DID YOU READ

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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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