How does a porn star become an indie-film darling? Sasha Grey, with diminutive features and a melancholy expression, never looked like a typical porn star, but watching her 2006 debut film, Fashionistas Safado: The Challenge, you'd be hard-pressed to pick her out as a future mainstream star. (Her co-stars might've noticed something different; the eighteen-year-old Grey reportedly shocked porn veteran Rocco Siffredi by asking him to punch her in the stomach during fellatio.) But Grey's persona grew as the mainstream press noticed her penchant for discussing Godard instead of blowjobs in interviews. She was a deliberately highbrow anomaly in a genre not noted for elevated brows; she had even debated between Anna Karina and Sasha Grey when selecting her nom de porn, the former a reference to director Jean-Luc Godard's ex-wife, the latter to Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Her mainstreaming continued with an American Apparel modeling stint and an appearance on The Tyra Banks Show.

Now she's starring in Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience, an exploration of five days in the life of an expensive Manhattan call girl. Grey's character offers her clients not only sex, but an entire relationshipthe titular experience. Grey delivers a candid portrait of a prostitute wrestling with the ambiguities of her profession, with economic and emotional collapses hovering on the horizon. Nerve spoke with Grey about working with the Academy Award-winning Soderbergh, what her female fans make of her extreme depictions of sex, and what she plans to do next. — Michael Estrin

How did Steven Soderbergh approach you?
I got a MySpace message from Brian Koppelman, one of the writers. But since it was through MySpace, I didn't think it was real. Brian wrote me a note saying that Steven Soderbergh would call me, and I was like, "Yeah, right." But a few days later I had a voicemail from Steven, which was a total surprise. A few days after that, we were having lunch and talking about the project. I think they had heard of me because of the Los Angeles Magazine story about me a few years ago.

Very few people in porn can actually direct.

What was it like to work with Soderbergh? How did he compare to other directors you've worked with in the past?
Very few people in porn can actually direct. I mean no disrespect, but in porn, if you can white-balance a camera, you can be a director, which is why the industry is so oversaturated with awful content.

Steven was amazing because he was so focused. He knows what he wants. That kind of made me feel lazy in a way. His process is so intense. You watch him do what he does and prepare, and you don't feel like you work hard enough. Sometimes we did four locations in a single day. We had a very small crew. But with a small crew and a camera, Steven can do anything.

What did you think about the night before filming started?
I was incredibly nervous. We didn't get a lot of information on the film, so I think I was nervous because I just didn't know what it would be like. Steven wanted this organic, natural performance for the film. And that was a bit of a struggle for me, to let that be part of the process.

What was it like for you to do so much improv work?
I took acting lessons from [the ages of] twelve to eighteen, so it was hard for me to abandon some of those processes as an actor and to strip it down to something more raw. You know what you need to do in the scene, but you don't have the lines to get you there, so you need to sort of figure it out. I got an outline. But there would generally be changes everyday because Steven wanted the film to be very real and in the moment. We would get to the set, pick up a newspaper, and talk about what was really going on in the world at that moment. A lot of that made it into the film.

 

Commentarium (17 Comments)

May 06 09 - 9:26pm
JMH

The thing I don't like about her is that she seems overly self-satisfied, and just not very nice.

May 07 09 - 4:25am
S.S.

I totally agree with you; there is a very unappealing detached quality I don't like. Also it seems like she's pulling intellectual rank when she mentions how it's "sad" that some other porn star wasn't familiar with a Hunter S. Thompson. It's so condescending. It seems like she's trying very hard to be smart and "edgy" but she just comes across as mean spirited and grandiose.

May 07 09 - 10:05am

What the fuck is so glorious about being a porn "star"? It's like talking about the "miracle" of birth.

