“Lucky Bastard” pushes the boundaries of thriller cinema into the pornography business. With an NC-17 rating, the movie looks into the scary side of the pornography business—a possible crazed maniac killer.
In a reality porn footage, a porn web site invites fans with porn stars. A young fan was given the opportunity to have sex with a famous porn star, but the cast and crew ended up with gruesome results.
The movie stars Don McManus (“The Shawshank Redemption”), Jay Paulson (“Mad Men”), Betsy Rue (“My Bloody Valentine”), Chris Wylde (“The Revenant”) and Catherine Annette (“Femme Fatales”). It is directed by Robert Nathan.
Latino-Review had an exclusive telephone interview with director Robert Nathan last week to discuss some details about the film including the actors, plot and camera work. We also got into an extensive discussion about the pornography business and MPAA ratings.
“Lucky Bastard” is currently opened in New York and Los Angeles today. It will open in more markets later this spring.
The following interview transcript is edited for length. Please read it below.
Latino-Review: Thanks for speaking with us. Are you in California right now?
Robert Nathan: I am in California. I just came back from New York. I’m here, because it’s opening in Los Angeles on March 7. So I wanted to be here for the opening just to see what kind of responses we get from the audiences.
Latino-Review: Oh, terrific. That’s a big day for you.
Robert Nathan: It was so exciting in New York to sit and watch it with an audience and then to do the Q&A session with them afterwards. I thought on whether it would be different with the Los Angeles audience. Will it be a different kind of question and answer period? Or will the audience respond differently because the Los Angeles audiences are different from New York? I don’t have an idea, but I will find out.
Latino-Review: Well, we are different people here from New York. Just out of curiosity, how was the reaction in New York?
Robert Nathan: I was prepared for the question and answer session with people asking questions and I gave answers. My partner, Lukas Kendall, and I walked to the front of the theater assuming that would be the standard kind of questions and answers session. What it turned out to be was that quite often all we had to do was answer one question and the audience would start to talk to each other.
Latino-Review: Oh, that’s a little different.
Robert Nathan: People were exchanging their feelings about the movie whether we were there or not. We were almost not relevant to what they wanted to do by talking about it amongst themselves. Hardly anybody left. Anytime there was a Q&A, almost everybody stayed. They were interested in talking with other people in the audience about their feelings on the movie. I don’t think anyone who makes a movie can ask anything more than that.
Latino-Review: Can you tell me where you got the idea for this movie?
Robert Nathan: As hard as it to believe, Lukas came over one day and said, “I just saw something on the Net that you just have to look at.” There are web sites that only this. We didn’t make this up. We didn’t invent this. There are web sites that are solely about inviting fans to have sex with adult industry film stars.
And when I watched this and Lukas said, “Watch this! Watch the guys come in. Watch them show up.” And they seem like the most ordinary people in the world. My first thought was they seem like anybody else, but would anybody else actually do this? If somebody said to me, “Would you do this?” I would say that the first part isn’t totally out of the realm of the imagination. It’s not something I would do, but I can understand the appeal. It’s the second part. Not only we’re going to let you do this, we’re going to film this and put this on the Net.
That part is what I have problems with. That part is what I wondered on who would do this?
Latino-Review: Did you look into it or research it a little bit more? I thought these web sites tend to be staged with actors?
Robert Nathan: Oh, no. These are definitely real people. There’s no question that you can tell they’re not actors. Those aren’t other people in the pornography industry. They’re actual fans who showed up to have actual sex with an actress. You can tell the minute they appear.
The research that we did that was most interesting was talking with people who work in the industry and finding out that they were even more average than you thought they were. You could’ve been talking with your next door neighbor almost. What that told us was that the entire [adult] industry had changed since we were young.
In the last ten or fifteen years, the pornography business has gone from a slightly business run by criminals in many cases to a huge corporate American business that is run by ordinary people today. When you talk to somebody in the industry, they talk about it like they’re running a division of a shoe company. It’s just another way to make a living.
One woman said, “I just need to finish by a certain time so I can pick up the kids when they get home from school.” That’s when you realize these people are different from those in the industry fifteen or twenty years ago. She was just business-like about the business as anybody else like what they do every day.
I asked her, “What took you into the pornography business?” She looked at me and said, “I can only answer that by asking ‘Where do you think a high school graduate can make over $200,000 a year?” What can you say to that? You’re right. That’s a good living and you can’t make it elsewhere.
Latino-Review: When you did your research—did you actually consulted with one of the companies and sat down to watch them shoot the scenes to have a more realistic feel?
Robert Nathan: I didn’t go to a pornography set. I felt that it was that difficult to know what it was like. I’ve been on sets all of my life. I don’t think making pornography is much different from making anything else.
People show up for work. You have a schedule on what you like to accomplish. You look at the time in the day to get that accomplished. It’s like any other business. I didn’t feel I need to actually watch it happening. I don’t think it’s that complicated.
Latino-Review: Why did you go with the NC-17 rating instead of an R-rating for the movie?
