From panda porn to Lindsay Lohan, tweenthrob adult star James Deen redefines crossover.
SEX "I was basically wearing a wet sock full of sweat," porn crossover star of the year James Deen tells me. "There was hair everywhere, I was pulling hair out of the girl's mouth."
Perhaps another interviewer would not have led with questions about Deen's recent involvement in an offbeat Kink.com panda gang bang production. Hey, this isn't TMZ. And who doesn't already know the standard gossip about the 26-year old, who has shot porn nearly every day of his life since turning 18?
(Just in case:) This year, Deen became the youngest performer ever to take home the industry's vaunted AVN Award for Best Male Performer. He recently landed a starring role alongside Lindsay Lohan in a new, non-porn feature film penned by Brett Easton Ellis and directed by Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, and Raging Bull.
Anyone remotely familiar with the Deen canon knows about the Deenagers, the actor's legions of underage fans who fill Tumblr with odes to his dick and smile. These superfans were immortalized in epic fashion by an ABC Nightline segment which host Terry Moran introduced with this warning of corruption and apocalypse: "For any parent concerned about what their teen does online, the huge popularity of the young man you are about to meet may be deeply disturbing."
But like I said, these facts have been written into public record, and dammit, I want to talk about panda porn. Because although Deen's crossover from Simpsons porn parodies (he played Moe the Bartender, and fucked Cookie Kwan) to The Lohan and Perez Hilton coverage is certainly interesting, the fact that he has also been shooting brutal BDSM porn for years says something else entirely. And he doesn't think anything of it! Perhaps this flip, blogging, boy-door-faced individual is the first real sign that BDSM porn is coming out of the closet (dungeon, steel-barred cage), and into mainstream consciousness.
In PANDAMONIUM!!! PANDA LULLABY!!! PANDA PORNO!!!!! adult star Ashli Orion is subjected to the penises of six, raping panda bears. One of these panda bears was Deen, in a furry suit with a custom-made dick hole.
"But I thought pandas were supposed to be nice!" Orion pants, surrounded by hazy pink lighting, artfully-placed bamboo shoots, and silent pandas who mostly remove their furry paws by the end of the scene because their fluffy baseball mitts turned out to be prohibitive to the nitty-gritty of sex acts.
The mini-movie could be considered the first Kink.com furry shoot — a wry twist on director Princess Donna's usual product released through Kink subsite Bound Gang Bangs.
Not all of Kink's regulars, and especially not the Bound Gang Bang enthusiasts found PANDAMONIUM!!! to their liking. User comments expressed their concern that Orion wasn't even bound. Given the limited mobility of the men in the panda suits, she had to be mobile for copulation to even be possible. "I spent a lot of time holding fur out of the shot so we could see the penetration on camera," said Princess Donna in an email interview.
"Some people think it's the best thing that ever happened, some people think it's the worst porn ever made," she continued. "That's what happens when you take risks."
But Deen says he did the panda gang bang — just like every other project he takes — less because of the viewers, or for the chance to express himself creatively, as much as the kicks. "Princess Donna said she had this idea, I said that's amazing. While it was going on, I just wanted it to end. There was hair everywhere. But the second it was done and we were all hanging out after I was like, I wanna do it again."
Deen thinks nothing of a work schedule that takes him from vanilla scenes for Digital Playground to deliberately humiliating public sex in Spain for Kink to Dallas XXX parodies.
"It's completely standard," he says in our phone interview. "For pretty much every freelance talent, you go where the call takes you." Sure, there are a few sex acts that Deen will not perform. These include sex with a person who is not into it, sex with clowns, and sex with men. He apologies to me for this last stipulation. "I'm a lame old straight boy."
And the fact that Deenagers now refer to him affectionately as Baby Panda? (At '5"8, Deen made a shorter bear than his suited Kink peers on the shoot.) No dissonance there, says Deen, who hawked T-shirts emblazoned with the nickname on his website. There was no coordinated attempt to wind up alongside Justin Beiber and Robert Pattinson on dorm room walls, he says. "I'm not Joe Camel. I'm just going out and doing my job."
