions, but you could probably do the math if you had a pack of Tic Tacs. Weíve all seen the infamous homemade celebrity sex tapes (thank you, Paris and Kim. No thanks to you, R. Kelly), and some of us have even made our own. Despite our growing collective comfort with all things sex-related in North America, thereís still something many of us find upsetting about the idea of people getting paid for sex, whether in porn or in the escort industry.
Award-winning adult film actress Sasha Grey set out to change that when she entered the porn industry at the age of 18 just three years ago. About 150 films later, Grey appeared in an article that caught the attention of Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh. He contacted Grey via MySpace, and soon after hired her to star as the lead in his latest movie, The Girlfriend Experience.
The movie, which is mainly improvised by first-time mainstream film actors, follows Christine (Sasha Grey), a high-end escort working in New York City. Thereís no real sex in the film (and there doesn't really need to be, since you can see Grey doing the deed for real in any of her porns), but it does question our North American tendency to feel simultaneously repulsed and intrigued by an industry that revolves around trading sex for money and money for sex. If thatís not enough to get you to the theater, the fact that Grey is ridiculously hot in the film probably will. AskMen.com talked to Grey about other porn stars shaping the industry, sex on camera, Soderbergh, the Howard Stern incident, and the Sasha Grey films you should rent with your girlfriend. (And if sheís still not into it, take her to this film first. We think it might just change her mind.)
When researching for your character, you talked to a couple of escorts. What kind of traits did you take from them and apply to your character?
Sasha Grey : Both Steven and I talked to these women. A lot of the scenes throughout the film were taken from these real life stories -- like the way my character buys a prepaid phone or the fact that she falls in love with one of her clients or that she writes detailed entries in her journal about each date. Even some of the clients were based on real people -- the biker and the Hasidic Jew. But personally, what I took was the paranoia that I saw in one of these women. She admitted she was paranoid. When you talked to her, it always felt like she was hiding something. She was never too positive or too negative -- she was always somewhere in between -- and I felt that there was so much more that she could have said but didnít say. I definitely applied that.
Did Steven originally intend to have real sex in the movie? If so, what made him change his mind?
SG : I think that was a change. I believe that during the first day or so of shooting he decided he wasnít going to put sex in the film.
What do you think not including real sex in this movie adds to the film?
SG : From hearing what Steven had to say --- women who are prostitutes -- they all have sex for money. But a GFE (Girlfriend Experience) escort provides more than just the sex because usually these men want more. The point is to show the differences rather than the similarities.
The men who hire your character often spend a lot of time talking about their problems. Why do you think men who hire GFE escorts like to do this?
SG : Thatís such a tough question to answer. In this film, and in dealing with the fact that these characters are based on real people -- a lot of these men are hard working, they make a lot of money and they donít have anyone to talk to. They might not be in the best relationships with their significant others, whether it be their wives or their girlfriends. Theyíre also men who have careers that are very demanding, and they canít be emotional -- they canít show that side of them. They have to share it with someone else in private.
Why do you think Steven sought you out for this role, as opposed to using a mainstream actress?
SG : That would be better for Steven to answer because itís hard to not come off egotistical or arrogant, but at the end of the day, it came down to the fact Iím so comfortable with my sexuality, and Iím so comfortable in front of the camera.
When you decided to become an adult film star, you said it was because you "saw a blank canvas that needed to be painted." What do you think you brought to the adult film world that was missing before?
SG : With my performances, I always try to challenge the person Iím in a sex scene with. You quite often get into a scene, and people come in with a premeditated idea of how theyíre going to get things done. I like to get into a scene and try to bring something different each time in order to get an animalistic response from my partner, so it doesnít become routine, and it feels fresh and new every time. I also bring awareness and sex positiveness to a business that still vilifies. There are not a lot of women in this business that stand up for themselves. There are only a handful of us. I think a lot of us feel the same way, but not a lot of us talk about it openly.
Who is an example of another adult film actress helping to change porn in a similar fashion to you?
SG : Kimberly Cain.
celebs/interview_300/319_sasha-grey-interview_thumb.jpg Steven Soderbergh had Sasha Grey watch Godard's Pierrot le fou in preparation for her role in The Girlfriend Experience, which she spoke about with RottenTomatoes.com.
Which of your adult films would you recommend our readers watch with their girlfriends?
SG : It really depends on what youíre into, because a couple might be into some really weird stuff, and thatís great. If youíre into softer, more romantic type things, I would go look for a company I worked for that produces those types of films. If youíre into a little bit more kinky stuff -- look for that type of company, because I can do everything. Itís all out there.
Before you got into the porn industry, you wrote a mission statement in which you said that you were "willing to be a commodity." What exactly did you mean by that?
