Not much foreplay: actor's rush to Cannes porn star role

·2-min read
Director Sean Baker, left, offered Rex the role and then gave him three days to show up for work

In one of the standout performances at Cannes, actor Simon Rex had to play a porn star with a monstrous ego grooming a young girl, and somehow still make him likeable.

And he had to do it with just three days of preparation in the middle of the pandemic in Texas.

"Red Rocket", which premiered at Cannes on Wednesday, swings between comedy and gritty real-life drama thanks to Rex's devilishly charming central performance.

To say the job came as a surprise for Rex, who is mostly known for appearances in the slapstick "Scary Movie" franchise, would be an understatement.

He was sat at home in the early months of the pandemic when director Sean Baker, who had a breakout indie hit with "The Florida Project" a few years ago, phoned him out of the blue.

"I had never met him before but he was, like, 'I've been following your career for a long time and I need you to send me an audition right now on your phone," Rex told AFP.

"I had five minutes to rehearse, I memorised it, I hit record on my iPhone in my kitchen and sent it to him. He said 'I need you in Texas in three days, and you have to drive here because if you fly you have to quarantine for a week.'"

Rex said the lack of preparation was a bonus, allowing the film to keep a "raw" feel.

That is also supplied by the many non-actors in supporting roles -- a regular feature for Baker, who famously found a child star from "The Florida Project" in a supermarket and another actress on Instagram.

"Most of the people in the movie he would find on the streets of Texas," Rex said. "He'd say 'You've got a good look, you want to be in this movie?' And I thought 'Fuck I hope they can pull this off!'"

As usual for Baker, the results are a revelation, and allow him to depict the sort of poorer communities usually ignored on screen.

"Sean does a very good job in all of his films... where there are these 'deplorables' that society doesn't like, but he shines a light on dark subject matter and makes them likeable, real people," Rex said.

"Red Rocket" is competing with 23 other films for the coveted Palme d'Or at Cannes, to be announced on Saturday.

Baker's recent success is sweet vindication for the 50-year-old who battled through personal crises and decades on the edges of the film industry before his breakthrough "Tangerine" in 2015, a movie about transgender sex workers in Los Angeles that was shot entirely on an iPhone.

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