Robert Nathan: If I had my choice, then I would’ve preferred the R-rating. There was almost no way to make this movie for the MPAA to give it an R-rating. So we had to accept or deny the rating they offered. We could’ve turned the rating down. My initial instinct was to release it unrated, because it would open up to a wider audience who wouldn’t feel embarrass by going to an NC-17 movie.
Lukas convinced me that was immoral. He said, “If you release this unrated, then you’re saying that you don’t care who walked into the theater.” We don’t want young people to walk in under the age of seventeen. I said, “You’re right. We have no choice.”
We have to release it as an R or NC-17 rating. Since the MPAA gave it an NC-17 rating, we have to release it as that or else we’re simply being irresponsible.
Now why did we have the NC-17 rating is another question. Even the NY Times said, “This picture is so NOT NC-17 so we don’t understand why it has that rating.” Partly, it’s not because there’s sex and violence. The sex [in this movie] is relatively un-erotic and the violence relatively understated comparatively to most American movies.
It wasn’t just those two things that gave us the rating. It’s also the movie set about the pornography industry. It almost demands the MPAA to give it an NC-17 rating. To me, it feels like it’s inappropriate, but I understand on what the MPAA is doing.
Latino-Review: That’s interesting. I thought there were movies based on pornography businesses before, but they got R-ratings.
Robert Nathan: If we had eliminated five or six key moments, then we might conceivably cut it to an R-rating. The problem is that there are few movies about the pornography industry that shows them making the pornography. It’s usually about some other story like “Boogie Nights” for example. It’s not primarily a story about the making of pornography. It’s personal stories of those characters and pornography is mostly not in the movie.
For this movie, we wanted a documentary feel to convince the audience very early on that they were watching something real. Or else they won’t believe the rest of the movie was real. It required two or three things that the MPAA would automatically give it an NC-17 rating. It’s not just simply sexuality. It’s simulated sex that we can see more than once. Obviously, there’s no real sex, but it looks real enough to go from R to NC-17.
Latino-Review: About the camera work, you decided to do it as a found footage. It’s basically similar to many reality porn shoots from Internet sites. How did you actually handle the camera work? Did you use one of the actors most of the time as an extra camera man? And did you install cameras all over the house?
Robert Nathan: It’s actually not quite a found footage movie. It’s easy to categorize it as such, but not quite. It has part of the story the reason on why they’re shooting for their own web site. In essence, it’s a documentary. Not a real documentary, but it looks like a documentary. They are documenting themselves. This [method] makes it much more intense than telling it conventionally. So rather than telling it from the character’s view—we told it from the camera’s point of view. You’re engaging the audience in a very primitive level.
You just said something very interesting. Most people don’t notice on what you noticed. It looks like the actors are shooting the movie, because they have the cameras in their hands. You’re watching the most phenomenal feats of cinematography that a cinematographer could do. When you’re watching one of the characters shooting across to another character and the character opposite has a camera aimed at him or her—you think that he’s actually shooting that. In all instances, none of the actors are shooting it. It’s cause they’re actors. They’re not cinematographers.
Cinematographers are shooting both sides of it and making us believe that he’s not there. It’s an act of genius. [The cinematographer] had convinced you that the [actors] are shooting the picture.
There’s only one scene in the entire movie that wasn’t shot by him and that’s thirty seconds into the movie. It was shot by one of the actors, because we can see her in the mirror. The actress did actually had to shoot the scene.
So every scene is stage shot or camera-operated shot by the cinematographer. Even the cameras in the house are illusions. We talked about this house is being outfitted for reality television. The cameras you see on screen, as the security cameras and mounted wall cameras, aren’t the real cameras. Those are props. When we shooting at them, then we think they’re cameras. When shooting from them, we would take that camera down and put a real camera in its place in exactly the same angle. No security camera would give you the quality of filmmaking to match of the rest of the film in the hand held filmmaking.
Latino-Review: That certainly fooled me then.
Robert Nathan: You said, “It looks like the actors are shooting it.” Most people won’t stop to think about that. I’m not sure on how you thought about that. Most people would be into the movie so much that they won’t notice it. You noticed cause it’s something in you questioned it with “Are they really doing that?” And you’re right. They weren’t doing it. [Chuckles]
Latino-Review: Let’ talk about the cast. Since this is a pornography themed movie with an NC-17 rating. I thought why you just didn’t use actual porn actors since that’s their experience?
Robert Nathan: Unfortunately, porn actors aren’t really good actors. This is a movie with a character driven story. You would need really fine actors to make these characters really come alive. People who work in pornography aren’t trained actors. They’re really good at what they do. But, we need the best actors in the world who can convince us and emotionally hold on to us.
Latino-Review: And can you mention the names of the actual web sites?
Robert Nathan: I can mention the web site, but it makes me uncomfortable due to the language. I’ll mention it though. One of the most prominent web sites is called fuckafan.com. So you could get an inspiration from just the title of the web site. It almost makes you laugh except it’s exactly does what it said it is.
Latino-Review: Good luck I thank you for the interview.
Robert Nathan: Thank you and have a good day.
“Lucky Bastard” is already released in New York and will be opening in Los Angeles today. It will open in other markets later this year.