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BUDAPEST — “A long time ago, witches of sex appeared in the world…”
Anna de Ville, styled like a modern-day graduate student of the occult, sits in a black and red room, ornamented with medieval decorations. She is reading from a grimoire, establishing the bare-bones mythology of Rocco Siffredi’s latest project, a series for Adult Time called “Rocco’s Time Master” (picture that in the “Game of Thrones” font), subtitled “Sex Witches.”
XBIZ spoke exclusively with Siffredi, one of the very few male performers in the industry who can be rightfully referred to as “legendary,” is also a truly international sex celebrity and businessman, and serves as both sex symbol and role model for millions around the world.
“I love these witches!” Siffredi told XBIZ from his base of operations in Budapest, Hungary, where he relocated from his native Italy. The man everyone in Europe and beyond just calls “Rocco” (one name, like Madonna) has been a mainstream-level celebrity in his homeland for a couple of decades.
“I’ve always worked with my cousin Gabriele, for the last 25 years,” Siffredi explained, referring to the long-suffering partner in porn Gabriele Galetta (aka Gabriel Zero). Galetta has been along for the ride since the beginning, and he was creatively responsible for some of the most famous Rocco productions during the charismatic leading man’s original triumphal phase in the early 1990s.
“Once in a while Gabriele comes out with funny ideas because he loves history, so we go back to those witches. He really loves the idea of using porn to tell these kinds of stories,” Siffredi added.
In a 2016 Hollywood Reporter review of the excellent documentary “Rocco” (a must-see for adult industry fans and insiders) critic Boyd van Hoeij characterized the peculiar relationship between Siffredi and his key associate.
“Gabriele Galetta, Rocco’s very similar-looking cousin who had a short-lived career as a porn performer that was cut short by erection-on-demand problems, now handles the camera duties on Siffredi’s films,” wrote van Hoeij. “He also frequently comes up with crazy ideas for lead-ins to sex scenes, which more than occasionally causes friction between the two. When Galetta seems only halfway through an explanation of a very complicated-sounding set-up, Rocco fires off a very astute: ‘Yes but when do they fuck?’”
This time around, Siffredi was especially enthused about Galetta’s “sex witch” idea, which would bring the duo back to their ancestral roots.
“We wanted to shoot in Abruzzi, because the story connects with the country where I’m from and he’s also from,” the multiple XBIZ Award winner for both European Male Performer and Director explained.
Abruzzi, or Abruzzo, is the region in central (Italians would say Southern) Italy east of Rome, on the Adriatic, where Siffredi was born 55 years ago. Originally from Ortona, in the Chieti province, the man who would become “The Italian Stallion” and would go on to build a European sex empire, was born Rocco Tano in 1964.
He would perform under a variety of screen names starting in the mid-1980s, but by the early 1990s Siffredi had settled on the surname we all know, after Alain Delon’s dapper character in the 1970 arthouse thriller “Borsalino.”
And it is those medieval structures, still intact in the “borghi” (towns) all over Abruzzi, plus a love for 1960s and 1970s cinema, that are the key inspirations for the “Rocco’s Time Master” series.
“When Gabriele and I were young, we would play in the local castle, and we knew the history of the place,” says Siffredi. “Everyone knew that they used to burn the witches there hundreds of year ago.”
The cousins developed a sympathy for these persecuted women. “Witches were artists!” explained Siffredi, channeling a version of the revisionist history made popular by renowned scholars of alternative religions like Carlo Ginzburg. “Witches were the people we call artists, like us. The Church didn’t like it. Everyone who comes out with new ideas, they have the restriction from the Church.”
“When Gabriele came up with the idea,” Siffredi told XBIZ with child-like glee, “I was immediately excited and told him ‘I’m gonna use the castle in the town we were born!’”
The idea of doing a period piece was not completely unprecedented for the duo. “We made a few historical movies a long, long time ago — 20 years ago, or more!” marveled the performer-director. “I made ‘The Marquis de Sade’ , I made ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (‘Dr. Rocco e Mr. Sodo’) , those were brilliant films that you can still find on the internet in tube sites. People should look at them to see how great porn films were in the 1990s. They were shot on real film!”
But the times, like a certain Nobel laureate has sung thousands of times, have a-changed, and HD video does not allow so much for cheating with lighting to make props and cheap costumes look like the real thing. And so for “Rocco’s Time Master,” Siffredi chose to lean into this era’s shortcomings and go full camp, with a charming 21st-century B-movie quality.
“The budget was not great,” Siffredi laughs. “So we decided to do effects in, shall we say, a cheap way. We decided to make it funny. The low budget was an excuse to do something more surreal and unusual.”
Adult Time was fully on board for Rocco’s eccentric magickal mystery ride. “I am always excited to see when adult filmmakers break new ground and let their creativity run wild,” the X-rated streaming service’s head of production Bree Mills told XBIZ. “Rocco Siffredi is a legend in this business. When you let him get creative, the end result will always be worth checking out.”
Mills herself has been responsible for a revolution in genre production in porn, masterminded the signature series “Future Darkly,” with tales of gender-bending alien abductions and creepiness galore. But don’t look for Gamma Pictures’ “Black Mirror”-style slickness here. This is out-and-proud artisanal horror, down to the Halloween capes and witch hats, the direct-to-video VFX, the Time Master’s steampunk mask (“But who is the Time Master?” asks Siffredi in a promotional video for the series — take a wild guess) and the llama.
