Marcus London entered the realm of adult entertainment a decade ago and quickly advanced from actor to director, overseeing feature films for major production companies. Six years ago, he met actor Tommy Gunn on the set of Darkside and found a kindred spirit who shared his drive and vision for creating quality adult entertainment. They launched a company, London Gunn, with the goal of developing mainstream-style movies that focus primarily on storylines and cinematography, rather than blatant, overplayed sexual content.
The company is ready to begin filming Spartacus XXX, based on the successful cable television program. London, Gunn and third partner Tony De Sergio developed the project. London wrote the script and is directing the film, and the team, along with London’s wife, actress Devon Lee, designed and crafted most of the sets and props and have starring roles.
In a very straightforward interview, Marcus London takes on the challenges of directing, why he created London Gunn, what he hopes to accomplish with the company, his priorities as a filmmaker, the possibilities of incorporating male-male scenes in Spartacus XXX, and what he detests about adult entertainment.
GT: What prompted the undertaking of this project?
ML: My friend Tony De Sergio — we all live together, Tony, Tommy, myself and my wife, Devon Lee — put me on to the show. Before that, the movie we were going to do was Expendables, which was equally difficult but not as, because things still exist with that movie, whereas with this, everything has to be created from scratch. I saw the show and was blown away. It’s a spectacular show in every way. It’s honest with the nudity and gay sex and is so true to nature in respect to what probably did go on in that era. The way it was shot and stylized, the coloring, the dialogue — it appealed to me in such a way. It wasn’t the content but the theme behind it of these guys that go into a ring and have to hack each other to death to go on with the possibility of one day being free. I thought, What a wonderful concept to bring into the adult world, with likeminded performers that have that kind of physique, that have the will and the want to be in something of a spectacular nature and try to be true to the actual project, with women without augmented breasts, as it would have been.
I decided we should have a crack at it. We watched all the shows and looked at what we could possibly do here at the location, the ranch that we live on, and started working on it. I started ordering stuff online, and then I found a prop house that was selling a lot of its props, so I went in and bought a lot of stuff — costumes, helmets, whatever. Then we decided to design our own on top of that, first, because it was cheaper, and second, because anything you buy is new, which is no good because this stuff is old and battered and has been passed on from gladiator to gladiator. So we decided to make our own because we could make it look old, and if it were new, we would have to distress and destroy half of it. Of course, I thought a number of times, Wow, this is going to be so bloody hard because of trying to find the right characters in our business that can pull off these kinds of roles, and of course the logistics of it, the fight scenes being as technical as they need to be and the type of cameras we need to use to get the look they had on Spartacus. But that’s the fun of it, the challenge behind doing a movie that actually is a movie. Let’s be honest: anyone can pick up a camera and shoot sex. It’s not that difficult. It’s how much effort you put into it.
GT: How many people are involved in the cast and crew?
ML: We’re looking at around 60 people including extras. The crowd scenes will be shot with 30 or 40 people and they will be in a program that’s used in a lot of editing to overlay them again and again in the Coliseum. It will give the impression that there are hundreds of people watching the fight. We have about 29 cast that have roles and such, 25 of them have fairly reasonable dialogue and about 10 of them have fairly lengthy dialogue, so it will be slightly bigger than most adult movies. I would do more than that, but of course the minute you throw more people in, you have to have more days, more crew and more money.
I would love a big crew just for making life easier, but again, I think we’re going to be doing a lot of stuff ourselves. We’ll have still cameramen, BTS, lighters, gaffers, PA’s, production managers, wardrobe, that’s standard, but there are a lot more things I would like to have as well. I have my editor with me; he’s going to be like a second producer, knowing how to get the right effects with the editing process afterward. So the crew will probably be 12 to 15 people, not counting myself, Tony, Tommy and Devon. We’re literally in the movie, but we’re doing other things. Devon’s been making jewelry, Tommy is making helmets, Tony’s been doing a lot of the swords and shields. We know how the sets are going to look on camera because we’ll have made them prior to that, costumes are being made and tried on by the people that are going to wear them to make sure that they feel right and look good on camera, so we’re trying to do as much as we can before we shoot so that I don’t get any surprises or say “I don’t like this.” For instance, if I lose a talent on the day of shooting, I can’t just phone up an agent and get them replaced.
