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Sasha Grey interview, Part 2

Sasha Grey has said that before she settled on her current name she had considered calling herself Anna Karina, after Jean-Luc Godard's muse, lover and star of his own take on the prostitute experience, "Vivre sa vie " (1962). I find her more on the tough cookie side a la Julie Christie in "McCabe & Mrs. Miller "(1971). Either way, I wouldn't be surprised if she isn't the female Hugh Hefner before she turns 30. Here's more of the Sasha Grey experience.

PK: You say the films that you're making and the work that you do is being political?

SG: I think it would be stupid of me not to say they were, you know, because you're dealing with...well, the first thing that comes to my mind is feminism. I mean, that's the criticism I deal with up front all the time. And again, I go back to...I don't want to force my opinions or my beliefs or my ideology on anybody, that's not what I'm here to do, but if you want to listen ,that's great, you know? I'm happy to share my thoughts, but in this day and age I think all women are feminists in their own right, whether they're anti-porn or pro-porn or somewhere in between. Outside of feminism, these adult films are incredibly political, because you're dealing with the First Amendment, and why are there three different adult film companies, (or maybe two right just went to jail) there are two adult film companies right now on trial for obscenity, when obscenity is still not something that's clearly defined in our Constitution. I feel like our rights are being taken away or attempted at being taken away from us and it's something that we have the right to do. We're not hurting anybody. This isn't, you know, what some people might have thought it was in the ‘70s where it's involved with the mob or slave trading or sex trading. Which I think, then you get into that whole subject, now that just gets me heated talking about that kind of stuff because the adult film industry gets tied into these groups by ill-informed people that project their ideas: "Because you are in adult films, you must be involved with this or you must be doing this, and you create the monsters and the evils in the world."

PK: So its not "Boogie Nights" anymore.

SG: No. I think some people want it to be, definitely, and that's why I say, like you asked earlier, if someone wanted to get into this business I would say its should be something you really feel passionate about and have more of a reason than just wanting to have fun.

PK: You're still having fun, though, doing it.

SG: Definitely, yeah.

PK: You mentioned feminism...a number of women say that pornographic films, are products of male domination and degrade women and keep the stereotype of women as being subjugated alive in the culture?

SG: There's two things I have to say about that: I feel, at the end of the day, on a very general, simple level, you either like chocolate or you like vanilla. You believe in God or you don't believe in God. So you are entitled to your own opinion and you can have a belief in whatever you want. It's America, but until you are in somebody's shoes and experiencing that firsthand, it's just an opinion. It's not a fact. So, you know, people can have their own opinions and their own beliefs, but I won't subscribe to them. I don't feel like I have to sit and defend myself to those people.

PK: That was one. You said you had two things.

SG: Well, that...I did say two for you.

PK: I don't think there's been any scientific proof that pornography influences people's behavior that's really been accepted.

SG: No, I mean, there was a study about a month and a half ago that showed Utah has the highest consumption rate of online pornography. So the people that are telling us, and like, I hate to say this because now I feel like I'm judging other people and now I feel like I'm becoming defensive, but it shows you that the people or the groups that vilify the adult industry and don't believe in advocating to young people to use sexual protection, birth control, condoms, whatever, they don't believe in advocating that, but yet they have the highest consumption rate of adult films, and they have a very high rate of teen pregnancy. So I think that shows you that that's, it's like a sore thumb. It shows you that there's a lot more to deal with in society when it comes to sex, whether it's adult films or not.

PK: Or maybe, consumption of pornography makes people into Republicans.

SG: People are Republicans and then they become hypocritical consumers in the things that they condemn. That's life.

PK: You've described yourself as a commodity and you have no qualms about that. Can you discuss that a little bit?

SG: Well, getting into the adult industry at eighteen, I knew that a lot of people would have problems with it, and I wanted people to know that I was very clear on my intent. That, yeah, I know I'm selling sex, and I'm not just getting into this by accident or by mistake. I may have other reasons as well, creative and artistic goals to reach, but it's still business, and I understand that and I'm OK with putting myself out there as an object. Because, I think you know, Steven was saying it the other night at the screening, at the end of the day we're all selling something and we all want something, whether its monetary or not. But now that's transitioned from being the laborer where I get a small piece of the pie, to now owning my own company, directing my own films where I solely benefit.

PK: I saw the film with a group of critics who seemed to be disappointed that there wasn't more actual sex in the film. Do you get that response very much and do you think it's kind of a come-on to a certain extent that you're featured as the star of the film and it's more about talking about stuff than actually doing it?

SG: The reason for that is that you're dealing with a specific type of escort, a woman that is a GFE. She provides more than just the sex -

PK: What was that?

SG: GFE. The Girlfriend Experience.

PK: Oh, ok.

SG: She provides this service, so how do you depict that in a film that distinguishes it differently from maybe a girl on the street who has a pimp, or a girl that just gets called up to go to a hotel room and have sex with a client and leave. These particular women, these particular escorts provide more than just the sex and at the end of the day it is about these faux relationships that are created with her clients.

PK: Is it hard to separate professionalism from your personal life because sex is such an essential part of people's being so when you sell that aspect of yourself, aren't you really selling a part of yourself that's sort of precious or intimate? Precious...I'm sounding like a Mormon myself. Sorry. But you know what I'm talking about, right?

