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The Porn Star Turned Movie Star

The Porn Star Turned Movie Star (photo)

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Plenty of adult film stars have gone mainstream, from the late Marilyn Chambers (“Rabid”) to Ginger Lynn Allen (“The Devil’s Rejects”), and even Traci Lords (whose long-time public resentment over being labeled an ex-porn star probably isn’t helped by her supporting bit in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”). However, sleepy-eyed sex starlet Sasha Grey — already one of the hottest properties in her biz today — may have trumped her predecessors with the central role in a penetrating, thrilling Steven Soderbergh drama that played Sundance. Shot cheaply and quickly last October with no other professional actors and a largely improvised script, “The Girlfriend Experience” follows Manhattan escort Christine, a.k.a. “Chelsea” (Grey) as she tries to juggle her job and a relationship with physical trainer Chris (Chris Santos). By phone, Grey thankfully didn’t charge me by the minute as we talked about her “Girlfriend” experience, how she first became a cinephile, the dangers of social networking, and a professional rumor that’s not quite true. Don’t worry, this one’s safe for work.

Could you give a quick-and-dirty walkthrough of your “Girlfriend Experience” experience, along with any expectations you might’ve had?

Going into the film, I didn’t really know what to expect because the shooting style was so experimental. I wrote a character backstory — I condensed that – and would ask Steven: “Is it okay to use this, and adapt these personality traits into the person?” The casting director Carmen [Cuba] actually sent us links to blogs, all written anonymously by these escorts. I read those, and Steven and I met up with two escorts. We interviewed both of them, and a lot of the idiosyncratic behavior of Christine or Chelsea was taken from these two women. [As for] actually shooting with [Soderbergh], he’s so quiet and intimate, yet methodical at the same time. You can see and feel the wheels turning inside his head. He says so little, yet everything he says has a lot of impact on each scene.

I was told that you were the only person who was allowed to see Brian Koppelman and David Levien’s script, since so much of the film relies on improvisation.

I’m not sure. [laughs] I didn’t get an outline until the evening before we started shooting because they wanted some of the situations and reactions to be natural and not forced. Sometimes we’d get on set and we had an outline. We knew what the scene would be, but what was said and happened was constantly evolving every day and in every scene.

05202009_GirlfriendExp2.jpgOverall, was there a noticeable change in the process by the end of production?

The most noticeable thing for me was that I was relaxing. [laughs] Sometimes you get in front of a camera and you premeditate all these things you want to say within a scene, but you kind of freeze up. It’s a hard feeling to articulate to somebody. I mean, naturally, yes, I’m comfortable in front of a camera — but I [had to become] comfortable performing, I guess you could say, as an actor, not as me having sex on camera. Obviously, that’s a big difference.

In the film, you play an escort with a boyfriend, and in real life, you’re engaged. Is that a tricky dynamic to be in a long-term relationship when you’re having sex with other people for money?

I’d say the first three months were the hardest because, and you can ask my fiancée this as well, it was less about having sex with other people and more about spending time with multiple people, if that makes any sense. It’s like, I’m not going to get home at five o’clock, we’re not going to eat dinner at six o’clock, because it’s entertainment, so things can run over, or you get home early. So it was getting used to a very different way of living for both of us. Now it’s very natural, and because we’re both very liberal people, the sex part comes easily and is not so difficult to deal with. In Chelsea, or Christine, and Chris’ case, she’s constantly coming face-to-face with emotional circumstances with her clients, whereas I go to an adult set, and I’m not there to pretend to be somebody’s girlfriend. We all know why we’re there, and it’s very upfront and honest.

Porn stars don’t typically have career longevity. Do you have something like a five-year or ten-year plan that involves a different professional path?

Yes, I just started my own production company called Grey Art, and I’ll be shooting my directorial debut in the next two weeks. It’ll come out in June, actually. It’s called “The F&%k Junkie.” I’m working on my web site, sashagrey.com — I’ll be performing and directing on there as well. I’ve been working towards directing in the adult industry for quite some time, and I’ve finally found the right way to do it. I’m also working on music, a sex philosophy book, a graphic novel, and I have an adult toy novelty line. I’ve never really limited myself to just one thing.

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Scarface Movie Al Pacino

Wanna Play?

