The porn star goes legit with this new teen sex comedy produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, on DVD January 18
In the world of Adult Entertainment, Sunny Leone is an institution unto herself. She has her own production company, and is a franchise name. Like fellow actresses Traci Lords and Jenna Jameson before her, Sunny is also attempting to take her fame into the mainstream, starting with the late summer comedy The Virginity Hit. Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Leone plays herself in this tale of a young man attempting to lose his virginity while his stepbrother chronicles the entire escapade on Youtube. We recently caught up with Sunny to chat with her about the movie, its DVD release on January 18th, and her ever-expanding career in general.
Here is our conversation:
The Virginity Hit is very much in-line with The Last American Virgin and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Teens and sex certainly haven't changed over the years, but they way the movie is put together is a little bit different...
Sunny Leone: The scene hasn't changed. Of course not. Teens are always trying to get laid. There is a shift in how it was shot. Directors Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland wanted to build something that was different from those other 'teens trying to get laid' movies. They wanted to create something new.
We first see you entering the film via the Penthouse Club in New Orleans. And one of the characters gets in trouble for videotaping you in the club. How exactly were those scenes shot? You obviously knew that they were shooting you on stage, but did the bouncers all know what was going on?
Sunny Leone: We had all-access to the club. Which was nice of Penthouse to do. I am a former Penthouse model, and a Penthouse Pet of the Year. They welcomed us with open arms. New Orleans was an amazing place to shoot. I was only there for five days. But the boys, and the whole crew, were there for a lot longer. They basically took over the whole city.
You've done special appearances, such as we see you doing at the Penthouse Club in this movie, many times throughout your career. It seems like videotaping in those clubs would be quite frowned upon. What has been your general experience with that?
Sunny Leone: It is frowned upon. What happens in real life is that you get your camera taken away. Well, it depends on how the bouncer feels. You either get your camera taken away, or you get yelled at. Or you will get asked politely to put it away and deleted the photo that you took. Or, they might get really angry and rough house you a little bit. You will get kicked out of the club. It all depends on the place. It is different every time. There is no way that any club would allow you to keep shooting with your camera. That violates the privacy of the girls that are dancing. And the men who are there for real, at the strip club, having fun.
How did you get approached to be in this film? And did you initially see it as a good transition from the world of porn? It does set you up and let people know who you are as a performer in the world of porn, but it also opens things up for you as an actress...
Sunny Leone: Sure. They contacted me and set up a Skype interview. When they wanted to talk to me about the movie, they weren't asking me for a regular audition. Their interview with me was about getting to know me. And learning more about my personality. Once they understood where I was coming from, and they found out I was with somebody, the interview turned into them interviewing myself and Dirty, who is in the movie. He plays my boyfriend, and he is my husband in real life. His real name is Daniel Weber. I am still friends with the directors. They are here in town. We might all hang out. It all ended up being about more than just appearing in the movie.
Daniel has one of the funniest lines in the movie. And that whole scene where we meet him on the bus is quite awkward. Yet, we see the main kid go in the back of the bus with you anyway. How much improve went into shooting that scene, and how did you decide how much the audience would actually see between you and the kid?
Sunny Leone: We had a general script. They also captured a lot on their own with the camera. Once you see me and Matt Bennett go to the back of the bus, none of that was scripted. They just shot them being goofy. Whatever came out of Daniel in those moments is what they used.
Have you ever had teens come up to you, looking and hoping that you'll be there first? Or is this purely fantasy, as set up for this movie?
Sunny Leone: No. Nearly every single day something like that happens. Whether it's in an email, or the other day I was on a radio show. This guy from India thought, "Hey, maybe if I talk to her I'll end up getting to be with her." It happens on a regular basis. And everyone gets the same answer. Which is, "No!"
Is it odd for you to have those interactions? You must have fans similar to what we see in this movie...
Sunny Leone: Most of my fans, I have to say, are really respectful. When you are dealing with the sex industry, you are going to have to deal with someone's emotions. That's just what sex is. No matter what people say, or what girls say, sex is something that appeals to everyone's emotions. And in relating with a fan, or whoever is watching it, they are approaching the material at a very intimate level. When you hit that emotion while they are watching the movie, they will think, "Maybe she will like me." Or if it's a live club show, they'll say, "Wow, you're amazing." Most of these guys want to hear that someone likes them back, and that someone is paying attention to them. And that's it. They are really respectful fans. If it ever gets creepy or weird, I just brush it off. Its good. They may all ask the same question, and they will all get the same answer. But, I make those interactions possible, because I know that it takes a lot of courage for these guys to come up and have a conversation with a pretty girl. I try to make them feel good.
Once you reach a certain age, and you hit your mid-twenties, and you've lost your virginity, these types of movies just don't resonate as strongly as they do with a teenager who may be going through some of the same trials and tribulations as we see in the Virginity Hit. Was there anything beyond the initial concept of the story that appealed to your sensibilities?