There are a lot of things to think about, especially when it comes to directing, shooting and being in it. I’ve done it a lot of times, but this one is going to be my most difficult because it’s not just about me in the frame and having someone else shoot and I call out directional stuff from where I am. There’s so much more going on in this film. With most adult movies, there’s two people doing dialogue and that’s it. There are a lot of times when there is dialogue going on and there’ll be stuff in the foreground going on slightly out of focus. There’s a lot more to direct in this one than in a regular movie or the ones I’ve done for Wicked or Penthouse. Again, that’s half the fun. It’s a learning thing for me. It’s an exciting project I’ve wanted to work on literally since I saw the show, and we’ll do as much beforehand to make sure that it goes as smoothly as it possibly can.
GT: Let’s do a walk-through of the process.
ML: I wrote the script on my iPhone as I was going between sets, and with those notes, which were quite substantial, I sat in front of my computer, drafted out the script as I wrote it, and filled in dialogue as I read it. I read it to myself as each character and comprehended how they react to each piece of dialogue or information that’s being passed back and forth. After seeing the show and how they speak on the show, I have to utilize that, and it made it more difficult because there were words that I couldn’t put my finger on, so I would have to watch the show to see how they verbalize, and then change that word to fit that time and how they conversed. It took about two weeks to get it done and then break it down into scenes, where we’re going to shoot each scene, what wardrobe is needed for each scene, what cast members will be in that scene, what props need to be in that scene, and then I had to work on the shots and get the budget firm.
GT: Where are you shooting?
ML: I’m looking at three days at our ranch on the practical training arena set, on the holding area for the gladiators where they hang out and eat, parts of the villa will be shot here, parts of the balcony will be shot here. For the Coliseum balconies we will have to build a green screen location, exterior horseback stuff will be done here and the rest will possibly be a full 360 green screen for the Coliseum fight sequence. Then we’ll probably go to a large location warehouse/studio where we can actually build the big room for the orgy. It’s not exactly an orgy, it’s not the same premise, but there will be multiple people in different parts doing different things at different times. I don’t write a script and then the sex plugs in. I write the script as a movie and then I decide where could the sex happen naturally, where does it belong, so an orgy breaking out wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to have some direction.
GT: Do you have a targeted release date?
ML: I’m looking at a six-day shoot. I was originally looking at twelve, but after looking at the budget, it was way over the top. There is so much work to be done, plus we have the catering company and the work we do for other companies like Wicked. We also have to train with the weapons and learn some routines that we can teach the other people so that everyone is well versed in what they’re going to do in each scene. Once it’s done it should take about a month to edit. [The release] is up to the company that’s going to back us on this project. This is something we were going to do on our own; we’ve already done two movies that we haven’t released and I was going to wait until we had five and then take it to someone. This was going to be the third, but we had a big company funnily enough get back to me on Twitter and say, “We would like to be involved.” We said, “We can either do this half and half or you can finance the whole thing and we’ll put our names on it as directors and producers.” We’re so far along that we can make the movie with or without them. With them means we can do it quicker; without them means we spend longer on the project. It’s a time factor at the end of the day.
GT: How close to the original series are you and how much creative liberty have you taken? What was required in terms of licensing and copyrights?
ML: That’s a good question and it’s something we have yet to look into. There are a number of characters in the movie that don’t exist in Spartacus itself, other than Spartacus, Lucretia, Ilithya, Batiatus and Crixus. I’ve got to find out a little bit more about this parody thing. So many people are parodying movies without problems from the people that originally made them. Batman is using probably the most recognizable children’s comic book hero in the world and they seem to have no problem, so I doubt there will be issues with this. We have some knowledge from the people that have done Spartacus that they are aware of it and they kind of think it’s cool, and that’s interesting in itself. They are not the money people; they’re the people involved in producing. The people behind it, which I guess is Starz, would be the money people who would have issues — if there’s an issue at all. It’s just a matter of me changing a few things in the script to distance myself from the original project, and that’s one of the things I haven’t done enough homework on at this point, which I do have to look into beforehand. Music-wise, I have libraries I use for Wicked and Penthouse and other libraries I used before, which is on the trailer, fabulous music that really fits the movie. They’re licensable. They may cost a couple of thousand a song, or a thousand a song, but the music for me is paramount — more than anything else, to be honest with you — so regardless of what the cost is, that will be paid because it’s too important not to have it.
GT: How did you establish your production company?
