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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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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney To Host Spirit Awards

The Spirit Awards Air February 25 LIVE on IFC.

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The 2017 Spirit Awards have finally found their frontmen: Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. And it’s no wonder. Just marvel in their splendid chemistry back when they appeared on Comedy Bang! Bang!:

The pair are prolific within the performing arts community: television (Kroll in The League and The Kroll Show, Mulaney as a writer of IFC’s own Documentary Now!), theater (including Broadway’s current Oh Hello Show), and stand-up comedy. In fact, it’s entirely possible that emceeing an awards show is one of the few remaining line items on their professional bucket lists.

It’s important to caveat this announcement, however. Unlike the bigger and more ubiquitously known awards shows, the Spirit Awards are not, well…boring. (We’re talking to you, Oscar.)

They’re funny. They’re honest. They have quality to match the red-carpet fanfare. And that’s alarmingly special. Last year’s show included some legitimately historic moments, like when transgender actress Mya Taylor won best supporting female, or Kate McKinnon’s hilarious and timely parody of Carol. See more highlights here to get the flavor of the Spirit Awards and read all about Film Independent to dig deeper.

The 2017 Spirit Awards air live February 25 at 5P ET exclusively on IFC.

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