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‘Fading Gigolo’s John Turturro on Defying the Clichés around Sex Workers

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“I think there are positive things about what sex workers do,” he told The Guardian.

Fading Gigolo, which Coen Brothers stalwart John Turturro wrote, directed, and starred in, depicts a side of sex work that is rarely seen in film: the positive side. In the film, Turturro plays Fioravante, a mild, down-on-his-luck bookstore employee who reluctantly becomes a male prostitute represented by Woody Allen. But what starts as a sex comedy becomes a deeper, very thoughtful exploration of human connection when Turturro begins working with Avigale, a sad Hasidic widow played by Vanessa Paradis. Turturro spoke to The Guardian about the positive side of sex work and challenging the conventional narratives around sex workers.

The Guardian: In the film, it seemed as if you were making a connection between sex work and social work. Why did you decide to make a movie that shows sex work in a positive light?

Turturro: Well, I think there are positive things about what sex workers do. I know and consulted people who have been in that world, and it’s interesting on a human level that people sometimes go to these people for reasons beyond just sexual contact – maybe they’re looking for solace, or other things, and sometimes they are truly helped. I also think there’s a real exchange that goes on in these situations, whereas in so many other professions there isn’t. I wasn’t trying to explore the whole profession of prostitution – I know there can be darker or exploitative sides. And I know that being a gigolo is a small part of it, but I thought this story would be interesting for the female characters, in order to see them in the flipside of the situation – a situation of more power.

For more about what it was like to play a level-headed, successful sex worker, see the full interview over at The Guardian.

Image via Millenium Entertainment.