‘Girlfriend Experience’ Unnerved Sasha Grey More Than Adult-Film Debut

'I was probably more intimidated working with Steven,' porn star-turned-dramatic actress says of director Steven Soderbergh.

Sasha Grey joined the adult-film industry shortly after her 18th birthday in 2006. About a year later, she was cast as the lead in a film by one of the most respected mainstream directors working today.

The story of how the now-21-year-old Grey went from a porn actress to the star of Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience” began with a MySpace message from screenwriter Brian Koppelman. A meeting with Soderbergh followed, and he quickly offered her the part of Christine, a professional escort who provides her unique services for $2,000 an hour.

By the time filming began last year, Grey had years of adult-film work under her belt, but that experience didn’t make working with the Oscar-winning Soderbergh any easier. “I was probably more intimidated working with Steven, because going into adult [film], I had prepared for seven months,” Grey told MTV News. “I got [to my first sex scene], and I was only nervous waiting around. Then once the scene started, I was fine. But working for Steven — it’s like, ’Am I doing this right? Should I have done this differently?’ ”

There were many questions to ask, because the script was essentially an outline. Actors were encouraged to interpret their characters freely and improvise with one another. In this respect, Grey, who studied acting from the age of 12, was well-prepared. “I know Steven wanted to bring my confidence as a sexual young woman to the table,” she said. “When I go into adult scenes, I sometimes write my own dialogue for the sex scenes just because some people show up, and they’re so used to a certain routine, and I want to break people out of that and mess with them a little bit and get natural reactions,” she said.

Though she and Soderbergh never discussed the issue of sex during their initial meeting, Grey assumed she’d be required to have sex in character during the film. After all, by her own admission, porn stars are almost only cast as themselves in mainstream movies. But when it came time to shoot the film, Soderbergh revealed that she wouldn’t be asked to have sex on camera.

Instead, Soderbergh focused on the drama surrounding the life of a Manhattan call girl: how she markets herself and peppers clients for investment advice, how she glides through luxurious restaurants and four-star hotels, how her relationship with her personal-trainer boyfriend suffers because of her sex-for-hire career.

On this last point, Grey revealed with a smile that she did not have any personal experience to bring to her improvisatory scenes. “I’m lucky enough to have somebody in my life that really, really supports what I do,” she said.

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Girlfriend Experience.”

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.