May 07 09 - 3:23pm
slc

Don't know if she's mean-spirited or anything, DO know that reading Hunter Thompson ain't like reading the Bible in the original Aramaic. I mean, jeez, did anyone feel real challenged by, say, 'Hell's Angels'? I know, at least some times, attractive people claim that people automatically think they're less-than-intelligent; well, here's the flip: for some attractive people, the bar for 'ooh, she's intellectual' is so low you can step over it.
I'm not a fan of Ms. Grey's just because she's like about a million other young porn stars: stares at the camera, a whole line of phony-baloney patter, that spit-sucking sound that drives me up the wall, the drooping eyelids meant to imply passion but always making me think of Get Shorty's Chili Palmer saying, what are you telling me, you're sleepy, you need a nap?....
Yawn. Gonzo WAS gonzo, at least originally, because it was (more or less) real people, not 'porn stars' who exhibited all the above behaviors, getting it on. Now it's more of the same. Don't know if I'll see this movie, maybe on cable. DO know, based on about 2 minutes of Redtube, I ain't renting none'a Sasha's porn.
Is she good enough to make it with her pants on? I forget, did Sofia Coppola ever get better after Godfather 3?

May 11 09 - 6:09pm
gmd

Sometimes I don't like knowing too much about actors and actresses before I see a movie. It brings too much baggage and I can't help thinking about their personal life makes me view the film less objectively. I watched GFE on Amazon VOD, it was good.

Jan 07 12 - 10:26am
rino

i think she have the right to do what she wants and sex shouldnoy be a tabu

May 19 09 - 8:01pm
JCB

I don't get why she is the "smart porn star." She sounds like an angsty 15-year-old high school girl name dropping Sartre and Hunter S. Thompson. The bar must not be too high in that industry.

Apr 20 10 - 10:05am
FU

hey did any of ya'll stop and think well she has the right to lord her intelligence over me because she has a college education and doesnt have a dead end job and has goals for her life and doesnt just sit around and gossip about a " young actress "

May 01 10 - 8:37pm
Name

What do you think?

May 18 10 - 4:24pm
Frakki Karu

I'm one of Sasha's female fans. Until her, I really didn't watch much porn. What I love about her is that she always owns the room. She can switch from domme to subby, but always seems to be in control. And, she she doesn't babble that lame 'porn speak'. It might not be, but it comes off as natural reactions.

As for her outside of work, I find her very interesting. She is very young, and talk like a self-absorbed college student at time. But, EVERYONE does that, usually while insulting others for it.

She puts herself out there to be insulted, and I think that's brave. I never fault actors for putting out a 'working persona' when giving interviews, because lets' face it, most people are asses who like to insult others. (Just look at the comments here.) And, they have to get interviewed by some real tools at times. Sasha seems to just lay it out there. I hope she's able to keep it up. It's hard to be genuine in a world full of critics.

Nov 20 10 - 4:19am
Sasha 4U

All comments south of 4/20/10 are Sasha Grey herself, battling the negative comments. Just like her lovelysashagrey.com website. pretentious yet edgy....right.

Nov 20 10 - 4:23am
Truth

4/20 is also Sasha Grey the talented "actress"

Nov 20 10 - 4:24am
Truth

4/20 too

Nov 21 10 - 4:36am
ms_meg42

I believe Sasha Grey is a rather interesting creature. She is someone that is actually quite funny and smart...someone you might actually humorous with her clothes on. Doesn't hurt that she is carrying that nyphette fantasy for all those coots out there that like younger chicks. Girls that can make love to your intellect just seem interesting to me.

Dec 03 10 - 9:36am
mark

thisgirl is crazy one of the crazy ones that nature should have killed at birth apparently empowering women , university empowers woman not porn fuck off sasha we dont need your help, shes almost male and i do not mean to insult any good men out ther but ya know what i mean ewwwwwwwwwww is all i think when i think of her well ewwwwwwww and insane she needs to get some help insane arrogant dead person

Sep 07 11 - 7:27am
Cialis Rezeptfrei

1PrFXU Is anybody strong in radio here? We need a colleague who would tell us briefly about the transistor T2. I hope there are radio amateurs here. If it`s not on the subject at all, then I`m sorry. I have to write because I have no choice. PS: if the spelling is not right then also I'm sorry, I'm just 13 years old...

Oct 29 11 - 2:23am
chuck

i like turtles