ML: The name London Gunn obviously stands for my name and Tommy’s name. We’ve been around a while. Tommy’s been in for six or seven years and I’ve been in for a little over ten, so we know quite a bit about the business itself. We’ve always done movies on our own, and we thought we should put something together and start doing things as a company and do our own productions. It wasn’t something we gave much thought to. We have all the toys in the world, we have the location, and we have friends who will work with us for free just because they want to do good movies; they want to do something that has some backbone and some heart.
We never follow the typical porn scenario. We’re very much about shooting a mainstream movie, developing the characters, giving people great dialogue and throwing the sex scene in where it would naturally be in real life. A lot of people want to be involved in that kind of thing because porn can be cheesy and boring. As much as we do our jobs and we like it to a certain extent, it’s the same old same old. So we decided if we really wanted to do some things which were a lot more mainstream in the feel of things … the films I’ve seen are terrible in respect to dialogue and sex. You don’t have to have sex every four minutes. We want to see the story. We know you’re going to fuck, but every four minutes? Really? That’s not real life. To the point that I thought about saying, “I love doing movies with you, but I don’t want to have five sex scenes in this movie. I want to put maybe two or three. I don’t want too many. It’s oversaturating the story.” A lot of companies would be dead against it, and a lot of consumers would be “Fuck no,” so how about putting those extra two sex scenes in the bonus section and they can still watch them. I just don’t want them in the actual DVD story. They don’t belong. It ties up the story. They can watch them afterward. They can watch the hour and a half with the three sex scenes and the storyline that goes along with it. Again, one of those things I very much doubt that anyone is going to do other than us.
GT: What makes Tommy Gunn the right business partner for you? Starting a company is a marriage of sorts and business can destroy friendships.
ML: True, true. From the first time Tommy and I did a movie together [Darkside, 2005], which was my first big feature in America, we worked together extremely well. We wrote a movie while we were on the set together and talked about “Let’s do this” and “Let’s do that,” mainly because we have the same passion. Even though he’d only been in it for two or three years, he was already at that point of “I want to do more, I want to do different things, I want to act. The sex scenes, great, love it, but I want to act and I don’t want to feel like I’m just here for the sex. I want to do movies where the acting takes over and the sex is really just the icing.” We both felt strongly about that kind of production, and from that day forth, whether we were just hanging out or training or whatever we were doing, we always said, “One day we will find a location, we will be in the same place and we will make movies the way we see them fit to be made. We will do them our way.” And ever since then, nothing has changed. Our thoughts on movies, the amount of stories we have, the amount of scripts we have written, the amount of things we’ve done and have going on, we have never strayed from that path. Our thoughts have always been 100 percent in a straight line together, so it was obvious that doing this together was the right format.
When he did his 3-D movie [Cummin’ At You 3D, 2009], he didn’t have to involve me, because that was from his partners in Canada, which is a big mainstream company that does all the big movies in Hollywood. But they came to my set, a movie called The Invitation, which was similar to Eyes Wide Shut, beautifully shot, a massive 60-people crew, 70 including talent. One of the guys from his company in Canada came out and was so blown away at how I managed to shoot this feature film with 60 people in one day and said, “You two should tie the knot, start a company and make movies.”
GT: What does the term director mean to you?
ML: I kind of over-direct some things in the fact that I have control over the set, the way the set looks … normally, you have an art director, but I’m afraid I have to be all of those things — art director, dialogue director, camera director. Although I have a director of photography on set to call the shots, they have to be the shots I want. So when I’m the director, I’m pretty much the producer as well, because from start to finish, from scoring the movie to writing the script, directing the talent, designing how the sets are going to look, the clothes, the props, I pretty much never let anyone do anything unless I’m involved in it. I need to have control to make sure everything comes together, to give me the vision I originally saw in my head when I first wrote the movie, so for me it’s a jack of all trades who hopefully has talent and crew around him to act as second director when I’m busy with other things. That’s how I direct.
GT: What makes you a good boss?
ML: I’ve done 15 feature films between Wicked and Penthouse, and I’m an easygoing director. I’m only difficult if you don’t get the dialogue the way I see it. I’ll keep you doing it until it’s perfect, because that, to me, is the whole point of dialogue. I’m not going to let you sift through with a tone or a facial expression that doesn’t match the situation that is happening at hand.
