- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) Of all the veteran actors with films at the Tribeca Film Festival, the length of Sasha Grey’s filmography could rival them all.

Though just 21, Grey has performed in more than 150 pornographic films. But at Tribeca, she stars in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” ? which premiered with much anticipation at the festival Tuesday evening.

In it, Grey plays a $2,000-an-hour escort whose Manhattan customers are mostly Wall Street executives stressed by their falling fortunes.

Soderbergh shifts between larger budget films (“Ocean’s Eleven,” “Erin Brockovich”) and inexpensive independent works (his breakthrough “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” “Full Frontal”).

“The Girlfriend Experience” is his second film in a six-movie deal with Mark Cuban’s cable station HDNet. On May 22, it will be released in limited theaters and air on HDNet.

Like his first such “day-and-date” film, 2005’s “Bubble,” Soderbergh cast mostly nonprofessional actors in similar situations as their characters in “The Girlfriend Experience.” He encouraged improvisation and shot quickly last October.

Soderbergh became interested in Grey after reading about her in Los Angeles Magazine; he says the article showed how different she was from her industry colleagues.

Such a casting decision is automatic publicity for a small film like “The Girlfriend Experience,” a benefit Soderbergh doesn’t dispute.

“I’m counting on it,” he says. “This girl has a huge following. Most of whatever discussion that’s going on is totally based on her. … She’s kind of a new breed. There hasn’t been anyone exactly like her in that business yet. She’s not the normal adult film star.”

Grey, who grew up in Northern California, became a porn star at 18. She also has modeled for American Apparel clothing and gotten into music, including singing for the reggae musician Lee “Scatch” Perry.

Grey believes part of what sets her apart is her focus and business-minded outlook.

“I came into this industry wanting to get into this industry,” says Grey. “I planned it for seven months before I moved to L.A. I knew what I wanted to do.”

In her porn films, Grey is known for pushing the boundaries of normal sexual acts. She maintains she’s always in control ? a trait Soderbergh believes suits her character in “The Girlfriend Experience.” There are no sex scenes in the film, but Soderbergh believes she has an unmistakable ease in sexual situations.

“The movie to me is about control and the ways in which we delude ourselves into thinking that certain things are not important to address,” says Soderbergh. “It’s about how each of these characters have chosen not to see something about themselves in order to get by.”

Grey is far from the first porn star to move into mainstream or indie cinema. Jenna Jameson became somewhat mainstream thanks to a best-selling autobiography and film roles. Traci Lords was a young porn star before forging a full career as a TV and film actress.

Grey says she never planned any such transition, but calls it a “happy accident” and says she “does enjoy exploring myself as an artist.” She’s now eager to do other films, but also notes she felt “more energy and more vigor” when she returned to pornography.

“Anything’s possible when it comes to making a film, whether it be adult or mainstream,” says Grey.

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