Say Hello to Our Scarface Quiz

Play along with movie trivia during "Scarface" tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Tony Montana is all about money, power and respect. And while we can’t promise you’ll get money or power by taking our Scarface quiz below, you will get respect if you get a perfect score. One out of three ain’t bad. Click below to take the quiz, and catch Scarface this month on IFC.

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Hank Azaria Commencement

Best Speech Ever

Hank Azaria’s Simpsons Advice For Grads, Questionable Shark Facts and More of This Week’s Funniest Videos

This week we're laughing at Hank's Tufts commencement speech, Jason Alexander's shark facts and more.

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Photo Credit: YouTube/Tufts University

We’ve made it! Memorial Day weekend! But before we can complain that it’s over too quickly, take a moment to bask in the pre-break lack of productivity and enjoy some lighthearted videos.

From Hank Azaria channeling Chief Wiggum and other Simpsons characters while talking to college grads to “Shark-spert” Jason Alexander sharing questionable shark facts, here are five funny things from this week you need to watch.

1. Kermit Informs Fozzie Bear That They’ve Been Canceled

It’s never easy to see someone receive bad news, much less a Muppet. But if anything, Kermit’s poise and acceptance during a time of crisis is impressive, admirable even. Fozzie Bear, on the other hand, reacts with greater similarity to how we would: with baseless anger and utter despair.


2. Jason Alexander Offers Shark “Fin Facts”

Memorial Day weekend means the start of beach season, aka Shark Feeding Season. As part of IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Memorial Day marathon, “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander offers up some interesting “fin facts” about our sharp-toothed friends from the deep. You can also check out Jason’s beach tips, and catch the Jaws movies with more “fin facts” from Jason this Memorial Day on IFC.


3. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke Confirms Dothraki Is a Real Language

With eyes still dewy from the climax of this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones (Hold the door!), the Mother of Dragons herself Emilia Clarke dropped by Late Night with Seth Meyers to throw the diehard fans a reason to smile: Yes, Dothraki is a real language. Watch Clarke discuss the phonetics and grammar involved with vying for Westeros rule.


4. Hank Azaria Gives Advice Through Simpsons Characters

Hank Azaria — star of The Simpsons, The Birdcage, and Brockmire, premiering in 2017 on IFC — gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Tufts University. In the hilarious speech, Azaria discusses how he got through college, recounts his early career struggles, and offers up life advice via fan favorite Simpsons characters like Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.


5. X-Men: The Animated Series Gets Honest

Screen Junkies are back this week with another round of Honest Trailers. This entry focuses on the cartoon mutants that comprise X-Men: The Animated Series — an ultra-’90s Marvel property that predates the comic book adaptation boom of the 21st Century. But looking back at the decade of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane, this video finds much to mock.

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Weird Al Comedy Bang Bang Season 5

Call Him Al

“Weird Al” Talks Comedy Bang! Bang!, His Upcoming Tour, Favorite Videos and More

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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With a career spanning five decades, “Weird Al” Yankovic has defined the song parody genre and become a beloved pop culture icon. Starting June 3rd, you’ll be able to catch him as the brand new Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader Fridays at 11P on IFC.

We recently chatted with Al about joining Scott Aukerman on the new season, his upcoming tour, favorite CB!B! characters and his future dream projects. (Hint: it might involve actors spontaneously breaking into song.)

The Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader gig seems like a natural fit for you. Did it take any time to get acclimated?

Weird Al: Yeah. It’s a slightly different skill set. The accordion is my main act, but I don’t use it on the show at all. It’s a keyboard setup. The actual setup is a little bit of a combination of what Reggie [Watts] had and [Kid] Cudi had. And a few extra things thrown in. So I’m trying to do my own version of what they brought to the show.

You’ve been on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and the show many times. Do you have a favorite CB!B! character?

Weird Al: I’d probably have to say Doctor Time. Every time Scott wants me to do an evil character, he’s always got a bad English accent. [Laughs] Any time my character goes evil, he becomes sort of British.

Any favorite guests you’ve worked with?

Weird Al: Gosh, I love them all. Paul F. Tompkins is always fun. His Andrew Lloyd Webber character, Cake Boss, everything he does. And Andy Daly as well. They’re so versatile and so amazing at improv. That’s the one thing I was a little nervous about because I’ve never been super confident with my improv skills. But Comedy Bang! Bang!, particularly the TV version, is good for that because it’s all heavily edited. So it kind of gives me permission to try out whatever comes to my mind, so if it really sucks, they’re not gonna use it. [Laughs]

Scott Aukerman Weird Al

Your upcoming tour is a continuation of your Mandatory Fun tour from last year. Any new elements to the show?

