Adult Film Icon Rocco Siffredi on Netflix’s ‘Supersex’: “I Was Born to Do Porn”

Supersex, which premiered on Netflix on March 6, tells the story of Rocco Siffredi, who came from the small coastal town of Ortona, Italy to become one of the most famous porn stars of all time. Born Rocco Tano in 1963, Siffredi has starred in more than 1,300 pornographic films since beginning his career in 1986 with the soft-core porn film Belle d’Amour. 

Supersex, which was created by veteran Italian screenwriter Francesca Manieri and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, chronicles Siffredi’s life, starting as a child whose world is upended with the death of his brother, only to discover the adult film industry, eventually becoming a global superstar whose first name becomes synonymous with pornography. The winner of 40 Adult Video News Awards (ofter referred to as the “Oscars of porn”), Siffredi, nicknamed the “Italian Stallion,” is portrayed in Supersex by Italian actor Alessandro Borghi, who described the Netflix series as, “the story of a man who takes seven episodes to say I love you.”

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Siffredi sat down with THR Roma to discuss porn going mainstream, his struggles with sex addiction and why Supersex benefits from being told from a female perspective.

How did you react when you first learned that a television series would be dedicated to your life?

Finally it is understood that I have done something beautiful and unique. Until now, no one in porn has had this luck, been described as an icon, accomplished such ambitious work while being considered someone who brought light to their world. Whether it is beautiful or dark, this light and this story, who knows, who can say? But I think that it’s because they looked at Rocco, beyond Siffredi. And they found my story to be an unprecedented tale.

Porn has always been stigmatized. Did you ever think that your profession would become so mainstream?

Imagine, when I started I couldn’t believe I would be paid. How was it possible to have fun and also earn money? It all began for me before adolescence. From the tragedy of losing my brother when I was only six years old, a pain that was exacerbated by the emotionally catastrophic effect the event had on my mother. She was always sick, having suffered a loss  she couldn’t recover from.

I grew up really fast — at eight years old I was already cleaning beaches, without anyone knowing. The fact that this [porn] work was profitable, that I could help at home with what I earned, was very important to me.

So this life, this career was born from the tragedy of your brother dying?

No, not exactly. I would have done it even for free, because I was born to do porn. There is a deep passion in me — it was my life choice; I did what I loved. I chose it when it was not easy or convenient, while everyone called me crazy.

Your name, “Rocco,” is synonymous with porn. How much is the show an opportunity to reveal more about yourself?

Two years ago I was given the lifetime achievement award and, as it was presented to me, I was introduced as “the man whose first name is all you need to say.” You unlocked a good memory for me. I always knew that I had chosen a job for which you could not take yourself too seriously. You can’t say, “Fuck, I’m a porn star,” and not expect laughter. I always know that in a show, in an interview, compared to others, I start at a deficit. It’s part of my life to come to terms with that lack of consideration and to struggle to make people reconsider. It is true that for 30 years many people have only seen my sexuality, my porn. I think of the ridiculous interviews I gave — that still embarrasses me — because I said, in a serious voice, “We porn stars must also know how to act.” When I see those conversations again I wonder, “How did I ever say that?”

How difficult was it to be Rocco then?

Today, after removing the mask of almost 40 years ago, after those two years when I lied that I was a model and not a hard-core actor, because of that very heavy prejudice, I can finally say that I have always been myself. I realize that it was right for me to come to terms with my choice, to live peacefully with it. This is who I am. Now, with maturity, I’ve been wanting to make myself known more completely.

Do you now feel more understood?

To be fair, I was always myself and sincere, but almost no one was interested. I see that many turn up their noses, they think that I have become bourgeois, that I deny my past. But I chose this job since I was very young. It was a beautiful life even if everyone loves to tell only the dark side of this job and this path. The joyful side is evident to everyone, in hundreds of films — but I know what porn has become and I say so.

I want to tell this reality so that others will make conscious choices. This career is suitable only for those who have a true calling. They need to know that this path is a spider web, when you get into it, it is not easy to get out. For me it was not difficult to stay, being on the set makes me feel comfortable, even more than at home. On the set I forget the problems, the depression that found me several times, frequently caused by my desire to keep doing porn while a part of me was asking to stop. The body, the addiction said one thing, the head another. Now they call it “the devil,” but it is an addiction like any other — a side effect to be dealt with, not a catastrophe.

Was there ever an urge to give up porn and try your hand at legitimate cinema? 

