Subscribe to Granta today

Dr Gonad

|

Few careers fascinate me more than that of Paul Thomas. According to the International Movie Database (IMDb), Mr Thomas has acted in almost 300 films, and must hold a record for directorial credits (208).

His extraordinarily prolific career seems to have tapered off in the last year, with his last credit as director being WMB: Weapons of Masturbation in 2003. As an actor, Mr Thomas will have a hard time matching the thirty credits he scored in 1981, including Swedish Erotica 1-4, 8, 11, 13-14, 17-18, 22, 25, 28-29, and 40-41. The IMDb states that Mr Thomas is sometimes credited as Judy Blue, Toby Philips, Tory Philips, Toby Phillips, Philip Tobias and Phil Tobus, amongst several other incarnations. Given the invariable spelling errors that must occur on certain pornographic titles (when one produces over forty volumes of Swedish Erotica in a single year, mistakes are bound to be made), most of these monikers seem to be some sort of variation of Paul Thomas's birth name: Philip Toubus.

It is under this name, Philip Toubus, that I first came into contact with this talented individual. He was one of the principal actors in Norman Jewison's Jesus Christ Superstar. Mr Toubus—who has a distinctive singing voice—played the part of Peter. Watching this film when it was released in 1973 changed my life. I had sung hymns every morning at school, and endured compulsory Bible readings, but the religious imagery meant little to me until I saw this magnificently entertaining movie. I can still remember every word of Tim Rice's witty libretto.

I particularly remember Mr Toubus/Thomas as he denied Christ three times. His look of increasing bewilderment as he fulfils Christ's prophecy struck me as something close to sublime. Years later, I would witness this same face (though decidedly less bewildered) in such films as Dr Gonad's Sex Tails, Dracula Sucks, Nasty Nurses and, of course, his crowning porn achievement, Best of Caught from Behind 2. Though Mr Thomas would go on to perform in This Stud's for You, Cumshot Revue and Naughty Cheerleaders, nothing would erase the pleasure of the young actor, in his first screen credit, denying Jesus Christ.

What went so horribly wrong (or so spectacularly right) in Mr Toubus's career? A pathologically cynical agent? A simple and almost plaintively earnest desire to stretch his wings? I have always thought that Mr Toubus would be an ideal subject for a documentary—a documentary I will never make.

I will never make this documentary because I have constructed a perfectly structured framing device for this film, and it would crush me if Mr Toubus would not conform to it. In my fantasy of our imaginary interview, Mr Toubus would deny me. First, he would deny me three times and then, by the end of the interview, he would have denied me more times than there are episodes of Swedish Erotica (sixty). I would intercut his denials with images from his porn career and cutaways from his denials in Jesus Christ Superstar. The big problem with this approach is that I have no idea what Mr Toubus could possibly deny. He certainly couldn't deny his participation in the porn. He might deny that this was a lamentable choice. But even if he were to deny this (and there's a very good chance Mr Toubus is perfectly pleased with his decisions), this would only account for one niggling denial. Certainly not enough for a movie.

So this potentially fascinating film will never be made.

As an aside, our careers almost collided at the Adult Video News Awards, a splashy event held every year to honour the best in porn. In 1997, Mr Thomas won Best Director for his work on Bobby Sox. A year earlier, my film Exotica had won for Best Alternative Adult Film (difficult to believe, but it's also there on the IMDb record under 'Awards & Nominations'). I entertain the fantasy that Mr Thomas was on the nominating committee that selected my film.

Needless to say, Mr Toubus would deny this.