Outside of that, I’m not one of these people who will drive you into the ground. I try to stay on target with my time frames because I don’t want to have people working way beyond their time. I hate having people do sex beyond a certain time at night. If you’re doing a sex scene, you have to be physically in the mood and want to be doing something, and not doing it at 4:00 in the morning when you’ve already been there nine hours on set. I want people to be fed. I want them to be in a comfortable situation. They don’t have to be on set until I send a message to someone saying, “Get them to come now,” because I don’t want people waiting around and getting bored. There are only a certain number of times you can read a script and ingest it before you forget it anyway. I want to have people fresh, ready, happy and enjoying what they do. That’s probably why I spend so much time planning, so that I don’t have people on set longer than I need them. I direct them the way they want to be directed so that they can learn from the way I direct them and become better actors. The reason I can do that is because I’ve been directed by good directors in my time, and I understand the script at hand because it’s my script. I’ve never directed someone else’s script and I don’t know if I ever will, because it’s someone else’s vision and I don’t know if I can give it what it deserves. Between all of those things, that’s probably why, when it comes to working for me, it’s not as bad as working for a lot of other people. And they’re going to be doing a good movie that they’re going to enjoy.
GT: What did you learn from those directors?
ML: The first thing I learned, and it was from a director I don’t particularly like at all, he was very good at trying to put certain talent down for whatever reason. Not that it can bother me, because I am beyond that, but for someone who is new or has insecurities, it could knock the wind out and probably destroy the scene and the dialogue. I learned to always be encouraging, no matter how bad someone’s work or their interpretation of what I ask them to do is. The other thing is working with Brad Armstrong and Robby D., who really surprised me as a director, from a guy who did gonzo stuff to doing the fabulous movie that I was in, Top Guns. He has grown into a director that’s probably one of the only guys in the business … if I had to direct against him, if it were me and him head-to-head, I would be concerned if I could pull it off as good because he really has got it. He really understands how to direct talent. I don’t think I’ve ever been directed by anyone better than Robby D. at this point. When he has a character, he really knows how to find that character in you, what his motives are, his back-story, and I rarely had that done on an adult movie set. It’s something that’s very lacking. It taught me a number of things. Although I did that anyway, it made me realize I can go even deeper, which before, I would say, “This is the situation, this is what he is, this is what he did, this is his character, this is his relationship with this person,” and then I would go from the actual dialogue as if I were that person and then say, “OK, you do it.” But he made me realize that it’s worth doing. Whereas I thought I was the only one doing it, I saw someone else doing it and it made me realize that I’m not stupid to do this, this actually does make sense, there is someone else doing it as well.
Seeing other people work, seeing how they put stuff together, how much time they spend on certain kinds of shots, especially certain parts of dialogue which are imperative to the story, whether it’s emotional or whether it’s pinnacle to the storyline, and it has to be shot in a way that’s going to convey to the audience that there’s a situation that’s heartbreaking or it’s important to this person, the development, whatever, those things I think I’ve gained from doing all the feature movies I have done over the years for some of the great companies I’ve worked for. And my attitude toward acting has helped me as a director, as a performer and as a person, I guess. Most people come on the set and they read a book or get on their phone. I’m watching what the cameraman is doing, how the director is doing stuff, and I have learned on every set I’ve been on. Whether there be a good thing to learn or a bad thing, I’ve learned from that. I’ve never let my time on set go to waste just because I’m there to do a scene. I look at it as my learning ground. This is my classroom, and I’m going to take notes and know what to do and what not to do. That’s what I’ve done for the last ten years, and I hope that’s had some basis in how I approach my job now.
GT: Which movies and directors within and outside of the industry have inspired you?
ML: The movie that comes to mind without trying to think back into my past is Blade Runner. It was cinematically beautiful, and the relationship between Harrison Ford’s character and Rachel, the fact that she didn’t realize what she was and he knew and she was going to die, and the music behind that, by Vangelis, was one of the most beautiful things I had seen in years. Outside of that, one of my favorite love stories, believe it or not, is Indecent Proposal. It was fabulous. In fact, I’ve already started shooting Indecent Proposal in my spare time. I’m already one scene in. It’s a beautiful film, and the way the money and sex with others can affect someone’s relationship, and whether they can forgive what they do, it happens to all of us. It will always be a situation that can destroy or bring people together, so it was one of those stories I thought was amazing, and that’s why I started to work on making that as well. I was writing it for a company and they said, “It’s too sad.” I was like, “How can you do a movie that’s too sad? You can’t have happiness without sadness. It’s like dark and light, there’s not one without the other.” But they said no. It’s a happy ending. It starts happy, goes to sad and gets happy again. So I said, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” Those are two movies that definitely had an effect on how I perceive films and trying to put together a scene that has depth and feeling and character development. One of my favorite movies is Snatch, again a very English film. The character development and the amount of strong characters in the film — I think that’s one of the most awesome things I’ve seen, where you just don’t know who you like the most because every character is so strong and so good. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is the lead role because they have wonderful dialogue and their lives all intertwine in different ways. Guy Ritchie is an amazing filmmaker because of the storytelling and the way he puts them together. I’m a massive fan of his.
