Still, it's difficult for even the most ambitious man with the requisite face and physique to come to L.A. and reach porn's upper echelon. This is a highly competitive and famously fickle industry, much easier to get in for a minute than to stay in for a career — and harder still when you don't speak English and know a grand total of three people in the entire country.
Ask Rocco Siffredi.
If you do, the famously affable Siffredi will be more than willing to tell you.
"I started doing movies in Europe in 1985," he recalls. The road to L.A. wasn't far off. In the late 1980s, Siffredi started working for some American producers while still in Europe, got friendly with a few folks such as Patty Rhodes and Fred Lincoln — and presto! Rocco was on a plane bound for the U.S.
"John Stagliano gave me my first role here," Siffredi recounts, "and then John Leslie gave me a shot. These breaks started me in America."
In any business, it helps to have a "rabbi" — an experienced mentor who can show you the ropes and take you under his wing. In Siffredi's case, that role has been played by Stagliano.
"I got some good moves from John in the beginning. But the talent and the looks I already had," he chuckles.
In addition to his famous phallus and Mediterranean good looks, Siffredi came equipped with tremendous passion and ambition. "I love what I do, and what makes it work is passion," he says. And he's not just talking about the sex scenes, either; he means behind the camera, and behind the brand.
Make no mistake, Siffredi is a "brand." There is a "Rocco style," and managing the two requires more than just sexual prowess. "It's reality, it's passion that I bring to the market," Siffredi says — as a performer, of course, but also as his own boss.
Siffredi, who started producing movies 14 years ago, was one of the first directors to sign on with Stagliano's Evil Angel with its unique artist-owned sales model. A bold departure from the industry norm, Evil Empire directors are allowed to retain the right to their movies, while Evil Angel collects a commission fee for distributing the movies.
Since each director's profits are tied directly to sales, it's something like an honor system for the adult industry, where directors have a personal stake in making sure each movie they make exceeds market standards.
Siffredi has thrived under the Evil Angel system. But it wasn't always so easy for him. "I was the first European [adult star] to come to America," he says, "and directors were not used to working with Europeans." Siffredi broke through that wall and became, by many accounts, the most-popular male performer in the business. But another wall went up when he decided to move to the other side of the camera.
"Americans didn't always trust Europeans," he says, "or tell us how to do business." Once again, it was Stagliano who gave Siffredi his shot — and most would agree it was one of his wisest business decisions ever, as Siffredi has racked up substantial sales numbers over a long directing career that has generated healthy profits for all involved.
Fast-forward to 2006: Siffredi is world famous, well compensated, the head of his own eponymous product line and a happy family man. He and wife Rosa have two sons, ages 10 and 7. The man offered his comments for this story via a phone call from a family skiing vacation in Italy. Life is good.
"Yes, I am very lucky," Siffredi admits. "When I came to America, I felt so small, my European work was nothing anymore. I had to start from the beginning." From that beginning, Siffredi has arrived at the point where he will soon complete the transition from performer to producer/director. At 42, he is ready to stop performing altogether to focus on producing and directing — and growing the Rocco Siffredi brand.
However, he says reports of the timetable from his performing retirement have not been entirely accurate, often implying that he already has stopped performing. Siffredi assures XBiz that he's not quite done yet.
Still, the transition is in progress and Siffredi thinks more like a businessman these days, and less like the celebrity performer. "It's important to own your own material," he says, "because you can do what you believe in, put your soul into it. It's your stuff. It's you." Siffredi's business goal now is to inject the "Rocco style" into a full line of films, with other stars under his direction. The next phase of his career will carry his name farther down the road, a wild and winding route that began as a dusty street in another era and another land, and is now a six-lane highway leading from the San Fernando Valley to every DVD player on the planet.