Axel Braun Reflects on 21 Years in Porn
LOS ANGELES — On the eve of his 21st anniversary in adult entertainment, Axel Braun took a rare break from shooting to answer 21 burning questions, addressing everything from his life behind the camera, his views on superhero porn and even what he may have for dinner tonight.
The 2010 XBIZ Award-winning Director of the Year at press time was in the midst of making the sequel for “This Ain’t Avatar” for Hustler Video and “X-Men XXX” and “Wolverine XXX” for Vivid Entertainment as he prepared to tackle another ambitious lineup of movies slated for 2012.
XBIZ: If you had to get a different job, what would it be?
AB: Well, I have a Ph. D. in Psychology so the obvious answer should be a shrink, but given my obsessive attention to people's hair on set, I would probably have a better career as a hairdresser. My crew calls me “The Zohan of Porn.”
What did you do with your first porn paycheck?
I bought myself a beat-up 1977 Trans-Am that made my mechanic very happy.
What did you do with your last porn paycheck?
I bought myself a much nicer car.
In December, you shot “X-Men,” “Wolverine” and “Avatar 2” in quick succession, how are you able to juggle a variety of big shows simultaneously?
With the invaluable support of the best crew in the industry. I basically surround myself with very talented people who can actually tolerate me.
You’re well known for your preparation, what is your pre-production process like for a typical feature or parody?
It starts with an idea. Usually a very challenging one, since apparently I thrive under pressure. I like to take on ambitious projects, and once I get started I live and breathe them until they’re out in stores. Each movie begins with an outline, which is basically a script minus the dialogue. With that, my PM breaks down the shooting days so we can go scout locations and get a head start on the casting process.
I'm going after a different demographic than the typical porn consumer, I'm trying to get the fans of the source material, so casting is key. As soon as the final script is ready I personally draw a storyboard, which helps with creating the look and feel of the movie. Then I meet with my costume designer, art department, and make-up artist, and convey my vision, which is typically much grander than what the budget allows.
After that, I wait for my videographer/alter ego Eli Cross to call me and tell me that this movie is impossible to make. And then we go and make it.
How do you write your screenplays, do you have a specific method or routine that works for you?
Sometimes I lock myself in trashy motel rooms for a couple of days, to escape the comfort and distractions of my home. Other times I just wake up at 4 a.m., make myself a hot chocolate, and write until 9 a.m., which is when my phone starts ringing non-stop.
“Batman XXX,” which won several Best Screenplay awards last year, was mostly written at Starbucks, during my toffee almond bar addiction days. It really depends on the movie, and it’s never something normal.
How has your approach to filmmaking evolved to where it is today?
The core of my approach is still the same: to try and make the best movie I possibly can. And then do better on the next one.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about directing?
That you can be a good director without being a complete asshole. But I just learned that last week.
Which movie from your body of work do you get the most comments/feedback about?
It’s a tie between “Batman XXX” and “Spider-Man XXX.” I think the comic book community responded very positively to the fact that I really am a fan of comics, and that I put my compulsive attention to detail to good use. And, that there’s boobs.
What’s the most challenging movie you’ve ever shot and why?
“Star Wars XXX,” by far. I could go on for hours explaining the challenges of dealing with such an enormous undertaking, but I will just sum it up with two words: Wookie Sex.
What do you like most about shooting porn?
I like the creative process, bringing an idea to life. I like editing, and polishing up the movie down to the tiniest detail. And obviously I like fixing people’s hair on set, usually in the middle of a shot.
When was the last time you were surprised by something that happened on the set and what was it?
Last week, when we had a really short day on set. But that’s because power went off at the location, and we had to leave.
Name a porn actor or actress who you think is very talented, yet vastly underrated…
Alec Knight is an incredible actor. Sadly, his acting talents are overshadowed by his huge penis. Literally.
Who do you predict will be porn’s next big star?
The era of the big porn stars officially ended with Tera Patrick’s retirement, but I would put my money on Allie Haze. Actually, I did. She plays Princess Leia in “Star Wars XXX.”
If you were to give a speech to aspiring filmmakers, what advice would you try to impart?
Stay hungry. Stay foolish. And stay out of porn, I don’t want you to steal my job.
How do you define success?
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. That’s actually a quote by Albert Schweitzer, but I’ll totally go ahead and take full credit for it.
What do you do in your “spare time?” What are your interests outside of porn?
“Spare time?” What’s that?
What’s your favorite food?
Italian, because of my heritage. And sushi, because of my infatuation with mercury poisoning.
What is your favorite city in the world and why?
Los Angeles is by far the best place to live for me, which is probably why I’ve been here for 22 years. But as far as sheer beauty, Vienna takes the crown.
Who or what inspires you?
My father, Lasse Braun, both because of his successes and his shortcomings. Steven Hirsch, a visionary genius who literally changed the adult industry. Patrick Collins, the last true pornographer on the planet. And anybody with more talent, dignity, and integrity than me. It’s a long list.
What can the industry and fans anticipate from you in 2012 and beyond?
“Star Wars XXX” is coming out in January. Then, throughout 2012, “The Avengers XXX,” “Spider-Man vs. Superman XXX,” “Iron Man XXX,” “X-Men XXX,” “Wolverine XXX,” “Thor XXX,” “The Fantastic Four XXX,” “The Dark Knight Rises XXX.” And the much-anticipated, ultra campy sequel to “Batman XXX.” See what I meant about spare time?