You have a keen sensitivity, as if you sensed a deep need of mine at this moment. On the set of Massimo Boldi’s film,  Marriage in Paris, I met Davide Cincis, the assistant director. He told me about a project he believed he could only do with me. He told me “only you can tell that pain, that addiction that you have inside. I need your authenticity.” It is his own autobiographical film. This is crazy, because there are people who can look inside you and understand you, like you or like him. I know one thing — how much I never wanted to leave porn. That if I had done any other kind of filmmaking, I would have done it with the same seriousness and self-denial. I would have been a very good actor in another genre as well, I can guarantee you that. Because I give my soul in everything I do and I do it for the audience, to make them feel good. I’ve never thought “I’m Rocco Siffredi and whatever I put out there sells.” For me the number one goal is giving my all to my fans, surprising them and never disappointing them.

What relationship have you formed with Alessandro Borghi, who plays you in Supersex?

I’ll start by telling you that no one else in Italy could play me. And I am not saying this because he did but because I think there is a strong connection between us. We share something deeply akin, similar problems to mine in sexuality. I told him right away, “I feel you want to do this project to understand something more about yourself.” I remember once seeing him at the David di Donatello awards and it struck me how cool he was. Also his features are very similar to mine, especially in my youth.

His intense curiosity is one of the qualities that make him a great actor. And then, evidently, he must have grown up as one of those kids who watched my films and also wanted to know who I was inside. I think in Supersex he looked for some answers about himself, because the world of porn is like the magician’s top hat, exposing surprising things over and over again. The brain starts fantasizing, then thinking about the big issues like culture, religion, where we go wrong. Porn, contrary to what many people believe, is a clean place because just as Borghi can be a spotless, fearless hero one time and a ferocious bad boy another, so in hard-core you can live out even the most extreme fantasies safely, in a place where no one judges you. … You can go where you couldn’t outside of that context and do it without fear, without hurting anybody.

It was not a given that he would accept this role — to portray an icon who is still living and the subject of controversy for general audiences.

I have Borghi to thank because he has taken a lot of heat. In fact twice. The first is that he made an effort to understand me when even I don’t know who the fuck Rocco Siffredi really is. The second is the enormous amount of pain he went through. He is one of Italy’s best actors — he could have decided not to do it, avoiding all the prejudice I have experienced firsthand for years. And felt those humiliations when presenters, behind the scenes, declare themselves great admirers of your work, even quote your films, and then, while on the air, distance themselves from you. We represent the most private and hidden side of men and women — the side that everyone wants to lock in a drawer as soon as they finish experiencing it. As soon as the porn movie is over, we leave the attic or the basement. Alessandro is a free actor and doesn’t give a shit what people think. I appreciate that even more than his wonderful performance.

How have women’s attitudes toward porn changed?

For too long my world has been male-centric, on the set and behind the scenes. Now, however, the audience is not exclusively or overwhelmingly male. We haven’t reached 50-50, but women who like and see porn have increased exponentially, and as a result, the desire, the female gaze, is also beginning to be shown. But the male gaze is hard to eradicate. Everyone envies me, but no one acknowledges that it takes courage to put myself out there every day, naked, defenseless. This mentality in Italy is even worse. Men have to be all macho, without fragility, and we like our women all to be wives and saints. Bad girls can be anyone except your partner and your mom. So these women who live their freedom suffer so much more. Their desires, their ambitions take much more effort and cause extra pain than for the men.

It’s interesting that Supersex is told from the point of view of two women.

Amazing. [Director] Francesca Mazzoleni is forward, she has a great head and also a way of looking at things that I really like. And then the screenwriter, Francesca Manieri. I will confess that at first I was terrified. It was not easy at first, and not because of her. The prejudice was mine! I thought she couldn’t accept Siffredi, his masculinity, and instead we found each other, slowly we understood each other and realized that we both wanted to tell the story of a human being. I have been doing this work since 1985, and feminists have often attacked me, for the alleged exploitation of the female body in my films, because they considered some of the things we did to be abusive. I challenge them to find even one colleague who would say such a thing. In that sense they, like so many others, don’t realize that I, too, was often pushed even brutally by directors to do certain things. But it was work. You know what? Sex and porn can only be judged by those who practice it, otherwise it’s theory.

May I confess a dream to you? Rocco Siffredi presenting Sanremo (a popular music festival that frequently features political debates). He would tell everyone that this country needs to grow up and become less prim and proper.

Maybe. It’s a beautiful ambition to lead Sanremo, but I know it will never happen. Sanremo, or no Sanremo, I would like everyone to understand that sexuality should be experienced by all of us without feeling obligated to live it as others would like. If there are women who like to experiment every day, even with different men, we need to change judgments about them. Men and women must be on the same level. So I’ll tell you, on that stage there needs to be a porn actress standing there too.

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