GT: How difficult is it to know when to stop, admit that it’s done and let it go?
ML: It’s scary how hard it is to do that. For two years now I’ve been putting together The Invitation, and over a long period of time, unless you get something out very fast, your mood changes and your thoughts change. The longer you hold on to a film, and the longer it takes to make it, the more you look at it and the more you think, I don’t like that now. I loved it then, but I don’t like that now, and what can you do about it? So it’s very hard. In some respects, I’ve learned to write it, make sure it’s what you want then and get it done; get it out before you change your mind, because you will change your mind because you see things differently. Even on Spartacus, a movie that’s finished in the respect of the writing, I’m already thinking about adding more characters, which I’m trying to do without adding the budget up too much, just because I feel now I’d like to put these people in, I’d like to develop some more characters in this. Again, it’s one of those things I’ve just got to stop, let go and make it, and not try to do more. It’s funny you saying that; I don’t think anyone’s ever said that before, but it’s something that I find certain people, especially directors in general, because it’s their baby, because it’s something they want to do, they don’t know when to stop and that’s exactly why, and I feel the same way. It’s something you really have to try to let go of and it’s difficult, it’s very difficult. I guess it’s just one of those things I’m going to have to get around and I don’t know how I’m going to do it, to be honest, because I can feel it now already when I go over some of the script and I go, “Ahh, I wish I could put a few more in here.” I even considered at one point, and I’m still debating it, of doing a director’s cut with some gay scenes in it. I have all these ideas and all these times to try and change things and shake up the mold a little, and I’m still trying to figure out am I going to do it or am I going to do it straight up, or am I going to break the mold or am I going to do something different like that. I feel like I’m breaking the mold in one way, but I kind of want to do it more.
GT: You’ve twice mentioned gay sex in Spartacus. What about the gay audience, which you obviously have? Can you do a gay scene without alienating your straight male audience, the ones who will gladly watch girl-girl but not two men? How do you walk that line, knowing that you have both of these audiences?
ML: If it were any other movie, I would say it would be the wrong thing to do, but Spartacus has pretty much touched on it and I haven’t heard any bad press about it. I think maybe people thought it was good because that’s the way things were back then, as far as I’m aware. It wasn’t about male or female, it was about sex. I realize that there is a massive gay audience out there, and I realize that they’re totally up for seeing that kind of content, and if any movie would work with that in, I think this one could. The only difference is I would probably release the main one and then the other would be literally just a director’s cut. I would have some characters that would be in the movie in the straight version, but in the director’s cut, which would be available for both markets, the possibilities would be, for example, me walking past one of the cells where these two guys who originally early on were fighting in the arena are now kissing each other. I walk off, that would be my edit, but in the director’s cut we would actually see that scene. It would be insinuated in the first one very lightly, but in the director’s cut we would show exactly what would have gone on for a couple of scenes. That’s something I was toying with, that I could take to the company and say, “What do you think about this?” It really is two separate products that you can put out in different markets.
Tommy and I have discussed this and he said, “We’ve been around for a long time and we work in a different way now, and if we were involved in producing something like that, I don’t think it would be that big of a deal.” If we were actually doing the scene, maybe there would be some issues, but if we’re involved in planning so that the movie has that kind of content, I really don’t think there would be a backlash from either community as long as it was done correctly. But who knows. I have a lot of gay friends in England and they are fabulous, incredible people, but this business, in this day and age, porn in itself, for many reasons, is segregated, and I understand that to a certain degree. I don’t believe that performers should cross back and forth between the two because there is a risk situation there that I do believe needs to be clarified and be adhered to. But if it’s done correctly and rules are followed, with the right storyline, it’s not a bad thing to have it happen. Again, it’s based upon the project more than anything. You wouldn’t just shove it in a love story and there’s two guys over there. Something like The L Word, or that wonderful movie To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar — fucking insane, it was incredible! I thought that was one of the greatest movies ever! If a movie like that were done in adult, then it would totally make sense to have that sex in there with guys. It would totally make sense. It’s a per project situation where you can decide whether it’s going to happen.