PK: Yeah, I know what you mean. Uh, no, I don't feel that way because I feel that I'm...I don't limit myself just to adult films, and I find what I do in adult films is artistic and creative, and although I said it is a commodity, I do see other, I see an artistic medium within it, and that's how I personally approach it. So whether it be in adult films, what most people know me for, or my music, or my writing, or my photography, all of these things that I do, they're all very personal to me. My music project took me over a year to release, because I felt more self conscious about releasing that than I did having sex on camera. I think that's incredibly personal to put something so special and close to your heart out there for the world to hear and listen to because you know, not everybody will understand that and everybody understands sex, whether they love it or hate it or are confused by it.

So no, I don't feel like that and I think it also helps that I have somebody in my life that understands my ideology and respects it and, you know, unlike Chelsea, my character in "The Girlfriend Experience," I don't have to spend quality time with the people that I'm having sex with on camera, so everybody knows what they're coming to do on set, but I do have a very healthy sexual relationship off camera. I think in the adult industry you have to have an equal balance of both, because I think it can become unhealthy to only have sex on camera.

PK: And your boyfriend is cool with all of the....

SG: [She nods in the direction of her boyfriend, Ian Cinnamon, who is sitting next to her]. Yep, you know, I think the hardest point was at the beginning when we first started dating, because you're learning how to balance those two things but now, you know, I run my own agency, I book myself so I know my schedule to a T the next two months and I work less, you know, I'm not having sex on camera as much as I was the first few months. But that's also a conscious business decision on my part so come time I launch my production company, coming soon, it'll have more value.

PK: So you get as much satisfaction on the business end as you do on the actual creative process.

SG: Definitely. I mean, I don't think I'd have it any other way I wouldn't want

PK: So you're sublimating your sexuality. Another thing that disturbed the critics that were in the screening was the ‘Erotic Connoisseur.' Is that an they actually have people like that?

SG: That was something that when Steven and the writers interviewed some of these women, I guess all of them described similar men - these "hobbyists" that review these women and they're the scum of the earth, basically, to these women.

PK: Like all critics, I'd say.

SG: Well, it's quite different. So I think for them naturally they had to throw that in the film and show that part of it.

PK: He was played by an actual critic too. Glenn Kenny. I hope he's not like that in real life.

SG: No. but he is that funny. I mean if you find that funny.

PK: The lines that he was improvising, even though his character was repugnant, were witty.

SG: Yeah, definitely.

PK: That's the whole secret of criticism: be repugnant but witty. Do you think this film will help to cross over? There seems to be a line between adult entertainment and the mainstream, I guess you'd call it, variety. Do you think this film is going to blur that line somewhat and is that a good thing?
PK: I'm not sure if it'll be just this film that does that. But I think because I am playing a non-eponymous character, I'm not just playing a bit part as Sasha Grey, I think that definitely helps a lot, and it shows that you can't always judge somebody just because of their immediate profession, you know? But I think that's an uphill battle that people from the adult business will always deal with, just because sex is still such a taboo subject. It's hard for people to talk about. But for me personally I try not, although I have an uphill battle, I try not to distinguish between what I do in adult, what I do in film, what I do in music. I try just to look at it as, "This is my body of work as an artist, and these are all things I hope to continue to challenge as I grow older and live my life."

PK: Do you see yourself doing more...conventional, I guess is one way to describe it, roles? Would you turn down appearing in the next "Ocean's" film with Soderbergh or something like that.?

SG: I don't think I'd ever turn that down! Steven was an amazing, amazing director to work with, and he has such an intense process on the set that he knows how deliver and communicate what he wants in such a quiet way, in such a liberating way as well because you hear horror stories from other actors about other filmmakers, it's like, "He didn't let me play this character or be that character," and you know, you can sometimes confine actors too much and put them in a box and it ends up inhibiting their performance. That's one of the reasons that Steven chose to shoot the film this way.

PK: Did you learn anything while making this movie?

SG: I mean, there was obviously a lot I learned, nothing that I can can go down laundry lists. But most of all, the most important thing I feel I took from it was revalidating that anything's possible when it comes to filmmaking in that, you might have very little but you can create something amazing and beautiful. People always make excuses for what they don't have, and they don't look at what's right in front of them and use that to create something beautiful.

PK: I imagine you've seen the film a few times, right?

SG: I've only seen it twice, actually. I saw the cut that went to Sundance and I just saw the final cut a few nights ago. It wasn't finished. So I saw the one that went to Sundance right before and then I'm not sure at what time between January and now they actually finished the film.

PK: What part of the movie moved you the most, would you say?

SG: That's so hard to honestly answer because I think, and any actor can relate to this, you're always so self conscious about your performances and you feel like nothing's ever good enough. You wish you would have done something differently. But I think the film as a whole turned out great.

PK: I like the scene where you're at the rendezvous place and the guy doesn't show up. That must have been a challenging scene to do.

SG: Yeah, we were low on light too! By the time we actually got out to the stone staircase outside we only had a few takes to get that.

Next: Remaking "Deep Throat" and what Mom has to say.


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Peter Keough tosses away all pretenses of objectivity, good taste and sanity and writes what he damn well pleases under the guise of a film blog.

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