Deen has minimal support staff besides his publicist. During our interview, I express my disbelief that a person that has sex for a living wouldn't be worried about getting exploited without someone to review contracts, approve press requests. Deen shrugs it off. "There's no reason to battle over everything, just be nice. You catch more bees with ants — honey, vinegar, whatever it is."
Maybe everything really is just that simple. So seems the tale of Deen's porn provenance. As a teenager, he heard Jenna Jameson tell a radio host that being in skin flicks simply took a complete lack of modesty, superhuman stamina, and an ability to ejaculate on command. He began proving he had those skills by having public sex at parties. Soon, he was on his way to 300 shoots a year, a figure that seems shocking to those unfamiliar with the standards of those unfamiliar with the grinding nature of the porn industry.
And now, Hollywood is knocking, seemingly uncourted by Deen himself. Ellis bagged him for The Canyons role by tweeting that he was interested in Deen for his low-budget, Kickstarter-funded film. (That momentous tweet mentioned the actor would have "to act and be full-frontal naked banging girls and guys realistically." Will Deen's comfort zones shift for fame?)
The two had dinner to talk about the writer's vision for the tale of disaffected 20-somethings moping around drop-dead beautiful LA locations. Ellis, Deen relates to me, has a somewhat cynical view of modern-day celebrity. "People like Charlie Sheen, his acting didn't make him famous," Deen explains. "It was because he was Charlie Sheen." As actor with next-to-no inhibitions and a famously goofy tell-all blog, Deen was perfect material for Ellis' experiment in equating stardom with sheer exposure.
And sure enough, Deen is now getting a taste of what's it's like to live life à la Sheen — or put more aptly, à la Lohan. All it took was for the two to duck out of a restaurant for a smoke break and paparazzi blew up the Interwebs with rumors they were sleeping together.
This kind of thing seems besides the point for someone like Deen, who it would appear rarely sleeps with someone without posting a picture of their distended orifice on his blog. If the LiLo rumors had been true, he wrote on his site, "I think I would tell everybody." And search engine optimize it with a shot of her boobs, one wants to add.
"I'm not surprised, because he's that type of guy," says a post-panda Orion when I contact her about Deen's recent rise in profile. "He's very charismatic and he has a look that's definitely commercial, so I'm not surprised that he would get into Hollywood, you know what I'm saying."
And for all of Nightline's tut-tutting, porn stars have been making waves in clothes-on culture for decades. Traci Lords appeared on Roseanne and Married With Children. Ron Jeremy, Nina Hartley, and Jenna Jameson have all made Hollywood features. And nowadays, even the hardcore stuff is surfacing more and more — like in Rihanna videos and 50 Shades of Grey, a 2011 novel that has become so ubiquitous that sex activists I've interviewed refuse to even say its name, so quick was it to sloppily spotlight their subculture for the viewing pleasure of soccer moms, et. al.
Switching between kink erotica and vanilla porn doesn't seem to be that unusual anymore for adult talent. "When I first started there was a more clear delineation between 'porn' models and 'BDSM' models," says Princess Donna. ("Donna is Kink.com. Without her, the company wouldn't be as successful, and that's a fact," says Deen.) "Most BDSM porn didn't have penis-in-vagina sex in it," she continues. "Now that it does, you there is a huge crossover."
Of course, there are other reasons why porn actors shift between kinds of erotica. It's because they want to get paid.
"I'm a crazy nympho," says Orion in a phone interview. "I'm down for everything and I always have been. But there's a lot of girls who are like no, I would never have sex with [that] guy, or never in my ass, no kink. And now, that's what they're doing because they have no money!" In the era of low-budget gonzo porn and the consumer's unwillingness to pay for any kind of media "You can't rely on girl-girl scenes to pop up everyday if everyone is competing for that," says Orion.
So maybe Deen is right, and he's just a guy who is riding high on porn practicalities coupled with an increased tolerance of sluttiness and bondage in pop culture today.
Where will it all lead? I ask him about his career goals to round out our chat. "I want to keep myself in a constant state of smiles," he says. "I like to smile. I am currently smiling."
Doing what, pray tell? He has the day off from The Canyons' hectic shooting schedule that's had him sleeping in odd, daytime spurts. What does James Deen do when he gets a moment to spare? Oh, you know. "I'm shooting some porno," he says.