The perfect muse: François Sagat
In Carlo Collodi’s 1883 children’s novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” it is the wooden puppet that possesses sentience prior to its transformation; it is the puppet and not its creator, the woodcarver who triggers the miracle of the doll coming alive.
With François one never knows who pulls the strings. It is him who invokes the sentiment for a story to become alive. Yet he hands himself over unconditionally to his collaborators, like an “instrument to be played”, as he likes to call it.
Film director Christopher Honoré once expressed that François Sagat “redefines the notion of masculinity”. François, the humble boy from Cognac has moulded himself to unattainable iconic status. Gilded with his blue inked crane, he is to conquer his righteous spot in the pantheon of pop culture…
"François Sagat with Apple" Exhibition SPECTRE, Hyères 2010. Photography by René Habermacher
René Habermacher : you recently played alongside Chiara Mastroianni in HOMME AU BAIN by Christophe Honoré, and as well the lead in Bruce LaBruce L.A. ZOMBIE – how were your experiences?
François Sagat: L.A ZOMBIE was an experience which had very little to do with HOMME AU BAIN… The shoot for LA ZOMBIE was like a real porno shoot, scene by scene, it was mostly fucking, except that of course the porno version was censored for festivals…Beyond the sex scenes, LA ZOMBIE was a chaotic shoot, without a script, hasardous… but I’m still to this day satisfied with this participation and collaboration with Bruce LaBruce, from whom I still have much to learn, and who possesses a huge cinema and litterary culture… Despite what his critics say, I think Bruce has a real style.
During the shoot I really tested my capacity to resist “obstacles”, it was at times very difficult, I didn’t know where I was going, no direction, it was like being thrown in the lion’s den.
There was no script, the storytelling was weak and the whole plan was turned on its head by last minute changes and many cancelations, but that can be said about a lot of “cinema” projects.
L'HOMME AU BAIN by Christophe Honoré, starring Chiara Mastroianni and François Sagat.
Regarding HOMME AU BAIN, the shooting was a lot more structured, but energetic nevertheless. It’s on this project that I realized that my abilities as an actor were limited, weak even, and felt like I was a big challenge for Christophe Honoré because of my “heavy” image, of the luggage I was carrying.
There were moments when I thought I terrified him, being everything except malleable. The project was constantly evolving due to the fact that we had planned it as a short, and that a lot of questions arose towards the end of shooting. It was finally released as a full feature film, and I have the feeling it wasn’t the right place for the film.
It was an intimate project which to me, with hindsight, would have had a strong impact as a short. But I am neither director nor the creator of my own character. Rather than control the situation, I felt the blowback. But surely the imperfection of the final result makes it a real film, that can be remarked and criticized. I chose to shoot it and live the collaboration for the moment rather than think of the finished product.
What is the difference to you between acting in a porn movie or a feature film?
The difference ? Of course there are differences.
When you’re a porno actor, you’re in constant control of your carnal envelope and your physical aspect, whether you learn it or you have it from the start.
I didn’t know it as first but I am someone who has that ability. Porn is often an activity for people who are shy orally.
As a performer, you never really have to carry the more or less artistic responsabilities of a porn film, because there is no artistic issue to start with. You just have to be a good soldier fitting what the consumer desires to watch and what the production has decided, and that’s it.
I think also that I am someone who’s very sexual and exhibitiionist, but that’s not really giving you a scoop. Porn is like military service, it’s “my way or the highway”, and in my case, I’ve been and continue to be a good soldier.
The main difference is that you need a capacity to adapt and to lose who you really are, physically as well as morally. I created for myself a character in porn as in life, it’s difficult to let it go.
Video still from PILORI installation by Lynsey Peisinger & The Stimuleye. Villa Noailles, Hyères 2012.
Do you find your excursion into conventional acting is being made difficult by the public perception of you as a porn actor?
It’s a fact: I think I have the syndrome of the porn star/whore as others do, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. To get into porn, even with what I built around it, was one boundary too many to cross, and I think that morality have not evolved at all and that they won’t evolve. There are so many things I could have done if I hadn’t been this “porn actor” which I am described as, and which I present myself as when asked what I “do”. The separation between mainstream and underground is still the same, and more solid than ever.
I think I’m doomed to be on the sidelines, but I think I knew it, even when I was 25 when I did this.
There’s no harm in it.
To direct myself is my only option to go beyond this situation, but it doesn’t interest me that much either. Life is not a race to permanent justification, and in case of failure I don’t complain, I’d rather move on to something else. I’ve been very lucky in my experiences with the handicaps I created by giving in to this “giving of yourself”.
For a while we have witnessed your short films on the web, where it seems you explore other territories like performance etc. what were your thoughts behind these?
It’s just masturbation, wanking on my own image, nothing more nothing less.
