From the outside, being a porn actor seems like a dream job. Scare us straight. Tell us why it’s not as awesome as we think it is.

Sorry, it really is the most awesome job ever. I guess if you really hated sex, and didn’t want a nice laid-back career where you can make your own rules, and you really needed that corporate structure, it could be a drag. But I enjoy my job and I enjoy the sex part of my job and I enjoy being able to work as much or as little as I want. It’s kind of amazing.

You don’t have one horror story? Even a painful groin pull from having too much sex?

I never understand that complaint. “Porn isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s really physically taxing.” What’s so wrong with doing some physical activity? Is that a problem? If you wanted to get into football, you’d be laughed off the field if you complained about all the running and hitting. Oh, I just want to sit on my ass and watch TV all day. Okay, well, sorry. Sure, the hours can be long, and like any job it can be grueling at times. But you’re getting paid to have sex. That’s pretty cool any way you slice it. I imagine if Michael Phelps hated swimming, he probably wouldn’t be an Olympic champion. If you don’t like having sex every day, all the time, porn is probably the wrong career path for you.

You’ve done pretty much every sexual act imaginable. Is there anything you won’t do?

Clowns. I won’t have sex with anyone dressed like a clown. They are creepy! I’ve only done it once, and it was terrifying. The director was explaining the scene to me—it was a scene in an asylum or something—and he’s like, “She’ll be in clown makeup.” I freaked out. I was like “What?! No, absolutely not! I will not have sex with a clown!” We found a way to do it, by only doing positions with her faced away from me; Doggie and reverse cowgirl, stuff like that. She’d get into position and I’d wait outside the room, and the director would yell, “Okay, James, we’re ready,” and I’d run in and do the scene, but I could only see the back of her head. I still had my eye closed the whole time.

Do you consider yourself an actor or a sex performance artist?

Definitely a performer. I’m all about the performance aspect of sex. If I was being paid to go over to someone’s house and have sex, I would feel really weird and uncomfortable. If I was being paid to go over to someone’s house at a party and have sex—they wanted to have an orgy or whatever—I would feel really uncomfortable. If someone was having a party and I was being paid to have sex behind walled glass or on a stage or whatever, and my job was to be a performance piece, to titillate and arouse the patrons, that’s cool. That’s what I do. So it’s this weird fine line. I don’t want to be a prostitute, and I’ve only done it once, by accident.

How does one accidentally become a prostitute?

So I get a call from somebody in the adult film industry. “Hey, I want to book you for a day to do a group scene.” I get the details, and it’s at 9PM at his house on the beach. Totally standard thing; I shoot at my house all the time, not a big deal. I show up and he’s like, “We had some cancellations, so it’s just going to be a three-way.” Now the scene’s with him and his wife. They’re both in the industry, so again, not that weird. But then the guy is like, “Do you party?” And I’m like, “What do you mean?” “Do you use blow?” I’m like “No, God no.” He’s doing coke, and I’m starting to feel weird. We go into the room, and there’s a camera on a tripod in the corner and the lights are low. It’s all very suspicious. We’re having this three-way, and then in the middle of it she says to the other guy, “Thank you, baby, this is the best Christmas gift ever.” At that moment I was like, Oh shit, I’m doing a private!

You’ve been described as a “female-friendly porn star.” What’s female-friendly porn?

That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. People who say that think it’s a feminist statement, but it couldn’t be more anti-feminist. It’s saying it’s okay for girls to watch porn as long as it fits in the parameters that we find socially acceptable. Female friendly porn is just porn. Some female directors make what’s called romance porn, which is very soft and passionate. But a lot of great female directors, like Belladonna and Joanna Angel, have made stuff that’s really dirty and rough and insane. They’ll shoot girls doing double anal and fucking gang bangs, shit like that. So maybe that’s the spectrum. Female friendly porn is either the passionate, loving, romantic stuff, or the insane, rough, fucked-up shit where there’s hog-tying and device bondage. There is nothing in between.

You often get aggressive with your partners in your movies. There’s spitting, choking, slapping, and hair-pulling. How do you get away with that and still get called the “nice Jewish kid of porn?”

