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Sasha Grey is a beautiful, 21-year-old actress from California with a quick wit, a beguiling smirk-smile and dramatically arched, dark eyebrows that would make Brooke Shields bilious with envy. Grey is also the star of Steven Soderbergh's new indie-style drama The Girlfriend Experience .

By most standards, Grey is no different from the dozens of bright young starlets currently lighting up the heavens, except for one interesting detail - before her turn as Soderbergh's muse, Grey starred in more than 50 adult films, films with raunchy titles I would dearly love to print but dare not, lest I scald your innocent eyeballs.

Her leap from XXX cinema to near-mainstream film has made Grey a media sensation in the United States, where the boundaries between porn and so-called "legitimate" entertainment are still rigidly enforced. Grey, however, is taking the long view on her career shift, and seems more amused than offended by all the faux shock.

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Has Steven Soderbergh inadvertently created the first postmodern porn star?

As far as I'm concerned, a performance is a performance - why is the media so fixated on your alleged "transition" from porn to another form of acting?

Because it's a built-in controversy! So, I think, you know, when you have somebody - whether it be an adult film star or a musician - who is very open about what they do, it's very easy for people to love and hate.

Are you finding this is true all over the world, or just in the United States?

Ahhh … I hate to knock my own people, but I was just in Australia and for the most part it didn't really seem to affect the way the people viewed the film over there. I thought that was interesting.

On to the film itself - The Girlfriend Experience is a very under-scripted film where much is left unsaid. How did you create the character of Chelsea [an upmarket call girl in NYC]based on such a minimal text?

Oh, wow … well, the first time I met Steven, I went home and I Googled "escorting," trying to look up the business and the women. But unless you want to hire one of these girls, it's really hard to find any information. You have to kind of know where to look. So, Steven and I kept in contact - we first spoke in 2006 or 2007 - and through that time I asked him if he wanted me to watch any other films, and first he said no, and then he came back to me and said, "Watch Pierrot le fou ."

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Then, when we went into pre-production, about two months before the film started, I kept a really detailed journal and condensed that, took it to Steven, and said, "Here's my character's back story, since I don't have a lot of information. Does it fit into the mould of what you're thinking?" And he said, "Yeah, that's fine." He and I also met with two escorts, and the casting director also sent me an anonymously written escorting blog, which was really fascinating - so I took all of those things and used those.

He didn't ask you to watch Pretty Woman ?

Oh, no! Ha! He told me: "Don't watch any other movies on prostitution."

Your character, Chelsea, struck me as an empty person. How does one make a film with a hollow, disconnected character at its centre?

You know, I don't think the film is just about that. I think it's about many things, obviously, but there's a lot of internalization from my part, because there's a lot of work I did - all the actor mumbo jumbo you've heard before - a lot of work I did, and internalized, that I tried to bring to the character. One of the women I met, an escort, was really paranoid, and seemed always very guarded, so I kind of took that characteristic from her and I used that.

And the other half, honestly, I have to say, it was like a shell game - because Steven didn't want us to have a lot of information, he wanted to keep us on our toes. That was part of the way he shot the film. There were some days where I really felt on, and there were other days where I felt I had no clue where the film was going. But, I trust it!

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The film shows us a New York where everything and everybody is for sale. Did you relate to that? Do you feel that you are for sale?

Oh, of course! I got into the adult film industry and I told people, openly, I'm a commodity and I'm willing to fulfill everybody's fantasies. I make no bones about it. In the same vein, I have an artistic approach to what I do, because I do believe that art and commerce go together.

But at the same time, everybody's so concerned about hiding the fact that they are selling something, because they feel that they'll be condemned for it. And, if you have a woman saying, "Yes, I'm selling sex," she's condemned for it. But if you have a man, like Hugh Hefner - and I have no problem with the man - he's glorified for it.

The Girlfriend Experience is a very intriguing film, but is America ready for you as its star?

Um … I think we're moving forward, and we're progressing, but the economy is crap … By Steven choosing me to be in the film, he's created an entire audience of people who would normally not see a film like this. I'm sure a lot of my fans, half of them, would never see a film like this. I do have a very, very diverse fan base. That alone will bring in a new audience to embrace this type of film, and then you do have to have the art-house crowd too.

Art-house directors would kill for a piece of the adult-film audience!

Yeah, it's definitely an interesting time.

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