Sunny Leone: You know what? I take in everything as well as I can. Yes, this is a story about young kids. And I am not that young. But these kids were all sweet, and a lot of fun. We met up the next day, and everyone got along. For me, watching the movie was about watching the kids. Some of them had done stuff in the past, or they were moving onto bigger projects in the future. But at that moment, this was really exciting for them. And it became really exciting for me, too. I haven't done a movie on this scale ever. For me, I read the script and I thought it was really funny. I thought it was cute, the way that it was written. The actors seemed nice. Even though they were young, I had so much fun with them. Being able to be with the kids on set, you are also with the crew, and you move past thinking, "Oh, this is just a movie for kids." You watch it, but you are watching your friends. If this was filled with other people, and these were someone other than my friends, I might feel different about the movie. But when you are watching your friends on the TV screen, you are truly excited about it.
Shooting in this cinema-verite style really changes the way an actor approaches his or her craft. They have to be more naturalistic and in the moment. The reality is less heightened...
Sunny Leone: I think this is a very interesting way of shooting. Especially if you look at how the Internet is working into that at the moment. It's all about Social Networking, and getting your Youtube clips noticed. You are getting all of your thoughts out there, on video. This concept isn't too new. But the people are now out there downloading your life. This is already going on. You are shooting this way. Its not really being done by Hollywood, but it is being done by the regular consumer. Its everyday life. Yesterday, I made a Youtube video of me saying Happy Valentine's Day. Or Merry Christmas. This goes out to all my fans. This is how these guy were shooting. This movie was shot from their point of view. And this is how millions of people are doing it every single day. There are millions of video being uploaded every minute of every day.
Acting is becoming a little bit antiquated with the techniques we see being utilized by the old school set of actors. And these up and coming actors, such as we see in this film, are acquiring a whole new skill set that isn't available to those who have been in front of the camera for such a long time.
Sunny Leone: Right. Those actors who have never done this style of shooting are probably very well off. Adjusting probably won't be too hard for them once someone says, "Here, I will give you millions of dollars. You just have to hold this camera and do it all yourself." You can take someone like Ashton Kutcher, and he is doing something like Punk'd. He tricks people into doing things, and it becomes a reality type of TV show. I think shooting in this style was an amazing way to make this movie. It turned out very good. I think there is going to be a huge cult following, with these boys and their lives, because it was made to be so real.
The Virginity Hit came out in a few theaters, but here on DVD is where its really going to hit home and gain an audience. I could see it being remembered twenty-five years from now.
Sunny Leone: Yes. I think people will look back at all the kids and say, "Wow!" Well, hopefully. Hopefully they're not all doing drugs. And they are going to school and staying in school. But there is a basic concept here that I am sure kids will gravitate towards and relate too.
Have you had a chance to talk to Will Ferrell and Adam McKay? Is there any chance you will be working for them again in the near future?
Sunny Leone: Hopefully I will. I hope they will utilize having someone from the adult entertainment industry in their upcoming movies. I met them at one of the premieres. I am going to be shooting an upcoming short for Funny or Die. I'll do that next week. Maybe that's their way of reaching out. Hopefully!
Looking at some of the other girls who started in porn, and then made a name for themselves in the mainstream like Jenna Jameson and Traci Lords, have you followed their progression in maintaining that availability in both worlds of the entertainment industry?
Sunny Leone: I don't necessarily like to say that I am following someone. But you can't escape what is going on in this industry. Whenever anyone is in something that is mainstream, everyone knows about it. Even though Porn is one of the largest industries in the world, it is still very small. My plan? I don't really have one when it comes to the mainstream. If it falls into place, I'd love it. Its something I see myself doing. I also have to keep in mind that I have a business. I have a production company that I am running. We make two or three movies a month that don't have me in them. Its not like I need an exit plan at this moment. The plan is already in place, in terms of me being behind the camera, shooting. I only appear in one or two movies a year. That is nothing compared to what other girls shoot. They might shoot one to three movies a week. Or, they could shoot three movies over the course of two days. My plan was always to do the supply and demand. Not to shoot a lot, and to only shoot for one company. And keep everything I have under one house. If you see me shooting for another company, there was a lot more involved than just, "Hey, can you do a scene? And we'll give you x amount of money for it." It doesn't work that way. None of my career was planned out. I just did it this way based on business techniques and things I learned in school. Everything I do is all about creating a business under the name that I have created. Which is how the directors of this even found me.
What about Daniel? He is such a natural in The Virginity Hit. Did he get the acting bug after appearing in this movie?
Sunny Leone: He actually likes staying behind the camera. He likes shooting, and directing, and producing the films. One of the last movies I released in ddult entertainment was a huge acting movie for us. It has been doing very, very well. I think both of us enjoy actually shooting. I love being in front of the camera, and he loves being behind it. So that works out very well when we go to shoot a movie.