Steven Soderbergh’s largely improvised film The Girlfriend Experience is about a Manhattan call girl and the many men who want a piece of her (including New York writer Mark Jacobson, who plays a version of himself). Porn star Sasha Grey, in her first mainstream film, plays the high-priced escort who lunches at Craft, shops in Soho, and listens to her wealthy johns complain about the plunging Dow.
How were you cast?
One of Soderbergh’s writers, Brian Koppelman, contacted me through MySpace. I thought it was a joke, because I get a lot of fake offers on MySpace. Then Steven left me a voice mail.
What, as they say, was your motivation?
Steven was really secretive about the character, but he wanted me to bring a natural, uninhibited quality to the film. There’s a lot of scenes where I’m improvising. I sat at home, writing a lot, figuring out who she was. I’d take my notes to Steven.
Your character keeps a journal of everything—down to the brand names of each item of clothing.
One of the escorts I met keeps in-depth records of everything she does, to better learn about her clients and analyze her date—and make sure she’s not wearing the same thing twice! I used that. For my character’s clothes, we got to pull from Michael Kors. She’s not on a street corner with a wig.
You don’t actually have sex onscreen.
When I had the first meeting I assumed I would be naked and do a sex scene. Did I think I would do five, like in my adult work? No, but even up to the point where we were shooting, I thought there was going to be at least one sex scene.
That’s usually the first thing actresses clear up in their contracts.
The contract did say that I would be nude. But one of the clauses was [laughing] “You cannot have [real] sex.” To me, that was a pretty funny legality.
I imagine you’d never seen that before?
It was pretty weird. But it was great not to have sex—that would have been too easy. If you want to see me having sex, you can do that! Not doing it shifts the focus, because a lot of clients are there for more than the sex.
The men are all obsessed with the falling stock market.
It takes place in one week of October 2008, and that’s what we were reading about while we were shooting. The market crashing brings out her natural hustler in terms of figuring out how to stay on top.
What’s your plan?
I’ve got to diversify myself. Do I want to be 35, having sex on-camera? No. I want to be sitting on a fucking porch at my beach house with my own successful company.