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'Canyons' star James Deen: 'Acting is easier than porn'

August 09, 2013|By Chris Lee
  • Porn star James Deen is featured in the film "The Canyons," written by Bret Easton Ellis.
Porn star James Deen is featured in the film "The Canyons," written… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

To hear James Deen tell it, performance anxiety was never a factor in his debut acting job. The popular and prolific porn performer -- who has starred in several thousand adult films including such titles as “Orgy University” and “Farrah Superstar: Backdoor Teen Mom” -- treated his maiden narrative movie performance in the micro-budget thriller “The Canyons” as a no-lose propostion.

Case in point: acting alongside Lindsay Lohan in her last role before being sentenced to 90 days of “lockdown rehab,” Deen got into a shouting argument with “Canyons” director Paul Schrader about how he was performing a scene. On the film’s Malibu mansion set last summer, Deen didn’t hesitate to raise his voice, drop F-bombs or call Schrader’s authority into question in full view of cast and crew.

“This guy is untouchable,” Deen recalled, referring to himself in the third person over a latte at a Woodland Hills café recently. “Because, really, what is Schrader going to do to me? ‘Oh, I can fire you or ruin you for work.’ I never work in Hollywood again? I go back to my miserable life of having sex with women every day? My lifelong dream? If you tell me to do something and scream at me, I’m going to scream back at you.”

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Nevertheless, in an interview with Movies Now, Schrader called Deen “something of a saint” for having put up with so much production chaos and on-set diva behavior by Lohan (detailed in a recent Sunday Calendar story). Now, some reviews have hailed Deen as a stand-out in “The Canyons” (which hit VOD last week and arrived in Los Angeles theaters Friday) – a “brooding, compelling presence as a hyper-controlling, compulsive wiseass who’s sliding toward psychopath territory,” in Salon.com’s critical appraisal.

On Reason.com Kurt Loder wrote: “The picture marks a striking debut by porn star James Deen, who’s convincingly depraved as a nasty trust-fund brat.” In her Village Voice review, Stephanie Zacharek notes the porn star “carries himself with a braggadocio that’s something to behold.” (On the flipside, Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter observes Deen’s performance “is entirely one note in a part that makes little sense from the outset.”)

The performer says he took on “The Canyons” as something of a lark after novelist-turned-screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis became fascinated with Deen last year and wrote the part of a wealthy sociopath (who’s producing a low-budget slasher flick, a film within the erotic noir thriller) with him specifically in mind. Weeks before “The Canyons” makes its international debut at the Venice Film Festival, however, Deen called Hollywood “the most unprofessional, God-awful business anywhere.”

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So is Deen looking to transition into a post-porn career a la former hard-core triple-X ingenue Sasha Grey? Does he hate Hollywood? There are mixed signals.

“I had so much fun acting, I wouldn’t mind doing more. But at the end of the day, if I never work another day in Hollywood – especially with all my experiences with all the people and that stuff – if nothing ever happens again, nothing ever happens again,” Deen said.

One notable exception would certainly be director Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie adaptation of the runaway mommy-porn bestseller “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Last year, Ellis had vocally cheer-leaded for Deen to be cast in the lead role of kinky business magnate Christian Grey, although now the performer is seen as an outside contender for one of Hollywood’s hottest parts.

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“If I end up getting called for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and they say, ‘Hey, we saw you in “The Canyons” and you were great. Come in for an audition. Hey, we want you to be Christian Grey’ – that might be pretty cool,” said Deen. “I don’t think I’d let a few negative experiences sour me on that.”

For the record, Schrader says the on-set screaming match during the “Canyons” filming was spurred in large part by his and Deen’s inability to shout at the person they really had unresolved issues with: Lohan.

“I blew up at James; I couldn’t blow up at her,” Schrader said. “We took it outside. Once we got outside, she was watching us. I said, ‘We’ve got to keep arguing for Lindsay’s sake because she’s watching us!’” (A publicist said Lohan was not available to speak to The Times.)

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