Porn Star Lead in 'The Canyons': 'A Lot of Pool Boys and Pizza Delivery Men to Overcome'

James Deen Lindsay Lohan Schrader inset - H 2012
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James Deen Lindsay Lohan Schrader inset - H 2012

The director talks about the challenges of preparing James Deen for his time opposite Lindsay Lohan.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Rambling Reporter column of the August 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

First John Waters cast Traci Lords in Cry-Baby. Then Steven Soderbergh selected Sasha Grey to star in The Girlfriend Experience. Now writer-turned-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) has given the lead role in his currently filming micro-budget feature The Canyons, about a clique of rich young L.A. wastrels, to porn star James Deen — the latter-day John Holmes of 2012 with the boy-next-door good looks.

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Schrader opened up about the decision for the first time to THR, explaining that he didn’t even know who Deen was until the film’s screenwriter, novelist Bret Easton Ellis, told him he’d penned the lead with the swordsman in mind, so Deen at least deserved a screen test. Explains Schrader, who was won over: “He’s charismatic. Why do people look at Tom Cruise and not someone who looks just like Tom Cruise? He has that special something.”

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Although now thrilled with the frisson of what he calls the “counter-traditional casting” — which was subsequently amplified when Lindsay Lohan signed on as the other lead (in lieu of traditional payment she took a quarter equity in the movie) — Schrader admits that he’s had to put Deen through some remedial acting coaching during the pre-production process. “He’s done thousands of adult films,” he says understandingly. “That’s a lot of pool boys and pizza delivery men to overcome.”