Steven Soderbergh made waves when he premiered his latest film,
Girlfriend Experience, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — not so much due
to its subject, a high class call girl, but rather thanks to who plays her:
adult film actress
Sasha Grey, the 21-year-old award-winning star of countless
films we can’t mention here. An avowed cinephile and French New Wave enthusiast
who once considered taking the stage name
Anna Karina (and has been known as a
Godard devotee ever since), Grey shared her Five Favorite Films with Rotten
Tomatoes, revealing a penchant for intense character dramas that dare to be
honest and open — much like Grey herself. Read on for more about Sasha Grey’s
Five Favorite Films, her improvised central performance in The Girlfriend
Experience, what it was like to share the screen with film critic
(who appears in a cameo role), and more.
Herzog. It’s such a hard movie not to like. You have this character who has
these hopes and dreams, he wants to come to America and he’s a struggling,
failed musician but he also really cares about everybody else around him, and he
doesn’t judge the people around him, no matter what their faults may be. I like
the characters and just the story itself.
me, it’s just a very romantic story. It’s the ultimate, “let’s just drop
everything and run away together” movie; the way the story was told was so
unique. There’s one scene in particular where
is on the beach, and she rolls over and she just says, “F— me.” To put that in
a film in that time period — you just didn’t expect that to come out of her
mouth. It’s titillating, I guess you could say.
don’t really know how to go into detail about it; the story is so intense, and
you’re not made to feel a certain way towards these characters. You see this mom
who’s kind of a b—- and doesn’t really care about her youngest daughter, and
you see this older sister who’s a b—-… especially at the end, you don’t really
feel sorry for these people.
I had a list of films that my theater teacher gave me, when I was about 14 or
15. One of the things he always told the class was you should be watching one
film per week, to study other actors and study the language of film. Fat Girl
just happened to be one of the films on the list.
think there’s something about all of these films that resonate with me — they’re
all stories and situations between characters that you couldn’t make with an
American studio today. A Woman Under the Influence is so raw, it’s so
wrong… it’s like, you knew those neighbors. It’s a really emotional film, and I
John Cassavetes to have his
play that character, it was even more challenging and even more of a risk.
Carpenter! I mean, come on. John Carpenter,
as f—in’ Snake Plisskin — it doesn’t really get any better than that.
Was that on your theater teacher’s list?
It was not. [Laughs]
Can’t get enough Sasha Grey? Check out her Five Favorites in video form when she sat down with our friends at Current
The Girlfriend Experience was shot fast, and beyond writers Brian
Koppelman and David Levien’s outlines, was highly improvisational. How much of
your character was laid out for you before you came onboard, and how much did
you create her yourself?
SG: There really was no
character on paper. I think Steven kind of left that up to me to do or not to
do, and I thankfully did. I wrote a character back story, and once I was happy
with that I gave it to Steven and asked him what he thought; he agreed with what
I had on paper, I guess you could say. A lot of the things in the film were
actually picked up from two escorts that Steven and I actually met; a lot of the
idiosyncratic behavior of Christine, or Chelsea — you see her buying a prepaid
phone, or she screens her clients with these personology books, or the way she
writes in her diary — a lot of those things were picked up from these women we
met. The casting director sent us links to these anonymous escorting blogs and I
read those; I tried to incorporate as much as I could into this character
because I knew going on set, Steven would want a very natural reaction in all of
the scenes. So it was finding a way to build this character and who she is, but
at the same time allowing these natural reactions to happen.
If the shoot lasted only 16 days, how much prep time did you
spend — working with Steven or otherwise — prior to filming?
SG: A lot of the things I did were solitary, because he
didn’t want me to do a lot. From the first time I met him to the time we went
into preproduction, it was a year and a half. In the in-between time I would
keep in touch with him, and I asked him if there were any films he wanted me to
watch, and he only named two: Vivre sa vie and Pierrot le fou. Aside from that,
I spent a good two, two and a half months [preparing].
Since Rotten Tomatoes is a film review site, I wanted to zero in
on one of your co-stars in particular: film critic Glenn Kenny, who plays an
escort blogger dubbed the “Erotic Connoisseur.” Tell us what it was like to work
SG: He was just brilliant. It was so hard for me not to
laugh at some of the s— he said. We actually talked about it a couple of weeks
ago when he interviewed me in New York, but that was… he was just insane. You
could tell he was a writer [from his dialogue], because he was just so good at
As an actress, musician, and adult film star, how much does the
concept of persona play a part in your life, both professional and personal?
SG: I would say there’s about ten percent reserved for me,
and it’s mostly to do with personal safety issues. I really try to be honest and
open, and to be myself, as much as I can, and I think that’s important
especially dealing with the primary industry that I’m in. So I try not to have a
separation between the two, and I just look at it as my life, and not just my
career. I think the only thing I don’t do as much publicly is, I probably curse
a lot more when I’m with my friends.
Will we see you in the near future in more mainstream roles?
SG: I actually have a film coming up in August, it’s a lead
role, a great role, and it’s against type. And I have two more that I was
actually just offered. Another film, Smash Cut, will be coming out at the end of
the year as well.