opinion

Adult Thespians

Tod Hunter
Although all-sex productions continue to dominate the adult industry, plot-driven features need performers who can act as well as have sex on camera. XBIZ talked to several feature directors about their favorite adult actresses past and present.

Veteran director Jimmy DiGiorgio remembered Ava Vincent, who also went by the name Jewel Valmont, though she didn't seem to remember him. "I directed her in 'Succubus,' and she won best supporting actress for it. At the ceremony, she thanked Bud Lee, even though I wrote and directed it. That movie actually won four or five awards. Later, I was shooting an interview for something for Robert Lombard and she thanked Bud Lee again. I just let it go."

He also mentions young starlet Sasha Grey.

"Sasha Grey just lets herself go into it. I get a good acting vibe off her. She's done some good stuff for Teravision," DiGiorgio said.

"Tera Patrick is good, too. I've seen her live at some events. She can work a crowd, and she can do dialogue well. She commands a lot of presence. When it comes to acting, that's the key. What kind of presence does an actor have? Tera's got a lot of presence. She walks in and she just takes it over. She just owns it."

Writer/director David Stanley, who has worked for Elegant Angel and Vivid Entertainment, is now exclusive with Wicked Pictures and offered these observations.

"Carmen Hart is probably the most focused, in the moment, and probably the hardest-working actress. She's got this working-class ethic about acting, and I mean that in a good way. If I'm in the middle of a three-page scene, she knows everybody's lines," Stanley said. "She's spent some time thinking about the character. The best thing I've seen of her is a movie I just made called 'Compulsion.' It's a comedy, but she's a tragic character and she has to make a transition from being this person that you're afraid for to a person that you're sympathetic for. By the end she's very funny. It's like going from Meryl Streep to Lucille Ball. She'll also play different nuances to a character. It enables me to cast her in roles that are a little more dynamic than I would for a lot of people.

"I've only worked with Jessica Drake once, on 'Crème Brulee,' but it was a wonderful experience. She's incredibly professional, and at the same time she has this wicked sense of humor that I wouldn't have guessed before meeting her. She's very funny and incredibly bright. She comes in with a lot of questions, and you do a lot of rewrites. If I want to take it somewhere weird or surreal, she'll go there with a gleam in her eye."

Stanley also is impressed with Drake's sexuality.

"She's the most sensual of the girls I've worked with: You can tell that she loves sex the way a guy loves sex. She's into it as much as the actor, and that helps his performance. When Jessica's around, everybody's on their best game. Nothing escapes her perception, and that's good for an actress, helps her figure out the character. She's one of the reasons I wanted to come to Wicked."

Another one of Stanley's favorites is Wicked contract performer Stormy Daniels.

"I'm a big fan of Stormy Daniels. I like her as a director. I don't think you can be a good director unless you're a good actor. In porn, even more so, because you have to know how to speak that language. In her performances, there's a kind of irony, like she's in on some weird sick joke the whole time. She's so intelligent. She reminds me of Nina Hartley: Somebody who treats this business with a lot of respect, who's in it for the long haul. Her level of commitment impresses me, and her sense of humor. She looks like that girl we could never get — but maybe. And she lets that 'maybe' stay alive. I'm just a fan of hers."

Wicked girl Kaylani Lei also impressed Stanley.

"What I like about Kaylani Lei is that she seems really innocent. She's like your girlfriend's roommate in college that you want to fuck. You're surprised at how smart she is, and that you can have conversations with her, and when you get to know her you want to fuck her even more. She's probably the easiest person to work with. Never complains and will do anything."

Stanley isn't just a fan of Lei's acting ability, though.

"Her sex scenes are surprisingly good; she's really intense. The best thing I've done with her is a new movie called 'The Rise,' where she plays the maitre'd in heaven, then she has to flip it around and play what she was before she died, which is this heroin- junkie subway prostitute. And playing the heaven bits like it was an office job, helping people sort through their lives. I never gave her a part where she had to play a dual role, and she pulled it off."

And when Stanley is preparing a comedy, he has another Wicked contract performer in mind.

"Kirsten Price is far and away the best comedian. If I have something that I really want to make it pop, really make it funny, really make it bright, she's who I go to. I don't go to her with things that are dark and murky, because she's overflowing with positive energy. It makes you feel good to be around her, and that comes across in her performances. It's a star quality. In mainstream, she'd be playing Cameron Diaz's best friend. She gets better as time goes on. She's studied Shakespeare and acting. In my new movie 'Mouth' she gives a hilarious performance. Nobody makes me laugh on a set more than her. She's one of those people you can't take your eyes off. A star."

Director Roy Karch has been writing and directing films and videos since the 1970s. After some contemplation in his study — which is lined with VHS tapes and DVDs of his projects — he spoke about his Top 5, which ballooned to a Top 10 before he was finished.

"There's porn girls and [then] there's porn actresses, and some girls cannot be hired for lines. They'll tell you: 'I don't do lines, I'm not interested, I just want in and out.' Sometimes they're afraid of it, sometimes they just don't want to be there all day," Karch said. "I like to take the gonzo girls — because they're wild sexually — and try to give them lines to do.

"My whole thing was trying to get the cable deal with scripted features, and you had to have the right people doing it. When I'm writing a script, I try to make the lead as subdued as I can, and buffer them with supporting actors," Karch said. "A lot of people have become a repertory company for me. I had my go-to girls: one had to be the great actress and one had to be the great-sex girl. It was perfect when it was the same girl. The key thing was that they care about the story. If the story wasn't there, they weren't interested. I write everything I do, so if I can cast before I write it, I can write for the girl."

Karch then enumerated his favorites.

"Shayla LaVeaux: always great, always in character. She cared about the project. She would always want a script. She had fans who cared, and she cared how her fans reacted to her shows, so it needed to be the right script and a part she could get into. She always wanted to know what was the project, when do you need me, tell me about the girl.

"Sharon Kane just was a pro. Anything you gave her, she did. She's spiritual, sexual and smart. Anything you wrote, she got.

"Jeanna Fine was ready to work. Give her the script, she'd work the script. In all of her movies, she would pull something out from deep inside her. She was smart. She understood what I wanted to do with little prompting.

"Nicole Sheridan: Very strong as an actress. It's about caring for the part, it's about not wanting to do a half-assed job. A lot of people say, 'I'll get the script that day? Great.' The actresses say, 'I'll get the script that day? That's not going to work.' They really want to prepare. For 'Insertz,' [a recent Karch video that was a variation on the 1974 mainstream film "Inserts"] she and Voodoo went out and got a copy of the original film so that they could get the beats. That was about two weeks before.

"Anna Malle was great for me. If you wrote her as the wild child/swinging lifestyle sort of girl, she was fabulous. She knew that scene. You really want to fit them with what they know."

Karch then added another to his Top 5:

"Asia Carrera was a great actress for our movies. She understood it, and got into it. She took parts that meant something to her. Always well prepared, always wanted to be seen in the best presentation for the part. When Asia wasn't on camera, she would put on her jeans and grip. She would be moving lights. I have behind-the-scenes of Asia Carrera working her tail off. 'You don't need me for two hours? I'll work.' That makes her a good actress too, because she understands the other side. That light is rigged here for a reason.

Karch also mentioned several other performers with acting skills.

"Jill Kelly wanted lines. She wanted to do lines. Inari Vachs was good. Gloria Leonard — I never worked with her, but I watched footage of her for the Los Angeles Erotic Film Festival — and she might be the best actress of all of them. She's a serious actress. In that era they all were actresses. Marilyn Chambers was a good actress."

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