Casting Soderbergh's 'The Girlfriend Experience': 13 Actors With Experience Playing Prostitutes

  @ericbrownzzz on June 24 2014 5:56 PM

Steven Soderbergh is adapting his 2009 drama “The Girlfriend Experience,” which looked at the Wall Street crash through the eyes of a high-end escort, to the small screen. The veteran director announced a partnership with Starz on Monday, creating a 13-episode anthology series out of his 2009 exploration of a prostitute who provides her clients with a facsimile romance.

The half-hour episodes will reportedly each follow a different character in a new city, Starz CEO Chris Albrecht explained. With 13 episodes revolving around the same woman, Soderbergh and Starz have the opportunity to shift wildly in tone and casting in their adaptation of “The Girlfriend Experience.”

Soderbergh has, in the past, shown an affinity for casting actors with previously-existing connections to their roles, recruiting former male stripper Channing Tatum for “Magic Mike,” former porn star Sasha Grey in the original “Girlfriend Experience” and real-life creepy guy James Spader in “Sex, Lies and Videotape.” With the carte blanche afforded by the show’s format, then, one appraoch Soderbergh could take is casting an acclaimed actor with previous experience playing a prostitute.

Here are 13 casting suggestions for “The Girlfriend Experience” inspired by notable portrayals of prostitutes in the past.

Sasha Grey - “The Girlfriend Experience”

grey Sasha Grey in a poster for "The Girlfriend Experience"  Magnolia Pictures

The former porn star portrayed the lead of Soderbergh’s original take on “The Girlfriend Experience,” and while it might feel like a retread to place her in the lead of the TV adaptation, she could lend the series a sense of legacy and continuity by appearing in a supporting role for an episode. Plus, Grey has some experience in the premium cable world: she played a loosely-fictionalized version of herself in the seventh season of “Entourage.”

Andy Garcia - “The Man From Elysian Fields”

andy garcia Andy Garcia at the premiere of "5 Days of August"  Reuters

Andy Garcia earned praise from Roger Ebert for his role as Byron Tiller in “The Man From Elysian Fields.” A failed novelist desperate to support his family, Garcia’s character begins working as an escort for a pimp played by none other than Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. Why should “The Girlfriend Experience” cast only women as prostitutes? Further, a role on the show would give Garcia chance to reunite with Soderbergh after working together in all three “Ocean’s Eleven” movies. We’re sure they miss each other.

Heather Graham - “From Hell,” “The Hangover”

hgraham from hell Heather Graham in "From Hell"  Fox

Heather Graham is no stranger to playing sexually-charged roles. She found her big break playing porn star Rollergirl in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights,” and she’s gone on to play prostitutes on the big screen not once, but twice. Graham appeared as real-life prostitute Mary Jane Kelly in the 2001 Jack the Ripper mystery “From Hell,” and a few years later portrayed an escort and part-time stripper in “The Hangover.”  Most recently, Graham showed off her grown-up sex appeal as a free-spirited divorcee in the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival’s  “Goodbye to All That.”

Taraji P Henson - “Hustle and Flow”

Taraji P Henson Taraji P Henson in "Hustle and Flow"  MTV Films

Just like its Oscar-nominated signature song wouldn’t exist without her hooks, “Hustle and Flow” would not have been anywhere near the movie that it was without Taraji J. Henson as pregnant prostitute Shug. Henson made her believable as a woman born into dire poverty with little hope of escaping, but who somehow possessed no bitterness about her lot in life. Shug showed Terrence Howard’s character, DJay, far more kindness than he likely deserved, but in doing so made it easy to root for him. Since then, Henson has appeared in a number of films, including an Oscar-nominated turn in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” She can currently be seen in “Think Like a Man Too,” which had a huge box office opening this past weekend.  Henson has also appeared on the small screen in “Person of Interest,” but [SPOILER] her character was killed off.

Rob Schneider - “Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo”

deuce_bigalow_gigolo Rob Schneider in the poster for "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo."  Happy Madison

Schneider is hardly known for cerebral roles, appearing primarily in mediocre-to-outright-terrible comedies under Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions banner. But in between swapping bodies with teenage girls or obtaining animal organs, Schneider also portrayed a male prostitute in “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” and its sequel, “European Gigolo.” The results weren't exactly great, but they could lend Schneider a winking self-awareness if he ever pushed into television dramas, though preferably only in a cameo.

