His Life in Porn: Jonathan Agassi Explains it All to You

by Robert Nesti

EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Monday May 30, 2022
Originally published on May 23, 2022

Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'
Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'  (Source:Facebook)

In 2009, Jonathan Agassi was on the top of the world. The 35-year-old had appeared in Lucas Entertainment's "Men of Israel," in which he made his adult male film debut. The film quickly became the most successful film from Michael Lucas' porn company and Agassi was his break-out star. He signed an exclusive contract with Lucas.

About that time filmmaker Tomer Heymann approached Agassi about making a documentary film about him. What started as what would be a profile of an adult male star on the rise became something very different, as did the shoot itself, which extended itself over eight years.

Heymann's film, "Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life," hit theaters two weeks ago. With a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, it is a provocative cautionary tale that deals with how personal demons and the nature of the adult entertainment industry can lead to self-destructive ends. In his review of the film, New York Times' critic Kyle Turner writes: "the director, Tomer Heymann, finds idiosyncratic insights within typical narrative beats about fame and power — two mercurial things that, for the film and Agassi himself, don't exist in a vacuum. Heymann situates the notion of celebrity in the context of not just performance and gay culture but also familial intimacy, with striking detail."

The film details Agassi close relationship with his mother, including him posing in jock straps and female hose much to his mother's shock in virtual calls. It also details his troubled relationship with his homophobic father, who abandoned his wife and son at an early age after he left Israel for Berlin. At the age of 12, Agassi visited him and was forced into an uncomfortable situation that shaped his sexuality and haunts him to this day.

It is Agassi coming to terms with the past, as well as his new-found fame and career as a sex worker, that leads to his meth addiction, which is chronicled in harrowing detail, including a moment when it appears that Agassi loses consciousness. Now sober and out of porn, he is celebrating the release of his film, which was delayed due to COVID. He spoke with EDGE recently about the making of the film, the meaning of the title and why he was so candid.

Jonathan Agassi in a promotional still from 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'
Jonathan Agassi in a promotional still from 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'  (Source: Facebook)

EDGE: I want to thank you for being so brave. How did you arrive at decision to go forth with the film that often shows you in some harrowing situations?

Jonathan Agassi: Well, the decision was pretty easy because I didn't know that this is the film that was going to be. When Tomer met me I was at the peak of my career. I was like in the best place ever in my life. And I really wanted to show people what's going on in my life. I was more or less the only Israeli guy ever that made it in the porn industry in the United States. Not the first, but definitely the the the biggest one that came from Israel. And my life was amazing. Suddenly, I'm making a lot of money, because I wasn't making a lot of money before that. I'm seeing the world. How can I not show it? I mean, come on, of course, I said. "Let's do a documentary. Let's go for it."

And then life came along. Suddenly, everything's starting to fall down. Suddenly, I have big drama in my life. Suddenly, I'm addicted to drugs, and suddenly everything is changing.

By that point, we were so deep into the filming that I couldn't say, "You know Tomer, that's it. We are finishing right now. This is not something we continue to do, because life is worse now."

And I was very naive ... about everything that was going on. And everything that I shared. What will happen if I will meet my father? What will happen if I will do this kind of drugs? What will happen if it will get addicted?

EDGE: The film chronicles an experience that you had when you were 12 years old and your father attempted to initiate you with heterosexual sex. The experience traumatized you, but you appeared to have repressed it until you face him about it, and still, it haunts you. How much do you think the trauma has affected your life?

Jonathan Agassi: I never realized that there were such consequences to the meeting that I had with my father when I was 12 years old. I never considered it as one of the factors for me becoming this exhibitionist person that I am. But through this movie, and through talking to people, I suddenly understood that, of course, because I was exposed to sex when I was 12 years old with a woman, and my brother and my father were there. So I guess being very open with sex is such a natural thing. This is how life works, you know? And this is how I got so connected to my sexuality.

Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'
Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'  

EDGE: Tomer includes a clip from your audition tape with Michael Lucas. What attracted you to porn?

Jonathan Agassi: I used to work in a sex shop, and, obviously, you get to watch porn there. I used to watch a lot of the filming backstage, and it really turned me on. I was a very sexual person. I was just finishing three years' relationship with this guy that was amazing, then I came out suddenly to have a lot of sex dates and stuff like that. And everybody said, "You definitely know how to have sex." And I thought, "So why can't I make a career out of it?" I mean, I was very much an exhibitionist. I was not shy at all in everything.

I had my real first audition with Michael (Lucas) via Skype. He was like, "Just show me what you can do." And I'm showing him things that I can do with a vibrator in my hand and everything. Thirty-five minutes later, he signed me up for five years contract and with promises till forever. Most of them were actually fulfilled.