GT: How do you seamlessly walk your audience through the range of emotions, from sensuous to edge of seat? There are so many nuances involved — lighting, camera angles, natural light, time of day when you shoot.
ML: Of course, I agree. Just the same as when I score, once I’ve written a movie, I read each scene, listen to music as I’m reading, and I see where things fit. I put the song name and its number and where I find it against the scene number, and then I decide where they’re going to come in and out. It gets refined in editing. When I look at the scene number, I look at the situation and decide, This is a day shot, it’s going to be in a house, it’s going to be here, what’s the context of the dialogue, where is it going, what kind of feeling is being relayed. Depending on that, we look at the kinds of angles we’re going to use and then the lighting. For me, depth of field is paramount, because in certain moments you’re trying to push the background out. You want the characters to pop out and people to pay attention to what they’re saying. With a lot of porn, obviously, people don’t shoot that way. They shoot on standard cameras, which have no depth of field, so everything’s in focus, everything is very busy, and you’re looking at everything at the same time, whereas if something’s out of focus, you’re not going to look at that anymore. You’re looking at the characters and you’re paying attention to them. Then it’s really on them to deliver the dialogue and feeling and emotion that are required for that scene.
Any director will tell you that it’s when you’re on set and in the moment that you add things, take things away, and change things there and then on the spur, because you see it differently in front of your face. Everything suddenly comes together in a different way and you realize that this doesn’t work, do this, I want this, change this, turn that around, have that taken off, put that light there, now it works. The storyboard, if we do one, is done prior so that the cameraman knows what I’m looking for, the makeup artist has pictures of how I want it to look and what they’re going to be wearing so she can match the colors. But a lot will be on the fly and captured by a good director of photography who understands what I’m seeing and what I want from him.
Natural lighting is a big one for me. I hate shooting indoors. Most of the stuff here will be not exactly outside, but it will be without a roof. The sets will be powered by natural light, moonlight and real fire because that creates such amazing light, whether it is a torch or a burning bowl of fire. That’s how I shot most of the trailers, because it created the mood I was trying to convey. They didn’t have electricity, so everything had to be that flickering redness, that warming glow, which is what you would have physically seen. As much as I can, it will be natural light, using fire and certain lights that will light up the area just enough so that the cameraman can see what he needs to see. It is a moody film that has a lot of feeling and emotion to it, and the lighting makes that work, so without the lighting, you lose everything. A lot of people don’t realize that between audio, music and lighting, you either have a winner or you have a loser. It’s all down to those three things, and everything else is secondary.
GT: Silent movies are proof of that.
ML: I agree. Harold Lloyd or the Keystone Kops — the jingles when this one’s running or that one’s running pretty much created the whole scene. As I say to anyone, just imagine watching Gladiator, the whole movie, without the soundtrack. It would be boring. You wouldn’t feel anything; you wouldn’t have the urgency or the thrill of what was going to happen next. It’s the ambient noise, whether it’s a horror film that creates the mood that something’s going to happen, or it lets you down or picks you up, whatever.
All those things, 90 percent of the time, in every movie I’ve seen in adult, are never thought about. They’re always left out, because in their eyes, it doesn’t matter. But it matters to me. It matters a hell of a lot. It matters pretty much more than the sex. Sex is the easy part. What’s hard is everything else. I had so many people come back to me with the trailer and say, “Where are the girls?” Why do I need girls in the trailer? We know it’s an adult movie; it’s XXX. I’m not allowing you to see the girls because I want you to look at the film first and the girls second. The first trailer was shot outside in our patio in about 20 minutes and we threw it together probably just as quick. We spent no time on these trailers; they were there to say, “We’re doing this, just so you know.” We wanted to do a test, how it felt with the music, how it felt with the weapons, how it felt with this and that. We realized, from watching the trailers and the feedback we had, that this is definitely overdue. It has the legs to be a big-selling movie for every market — straight, gay and couples — because it’s watchable, it’s costumed, it’s themed. You have dialogue that’s different from what we listen to today.
You have different forms of sex, because one of my biggest hates in porn, which is probably why I don’t watch porn, is the fakeness behind the scenes. I can’t stress enough how women in the movies scream and shout so much. I mean, I’ve had a lot of sex in life, probably more in my private life than I’ve ever had in porn, and I have never heard a woman scream that way, I’ve never heard a woman speak that way, I’ve never heard a woman go through a library or dictionary of words or verbiage throughout us having sex. Because if she’s talking that much, I ain’t doing a very good job. If she can speak with any coherent sense, then I’m not doing something right.