Elisabeth Shue - “Leaving Las Vegas”

Leaving+Las+Vegas Elisabeth Shue in "Leaving Las Vegas"  United Artists

After appearing in family-friendly ‘80s films like “The Karate Kid,” “Adventures in Babysitting” and the latter two “Back to the Future” installments, Elisabeth Shue solidified herself as a serious actress with her Oscar-nominated portrayal of a prostitute in love with an alcoholic in “Leaving Las Vegas.” Shue is no stranger to the small screen, with guest arc on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” a few years back, and she currently stars on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” But we’re sure she could find the time for one episode.

Kim Basinger - “L.A. Confidential”

Kim_Basinger_LA_Confidential Kim Basinger in "L.A. Confidential"  Warner Bros.

Basinger’s career-defining role as prostitute Lynn Bracken in the neo-noir “L.A. Confidential” both established her as a no-nonsense femme fatale and netted her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In recent years, however, Basinger’s track record has been a little spottier, with her last big hit coming in Eminem’s 2002 drama “Eight Mile.” An appearance in a Soderbergh-produced drama series could go a long way in revitalizing Basinger’s career.

Rebecca De Mornay - “Risky Business”

Rebecca De Mornay Rebecca De Mornay in "Risky Business"  Warner Bros.

Rebecca De Mornay’s role as the call girl Lana in “Risky Business” earned her recognition, but it was co-star Tom Cruise who went on to become one of America’s last true movie stars. De Mornay, of course, was unforgettable as a psychotic nanny in “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” but we haven’t seen nearly enough of her since then. We’d much rather see her on Starz than an episode of “Where are They Now?”

Charlize Theron - “Monster”

Charlize Theron Charlize Theron in “Monster”  Columbia Pictures

Theron’s turn as prostitute-turned-serial-killer Aileen Wuornos shocked audiences and critics alike as she transformed physically and threw herself into the role -- which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress. At a time when Matthew McConaughey is reviving his career on HBO, Theron’s resume as a television actor could use an update from her most notable performance, a guest stint on “Arrested Development” in 2005.

Dolly Parton - “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”

After spending her entire life in show business, Dolly Parton can do whatever the hell she wants. Over the course of her 60-year career, Parton has been a Grammy-winning songwriter, a legendary country singer, an acclaimed actress and an entrepreneur. In 1980, Parton starred as Madam Miss Mona in “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas” opposite Burt Reynolds. Why not play a madame with a heart of gold again? (We can hardly imagine the lovely and delightful Parton playing anything but a doll.)

Jodie Foster - “Taxi Driver”

Jodie Foster Jodie Foster in "Taxi Driver"  Columbia Pictures

Like Dolly Parton, Foster has spent more or less her entire life in the public eye after her role as child prostitute Iris Steensma in Martin Scorsese's “Taxi Driver” earned her an Academy Award nomination in 1976. Though the underage casting choice was controversial, Foster and Robert De Niro worked exceptionally well together to peel off the emotional layers of a character who had to grow up far too fast. An experienced director now, Foster would also be a strong candidate for a guest director on "Girlfriend Experience," having already directed episodes of Netflix originals “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards.”

Jane Fonda - “Klute”

Jane Fonda Jane Fonda in "Klute"  Warner Bros.

For a certain contingent of Americans, Jane Fonda’s career as an actress has always been overshadowed by her political activism, which is a shame considering her enduring body of work. One of Fonda’s most notable roles was in the 1971 conspiracy thriller “Klute,” in which Fonda plays a New York City prostitute embroiled in a missing persons case. The role won Fonda her first of two Oscars, and reprising that territory could  Fonda went into self-imposed retirement in the 1990s, but she’s been testing those limits lately by appearing on five episodes of HBO’s “The Newsroom.”

For the most satisfying former prostitute team up of all, why not pair Fonda with Dolly Parton? The two already starred together in the 1980 musical comedy “9 to 5,” where the two took down a sexist boss. Imagine what they could do together now?

Julia Roberts - “Pretty Woman”

Julia roberts Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman"  Buena Vista Pictures

Roberts’ character in “Pretty Woman” is pretty much the first thing anyone thinks of when they think of movie prostitutes. Roberts earned a Best Actress nomination for her role as Vivian Ward, whose week-long gig as an escort for Edward Lewis may be the prototype for the real-life “girlfriend experience” -- an extended encounter in which a paid companion provides more than just, well, you know. While it’d be fun to see her play a similar role in “The Girlfriend Experience,” Roberts could really shine playing a more realistic version of Vivian, after her prince has turned into a frog.

Soderbergh will executive produce “The Girlfriend Experience” alongside Peabody Award-nominated documentary journalist Phillip Fleishman. Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz will write and direct for the series. Kerrigan has previously directed epsiodes of “The Americans” and “The Killing,” while Seimetz wrote and directed the independent film “Sun Don’t Shine.” No release date has yet been set for “The Girlfriend Experience.”

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