Yes, for some unfathomable reason, there’s a comic-relief character who hangs out with a real-live llama.
All About Budget
“The question is all about budget,” explains Siffredi. “When I made ‘Marquis de Sade’ we were shooting on film! Everyone wanted to give us money back then. People would come to me from all over Europe with wads of cash, telling me ‘Rocco — I want to help you make these movies.’ But today collecting money is very, very, very complicated.”
We mention that this is not unlike the great Italian horror director Dario Argento, who went from the Golden Age of giallo (the 1970s flavor of Italian gory suspense beloved by Quentin Tarantino and many film buffs) to some recent shot-on-video minor works made for a fraction of the budget.
“It’s the same for all of us — porno or not. Before, any director, even small guys who were not the ‘top top’ directors, could get a proper budget. Today is so much more difficult, for everyone.”
And the Argento reference is not casual, as the works of horror maestros like the “Four Flies on Grey Velvet” auteur and groundbreaking, genius-level filmmaker Mario Bava, are closest to Siffredi’s heart.
“I really wanted to play a magician,” he explained. “I used to love of those kinds of movies and I still very much do. Argento’s ‘Profondo Rosso’ [“Deep Red”] is my first horror movie. ‘Suspiria,’ ‘Tenebrae’ — ah!” Siffredi made the unwritable Italian noise for “amazing!”
“To this day, if I’m going to put on a movie for fun, I love to watch those Mario Bava movies, or any by the Italian 1970s and 1980s masters.”
Siffredi’s inspiration for the series was the storyline which his cousin brought to him. “And it was witches, for me sex and witches it’s pretty sexy,” he told us.
And much like the works of Argento, Bava and other great giallo masters, “Rocco’s Time Master” is heavy on mood and atmospherics and rather thin on world-building — or any sense of logic.
“On the script, the way we put down the script,” Siffredi attempted to clarify, “he had those dolls, which me as Time Master — a magician — can turn those dolls into reality and give them a certain time to have fun and be pleasured by sex and it’s really fun because somehow is connected to world of today of the Real Dolls. Do you guys have Rent-a-Doll in the States? Here in Europe there’s Rent-a-Doll, where a guy brings you the sex doll home and you can rent it.”
So, that may explain the Barbie dolls that the masked Time Master is seen manipulating alongside transistors, and hourglass and diverse other weird prophouse debris. Sort of.
Still this is a porn (‘Yes, Gabriele, but when do they fuck?’) and Siffredi was banking on a cast of Euro-based sorceresses like Lena Reif, Tina Kay, Tiffany Tatum, Cherry Kiss, Nancy Ace and Monica Brown to work their charms and make the series’ “surrealist” approach to logic make some kind of sense.
And then he found his Queen.
“If we didn’t have a girl like Anna de Ville to play this part of the Queen of the Witches, it would have been catastrophic,” admitted Siffredi, who managed to secure the services of the Prague-based American brunette with the decidedly witchy features (and the positively unholy anal gape) for some key scenes.
“I wish I had a few more days with Anna,” Siffredi lamented, but ever the salesman (you should watch the short video promoting the series to see his signature charm, bonhomie and Always Be Closing attitude in action), he is already ballyhooing the sequel.
“The second part is even better sexually! It’s coming out in September.”
An interview with Maestro Siffredi is such a pleasant experience, that one doesn’t want to leave anything on the proverbial cutting room floor. Lunching at an Italian villa and enjoying the regional antipasto and local wine while listening to his tales (“The Roccameron,” perhaps?) would be a singular treat.
Here are then a few more morsels of Rocco wisdom, straight from the man himself:
- “My classic period was 1992 to 1995. I was the first actor who became director in Europe. Most of the actors I used were ‘normal people.’ I started using normal people, from the open train station. I’d go around asking people ‘who wants to be in the movie’? Like Fellini used to do.”
- “My first six or seven movies were the best ever. Some writer on Italian film history said ‘Rocco was the Pasolini from porn, because he was using real people.’ You could see the reality of sex, the truth of the sex.”
- “At the time it was easy to shoot anyone, there was an idea that HIV existed but people thought it was rare. We thought it was a ‘special case situation’ that affected some gay people only. When Freddie Mercury died that was probably when people started paying more attention.”
- “Back then, a model release and making sure they were over 18 was the only thing needed. We worked like kamikaze, a little risky. We can’t do this anymore today.”
- [When told that straight male friends of this reporter were truly excited to hear I was interviewing him:] “You know why? Those guys are real fans. People who are real fans of porn, they see the difference of someone who puts their soul on it and people who are just fucking. I’m 55, I’m still fucking naturally and I’m still going there with the desire that makes me unable to sleep the night before. I know I will share the moment with my fans, with the people who follow me.”
- “You wanna learn about me? Watch ‘Never Say Never to Rocco’ . Also ‘Panna Montata’ , ’30 Men for Sandy’ , ‘Kelly: Perversion in London’ and ‘Kelly: Perversion in Rome.’ And the ‘Marquis de Sade.’”
- “All those movies, though, belong to another era. I just got a call by [a major American producer/director] and he proposed to do his biggest ever movie, but only if I did it. You know what I told him? ‘Don’t worry how much to pay me. I just wanna do it.’ So stay tuned.’”