I think I had reached a stage where I was really pissed off at my American porn production company who was locking me into a persona which was only 50% of myself in order to sell at all costs..
An ass and a dick, ok, but also a character too simplified, too masculine and too stereotyped in a virility which satisfied only the viewers, but which didn’t satisfy me at all. To have the image of an ultra-virile guy, and only that, didn’t fit me, and it wasn’t what I was looking for 2 years after starting this pornographic activity.
It’s because it’s not who I am, I don’t find myself very masculine.
Many of the actors have the same reflexes I have – sooner or later, the desire to stand out or to claim who you really are comes out, and you can deal with it to different degrees, which leads to a certain level of depression in the end. I’m really like a lot of my colleagues, I’m not the only one.
“The animated figures stand adorning every public street
And seem to breathe in stone, or move their marble feet.”
Pindar, Olympian Ode, 476–75 BC
Returning to porn, you have produced “Incubus” with Titan, also in the function of the director. It seems you sort of combine and integrate influences from your “homemade” shorts with the genre.What is it all about? and how is this “shift” being perceived ?
It’s has part of me in it, yes and no… I wrote all the scenes one by one, and I really supervised the art direction, the inspirations, except I didn’t fully measure all the limitations of a shoot that’s porn and only porn.
You can’t do everything, especially if you have to respect the deal you made with the production company and the demands of the project.
Because in the end this particular project is only interesting if it sold and consumed.
You are very affiliated to fashion, from collaborations with Bernhard Willhelm to Giambattista Valli, and starring in many shoots from Terry Richardson to Pierre et Gilles. What is your relationship with fashion?
Those moments are very rare… I have a friendly relationship with Valli, beyond his activity or mine. I run into Pierre et Gilles and we chat happily. I’ve worked with some real people, to whom I had things to say, like you René, beyond what they do.
Even after doing a fashion school at the end of the 90’s, I still feel outside all of that.
I think the idea of “fashion” is completely “has been”, it’s a new era, and it’s definitely not a fashion era. But of course human beings remain interesting, even in the universe of fashion. So i’m split.
In some way you “hand” yourself over to photographers and other creatives. How do you see yourself in this collaborations?
My god… I try not to ask myself that many questions anymore ! I see myself as an inspiring subject ? That’s what people are looking for when they call me.
I am there, a body that is moved from point A to point B, it’s in the can, immortalized. There are so many things I regret, that were really useless and which leave traces. With internet, mistakes are harder to get rid of. (laughs)
I think of myself as an instrument, not really ideal for all projects, but able nonetheless. But less and less as time goes by, I feel. I want to make less projects of this kind, but of better quality. I find no interest in it, especially for pictures, it has to remain occasional.
You once told me reading your mom’s magazines when you were a kid- who were the people that influenced you back then?
Yeah my sister and my mother, bringing me Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair US and Vogue US. So I got into it, and unfortunately I was 11/12 years old when Freedom and then Too Funky came out – I was a goner.
It was fascinating for someone from the province to discover that. I was a very visual boy. I discovered very soon who Nick Knight was, with Jil Sander back then, and that led to many other things, like picture of Sigourney Weaver by Helmut Newton, or Cicciolina by Lagerfeld.
What are your very personal fetishes?
I don’t think I really have any. Sexual or not. It doesn’t really belong to the way I behave, unless they’re unconscious. I’m a thinker, but not about the essential things.
What are you up to next?
I regularly go abroad to pay my bills and compromise myself by doing very commercial things with my body…. I’m joking. I’m not forced to do anything.
I’m goint to Mexico to do a workshop with a famous singer (hint: previously interviewed on The Stimuleye) and a growing French stylist, the idea is strong, still in preparation, and not fashion.
It’s mostly about meeting different people. There are other projects I can’t talk about that have to do with art and video, and payed…
If you’d were able to arrange an intimate soiree with guests of your preference, dead or alive, who would you invite to converse with each other?
I would love to see my grandmother on my mom’s side, who died when I was 4 years old. According to my mom she was very intelligent, subtle and funny. I would have loved to forge a deeper relationship and learn who she was.
No celebrities, I don’t care. At all. No one else comes to mind, but my friends are enough to make for some very interesting reunions.
What was the last thing (you heard, saw or experienced) that stimulated you?
Nothing stimulates me anymore, except playing with my pussy Nathalie…
I had a head-on shock when I saw Lars Von Trier’s MELANCHOLIA … SLAP IN THE FACE: a terrifying subject, on my fears, my realities and aspirations in life, and those of the human being in general when confronted to a fatality to which he has no real perception and zero control.
François Sagats latest music project with the late Helmut Newton muse Sylvia Gobbel is now available on iTunes. For more information and a conversation between the collaborators and our partner Filep Motwary visit un nouveau ideal