Laying bare a soft-porn king

Laying bare a soft-porn king

How do you make a biopic about a drug-taking tycoon who reaped his millions through strip clubs and softcore magazines without glamorising his life or turning preachy?

Actor Steve Coogan, 47, says his film, The Look Of Love, released here on Thursday, does not shy away from showing what it was like to be British millionaire Paul Raymond, publisher of men's magazines Men Only, Escort and Club International.

Raymond died in 2008 at the age of 82, largely forgotten by the British public.

It would have been wrong to inject a modern, politically correct attitude when showing what life for the sexually pioneering Raymond was like in the 1960s and 1970s. It was a period when Britain was beginning to loosen up, but most considered the naked body to be shocking and shameful, therefore making the sight of it even more alluring.

The duality is a concept alien to many today, when nudity is available at the click of a mouse, he says.

"At the time, nudity and sex was dangerous. To be honest in film, you have to show that there was an attraction to things like that. Raymond took sex out of the closet and put it in High Street," says Coogan, who was on the telephone with Life! from his home in Brighton, England.

"Raymond was an unsympathetic character in some ways. If you look at his life, the way he treated his son, the way he exploited women, the way he was obsessed with material wealth, he was unlikable. But his story is interesting. To make the film work, you have to make him sympathetic, despite his behaviour."

He worked with sometime collaborator director Michael Winterbottom, known for his frank, unadorned style in films such as A Mighty Heart (2007), starring Angelina Jolie.

The Look Of Love is not prudish about showing what it was like to be a man fond of cocaine and who was surrounded by the sex he sold to the public, through magazines and in strip clubs. He was also a London property magnate, dubbed "the king of Soho" by the popular press.

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