PLAYBOY: Your Lolita-inspired photo shoot in our December issue is stunning, and Richard Kern is a master, but you're a creative person yourself. When you’re starring in someone else’s work does it make you itch to be calling the shots yourself?
GREY: It definitely does. This shoot was Richard's, but it’s a great challenge when you arrive to a set to do something you don’t normally do. They put me in clothes and hair and makeup that I probably would never wear, but it’s fun because you’re playing. Lately I’ve been getting my creative kicks shooting a lot of my own stuff. I’ll think of set designs and we’ll build them, sometimes something I thought of the night before. It’s fun to be able to do that and not feel constrained.
PLAYBOY: How does a Playboy shoot compare to a porn shoot?
GREY: With Playboy you get better hair and makeup. It was a nice change to be using people from the fashion world for that. But really in terms of photography and video, I think the adult industry is further behind than it ever has been. Stylistically we’re in a real rut. We still paint girl’s faces with too much blush and too much foundation and tease their hair and everybody has to overexpose every photo they take and it all looks the same. You could take pictures of me and replace my head with another girl’s and people would never know. There’s a lack of creativity and personal touch. And nobody wants to challenge that idea.
PLAYBOY: But porn is a market-driven industry, no? Isn't the adult industry just giving people what sells? Is the rut due to uncreative producers or uncreative consumers?
GREY: I don’t think people always know what they want until it’s given to them. I just create stuff that I would want to see. And I’m trying to get to a point where the only person I’m working for is myself. That’s why I started my own company. We’ve finished several movies now. The fifth is my favorite. It's called Cold, Black Water and comes out in November.
PLAYBOY: In the past you've described your work as performance art. Do you consider what you do pornography?
GREY: It's both. And it depends on how you define pornography.
PLAYBOY: Do you have a personal definition?
GREY: I think 80 percent of what we see on television is pornographic. And this is the same thing that Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner were talking about when they started out. We’re in wars and we watch people get killed and there are video clips of people being beheaded on the Internet, but we laugh and joke about that. At the same time we’re still so sexually repressed. But somehow the violence is more acceptable. People complain about adult film, but I’m much more worried about people becoming numb to violence than numb to sex.
PLAYBOY: But how do you define pornography?
GREY: I don’t. It’s not something I care to define.
PLAYBOY: In that case, why not define your work purely as art?
GREY: Because some of it's porn. And I don’t think that’s a negative. It’s like junk food. We all need a little McDonald's once in a while. It’s cheap and easy and available and it might not be the best, but it gets the job done.
PLAYBOY: You’re starting to direct your own stuff. Which directors have influenced you most?
GREY: Catherine Breillat and Gerard Damiano. Damiano didn’t care about money, he didn’t care about anything, he just wanted to make art films with sex. And he made Deep Throat, one of the most famous porn movies in the world. I also love Goddard, [John] Cassavetes and Michael Mann.
PLAYBOY: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
GREY: Yes and no. I feel like the term “feminist” has become so watered down that it's almost become meaningless.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel like there are parts of the industry that are demeaning to women?
GREY: Yes, but it primarily has to do with the business side of the equation. The days of “I was pressured into doing this” and so forth, those horror stories aren't such a big problem anymore. There are always going to be damaged people and problem areas, but that’s not the entire industry. I think people are more manipulated financially. Sure women get paid more than men as performers, but men control the entire back end. And most of the time performers don't get residuals. It's a day rate and that's it.
PLAYBOY: You’ve gone the route of starting your own company. Is that the answer to the financial manipulation?
GREY: It’s either that or start a union and I don’t see that happening any time soon.
PLAYBOY: Do you have ambitions outside the adult industry?
GREY: Well my book comes out in December. It's photo-heavy, but there's a decent amount of text in there by me. I didn't want it to be just, “this photo is from this day on this set” because that gets boring real quick. So it’s more about my sex philosophy.
PLAYBOY: What is your sex philosophy?
GREY: Well if I tell you now you won’t buy my book!
PLAYBOY: You seem like a different kind of porn star than people are used to.
GREY: I'd like to believe that I evoke a different idea of what an adult star is supposed to be. I think society is often uneasy with young women who present both their sexuality and intellect. In one respect I am happy to have the ability to shine a positive light on our sexual freedom, but most female celebrities who are considered sex symbols aren't thought of as strong individuals intellectually. Men like Matt Damon and George Clooney are thought of as both. I would like to see that shift.