Take Two for April 22, 2013

PHOTOS: Porn star James Deen becomes an industry advocate amid growing fame

James Deen

Josie Huang/KPCC

Adult film star James Deen poses with students at Pasadena City College, where he took classes as a teen.

Adult film actor James Deen makes his way to the set of the film Saving Humanity. Deen works long hours to keep up with a rising career and often shoots two scenes a day.

01 - James Deen Feature

Grant Slater/KPCC

Adult film actress Celeste Star holds a prop gun to James Deen's head on the set of the film Saving Humanity at a studio in Chatsworth, Calif.

02 - James Deen Feature

Grant Slater/KPCC

A part of the cast of AMKingdom's Saving Humanity prepares to film a science fiction scene at a soundstage in Chatsworth.

03 - James Deen Feature

Grant Slater/KPCC

An actress reviews her script for the full-length adult feature Saving Humanity. The studio behind the film wants to make more high-brow content.

04 - James Deen Feature

Grant Slater/KPCC

Adult film actor James Deen walks through a film set in The San Fernando Valley. Deen is trying to make the jump from adult films to more mainstream success.

05 - James Deen Feature

Grant Slater/KPCC

Adult film actresses Riley Reid and Andy San Dimas go through hair and makeup before being called to the set of Saving Humanity.

06 - James Deen Feature

Grant Slater/KPCC

Health guidelines for adult film productions adorn the wall at a studio in the San Fernando Valley.


Among the most vocal opponents of mandating condoms on adult film sets has been porn star James Deen. He's one of the industry's biggest names and he may also be the unlikeliest: A slightly-built young man who's the son of engineers, known not for his physique but for his boy-next-door persona. KPCC's Josie Huang visited Deen on set to learn what's behind his growing fame. 

Blinding sun bakes the San Fernando Valley, but it's dark inside a low-slung studio, where a crew is shooting an adult film. A science fiction adult film, to be exact, called "Saving Humanity."

James Deen rehearses his role as an villainous president of the future. He leans back in his chair to dress down a minion who failed her mission.

"I think you've had your chance," Deen sneers. 

In an industry where women get top billing, Deen is the rare male performer known by name.

At 27, Deen has turned out hundreds of adult films. Won multiple industry awards.

 "I love the free expression of sexual ideas," he says. He quickly adds, "really it could be as simple as I like having sex." 

Deen says he's been plotting out a career in adult entertainment since he first came across a porn magazine as a young boy. 

The younger child of divorced engineers, Deen was known then as Bryan Sevilla, his real name, and grew up in the northern suburbs of Los Angeles.  As a teen, he had a bar mitzvah, caroused with other skateboarders in spots around Pasadena, took some classes at Pasadena City College. 

But the endgame was always porn. He says he even told his parents about it. "At first they didn't really believe me. Then they were like, 'oh, you're telling the truth,'" he says. 

He read up on how to get into the business, and by 18, had booked his first gig.

The Boy Next Door

Nine years later, fans build digital shrines to him on Tumblr and snatch up James Deen hoodies at his online store. More than 100,000 people follow him on Twitter

Twenty-four-year-old college student Alexandra Tunks is a Deen fan. She says women are increasingly open about consuming porn and voicing what they do or don't like about it. 

"On videos, it's predominantly sort of an unattractive guy, the guy that the male viewer imagines, oh that's me," Tunks says. 

Kind of like a Ron Jeremy, she says, referring to the rotund porn star. In contrast, Deen is about  5'8", slim, with blue eyes and curly brown hair. Handsome, Tunks, but, "not in that Brad Pitt, oh my God, you're like a statue, I can never find someone like that," she says. 

Deen's popularity has spawned write-ups in The Guardian and GQ. It's perhaps no surprise that a porn star is getting mainstream attention. The lines between celebrity and pornography are blurring; Kim Kardashian only became more famous after her sex tape came out.

But not everyone is enamored of Deen. Porn remains a hot-button issue and some are alarmed by Deen's teenage fan base. 

In a report called "Porn star next door: The young man that your teenage girl maybe secretly watching," Nightline detailed how the Internet had given minors access to Deen's work on websites like "Kink" and "Sex and Submission." 

Going Condom-less

Deen has also sparked controversy among safe sex advocates. Last year, Deen campaigned against a law that requires condoms on porn shoots in Los Angeles County. He says it infringes on his freedom of expression.

Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation advocated for the law. He says porn executives put performers at risk for profit, and sees their decision to make Deen a spokesman as a very calculated move. 

"It's like PR 101," Weinstein says. "Would you rather put Ron Jeremy out there or James Deen? I mean, James Deen looks like the boy next door."

Since the law passed in November, Deen says he has continued to go condom-less on film shoots. He stresses that he and other performers get tested for sexually-transmitted diseases. He gets checked out every 14 days. 

Deen makes it a point to speak publicly about the industry in between film shoots. He's an in-demand guest at college campuses, appearing in recent months at Pasadena City College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Life after "The Canyons" 

Irrespective of what you think of him, Deen isn't going away. In fact, his profile has gotten a boost by a movie he's made outside of adult film. 

"The Canyons," is a psychosexual thriller written by "American Psycho" scribe Bret Easton Ellis and directed by Paul Schraeder of "Taxi Driver" fame. The film won't be released by IFC Films until the summer in the US, but it's already achieved notoriety because of the casting of Deen, and the volatile starlet, Lindsay Lohan.

 

 

Deen says he only made the Canyons because he respects the moviemakers involved, and that he's not interested in crossing over into the mainstream like other porn stars have tried.

After what will turn out to be a 12-hour shoot on "Saving Humanity," Deen will head to a different porn set the next day. He's booked straight through the month, which is how he likes it.

"Even if things change for me, I don't want it to affect me," Deen says. "I like me. I want to stay me."

That means working in porn for decades to come, he says, or for as long as viewers can stand to watch him. 


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