Weird Al: Well, it is the same tour, so it’s not that much different. I might freshen some video a little bit. I’m hoping to use a bit or two from the current season of Comedy Bang! Bang! and slip that into the show somewhere.

The tour starts June 3rd in St. Petersburg, Florida and ends September 24th at Radio City Music Hall. How do you keep up the pace? 

Weird Al: It’s just a mindset. I’m really only working for two hours a day, so I basically just save up my energy for the show. I relax, surf online, watch satellite TV, read a book, rest my voice, and then give it all I got when I’m onstage.

Looking back at your vast song catalog, was there ever a parody that came to you immediately upon hearing the song?

Weird Al: Yeah, that’s happened a few times. More often than not, I have to think about it and analytically work out all the variations on a theme that I can and pick out the one with the most potential. But there’s been a few times where the idea came to me spontaneously. I think the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, before it was even over, I thought, “Oh! I gotta do ‘Fat’! Super-plus-sized actors trying to get through a turnstile on a subway! I gotta do that!”

Do you have a favorite of your many hilarious videos?

Weird Al: Oh boy, it’s hard to say. “White and Nerdy” has been my biggest hit and that was a really fun video to do. But in terms of making a video, “Tacky” was really fun to do because it was so easy and I got to work with amazing people like Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Kristen Schaal, Eric Stonestreet, and Aisha Tyler. And we knocked it out in a couple of hours. We were having so much fun while making it, I kinda wish we weren’t so efficient and professional. [Laughs] I could’ve done that all night.

Was it filmed all in one take or was it stitched together?

Weird Al: That was all one take. Some people say, “Oh, I see where the edit is,” but it was all one shot. We did a total of six takes, and I think four of those takes were usable, but the last one was the best.

And you were directing while performing?

Weird Al: I directed that one, yeah. We location scouted and found a building in downtown LA that I thought was good for the shoot. I’ve since seen that building in a lot of other movies and TV shows — I think it was used in The Big Lebowski and a few others. It was difficult because I start the video in one set of clothes and I also end the video in a completely different set of clothes. So while the cameras were off me, because there’s only one elevator in the building, I had to run down five flights of stairs, quickly change my clothes, and hit my mark for the end. And after the take, we’d all just watch what we did, and say, “OK, let’s do it again.”

Is there a director you’d love to work with in the future?

Weird Al: Oh gosh, yeah, but I mean, music videos are notoriously low-budget so that’s why I end up directing them myself. [Laughs] But I’d love to be in a movie codirected by Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.

Do you have a particular genre of music that you love parodying the most? Or is it more of the moment and different for each song?

Weird Al: It doesn’t necessarily revolve around personal taste so much. It really depends more on the song than the genre. But I found rap songs tend to lend themselves to parody, mostly because there’s a lot of words to play with. A lot of pop songs are repetitive, and that’s sometimes been an issue. With rap, there’s no shortage of syllables to mess around with.

Given that you’ve been so prolific and done so much, is there any type of art left that you’d like to dip your toe in? Dramatic acting, perhaps?

Weird Al: Well, if Spielberg and Tarantino want me for their film, I wouldn’t want to turn them down. But there’s no burning desire to do drama. I love doing comedy and feel comfortable doing that. Writing a musical might be something I do down the line. I don’t know when but I might take a shot at something in that area. Other than that, I’ve done pretty much all I wanted to do in my life so far. A lot of it not successfully. [Laughs] But I took a stab at it and feel gratified by that.

You’ve had such a eclectic career in music and comedy. What do you attribute your longevity to?

Weird Al: [Laughs] I don’t know what I’d attribute the longevity to. There’s a modicum of talent, but it’s mostly because I surround myself with very talented people. I’ve got a great support group, I’ve got the same band since the early ’80s, and I’ve worked with the same people for decades. And I got a very loyal fan base and I love what I do. And somehow I’ve been very lucky and it’s worked out so far.

Watch “Weird Al” in an episode from the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! right now, before the season premiere on Friday June 3rd at 11P.

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