Well, I try to be a nice person, and I am technically a Jewish kid. So I feel like that is accurate. You can’t really control how people perceive you. Some people say positive things about what I do, and some people are like, “He’s the devil.” There’s that one feminist who’s running around, trying to end pornography, saying it’s ruining society. Her whole thing is, how do we know this doesn’t turn people into rapists? There are no studies. You’re right, there are no studies, so keep your fucking mouth shut. Don’t just throw the word “rape” around to prove a point. Before you throw stones, get some fucking information.

James Deen obviously isn’t your real name. Did you pick the name because you’re such a huge James Dean fan?

It was a nickname I had from when I was a kid. I’ve always liked leather jackets, and I would smoke cigarettes in 7th grade. You couldn’t smoke in school, so I’d go across the street and lean up against the chain link fence. And people started calling me James Dean. When it came time to do my porn name, that was my first choice. I was also considering Clint Cunnilingus, but that just sounds kinda silly and dumb. Honestly, I didn’t want a porn name at all. I was never shy about telling people my real name. But people were like, “No, no, you have to protect your privacy.” I’ve looked pretty much the same my whole life. Anybody who knows me who saw me in a porno, they wouldn’t be fooled by a fake name. They’d be like, “Hey, look, it’s Bryan!”

Your parents both work for NASA, your dad as a mechanical engineer and your mom in data analysis. How did you not end up an astronaut?

Never interested me. But I am on a list to go into space. My dad put me on a list. He’s like, “In 30 years, you’ll be one of the first to go to space.” I don’t think it’ll happen, because I smoke and I’m not that physically fit, but it’s kinda cool. My parents have always been very supportive. They learned quickly that I was going to do whatever I wanted to do. When I started doing adult films, their main concerns were health and safety and that I was actually thinking about the future and not just trying to bang a bunch of girls. I assured them that working in porn is like working at McDonald’s or at a bank. It’s not a giant party, it’s a job. I explained to them my plan, how I saw this as a career. And once their worries were diffused, they were fine with it. They were like, “You can always go back to school if you want to do something else.”

How’d you lose your virginity? And was the experience worthy of a porn plot?

I went to this Jewish sleep-away camp called Camp Gilboa. They had a winter session during the holiday breaks, which lasted for like a week, and we’d go up to some mountain place in the snow. One year, when I was 12, I went to winter camp and the roads were snowed in. We couldn’t get up to the camp with the cabins and stuff. So we waited out the storm in a synagogue in the Valley. There was a big auditorium area and we all had our sleeping bags and slept there. We were there for like five days. There was this girl, she was 16, and she and I had always been flirting. She was there with her boyfriend but they got into this huge fight and broke up and then we hooked up. We broke into one of the offices in the synagogue and had sex in the office. Not sure if that’s sexy enough for a porn plot. There was no synth soundtrack, for one thing. We did it to “Hava Nagila.”

You’ve claimed that you knew you wanted to be a porn star since you were in kindergarten. But that’s a joke, right? How is that even possible?

I was the kid who dry-humped a pole in preschool. I got into trouble in Kindergarten for trying to kiss all the girls. Even before I knew what sex was, I’ve always been like “Sex, sex, sex!” Sometime around kindergarten, I was ditching school to go out drinking and stuff—I was a weirdo—and I was walking on the horse trail that ran behind the school and I found some porn magazine in the bushes. I flipped through it and I was like, “A person gets paid money to do this. This is their job. I could make this my job! I want this to be my job!” I got suspended in third grade because we were going around the room and saying what we wanted to be when we grow up and I said “I want to do porn.” The teacher thought I was being disruptive, but I was telling the truth.

You were 11 years old when Boogie Nights came out. Did you see it, and did Dirk Diggler seem like a good role model for an aspiring pre-teen porn star?

Not really. I mean, I just assumed there was nothing accurate in it whatsoever. I was old enough to realize movies don’t have much to do with real life. I watched it because I couldn’t get my hands on porn and this was a mainstream movie with tits. You could rent Boogie Nights from the library, and I’d take it home and jerk off to it. There was that great sex scene between Julianne Moore and Mark Wahlberg. I watched that all the time. Or the scene with Heather Graham having sex on the couch and she’s like “I never take my skates off.” I’d pause on Heather Graham’s boobs and jerk off, because I was a little kid and I didn’t really care about the plot points. I just wanted to look at Heather Graham’s boobs.

There are no college classes on being a porn star. How’d you find out if you had the right stuff?

