It’s an open secret that many adult video companies push to get some of their best productions into stores before Sept. 30, since that is AVN’s cut-off date for movies it will consider eligible for awards at the following January’s AVN Awards show. Last year, for example, Adam & Eve’s The 8th Day and Wicked Pictures’ 2040 showed up just ahead of the deadline, while a couple of years before, the Digital Playground/Adam & Eve co-production Pirates did the same.
But surely one of the contenders for multiple nominations in 2011 will be Hustler Video’s This Ain’t Avatar XXX 3D, a lush homage to the sci-fi extravaganza that’s become the highest-grossing mainstream film of all time—and it almost didn’t happen.
“It’s funny, because it started as a joke,” explained Axel Braun, the movie’s director. “I told the people at Hustler that we should announce that we had a series of parodies that I had proposed to them—that we should announce the parodies right away, because you know, parodies are a hot commodity right now, and ‘I don’t want people to just jump on good ideas; let’s announce them so it’s out there.’
“It took a little bit of convincing to finally announce the stuff, and when we announced them, the people at Hustler—specifically Drew Rosenfeld and Rob Smith—added a few other titles to the mix, and the Avatar thing was thrown in there as a joke,” Braun continued. “And when I saw the press release, I called them; I was laughing, ‘Ohmigod, are you serious?’ And they go like, ‘Yeah, we just put it there as a joke. I mean, why not?’ And then a couple of days later, I was in a meeting, and they’re like, ‘You know, Avatar might not be a dumb idea after all,’ and then we started talking, and then the 3D thing came about, and we go, ‘Why can’t we do it in 3D?’ And it became a reality; amazing.”
“Reality” might not have been the best choice of words at that point, because by all accounts, the road from the movie’s conception to wrapping the shoot was a long and complicated one.
“Axel and Drew were the first ones who started kicking around ideas for the script, and the main concept came from them,” noted the screenplay’s main author, Marc Star, who also shot stills and behind-the-scenes material for the feature. “I’ve been writing scripts with Axel and for Axel’s movies for a number of months, so when the Avatar project came up, they naturally asked me to write it. But the idea that it takes place after the movie but that it’s told in flashback through the video logs, that’s all their idea. And the idea that there’s this big secret about what kind of people the Na’bi really are, that they’re really like these fetish-fueled sex fiends, that was also from Drew and Axel.”
“We had to change all the names,” Star explained. “Instead of the Na’vi, our blue people are the Na’bi. Instead of the planet being Pandora, ours is Panwhora; instead of it being unobtainium they’re after, it’s viagratanium—which makes sense because everybody’s blue like Viagra.”
The parody (or perhaps it’s more properly called an homage) stars popular actor Chris Johnson as the main human character “Jake,” with Nicki Hunter as his partner in exploration “Grace,” a role essayed by Sigourney Weaver in the James Cameron film; Eric Swiss as “Norm,” another human/avatar explorer; Lexington Steele and Chanel Preston as the leaders of the Na’bi people, and Misty Stone as Chris’s native love interest.
“It starts with Jake’s video log,” recounted Star, who’s seen Avatar three times and read the screenplay. “You can tell he’s in distress. He’s thinking, ‘The Na’bi were really great and all that, but let me tell you what happened’—and then it started going in flashback, and we parodied key points of the actual movie. And then, after the Na’bi have won the battle against the corporation and kicked the corporation off the planet, it’s revealed to Jake that these are fetish-fueled sex fiends, and it culminates in a giant orgy full of blue people, and after the orgy, Jake learns what the true purpose of the Na’bi is in keeping the humans on the planet is, and that’s our big twist at the end, which I’m not sure I’m allowed to reveal.”
Of course, one of the main aspects of the movie is its primary “special effect,” 3D, for which Hustler contracted with mainstream technical house SLX Rentals & Sales (now Camadeus Film Technologies) for both the 3D camera and the company’s 3D expertise.
“We’ve been doing 3D for quite a while,” said SLX owner Sebastian, “and I got contacted by Rob Smith, the technical manager of Hustler Video, who actually got referred to me by an old contact of his, and he called and said he would like to come by and have a look at the equipment. We had a couple of long discussions about what’s possible and what’s not possible and how 3D is done. At the end, the way we shot, I don’t think anybody ever has shot 3D, because 3D is usually a lot of changing of camera positions, a lot of cutting, a lot of just fixed shots with not a lot of camera movement, but at the end, we had 30-minute takes with a lot of camera movement and a lot of change in 3D settings like convergence and interocular distance, which usually, when it comes to how to shooting 3D, right or wrong, you shouldn’t do, but I’m pretty amazed with the outcome.”
The 3D rig consisted of a pair of special lipstick video cameras mounted side-by-side and each outputting a full 1080p. The cameras were linked both physically and electronically, allowing adjustments of the amount of convergence the dual images had and the interocular distance. Braun described the 3D equipment as the second-biggest challenge of making the movie.
