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Described as Judy Holliday with Big Boobs, Katie Morgan Didn’t Know who Judy Holliday Was

[] It’s confession time.

We have been hanging out with porno stars. Yes, it’s true. They are ready to tell all – about how much they make per movie and the negotiations for the type of “scenes.” Stuff like that.

Make that former porno stars. After all, it has been 20 years since the famous Traci Lords made her last authentic X-rated movie (after a notorious career that began when she was a 15-year-old runaway). It has been one year since Katie Morgan made her last porno movie (which she admits may not be her last).

Let us hasten to add that this assignment is thoroughly within the responsibility of covering mainstream movies. The official title of the movie, as shown at the Toronto Film Festival, was “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” It arrives in local theaters today advertised merely as “Zack and Miri.”

The “porno” and the problem with the film’s release are in the title – not the movie itself. Actually, Zack (played by the chunky goofball Seth Rogen) and Miri (played by the spunky but wholesome Elizabeth Banks, who is Laura Bush on other movie screens in “W.”) are childhood friends. They’ve grown up together and are rooming together – for rent purposes and friendship only. When the bills get to be too much, they decide to raise money by making a low-budgeted porn movie to put on the Internet. But will they be able to go through with the “demands” of such a film?

The movie is written and directed by Kevin Smith, who is well-known for his potty-mouthed grossness in such movies as “Clerks” and “Dogma.” Smith is shocked, shocked mind you, at the fact that numerous newspapers have refused to run ads for the film. Boston and Philadelphia agreed to identify the movie only as “Zack and Miri.” A megaplex in Utah refused to book the movie, sight unseen, although it was running “Tropic Thunder” and “Sex Drive.”

” ‘Porno’ is not real,” Smith said when we reached him for comment.

“It is a comedy to begin with…. In Philadelphia, they won’t even let us put up a poster. We redid the posters with little stick figures, perfectly innocent, but they said we couldn’t put those up either because someone might think it’s a children’s movie. These are the same people who think that torturing and killing people is good, scary fun.” (His reference is to the current movie “Saw V.”)

The Weinstein Company, the same outfit that used to be the Oscar-factory Miramax Pictures, is baffled because it is putting up a hefty $30 million to bet that the R-rated comedy is a mainstream hit to compare with “Superbad” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” both of which also featured Rogen.

The studio has knuckled under. The Virginian-Pilot’s advertising department is running the movie’s ads simply as “Zack and Miri” but says that is the ad that was submitted by Allied Advertising, the studio’s representative, and that it was not censored locally. Charmel Peters, advertising operations manager, said the paper simply accepted the ad as it was offered.

Previews at local theaters also ran a cut title in the past two days.

“I was amazed,” Smith said, “that we had any problem at all with the rating for the movie. We sent it back on appeal three times before they agreed to give it an ‘R’ rather than an ‘NC-17.’ ”

This is Smith’s biggest mainstream outing. The New Jersey native rose to fame when he wrote, directed and acted in “Clerks” for less than $500,000 in 1994, and it turned a multimillion-dollar profit. Essentially, it was a group of late-night clerks talking dirty, but some critics embraced it with rave reviews, and an underground cult of guys surfaced who claimed it was the first movie “with guys who talk just like us.”

If “Zack” takes in a mere $31 million, it will top any of Smith’s previous movies. His “Dogma” (1999), which dealt with religious comedy, took in slightly less than that.

Smith claims it was Rogen’s idea to use real porn stars in the movie. “I said, ‘But, Seth, they can’t act.’ He said: ‘So?’

“I met Katie Morgan, and I thought she was hilarious – Judy Holliday with big boobs. We got her for the role of Stacey.

“Then we decided to contact Traci Lords. She’s probably the most famous in the business, and she still looks great. She turned us down flat because of the title, saying that she had spent almost two decades escaping from her past porno career and she wasn’t going back. Then, she read the script and found it was a comedy. She signed on.”

Morgan doesn’t know who Judy Holliday was, but she said she was anxious to make the movie. (Holliday won the Academy Award for “Born Yesterday” (1950), in perhaps the most famous “dumb blonde” role in movie history.) Morgan’s titles include “Bobby Dazzler,” “Prisoners” and other adult films.

“Things are more competitive as the girls get cuter,” Morgan said in an interview at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.

So how long does it take to make a porno movie and, typically, how much do you make?

Morgan: “I have made over 200. The time goes from two hours per movie to, typically, seven or eight hours. I made one that took 35 hours, but that was a crazy director. I’ll never work with him again. Typically, I made $1,500 per night, often $2,000. The price depended on the sex act.”

What is the most surprising thing about the porno business that we don’t know?

Morgan: “The biggest misconception is that it’s a last resort. It is a business. I enjoyed it, and I went into it for business reasons. I wasn’t desperate, and I don’t feel like a slut for doing it. I had a great time. Late in my career I became quite picky. At the end, there were only five guys I would work with.

“But I am out of the business now. That’s not saying I might not make more of ‘those’ films, but it won’t be because I’m desperate. It will be because I choose to make them.”

We last interviewed Lords when she played Wanda Woodward in John Waters’ hit comedy “Cry-Baby” in 1990.

“We were all trying to run away from something in that movie,” she said. “Johnny Depp was trying to escape television. I was trying to escape the porno industry. Since then, I’ve made a good living as a mainstream actress in shows like ‘Gilmore Girls,’ ‘Will and Grace’ and really great reviews in ‘Melrose Place.’ I wasn’t going to return – until I read the script and found out it was quite innocent. I thought, ‘Why not embrace this, not hide from it? It’s a comedy.’

“Besides, I liked the character of Bubbles. My husband, who is a steelworker, and my new baby went with me on the set. I refused doing any topless scene. No. There I was, a new mother with my baby and husband. I didn’t get to be with the rest of the cast much.”

The cast and director talked about innocence lost or, rather, the first time they ever saw a porn movie:

Smith: “I was 12. I was at a friend’s house. They went out to pick up a pizza and left me to baby-sit the dog. I went snooping and found this VCR that had the title all scraped off, and I looked at it. It had kazoo music. Ever since, I’ve never been able to hear kazoo music without thinking about it.”

Banks: “I don’t remember seeing one, or at least not a first one, but I remember that my uncle had a stack of girly magazines under his bed, and my girlfriend and I would crawl under there and giggle at them. We thought they were pretty silly. We’d pull a page out so carefully that he wouldn’t miss it, and we’d show it to the other girls. It didn’t have any real effect. Just silly.”

Rogen: “I was 13, and it was called ‘The Fisherman’s Wife.’ I remember the title quite well. A friend gave it to me. It scared me. I found it quite surgical-looking and frightening. I thought it was like those doctor movies on PBS. I really thought it was a horror movie.”

Smith claims his movie is more a spoof than anything like the real thing. The studio says that the title change will hurt with the targeted 17-to-35 age market but that it expects an opening-weekend take of between $13 million and $16 million.

After the unexpected trouble with its release and marketing, the director said, “I’m not on some soapbox about artistic freedom. I’m a businessman, and I’m in the business of making a comedy.”


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