Porn really doesn’t convey that. It tries to make women so filthy. How does that … I just don’t see it. I can’t stand it, to be honest with you. So in pretty much every movie we’ve done, you probably won’t see anyone, girl-wise, talking profanity and screaming and saying, “Fuck my dirty pussy.” It’s so stupid. If you really break it down into what we’re listening to and what we’re looking at, it makes you wonder why we’re watching it. If I’m on set and I have to listen to that, I normally try to find some earphones because it’s winding me up. Oh god, it’s terrible! Most women I know do not say things like that. They get in and enjoy themselves, because if you’re a woman and you’re trying to cum, you can’t speak, you can’t think rational thoughts. You’re thinking about one thing only. I think if all these guys out there knew the real truth, they’d be watching everything I make and nothing anyone else makes.
GT: How do you bring together the right cast? What if you think two people are right for the roles, but they can’t stand each other?
ML: Every movie I’ve done, I cast the guys first, because the guys are the glue in the movie. If you don’t have the right guys, the movie is not going to work. I speak to them and say, “This is the girl I have in mind. Do you like her?” If he says yes, then, “Do you think she likes you? Can she do a good scene with you?” The same things will be said to the girls: “This is the guy I like. Do you like working with him?” Those answers determine whether I put them together, because the pairings, for me, are very important.
I like older women, and I very rarely want to be in a scene with a girl under 25 or 30, if I can help it. Most of the time, thank God, I work with contract girls, so most of the time they’re older. For me, it’s totally about the woman’s experience in life and in sex and in the movies. As a performer, it’s about how much that girl is going to enjoy that scene with me. That’s all that really matters to me. I’m not worried about if I’m going to get off; I have to, it’s my job, I’m more concerned about how much fun she’s going to have, because that makes it more fun for me, and therefore that gets us a better scene, and therefore I get rebooked by whoever because the scene was good and we paired well. So when I do a movie, the first thing I’m concerned about is how these two people are going to work well together physically. Dialogue is dialogue, but physically, can they do a good scene together? I find out ahead of time. I won’t keep it until the last minute and throw them together, because that’s just ridiculous.
I’m still surprised at how we get phone calls sometimes … “Who is my talent?” “Oh, I don’t know. I’ll tell you in the morning.” So in the morning I find out I’m working with someone who it’s her first scene and she hates sex or she has a boyfriend. If people don’t gel on set, it’s going to show on camera and it’s going to be a very poor scene. Half of the problem with porn is that because there’s so much shot, there’s very little chemistry because of the pairing situation, the style of movies they do, the way they want it done and what the companies expect from those people. I’ve been on sets where I’ve done scenes and they’ve told me, “I want you to do this,” or “She doesn’t want you to do it hard. She’s sore from the other day, but don’t listen to her. Just fuck her hard,” and I’m like, “No, I’m not going to do that. Get someone else to do it. I’m going to do it however makes her happy, and that’s how it’s going to be. If you don’t like it, tough. I’m not going to hurt someone just because you want it, because you have to have this really nasty, horrible scene. Fuck you.” Again, probably why I don’t work for that many little companies. For me, it’s all about the girl. If she’s not comfortable, I’m not going to be comfortable and that’s it. That’s just the way it is. I know there’s not many guys that give a shit out there, because I’ve seen it. If they can hurt or knock them into tomorrow, they will, but me, Tommy, Tony, we are totally not that breed and that’s why we stay so much on the feature side.
Kissing, to me, is such a huge thing. I cringe if a girl says, “I can’t kiss you.” Then you shouldn’t be in this job. You should leave. I don’t know. Luckily, I’ve only come across it once in ten years, but I know it happens to people frequently. Maybe I’m a nice guy or whatever, I haven’t had to deal with it. I know people who have, and it’s not a nice situation to be in before a scene, getting your list of things you can and cannot do. “Don’t kiss me, don’t look at me in the face, don’t touch my vagina, don’t pinch my nipples …” Fuck me, should I go home now? What the hell am I going to do, stare at you from across the room? You get that list and you think, Holy crap; now I’ve got to figure out what I’m logistically going to do.
GT: How complex can you make the plot and dialogue, considering what most audiences expect from an adult film?
