A REAL-LIFE PORN STAR

~ Posted by Gary Moskowitz, November 30th 2009

It's clearly not everyday that a porn star sits down to be interviewed at the Barbican Centre, a massive performing arts venue in London. But after a recent screening of Steven Soderberg's "The Girlfriend Experience", which is about to be released in Britain (after opening in the States earlier in the year), a packed house hung around to catch Wendy Ides, a film critic for the Times, interview Sasha Grey (pictured), an adult film actress and the film's star.

Just 21, Grey has appeared in more than 160 pornographic films, in some cases earning awards such as "Best Three Way Sex Scene". She is not apologetic about her career. During a 2007 television appearance on the "Tyra Banks Show", she refuted Banks's claims that she was being exploited, arguing instead that she lives a "progressive" lifestyle and that she has never performed anything that she didn't want to do. Grey also owns her own production company, has appeared in music videos for Smashing Pumpkins and the Roots, keeps a blog and has her own band, among other projects.

In "The Girlfriend Experience", Grey portrays a high-end call girl in recession-era New York City just before the 2008 presidential election. Compared with Soderberg's glitzy "Ocean's Eleven" films, this one is spare and basic. The cast consists of unprofessional actors and the film moves at a fairly slow, uneventful pace. The result is moody and serious, except for a scene in which a rabbi has an orgasm without taking his clothes off. But it does capture America's recently prevailing atmosphere of economic uncertainty and financial stress.

But more entertaining than the film was watching the crowd listen to and engage with Grey afterwards. (One gushing audience member offered her band a gig at his London club. Another identified herself as a dominatrix and seemed to want to talk shop.) After Grey admitted that she was shocked that Soderberg asked her to be in the film, and explained her preparations for the role (she interviewed a couple of call girls and read anonymous call-girl blogs), the conversation quickly turned to sex.

"I watched a lot of porn in college and got off on it, but felt something was missing," she told Ides. "I felt I could make it more creative." Grey said men tended to be more self-conscious about sex than they like to admit. "A lot of them feel ashamed of their sexual interests. I think there's a lot of homosexual repression," she said. Afterwards, a crowd of men and women gathered at the front of the theatre to have their photo taken with Grey.

"The Girlfriend Experience" opens in Britain on December 4th

Gary Moskowitz is a journalist and a musician, now based in San Francisco

Image Ian Cinnamon