SG : My body is my art, and itís also the tool that I use to make money. One of the stereotypes that exists in this business is that women donít know that they're being used for money. Itís like, ďOh, the poor thing. People are making money off of her.Ē No shit. Iím telling you straight up that before I do my first scene, Iím aware of that. And Iím OK with that. Slowly but surely, I built my way up to be able to solely benefit as being that commodity as opposed to me benefiting with everyone else in the industry. I solely benefit now.
A lot of people have very little figured out at age 18. How did you know this was what you wanted to do?
SG : I was working and going to college full-time. I saw an opportunity for myself to challenge the industry, and to continue to explore my sexuality in a really safe and controlled environment. But also to encourage men and women to not be afraid of who they are sexually, especially women because weíre still a minority and weíre still sexually repressed. Why isnít there somebody talking about this who isnít Dr. Ruth? Sheís great at what she does, but we donít have somebody for the younger generation where you feel like you can relate to that person. I canít listen to Dr. Ruth and go, ďOh, I can relate to her because sheís experiencing it and sheís living it.Ē She learned it from a textbook, you know? Sasha Grey talks Howard Stern, ageism in the porn industry and sexual adventures after the jump...
What's the biggest difference between the way you approach working in the sex industry versus the way your character in this movie does?
Sasha Grey : I talk about being sex positive. Iíd like to think of myself as somebody who has a voice for liberating female sexuality. I think in Christineís case, the sex is the last thing on her mind. Her inner goal was always money, and itís less about being a sex positive female.
You've said that you were able to learn a lot about yourself sexually through working in porn. What have you figured out that you might not have had you never entered the world of adult film?
SG : I guess I figured out about the difference between what I liked sexually and what was just an experiment that was fun, but I would not necessarily do it every time I have sex. Also, you learn at a different rate.
Are there any sex acts that you would say no to on camera?
SG : There are particular sex acts and fantasies that I wouldnít want to involve myself in. Itís going to be kind of clinical though for me to just tell you a list and boring to name them all.
Why do you think Steven approached you for this particular role?
SG : He read an article about me in Los Angeles magazine, and there was a familiarity he saw between me and the character -- both of us making a conscious decision to get into this industry. He saw a familiarity between myself and GFE escorts who were treating it like a business, not as just something fun to do.
You label yourself a performer when it comes to adult films and an actress when you're speaking of non-adult films. Why the difference?
SG : When Iím on an adult set and Iím in a scene, I am myself. Iím not acting. I am playing to the camera, definitely, but I am myself. Youíre not playing a character; youíre just playing yourself. There is a level of performance, but I think itís different than doing a non-adult film where youíre playing an actual character.
Most of The Girlfriend Experience was improvised. Is that why there is so much talk about the economic crisis? Were you shooting around the time of the crash?
SG : We started shooting either the day before or the day after the economy crashed. Naturally, that just went into the film because we had the advantage of improvisation. There was a skeleton outline that we had to work with, but otherwise all the actors had to improvise. We were dealing with characters who made a lot of money, so that went into the film very easily.
Do people find it strange that you want to continue doing porn now that you've broken into mainstream film?
SG : People expect you to just want to pursue that one opportunity, but I enjoy the challenge of proving people wrong, because thatís just my natural personality. I enjoy doing that.
You've mentioned that there is a lot of ageism in the porn industry. What do you see yourself doing in five years?
SG : I just launched my own production company, so I am working really hard on that. Iím putting out a sex philosophy book in the next few months. Iím working on my website still, which will pretty much be the homepage for my new company. Iíll continue to act in non-adult films as well, and Iíll continue to make music and travel the world. Iíll hopefully see more women in this business take control of their careers and encourage people everywhere to not be intimidated when it comes to their sexuality.
celebs/interview_300/319_sasha-grey-interview_thumb.jpg Sasha Grey appears in the Smashing Pumpkins video for "Superchrist."
Can I ask you quickly about Howard Stern speaking out against a joke you made implying he was racist? Would you appear on his show if he asked you to?
SG : No comment. It was a joke, and out of all people, I would have expected him to get that joke.
How do you think you've changed the stereotype of the female porn star?
SG : I think by getting opportunities like this where I get to talk to the public in many different arenas through many different outlets. Being able to deliver my voice and showing people that I want to be here -- it wasnít an accident. I am happy with what Iím doing. Itís so rare that you get to hear an adult film star talk about that. Iím not the only person who is sex positive, who is not on drugs, who wasnít abused, and who is intelligent and has something to say for herself. I just take advantage of the opportunities I have to talk about those things in a positive way.
Do journalists often take negative approaches to interviews with you?
SG : I think itís about 50/50. You get some people who just donít get it. And thatís fine. And some people, you change their idea of what a porn star is or what a porn star should be like. Itís great when you get to do that.
What do you hope the audience takes away from The Girlfriend Experience?
SG : I really like what Steven had to say -- that in life, everything is a transaction, no matter who you are or what your profession is. I can relate to that, and itís good to hear it from someone else who is not in the adult film business.