“It was just the fact that we had the camera equipment and stuff, the racks of drives and things that we didn’t even know what they were,” Braun admitted. “We had the technician on set, and sometimes, you know, you’re shooting a scene and he goes, ‘Hold on, I need to adjust this,’ and it takes another 15 minutes and you’re waiting around—it’s just stuff that needs to be considered in the making of a 3D feature.”
Despite its apparent small size, the 3D rig’s weight taxed the abilities of even an experienced adult videographer.
“We put it on the jib for most of the shoot, and we put it on sticks, and I think we did a couple of shots handheld,” Braun recalled. “That thing was really heavy. It was like inside a big metal box. I did myself a couple of handheld things during two sex scenes, because in some positions, you want the position to be a certain way and the jib cannot go that low or do Dutch angles, so I did it handheld, but only a few times. It was not an easy maneuver.”
But of course, the makeup was the biggest challenge.
“We had Lee Garland, who is the best makeup artist in the industry, who was just amazing,” Braun said, “but the body paint was really difficult because there’s several coats of paint to go on and it took forever; it took a lot longer than we had anticipated, because nobody had ever done something to that extent. You know, we had worked with some kind of body paint in the past, but not to where the whole body is covered and the face and stuff, so that took way longer than expected and set us back a lot hour-wise on the shoot. The last day was a 26-hour day.”
“They were generally 14, 16-hour days,” Star agreed, “and the last day was more than a 24-hour day.”
And how many gallons of blue body paint were used?
“All of them,” Star said, with barely a trace of irony. “They went, I think, over budget on the blue paint. We had just the two makeup people, Lee Garland and Two-Ply, who did all the body painting.”
But it wasn’t just paint; the performers had to have rubber appliances glued to their faces to simulate their “otherworldliness.”
“The prosthetics I bought from a special effects company,” Braun said. “They were really expensive, they were really good. The thing [airbrush] that we used to spray on this makeup was really slow and it took just forever to do a few inches of the body, and then the guy that works on the sets, the foreman at LFP, came up with the idea, ‘Well, why don’t we hook it up to a big compressor?’ And I go, ‘I don’t know; maybe, if it works.’ So we hooked it up, and that really changed the game; we were blasting away but it still took forever because the compressor kept overheating, and we’d have to stop and wait for it to cool down. And also what took forever was to take the paint off at the end of the day. Oh, man, we had like the two female PA’s scrubbing off the guys because the paint wouldn’t come off, and some of them were done for the shoot and needed to go home. I think Chris Johnson went home blue. He was on the set every day, so every night he just went home blue.”
“But we also had some amazing stuff,” he continued. “I think the last day, the 25th hour of shooting, we had the last sex scene with Nicki Hunter, who’s such a trouper and an amazing, amazing performer, who did like a crazy, super-energetic anal scene just as we were all really falling asleep. I was kept up by adrenaline, but everybody else was falling asleep, and all of a sudden, she starts like jumping up and down on [Johnson’s] cock. It was really, really cool.”
AVN was present for Nicki’s anal scene with Eric Swiss, which took place in the studio’s lush forest set: a veritable jungle with palm trees, bushes, hanging vines and rocks, all surrounded by a “forest” cyclorama that, thanks to the excellent camerawork, blended right in with the artificial plant life.
After some brief conversation, Nicki, nearly unrecognizable in her facial appliance and blue makeup, kneels down in front of Eric for the obligatory b.j., then quickly pulls down her shorts so Eric can enter her doggie style as she steadies herself on a nearby rock. Soon after, she climbs aboard his cock for some reverse cowgirl action, which leads to the pair falling over into spoon position for more alien fucking.
A cowgirl ride marks the beginning of the anal action, which again continues into anal spoon and later anal reverse cowgirl until Nicki catches his splooge right on her tongue.
One thing was clear: Nicki, a makeup artist in her own right, truly loved her blue persona.
“One of the most entertaining behind-the-scenes moments, which I don’t think is going to get on the behind-the-scenes disk, unfortunately, because there would be too many trademarks and logos all over the footage,” Star recalled, “had Nicki Hunter done up all in blue, and she wanted to go get either a pack of cigarettes or some snacks or something, and I went with her, video camera in hand, while she went walking down the street entirely in blue, turned onto DeSoto and went into a convenience store, where she got quite a few strange looks. She had her top on, but it was a tiny little tank top, which barely covered her. It was an eyebrow-raising risqué moment, to be sure.”
This Ain’t Avatar XXX 3D is scheduled to be released in late September on DVD and Blu-ray, and reportedly, the package will contain a 2D version of the movie as well as two 3D versions: one anaglyph and one optimized for play on the new 3D TVs.
We can’t wait!