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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.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

A Christian Baleout

A Christian Baleout (photo)

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All eyes might be on that resort town in the south of France, but we here at home can enjoy another bumper crop of releases comprising both arthouse excellence and blockbuster entertainment. Oh, and the Wayans brothers have a new movie out, too.

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“The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story”
The unsung heroes (no pun intended) of the Mouse House’s most celebrated animated features, Oscar-winning composers Richard and Robert Sherman wrote the delightful ditties that were the core of hits like “The Jungle Book,” “Mary Poppins” and Disney theme park rides like “It’s a Small World.” Co-directed by their writer/producer sons, this doc charts the Sherman brothers’ ability to make beautiful music together even as their personal relationship was falling apart.
Opens in limited release.

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In the Realm of Pornography?

In the Realm of Pornography? (photo)

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The Criterion Collection version of Nagisa Oshima’s controversial “In the Realm of the Senses” that came to DVD and Blu-ray this week is listed on Criterion’s web site as running 108 minutes long. That number corresponds with the length of the film’s “original version” given by IMDb, though the site also lists a 109-minute version from the U.K., a 107-minute version from Australia, and a 98-minute version from Argentina. There seems to be a different cut for every country that’s willing to show the film (unlike its native Japan, where it remains banned). The movie is almost an indecency Rorschach test — it’d be fascinating, if a little horrifying, to compare all the different cuts side-by-side, to see what each culture found unacceptable by its moral standards. (By the way, IMDb does not mention a 95-minute cut, which is the length of the film on the previous DVD edition from Fox Lorber that’s currently available from Netflix).

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