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How Watching Porn Helped Red Rocket Star Bree Elrod Prepare For Her Role



(Image credit: A24)

Pornography isn’t something that’s often tackled in dramatic fiction, but writer/director Sean Baker does just that with his new feature, Red Rocket. The film isn’t necessarily about the porn industry, per se; it’s more so about washed-up porn stars as they attempt to return to normal lives in their small, Texas hometown. Regardless, there was one rather helpful component for Bree Elrod when it came to researching such a character: watching porn. 

Bree Elrod is primarily a stage actress who has had a few minor roles in film and television, until now. She’s brilliant as Lexi in Red Rocket, a former porn star being taken advantage of by her estranged husband. When we asked Elrod how she prepared for such a role, she told us this:

You know, so I did a little bit of research. We didn’t have a ton of time, but I watched some porn documentaries, I watched porn. I watched The Soft White Underbelly, which is an amazing series on YouTube, where a man interviews people in L.A.’s Skid Row community who are addicts, sex workers, people who are struggling to make ends meet. I really just kind of wanted to get everything that I could.

It certainly makes sense that she would do a deep dive into the lives of sex workers, and more significantly, people who are struggling to survive. When we meet her character Lexi she’s no longer in porn, but Lexi and her mother can hardly manage to afford food and rent. This makes them easy targets for Simon Rex’s Mikey, Lexi’s husband, and notorious “suitcase pimp.” This is a term used in the porn industry to explain a man who lives off of female talent by taking advantage of them.

Sean Baker is known for tackling these seldom-discussed communities existing in the shadows of corporate America. You may have seen his 2017 film, The Florida Project, which addresses similar issues like sex work and poverty. Likewise, the porn industry played a prominent role in his 2012 film Starlet, which is actually when the character of Mikey is first introduced. When we asked Sean Baker why he thinks the topic of porn keeps coming up in his work, he said this:

I hate the hypocrisy in our society, the fact that we all, most of us probably look at porn, but we’re not supporting the people who are working in it. And then we apply a major, our society applies a major stigma to it. And ultimately, these people that we are essentially using for our own pleasure, even if it’s, you know, just watching their videos, we discard.

So not only was it necessary for Bree Elrod to do porn research in order to get into character for the movie, it was also a helpful tool in understanding Sean Baker’s work as a whole. He’s one of those writer/directors who has a very specific tone, with an emphasis on extreme realism. Without proper research, it would be difficult to understand what he needs from an actor. You can see Red Rocket in theaters right now. As for what releases are to come for the rest of the year and beyond, we’ve got you covered.

Jeff is a film buff who is ridden with gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he enjoys feeding his addiction to buying furniture on Amazon.

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