I was listening to (radio call-in show) Loveline one day when I was a teenager, and I’d already decided that I wanted to get into porn, I just didn’t know how to do it. Jenna Jameson was a guest on the show, and all these dudes were calling in, asking for advice on becoming porn stars. They were all obnoxious, saying things like “If you think those guys in porn have big dicks, you should see mine.” Just an hour and a half of that shit. Finally she gets really frustrated and says, “You want to be in porn? Here’s what you do. Sit in a room with 20 strangers and jerk off for an hour. Keep it hard in front of everybody. And when one of the people in the room yells ‘come,’ you come. If you can do that, you can do porn.” And I was like, “What a great idea! I can totally do that!”

You started masturbating in front of strangers?

No, having sex. I’d been having sex for awhile, but it was in alley ways and roof tops and parking garages. I didn’t have a car and the girls’ parents were usually home. So I was running around Pasadena having sex with girls all over the place. I started going to these house parties and having sex in front of everyone. No one really cared or got icked out by it. I made sure of that. I’ve always been the type of guy who when people said “Take your pants off” I’d be like, “Sure, as long as everybody here is cool with that. Are you all cool with seeing my penis? Because I’m cool with showing it to you.” Respecting people’s boundaries is kind of a big deal to me.

So being in porn is all about being comfortable with exhibitionism?

Actually, no, not at all. Doing porn has nothing to do with being able to have sex in front of people. A lot of people can have sex in front of people. Doing porn is about the ability to go instantly from the state of normality t0 the state of arousal and back again. There are a lot of guys who are swingers who think, I have sex in front of people all the time! I can be in porn. No, you actually can’t. Because there’s no foreplay in porn. There’s no build-up of sexual excitement. You’re just sitting around the set, talking with your co-stars about what they had for breakfast that morning or how their cat Fluffy got hit by a car and they’re so sad. And then the director says “Action” and you have to jump into that state of sexual arousal and have hot sex. Nobody’s going to wait for you to get into a sexy mood. You have to be able to turn it on like a switch.

Just how much detail is used in porn scripts? How is the sex described?

Everybody’s different. In some scripts they say “And then they make love.” Some scripts say “And then a sex scene.” In mine, I try to be funny to make sure the actors are paying attention. I’ll write something like “And then they have super awesome anal sex, where she comes like crazy and the dude cries at the end. Are you guys still reading this?”

You did a sex tape with Teen Mom reality star Farrah Abraham, and then you both got into a nasty feud in the tabloids. What’s your side of the story?

Here’s what happened; I got a call and they asked if I wanted to do a celebrity sex tape with Farrah. They said, “We’ll set it up so it looks like you guys are dating and then TMZ will find out and it’ll be all over the TV.” They wanted to pretend that somehow the tape got leaked behind her back and she was completely unaware. It was a really fucked up story and I was like, “No, I don’t want to do that. Hire somebody else.” But they promised me the media wouldn’t be involved. I made sure they knew, “If anybody asks me about this, I’m going to tell them the truth. I’m not going to lie.” And they were like, “We’ll make sure they never talk to you.” So we shoot the movie, and as we’re leaving her hotel room some paparazzi takes our picture. The next day I get a call from TMZ, and they’re like, “Are you dating Farrah Abraham?” And I’m like, “Nope.” “Well what were you doing at that hotel?” “Shooting a porno.” “Oh… okay. Bye then.” And that’s when the fucking drama train hit.

She accused you of having a small penis. Would you care to critique her porn performance?

She was great. I thought she was really cool. She got a little confused a few times about how to have sex for the camera, but it was her first porn movie so that was understandable. There were times when I was like, “Oh, honey, no. No.” But the filming process was for the most part really amazing and fun. Her manager showed up and hung out. She’s an ex-porn girl who we all knew, so it was cool. The small penis, remark, well, I respect her right to have that opinion. If you think I have a small penis, that’s fine. I don’t care and I’m not going to be offended by what you said and I’m definitely not going to get into a public pissing match with you.

A lot of celebrities have made sex tapes, everyone from Pamela Anderson to Paris Hilton. Who’s your dream A-list co-star?

