Observations: Steven Soderbergh on the high cost of intimacy

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The Independent Culture

My new film The Girlfriend Experience is about a high-class Manhattan escort named Chelsea, who sells intimacy as well as sex. The whole thing that drew me to that world... basically, there was an incredibly steep surcharge for kissing.

That's really what it came down to and that fascinated me. Just for that! For people who are sex workers, it's an acknowledgement that that is a more intimate act than fucking. I was really fascinated by that. So then you have this girl who goes, "Well, I'm willing to go there, as it means I get $2,000 an hour instead of $500."

I shot the film in 16 days, much in the way I did for my 2005 film Bubble. It's an expansion of this methodology that we started on that. I was hiring real people to play variations on themselves. To play Chelsea, I cast real-life porn star Sasha Grey. I read about her in Los Angeles magazine. When I met her, I thought, "I want to build this around her." The thing that I liked about Sasha is that she doesn't fit the mould. She's not damaged. She didn't come from a broken home. She wasn't abused. She's not a drug addict. She looks at this as a business, a job.

A lot of people have compared the film to my debut, sex, lies, and videotape. To me, they're not connected by sex, but as character pieces. For me, it's a better version of that. I see it as a progression. If you put a gun to my head, I'd rather watch GFE than sex, lies... That's not to denigrate sex, lies... People like that movie. But if during sex, lies... you said, "In 20 years from now, you'd make this", I would go, "Oh, that's good news."

'The Girlfriend Experience' opens 4 December