Lucas was the only porn company to return my applications. I sent tons of them to all the big companies in the United States. Nobody wants to mess with the guy from Israel. No one even replied to me. Then Mikey Lucas came to Israel to shoot "Men of Israel," one of my first films, and this is how everything started. I didn't know English. I didn't know anything. I mean, I didn't know anything about the porn industry. I didn't know how it works. I didn't know that you needed a full day to shoot this one scene. I didn't know anything. You know, I was very, very, very naive in this in this area.

But immediately, as I started shooting with him, it was obvious that this is what I'm supposed to do. I remember filming the last scene with Michael, and we were tired, but we did it in 45 minutes. He was shocked at how easily I picked it up. And I worked exclusively for him. I made 68 films, by the way. It's important.

Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'
Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'  

EDGE: At one point in the film, you say it is not so much the porn you like, but performing for the camera. Now that you are retired, do you miss it?

Jonathan Agassi: No, no, I don't I don't think I miss being in front of the camera. I love cameras — I mean, obviously — and I love the attention, but I think that today I'm getting my attention from completely different places. I work in this very mainstream kiosk, and I meet a lot of people. I'm always very, very energetic. And I'm kind of making my own performance even when I'm working. I'm always like, very, very hyperactive.

I don't miss the camera, and I don't think I want to be famous again, like, big famous. I wouldn't want that to happen again. I mean, I think I don't deal well with success at this kind of level. You know, I mean, money-wise and success-wise and attention-wise. I will always try to go further, and that's not good for me. For me, it's better to live a very simple life. I can get my attention from where I want to get my attention. And it's a bit different now. Definitely.

EDGE: There are some harrowing sequences in the film where you are seen under the influences of crystal meth. What was it like to view that footage with your mom?

Jonathan Agassi: The first few first times that we watched it, we were both crying. I was ashamed because there was stuff ... I was lying a lot to my mom my whole career, because I wanted to keep her safe. I wanted her to think everything is fine with me, everything is okay. But when you see the film, you see all the lies just floating up. And I think she was mad at me at first because I hid things. I couldn't be that honest with her about everything that I did. But today, our relationship is amazing.

Jonathan Agassi in a promotional photo by Lucas Entertainment
Jonathan Agassi in a promotional photo by Lucas Entertainment  

EDGE: The film was completed around the time the pandemic occurred, then put on hold until now. How do you feel about it coming out at this moment?

Jonathan Agassi: I'm very excited. We wanted to get to the States long before this, but we needed to wait for the whole corona thing to come down. But the main goal was to get to New York, because everything that happened to me happened in New York. I mean, I was working with an American company from New York. I'm sure that I'm very well known over there. I know that I have lots of friends in New York and all over the States. So, it's very exciting for me to be there and for people to see my story, finally.

EDGE: Have you maintained relationships with people from the adult entertainment industry?

Jonathan Agassi: Only Facebook and Instagram kind-of relationship. I "like" them and they "like" me, but we never talk.

EDGE: What would happen if after the film comes out and, say, Raging Stallion calls and asks you to return to adult entertainment?

Jonathan Agassi: Oh, that's an interesting question. But, to be honest, I don't think that any porn production company would like this film so much and ask me to return. The film does show a side of this world that nobody else shows. I mean, nobody thinks that we inject stuff into our dicks to make the best scene ever. Stuff like that. So I'm not sure if they will like me now, if they liked me before, or if they ever liked me at all. But this is how it is for me.

All this stuff — doing porn — is up to the individual, and many are fine with it. I know many friends from the industry that are not doing drugs and maybe not even escorting. They probably have a regular life, and porn is just a side job. But for me, it was a bad road. You know, I mean, because this type of success has a relationship with sex all the time, and drugs all the time. And I couldn't control myself.

Tomer interjects, explaining how, while in his apartment in Berlin, he recalls how Agassi would see 13-14 clients a day when escorting, while maintaining his standard of being the best in the sex industry. "For them he was king," he adds. He also says that Jonathan was adamant that Tomer not flinch in filming. "And he said to me, 'Tomer. Show everything. Don't stop on the beautiful side.' Jonathan is really strong. There are no boundaries or no borders."

Jonathan Agassi and his mother in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'
Jonathan Agassi and his mother in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'  

EDGE: The film is entitled "Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life," but late in the film you say, Jonathan Agassi nearly ended your life. Why the title?

Jonathan Agassi: First of all, I have to say that the title came from an interview. I gave this big interview to one of the biggest websites in Israel and said that. And Jonathan Agassi — this image that I invented — definitely saved my life. I knew I was good at sex. I knew I was hot, but I didn't have anything beyond that. I mean, like, today if you will talk to me about what I want to do, or what I what I need to do in my life to be safe, I will know the answer.