That’s really hard to say, because so much of it depends on personality. You look at somebody like Halle Berry or Charlize Theron, and they’re undeniably gorgeous. But I don’t know them. For all I know, they’re complete bitches. Maybe they’d be terrible to work with on a porn film. Personality really does go a long way. I mean, these aren’t just people I’m having sex with. They’re my co-workers. I want to like being around them. But okay, I’ve got an answer for you. Who’s my dream co-star? In 9th grade there was this girl who was really awesome and beautiful and she doesn’t do porn, but I’d like to have sex with her. Her name is Nicole. And I never had sex with Nicole. I mean, we made out and I finger banged her and all, but I never had sex with her. She’s the one who got away.

You did an orgy scene with Lindsay Lohan in the non-porn film The Canyons. As somebody who’s done his fair share of on-screen orgies, how did it compare?

Well, it wasn’t a real orgy. There was no actual sex taking place, nothing like in porn. We were all naked, but it was basically pantomime. There are two scenes involving sex in the movie, and they’re about pushing the plot forward, showing the power dynamics between these characters. I don’t want to talk about Lindsay because people just put negative spins on it. For awhile, everything I said about working with her was taken out of context and twisted into something really negative and awful. During the Lindsay drama, I got a first-hand lesson in how tabloids spin a story. They got shots of us coming out of a bar together, holding hands and getting into her car. TMZ was like “What’s going on? Are they an item?” We were playing a couple in a movie! We were hanging out before the movie and getting to know each other. And when we left the bar together, she was drunk so I drove her home because I was sober, and she has a bad history with that. End of story.

You’ve been in some hilarious-sounding films, with titles like Fuckenstein, Weapons of Ass Destruction, I Came in Your Mom, and Not with My Wife You Don’t. What’s your favorite ridiculous porn role?

There’s been so many. I played a hasidic rabbi in a movie called Nice Jewish Girls. I played an evil kung fu master in a Ninja movie called Kung Fu Pussy. At the end, I’m beating up these three ninja girls because I’m super evil, and then they realize they just have to work together and use their powers against me. So one girl runs her ass into me, the other girl hits me with her tits, and the third girl shows her pussy to me and that’s how they kill me. The parody stuff is usually my favorite. We did a Seinfeld parody, and I played Seinfeld. I actually met Jason Alexander in Las Vegas. I told him that I played Seinfeld in a porno and he was like, “Of course you did.” And then we hung out for the night. I met Zach Braff and told him “I played you in a Scrubs porno!” And he was like, “Yeah you did!”

What’s the secret to a really great porn parody?

A lot of people in porn don’t understand what a parody actually is. A parody isn’t the same thing as an homage. It’s not a parody if you’re just remaking a show or movie or whatever, but with a lower budget and hardcore sex. You’re just doing a shitty version of something else. I did a Hangover porno, and all we did was retell the jokes from the mainstream movie, but without being as funny, and we shot it with less money and made it look worse. We did a much better job with the Seinfeld parody. We remade the Soup Nazi episode, but instead of the Soup Nazi it was a Porn Nazi. They all wanted to get porn and the Porn Nazi was like, “No porn for you!” That’s a good parody. Make it a porno, as opposed to trying to recreate some Hollywood movie scene-for-scene and throwing in some random sex.

You were a vocal opponent of California’s Measure B mandate against condoms in porn films. Do a PSA for us, explaining why condoms are a good thing, except for you.

I love condoms. I think condoms are fantastic. Outside of the adult film industry, I’ve only had sex without condoms with maybe five or six girls. They are, in my opinion, the best option available to the masses. But we’re professionals. Think of it in terms of movie stunt people. You should definitely wear a helmet whenever you’re riding a motorcycle. It’s stupid not to. But the people who do stunts in movies, they don’t wear helmets, because they’re paid to do it without protection. In the same way, if you’re having promiscuous sex, even with people you know and trust, you should wear a condom. But if someone is a trained professional and operating under the safest controlled environment possible, an exception should be made. The stunt person can drive their motorcycle without a helmet down a flight of stairs or off a bridge, and the same freedom should be given to a porn actor. Also, it’s a violation of the First Amendment. Adult films are constitutionally protected content. If I’m being forced to use a condom, I can’t express what I want to express.

How would wearing a condom impede your creativity?

I want to make a movie about Marquis de Sade. This is something I genuinely want to do. How am I going to make a movie about the most famous French pervert in history and use modern day prophylactics? That will look retarded! The Marquis de Sade can not put a condom on before he has bizarre sex.

(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the October 2013 issue of Playboy magazine.)