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“After Shooting a Scene, Male Porn Actors Bump Elbows”: Director Lucas Heyne | Mope

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett in Mope (photo by Kern Saxton)

Whenever directors watch their own films, they always do so with the knowledge that there are moments that occurred during their production — whether that’s in the financing and development or shooting or post — that required incredible ingenuity, skill, planning or just plain luck, but whose difficulty is invisible to most spectators. These are the moments directors are often the most proud of, and that pride comes with the knowledge that no one on the outside could ever properly appreciate what went into them.

So, we ask: “What hidden part of your film are you most privately proud of and why?”

Mope is a deep-dive into a little-known periphery of the LA porn scene in 2010; it’s the tragic true story of best friends Steve Driver and Tom Dong, two low-end porn actors struggling to succeed. They find work as “mopes,” the guys who do the dirtiest work in the porn, the stuff no one else will do—bukkakes, gang bangs, etc.

Making this movie required an immense amount of research—over two years. I knew very little about the world of mopes, so I visited dozens of sets and met with tons of industry filmmakers and talent. Many of them knew the real Steve and Tom. I also interviewed certain family members of the deceased as well as survivors of the incident. I compiled a 100-page document full of notes and interesting details, like this: after shooting a scene, male porn actors bump elbows as opposed to shaking hands, for obvious reasons.

Additionally, I cast lots of porn industry talent who actually knew the real Steve and Tom. Half the guys in the opening sequence have shot real bukkakes with them, including the director, who gave Steve his first break. They reminisced about Steve’s hygiene issues and his ridiculous purple “monster hands.” One of the best compliments I received was from an adult film actress who appears in the film (and also happened to know Steve). After reading the script, she told me that it’s a very accurate look at this world, that we really captured what it’s like. So that’s what I’m most proud of—that my research mattered. I felt like I owed it to Steve and Tom to talk to anyone to could help illuminate their story.

When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to meet Alexander Payne. He gave me a piece of advice I’ll never forget. He said, “Whatever story you choose, make sure it’s something you’re unnaturally obsessed with.” At the time, I didn’t really understand it. But I do now.

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