Sasha Grey: Out of the blue and into bed with Hollywood

Crossing over from adult films to the mainstream isn't easy – but then Sasha Grey isn't your average ex-porn star, says Luke Blackall

It is disappointing to discover that when picking the name Sasha Grey, Marina Hantzis didn't use the porn-star name-game – you know the one – combining the name of her first pet and her mother's maiden name.

Instead, she went with a combination of German industrial musician Sascha Konietzko and Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, with a hint of "shades of grey" from Alfred Kinsey's scale of sexual orientation. It was a choice, however, which reflected her uniqueness in her field.

And unlike peers such as Jewel De'Nyle or Tyra Banxxx, it is also a name that works in Hollywood, which is useful as she is one of the first to navigate the tricky crossover from the adult film world. With a part in HBO's Entourage, a lead in a Steven Soderbergh film and a prominent role in the forthcoming I Melt with You, Grey has begun to establish herself as a name to be taken seriously.

Grey, 23, has come a long way in five years, from leaving her hometown, near Sacramento in California, and heading to LA to begin her career in the world of adult films. Her ambition, she says, "was to change the stereotype and to prove that women can be independent, smart and sexual."

She quickly found success, winning several industry awards and gaining a reputation for, in her own words, "pushing things to the extreme."

Her growing popularity led to a call from Oscar-winning director Soderbergh, who cast her as a high-class escort in The Girlfriend Experience.

She continued to work in adult films, making such eyebrow-raising videos as Seinfeld: A XXX Parody and Butt Sex Bonanza. But her work on The Girlfriend Experience had caught the attention of Doug Ellin, creator of hit series Entourage, who approached her about a role in his hit TV show.

In the seventh series she played Sasha Grey, the girlfriend of the central character, film star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), an opportunity about which she says, "you can't get any better."

"Even if you are not in that industry," she says, "it is the type of show that everyone can in some way relate to." Her role in Entourage was the beginning of the end of her career in porn; earlier this year, the actress announced her retirement from the adult film world, a decision she seems ambivalent about.

"I didn't feel there was anywhere else for me to go," she says. "I was at the top of my game. I outdid my goals as a performer in that industry." To mark the end of one part of her career, she has released Neü Sex, a book of photographs of her, documenting her time in the adult film world, which she says is an exploration of "who I am".

The book veers from the sexy poses of the provocative professional to seedy shots on a grubby roadside mattress. She also seems keen to both shock and titillate. Interspersed with the photo shoots are several mini essays, which explore her views on sex and the adult industry, referencing thinkers such as Sartre and Nietzsche (a nod to her teenage nihilism), with nods to Freudian superegos and Jungian modalities, and veer from the philosophical to what seems to be sexual self-help.

Discussing Sartre's philosophy of the gaze, Grey writes: "As individuals we are what others perceive us to be. They objectify us, and in turn we objectify ourselves. What's important is how we redefine ourselves, allowing us to be free. Whether it is the cameraman, my partner, or the consumer 'gazing at me', I don't allow preconceived notions, stereotypes, judgments, or disagreements to define who I am."

While she says she has "a more optimistic outlook" now, Grey remains outside the mainstream. She is still not represented by one of the major agencies and her views have been attacked by both feminists and the right – but Grey continues to feel positive.

"American cinemas have taken an interesting turn and audiences are ready for more challenging films," she says. "There are a lot more opportunities now than a year and a half ago."

'Neü Sex' (Vice Publishing) is out now

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas