November 4, 2010

Sagat Unabridged, Uncut, and Uncensored

For those who are unfamiliar with the gay porn scene, François Sagat is an internationally renouned star. He took a massive leap from the fashion industry to porn and is now starring in Christophe Honoré’s new movie Man at bath. François gives us a peek through the keyhole at his untypical path. ©Lukas Wassman

You worked in fashion before gravitating towards porn. How was that experience ? It seems to be something that still interests you as you have recently collaborated with designers like Bernhard Willhelm, Jeremy Scott, and Fade.

Since I was a child, I always followed fashion in the press, and I knew how to draw. So, my calling, or what I thought of as a calling, was to be a fashion designer. Therefore I studied fashion in Paris at Studio Bercot and worked for a few designers like Thierry Mugler, Givenchy and Balenciaga for a while. I feel I was a little young and not ready to face that world, as everything was going very fast for me. So I didn’t persevere; I got discouraged and impatient.

How did you transition from fashion to porn movies?

I was someone who didn’t know how to play the game of dressing up, building my own style and seducing as one does in the fashion industry. So I concentrated on fashioning my own body. I rejected sartorial efforts to focus on working out and moulded the body I wanted to have. Originally, I had a slim body, no shoulders—and wasn’t fit at all. The transformation I decided to go through was a way of proving to myself that I was masculine and virile, in the classic aesthetic sense, by being muscly. A year later, I had a different body and I was contacted to do a porn scene.

Do you feel there is a big gap between the man you are and the actor you are?

I think so. Porn movie productions, in the USA for instance, where I do most of my films, show the actors in a very cliche way. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the commercial requirements of the industry. But I realize that I went with it and fit in the mould. In movies, very few emotions emanate from me, and masculinity in general is very exaggerated. So there is a huge difference between me as a man and me as an actor, because I feel I am not that virile, physically maybe, but I do have a feminine part that I always have had. I consider myself as a variable, without being bipolar, but with different shades like most people.

When you watched porn before you entered the industry, did you ever imagine being a porn actor?

Yes, I was always fascinated by the aesthetics and image of porn. It’s a huge business, and porn movie productions have many specific obligations in terms of image in order to have commercial success. But as a viewer, I felt one could take elements from porn and make them artistic by removing them from their context. So gay images, and even some straight porn images really captivated me. And based on the questions I am often asked [in interviews,] I realize it fascinates many people.

What do men like to see in gay porn movies? What excites them the most?

I know that most men fast-forward or rewind to cameo shots of ejaculation. There are so many different fetish types and sexual practices; it’s very vast. I would say that mainly, porn consumers want to see hyper-masculine guys, often in cliche uniforms (leather, cops, mechanics, etc…) It also depends if the viewer is active or passive.   Most men even prefer that the passive guy looks very masculine. But it really varies and depends on each individual’s fantasies.

Did the fact you chose this type of work change your relationship with your family or friends?

My family knows—but I don’t inform them much and keep details very vague. For example, I will never show them images, not even soft images. My friends find it fun, and being intelligent and non-judgemental people, it’s not at all a problem for them.

And I don’t care about what people I don’t know think. Maybe later in life if I want to change professions, it might be an obstacle but I have never yet experienced any barrier related to my work.

Did doing porn movies change your own sexual behavior? Do you think you have acquired habits from work?

At first, yes I did. When I was shooting a lot, I picked up some behavioral and linguistic habits from my work. As I used to shoot in English, I sometimes found myself saying “Fuck me”  or  “Oh Yeah”  to my French real-life partners ! Very cliche things like that. Or even the mechanical way of  going from one position to another. It’s true that one can sometimes lack natural flow in private. Another thing, some partners obviously knew who I was and my work, and in some cases I felt they were either a little impressed or had apprehension. But I am a normal person, and not the mechanical character they see in my films; I am not some kind of android!

Does all the sexual activity you have in your work give you more space to focus on love in your private life?

No. It is worse actually. In my experience, I feel it reduces the chance of having a more stable love life. While being a porn actor, one can of course have a love life, but I can just not envision it for myself. It’s a little difficult ; the ambiguity, anxiety, or confusion it can create with one’s partner. I don’t have regular partners in private and don’t feel ready for a relationship, preferring to focus on my work for now – porn or not.

What do you prefer in your job? And what do you find difficult ?

What I prefer is the shooting itself, being on set or on location and the performance. And what I dislike is what goes on around the film, like promotion, photo shoots, meeting such and such person, gossip, award events, blogs. I find it all a bit boring

What is a typical shooting day like?

They are very organized and planned. We start at 9am on the set on location and go until about 5pm. Typically, one scene is shot in two days.

Is it tiring, physically?

Yes, it is quite exhausting. Even psychologically. Once I almost vomited after a scene because I was so tired. My productions with Titan films are also very concerned with the non sexual scenes; the acting can be demanding when one is just walking or riding in a car. They need a lot of footage for editing the movies.

What are your relationships like with your movie partners between the scenes? Outside of work?

Usually the atmosphere is good and we get on well. I avoid getting too familiar with my partners outside shootings. Besides, we are not in the same country as I live in France and just go to the US for shooting. I have very few friends in the milieu. Most of my friends are not in the porn business. I tend to keep my two worlds separate.

Have you ever had some frights while shooting extreme scenes ? Have you ever felt things were going beyond your limits ? And particularly for LA Zombie, Bruce LaBruce‘s new movie that you star in ?

Not so much. I have had some stressful moments though. Once I had a partner who wouldn’t listen to me. He was hurting me and just carried on. I almost got angry but managed to keep calm.

Another time, I was shooting in the Czech Republic, with Hungarian straight guys as partners. Some porn actors are actually straight even though they perform in gay porn. They didn’t seem too glad to have me as a partner. There was a kind of fight scene in which one of them had to strangle me with a belt, and he was pulling hard and really strangling me.

I also shot in Lebanon, among ruins, and no secured area, sometimes policemen would pass so I was quite on edge. Usually on location we are really protected and the security is tight. But for LA Zombie, we were shooting in downtown LA and it felt more risky as there were many bums and junkies around. So, yes, it was a little more stressful than usual.

Regarding L.A. Zombie, does the mixture of horror and sex excite you particularly? Or do you think it will excite the viewers ?

Not exciting, but baffling for sure. The makeup and blood was so uncomfortable that it made me forget the sexual aspect. It is quite distracting. But I think the porn scenes are good in the end. The viewers will never see all the problems that we encountered while shooting. I don’t know how aroused they will be when they see all the blood and guts during the sex scenes!

How did you meet legendary Bruce LaBruce?

I met him in Paris two years ago through mutual friends. He was promoting his previous movie, Otto, and had seen some videos of me that I had posted on online in which I am made up like an albino vampire of sorts. He said why not make another zombie or vampire film together. We stayed in touch and offered me the main role in LA Zombie, which was shot in September 2009.

You shot a PSA in which you show how to use a condom. Are you very cautious with your health ? And, is safe sex now widely practiced in the porn industry ?

It is very important to me. One should be cautious. It was a good idea to do that condom video and show how to use one in a realistic way. Usually it is shown on a banana or another phallic object. For a teenager or young man who is not aware of how to use a condom, I find that this is an efficient way to teach them. Unfortunately that video couldn’t be shown on YouTube for censorship reasons.

And regarding safe sex in porn movies, it is not yet generally applied. Many production companies still shoot without protection. But the production company I work with has always shot protected sex. There are no laws against unsafe sex in movies, but it is often related to budget and commercial matters, which is sad.

You have been taking a break from shooting porn for one year now. What would you see yourself working on when you feel you are too old to shoot porn?

I am 31 now. I started at 25 and feel that if one has been in the industry for five years or so, we are implicitly told that we have been seen too much, that we are seniors. I can’t imagine myself shooting porn in more than five years.

Directing is something I have thought of. But if I directed a porn movie, I would do something more artistic and creative, unlike the commercial films which are currently on the market. I would prefer to make a quality film without the intention of earning lots of money from it.

You are in Christophe Honoré’s new movie, Homme au Bain. Is it your first part in a non-porn movie?

Yes, non-porn, but there are many sexy images which are just suggestive though.

Were you more nervous than before shooting a porn movie?

I am not really afraid of anything. As I am used being in front of a camera, it is not a problem. However, it is more compromising as one has to give more emotions, emotions that one wouldn’t show in a porn movie.

But I would need to test myself on a film with a huge amount of dialogue, that might be something else… I don’t yet consider myself an actor.

Would you like to pursue a classical actor career?

If a director offered me to play the role of a father for example, a family man, the idea would be quite attractive to me. I like to explore things that I am not, that are unfamiliar to me. Would I be good at it, I don’t know, but it certainly would be motivating.

So, yes if  there were interesting projects I might do some more acting. I would definitely be  specific with the choices I make, and not just shoot anything for the sake of  doing a movie. I would already consider myself lucky if  I had some propositions.

Is there a funny or memorable shooting anecdote you would like tell?

It was on a porn shooting on location, in the woods in Pescadero, California. I was in the woods taking my partner « doggy style », and when I raised my head at some point, I saw a deer staring at us, with an astonished look on its face. And then I just lost my capacities, it completely blocked me—as if Bambi was looking at us. Time just stopped. It was actually a touching moment. A very strange, but beautiful moment.

And finally, is there something you would like to tell people who are unfamiliar with the gay porn world?

Don’t trust appearances. You see someone that seems untouchable, or impressive, but that person is also sensitive, and not a sex machine!

© François Sagat

text by: Audrey Lefèvre

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