Hollywood stars

Red Rocket’s Simon Rex and the surprising legacy of Hollywood stars with an X-rated past

In 1993, the Horror movie Actor and former MTV VJ Simon Rex was 19 and lived day-to-day with his girlfriend and two-year-old son. Food was scarce. Rent to pay. Rex’s girlfriend once suggested that he could make a lot of money fast in porn. Rex then filmed two solo masturbation scenes for photographer Brad Posey’s Club 1821 studio and paid the couple’s bills. He hardly thought about it any more. Flash-forward 28 and Rex playing a pornstar in an acclaimed new movie, and picking up Oscar buzz. An unexpected new darling of indie filmmaking, the 47-year-old has also faced renewed interest in his own brief encounter with the porn industry. But he’s not the first actor to hit the big time with a few X-rated skeletons in their closet.

In Red rocket, the new dark and comedic film by The Florida project director Sean Baker, Rex is Mickey Saber, who returns home to Texas beaten and bruised after two decades living in Los Angeles. Rex is a revelation in the role, the actor imbuing his character with a boyish charm just enough to mask the sociopathic con artist lurking in his heart.

Back in the days when Rex was making films of a more X-rated nature, he was right in assuming that they would disappear. It was, after all, a time when pornographic films like Posey’s remained relatively underground – it would be over a decade before streaming online meant those videos were just a click away. While Rex had his worries, he was also a teenager paid to do something he loved. “It was like rock and roll, Sunset Strip, Mötley Crüe, ‘Rock out with your c *** out’,” Rex said recently. Vulture. “That stupid shit.”

Rex’s past also makes him part of an unexpected Hollywood lineage. He’s hardly the first actor – and far from the greatest A-lister – to see explicit material from his early days resurface after finding fame elsewhere. In 1949, when she was debuting as an actress, Marilyn Monroe found herself four weeks behind on rent and agreed to pose nude for photographer Tom Kelley for $ 50 (£ 37). When the photographs were published in a calendar, Monroe was only identified as “Mona”.

After the rise of the Monroe star, however, the calendar makers realized who “Mona” really was and reissued it, much to the chagrin of 20th Century Fox, who had just signed a long-term contract with Monroe. . The actor was contacted by the studio while filming in the 1953s Men prefer blondes, the film that would make her an international star. “I remember [the publicity department] called on set, “Monroe told an interviewer in 1960.” They said something like, ‘Did you ask for a calendar? I said, “Yeah, is something wrong? There was great anxiety. They said, “Well, if you did, don’t say you did! Say you didn’t! ‘ I said, ‘But I did.’ I had signed the waiver and knew I had to say it, so I said yes. They were very unhappy with it. “

It turned out that Fox didn’t have to worry. Monroe’s decision to just tell the truth and refuse to allow others to shame her for her choices neutralized the scandal before it even started. In doing so, she posed a model that other stars followed.

In 1970 Sylvester Stallone was a struggling actor when he landed his first leading role in the softcore porn movie. Party at Kitty and Stud’s. As with Monroe, the material reappeared once Stallone rose to fame. In 1978, two years later Rocky won the Oscar for best film, Party at Kitty and Stud’s has been repackaged and reissued with the title italian stallion. In an interview with Playboy that year, Stallone pointed out that prior to playing the role, he had been homeless and slept rough in New York City. “It was either making this movie or stealing someone because I was at my wit’s end,” Stallone said. “Instead of doing something desperate, I worked two days for $ 200 and walked out of the bus station.”

In 1992, around the same time Rex was filming his videos for Posey, 19-year-old Cameron Diaz found herself in a similar situation. Already established as a model, she was tired of taking catalog photos and thought fashion photographer John Rutter could help her do more interesting work. He photographed her topless in black leather and fishnet stockings, while filming the shoot.

Brenda Deiss, Simon Rex and Bree Elrod in “Red Rocket”


Eleven years later, long after Diaz had become an established star and just before the release of Charlie’s Angels: Full ThrottleRutter attempted to sell the footage and film back to him for $ 3.5 million. He also warned her that he had lined up secret buyers who would “use this against you.” Diaz took Rutter’s words as a threat, then brought him to justice. He was eventually found guilty of forgery, attempted grand theft and perjury. During the trial, Diaz made it clear that this was the blackmail attempt she opposed, rather than the footage itself. Indeed, at one point, she had even considered teaming up with Rutter to free them. “I did not consider them to be pornographic,” she said. “I didn’t consider them to be perverts. My breasts looked good … At least I had that to myself.

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When drawing lots for Red rocketRex generally gave the impression that he’d rather not talk about his past videos, even though he must have known that taking on that particular role would stir up the past. “I prefer to talk about this movie like it was 30 years ago,” he said, when asked about his work in porn by Uproxx. “I mean, we could also talk about the Exxon Valdez, or we could talk about the Iran-Contra case, but I don’t want to go back.” That said, her experiences seem to have given her some insight into Saber’s relentless restlessness, not to mention a relaxed attitude to full frontal nudity – which Baker makes full use of.

For Rex, playing the role of a pornstar like Saber was a calculated bet and one that paid off dramatically. Her fascinating performance plays on her past and her fantasies Horror movie fame, giving Saber a real and touching humanity even though we are repelled by his predatory and selfish nature. Now Rex is celebrated in Cannes, tipped for an Oscar and has already signed on to do indie Down with Zachary Quinto and comedy Mack and Rita facing Diane Keaton. How’s that for a happy ending?

“Red Rocket” is in theaters now and will be released in the UK in 2022