Back then, I was nothing. I was just, like, a simple guy from a small, terrible town in Israel that was a nightmare for me. So then, when I became Jonathan Agassi, of course this image kind of saved my life, because suddenly I saw the whole world. I made a lot of money. I had everything that I wanted. I met all the hottest guys in the world. I just had fun. Eventually, at the end, I had a period of time that I hated Jonathan Agassi. And I said, "Oh my God, but what I did to myself, I mean, I became a drug addict, a very, very, very heavy drug addict." I was injecting into myself, I was, you know, I had no life 24/7 for, I think, a period of four or five years. You know, that's crazy. You don't have anything left for you anymore.

So, back when I stopped with the porn industry, I said, I will change my name back to Yonatan Langer (his family name). And I did it, and that was the biggest mistake of my life because I realized that it's impossible that every time that something will happen in my life, I will change my name. And I realized that Jonathan Agassi is me, and I'm Jonathan Agassi. No matter what, you know, I had my best times ever and the worst times ever [as Jonathan Agassi]. Now I'm pretty balanced in this department. But definitely, I'm Jonathan Agassi, and definitely I'm proud of the road that I passed. I'm actually proud of this whole journey that I had.

Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'
Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'  

EDGE: What led you to allow Tomer to film everything, including your drug use?

Jonathan Agassi: There were some at the beginning, when I just started doing drugs. At first I said, "No, no, you cannot shoot me smoking. This will not be in the film." But after a while, it became all the time. I would go to the bathroom, smoke, and come back high. So one minute I am this chill person, and the next it is like, "Let's go crazy." Eventually I said, "Shoot everything. I'm not gonna go to the toilet to do it. And I'm just going to stand over here in front of you. This is my life right now. You want it, okay. You don't want you can take your camera and fuck off." This is how it was, mostly.

EDGE: You have great ambition and talent. Have you thought about becoming an actor?

Jonathan Agassi: I thought about it. And I even tried, I even tried the theater about three years ago, something like that. I did a dance theater show. It was great. It was very nice. We were in rehearsals for, like, six months for that and everything. But it wasn't for me. Eventually. I decided I'm not doing anymore.

Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'
Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'  

EDGE: What advice do you have for someone who wants to work in the porn industry right now?

Jonathan Agassi: I think I have nothing against the porn industry. I have nothing against escorting. I have nothing against anything that I did. I mean, I'm not a hypocrite.

And I cannot say now this world was terrible to me, because it's not true. It's definitely not true. I mean, I had an amazing experience. But I do always say that you have to take everything in consideration. I mean, you have to realize that you are going to use your body for work, even when you don't want to. You will probably have seductions like drugs. Making a lot of money is always a good incentive, but be careful not to lose yourself and go crazy. And understand if you choose this kind of direction, you have to know exactly what comes with it. And then make your choices if to do it, or not to do it. I mean, that's everybody's choice. If someone would have told me, and many did, "You will be a porn star and you will get diseases, you will take drugs" — everybody said stuff like that, but I never listened. If someone wants to do porn or to work in the sex industry, they must know everything that goes with it, and everything that comes with it. That's it.

But you don't have friends in this industry. I mean, everybody's always in competition with you. There are a lot of a gay porn actors and a lot of work. Everybody's in competition with each other. So the fact that I had my mom and Tomer to be by my side always and stuff like that, even though I didn't listen to them ever, as long as you have a support system next to you, you can definitely survive this experience.

Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'
Jonathan Agassi in 'Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life'  

EDGE: Why don't we see are today at the end of the film?

Jonathan Agassi: I didn't want it in the film. I think that if you show this kind of film with a happy ending, it will be just too kitsch, because no one can take the last four years of my life and put it at the end of the film. Because the last four years to do rehab from drugs all by myself, and to do rehab from sex all by myself, this is too much to film and put it in the end of film that is already so powerful, and so strong. I think I didn't want to be seen at the end. I'm happy the film ends with the title that reads, "Jonathan is now recovering from drugs and everything is different."

After screenings of the film, the first question that people ask me is, "What's going on with you now? Are you okay? Are you alive? Is everything fine?" And I love that. I love that the people don't know really how I ended up and what's going on with me. And I think it makes the film much more interesting, and it leaves you wondering. And then when I come to those Q&A, when I talk to people when I meet people, the effect is much stronger.

Tomer: Jonathan is in an amazing spot in his life right now. It's not fake. He's working out of drugs. He's charismatic. He's amazing. And that's because he was willing to make a movie that forces you to ask question about the dark side of life. That's what Jonathan and me want to express, and to share with the audience.

For more information about "Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life," including streaming options and in theater viewing, visit the film's Facebook page.

Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].