Adult film entrepreneur Michael Lucas has shot — and shot on — Israeli men before, but never with their clothes on. Along with filmmaker Yariv Mozer, the Lucas Entertainment founder now probes the overlooked but thriving gay community of Israel in his first mainstream documentary, Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land, which is currently playing the film festival circuit. He spoke to us about going PG and why he just can't keep his opinions to himself.
Gay.net: This documentary will come as no surprise to those familiar with your work as a political columnist. When did you first discover your passion for activism, and why was it important for you to be so vocal in your convictions?
Michael Lucas: I've always had strong opinions. I suffered for that when I was growing up in the Soviet Union because there was no freedom of speech, so once I moved to the West it became impossible to shut me up! It took me a while to make a big enough name for myself that people would let me write about anything other than porn. That started happening about 10 years ago, and I've enjoyed writing about different social and political issues. I'm an independent thinker and always have been. I don't let anything intimidate me.
Why did you choose Israeli gay men as the subject of your first mainstream documentary?
I was looking for a subject that people were not too familiar with — and obviously Israel has always been a very important subject for me, and one that I have strong opinions about.
Some readers might be hesitant to read or respect your opinions as a political columnist. Were you worried that people might likewise be hesitant to accept you as a documentary filmmaker because they only see you as an adult film entrepreneur?
There have always been people who try to use my porn career as an excuse not to listen to what I have to say, but most people are smarter than that. My op-ed articles are widely read; if they weren't, then outlets like The Advocate and The Huffington Post wouldn't publish them. As for my documentary, it has already proven a big success. The trailer received more than 18,000 views within its first month, and film festivals around the world have reached out to express their interest in screening the film. I just came back from its official premiere at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, where it was very well received.
What do you think will surprise viewers most about the gay community in Israel?
It may surprise them to see how advanced gay rights are in Israel. Gay people in Israel actually have more rights then those in the United States.
You previously tackled the subject of gay men in Israel in a very different way with Men of Israel, the first adult film shot in that country. Was it a strange transition to be making a PG film around all those handsome gay men?
It was not strange at all. When I was filming Men of Israel, I was pleasantly surprised at how open-minded Israelis were, so it was very easy to make this documentary. The handsomeness of the subjects was not the issue here — though, of course, whether shooting porn or a mainstream movie, working with hot guys is always a plus.
Photos: Michael Lucas