ML: I would love to go deep and make it a lot bigger and a lot more complex than I’ve written this one. The reason I haven’t made it ridiculously complex, and I skipped things and jumped to the chase in certain parts, is because of the cost and time. I’ve had to jump cut some little things. They make sense, they totally play, but I could have dragged them out if I really wanted to. The way I see it, the audience pretty much knows the situation with Spartacus in general, the old one, so I’m kind of using that to my advantage. They already have a rough idea who Spartacus is and what he’s about, so instead of showing all of that, my first shot is Spartacus in the dungeon, and then we cut to the arena and then we cut back. We don’t see him fight. The story reads well, it works well, and the way it’s going to be shot, I’m sure it’s going to flow extremely well.
GT: The trailer is more erotica than hardcore. Is this a direction you have considered pursuing or would it cost you your audience?
ML: Totally. We’re talking about doing HBO-style movies. It’s something we’ve considered many times. We’re always involved in trying to do stuff that’s a little bit different. I love the fact that HBO movies were very sexual and erotic and what women prefer. Getting into that realm of filmmaking, and being able to sell that filmmaking, is difficult because there are only certain people who can get that product in to HBO and softcore stations. It’s something that we really want to do. I think we’re going to try to use this like our calling card and then maybe start making some softcore movies for television.
GT: What do you want the viewer to take with them from this film?
ML: I think it’s three or four things. Obviously, I want people to be aroused, because that’s the whole point of that kind of product. The other thing is I want them to watch the movie and say, “Wow, I didn’t know porn stars could act.” I really want the whole experience to be, “It was sexy, I love that character, I hate that character,” all the things you feel when you watch a good film. And I really want to appeal to women.
I did a scene, and though I love who I worked with and she’s fabulous and phenomenal, the BJ for me, for a husband-and-wife scene, was a little bit too much, the way she was banging it around her face and her cheeks. I want things to be organic in the movie, especially the love sex. Obviously a character like Batiatus will be a bit more verbal and a bit more attitude. What I think is missing in most of the adult films is they don’t have the sex relevant to the situation. They have a situation and the sex can be full-blown porn, talk some smack, put her in a piledriver, doesn’t really matter. What is the point in spending all that time on that fabulously shot scene and then they go into sex, they come out of character and become porn stars again? That’s what I think is wrong in porn, mostly — they jump from one character to another and that’s what’s really spoiling it. You’ve done all the work coming up to the sex scene and it may be fabulous, people like what you’ve done, they’re taken in and then all of a sudden you go [replicates sound effects] on a blow job and the movie’s lost. We don’t want that to happen in this movie. We don’t want to spend all this money and all this time to become just another porn movie. I just hope the experience is very rounded and totally different.
GT: You made a comment online: “People fear different.” When did you make this discovery? How have you used it to your advantage?
ML: I think even doing Spartacus, people fear it already, because I’ve been asked, “Why are you doing this gay movie?” Why is it gay? Because the structure of the movie is male? A previous movie I wrote, which was going to be done for Wicked Pictures, got turned down because I had 27 men in the movie and seven girls. It was a bank robbery gangster movie, and I’ve never seen female bank robbers and female gangsters. I’m sorry, I didn’t want to make that mistake by trying to make you believe they exist. I wanted the women to be women, sexy and whatever they are within the movie, and they drive the sex. But the storyline has to be driven by the men because the context of this movie is violence and I’ve never come across that many violent women that scared me. Because of the format in our business, do men really care if the women pick up a gun or box each other? I don’t think so. As long as they’re sexy, and as long as they have sex in the film, then they’re happy, so I guess the companies feel differently. Hence the words “People fear change” and “People fear different,” and they do. They’re so used to a certain format, and they’re scared that if they change that, they can lose their audience and they can never make their money back, whereas I think maybe the other way you’ll do all of that. You’ll gain more audience and make more money because you’re doing something no one else is doing. But people don’t want to take that kind of chance with their money. We’re OK with the fact that this movie is basically about men. Women are involved in this project because there were women slaves and women nobles and women lovers. So that’s where I got it, mostly from this business. I used to run strip clubs, and they always feared that if they changed something, it would all go away, whereas sometimes it just makes it better.
GT: You have also expressed your love for animals in some of your posts.
ML: It’s important to me to do anything to help animals survive. I bring so many strays back. I rescued one who was being torn apart by two pit bulls. I dove into a garden to save him and spent thousands having his face reconstructed. We named him Buddy, but he probably should be named Lucky. I bring them home and find them homes. I would quit my job in a heartbeat if I could survive doing that, and maybe one day I will be in a position to simply rescue animals.
Thank You Marcus!
Interviewed by Vonda Dix