GQ Hype: It is the large story of proper now.


There's a scene in Purple Rocket during which Simon Rex is bare and operating down the road. It was filmed at 2 a.m. and not using a allow, so somebody would often yell that there was a automobile incoming, and Rex would cease and placed on a gown and wait. At one level, the cops confirmed up and left. It was like they, too, knew that the world wanted to witness the majesty of Simon Rex operating down the road within the flesh.

The movie is the newest from The Florida Challenge director Sean Baker, shot with a $1.2 million price range and a crew of 10 round Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas, through the pandemic. Baker has change into an auteur-mouthpiece for Individuals on the margins, whether or not it is intercourse employees or these residing in poverty, and is beloved by movie snobs and frat boys alike. Purple Rocket obtained a standing ovation at Cannes this summer season and, if this scorching streak continues, is poised to be a contender subsequent yr for the Oscars.

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The intimacy and smallness have been to the movie’s profit, because it seems Simon Rex is an efficient actor. The man has lived lots of lives—he’s been an MTV VJ who interviewed Tupac, a mannequin for Tommy Hilfiger, a rapper known as Grime Nasty, and the star of three segments of the Scary Film franchise—and none of them has actually screamed A24 main man. However as the middle of probably the most celebrated movies of the yr, one which’s racking up extra awards and accolades every day, he out of the blue finds himself in unfamiliar territory, on the precipice of actual status.

It additionally seems he has an enormous penis. Or perhaps a prosthetic? “Can I say, ‘No remark?’” Rex asks. “As a result of we need to maintain it a thriller. We do not need to spill the beans but.” I inform Rex that looks as if a solution of its personal. He sips at a pilsner, adjusts the denim sherpa jacket he has on, and smiles.

We're at Clandestino, a bar on the Decrease East Facet–Chinatown border in Manhattan often called Dimes Sq., which has arguably the best focus of lovely and funky folks on the planet for the time being. Rex lived in New York throughout his MTV days, from 1993 to 1998, and now at all times stays close by at a lodge on Bowery. A pair blocks away is a synagogue with a photograph of his great-great-grandfather, a celebrated turn-of-the-century rabbi, on the wall. At Clandestino, nobody appears to acknowledge Rex—perhaps as a result of he’s 47 and might be a guardian, or a minimum of a cool uncle, of quite a lot of folks within the room.

The maybe-prosthetic penis is featured fairly prominently in Purple Rocket, which is a few pretty washed-up porn star named Mikey Saber, performed by Rex, who returns to small-town Texas. He’s staying along with his estranged spouse and her mom and is dealing just a little weed to get by. He tries to groom an virtually 18-year-old redhead doughnut retailer worker, to handle her profession. All of that is set through the run-up to the 2016 election, with MAGA indicators and the Republican Conference very a lot within the background.

As for that bare operating scene, Rex says he got here to essentially like operating within the nude. “It’s a really attention-grabbing feeling. It's totally liberating, really,” he says. Are you a unadorned individual, I ask. Like if you're house, are you bare? “I'm, currently. I do not know if you realize this—I used to be born bare. So I really feel comfy going again to the aspect. I am in a unadorned part. I believe extra folks should be bare.”


Rex is the one youngster of San Francisco hippies. He has a New Jersey Jewish mother (“She’s at all times in my ear”) who's an environmental planner. His father is a photographer and a breathwork coach who lives in Asheville, North Carolina. They cut up when he was two. It was a bohemian but additionally tough childhood. “I grew up with an alcoholic stepdad who was a coke addict, and I used to need to go to Al-Anon conferences in Oakland once I was 11, 12,” says Rex. He’s been in remedy for a very long time.

At 18, after residing in SF and the East Bay, he was aimless and courting an aspiring mannequin. In the future, he was sitting in a room, ready for her to come back out of a casting, and the casting director pointed to him and requested who he was. She mentioned, "Oh, it is my boyfriend. He isn't a mannequin." However Rex was who they needed: He was tall and lean, with a Roman nostril and in possession of abs that made him appear like he was at struggle with carbs. He checked out as soon as babyish and menacing.

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He had brokers in Milan, Paris, and New York. “I'd simply go to those male modeling auditions, and it was so boring. I keep in mind pondering, I do not need to do that, that is lame. I simply stand right here?” When Zoolander got here out, "I assumed, No one's going to get this film in any respect. Nobody understands what modeling jokes are. And it was an enormous hit, and I keep in mind pondering it is so humorous, as a result of I do know this life. I lived this life. The whole lot they're making enjoyable of was relatable to me.” Rex can nonetheless do his male mannequin runway stroll, as he demonstrates with a comic book aptitude and a word of satisfaction alongside the bar at Clandestino. “It was on the finish, if you get to the top of the runway, you then maintain it, and I had it down,” he says, and stares piercingly into the place a gauntlet of photographers could be ready. “Increase.”

Quickly he was a visitor on MTV, to fill in for the mannequin Marcus Schenkenberg. Somebody at MTV was charmed, regardless of his admitted complete lack of expertise. Rex swears a bus driver in all probability made more cash than he did, however he additionally swears he labored one hour a day, stay on TV, saying movies and interviewing folks from three to four p.m., the prime after-school hour. “And now I am hanging out with Howard Stern, and Jackie Chan, and Jon Stewart, and rock bands, as a result of everyone would come to MTV to advertise their e book, their film, no matter,” he says.

After which there was his nightlife. “I used to be a child residing in New York, on MTV. I used to be out each evening.” He and Mark Ronson turned pals doing a Calvin Klein present. “The joke was that Mark would at all times be DJing on the coolest spots again then, in New York within the '90s. So me and all my pals would at all times argue over who will get to hold Mark's data into the membership.” He and Ronson are nonetheless shut sufficient that Ronson was Rex’s visitor on the Purple Rocket premiere this fall on the New York Movie Competition. “It virtually feels just like the final period earlier than smartphones and bottle service. The nightlife was nonetheless actually enjoyable and thrilling,” Rex says. “I used to be on this loopy world of lovely folks. I used to be in all probability caught up in it and thought I used to be the shit. I do not suppose I used to be cocky; I used to be simply having fun with it. I hadn't eaten the common-or-garden pie at that time; I used to be simply form of cruising.”


It isn’t like Simon Rex’s life began to crumble by any means, however “cruising” stopped being essentially the most apt description. He took appearing courses and was the one all the intense college students hated, as a result of he was the man on MTV. A buddy dedicated suicide in Rex’s New York condominium, and in 1997, he was fired from MTV. He moved to Los Angeles.

The WB channel paid him nicely, and he’d present up on Felicity and on a sitcom with Amanda Bynes. And he was in Scary Film. “Of all folks, Adrien Brody taught me how you can make beats on just a little keyboard, as a result of he is like, ‘Look, dude, on this appearing recreation, there's lots of downtime. So it is a enjoyable passion,’" says Rex. He met two rappers, Mickey Avalon and Andre Legacy, and so they began making music collectively, signed with Interscope Data, and opened for the Purple Sizzling Chili Peppers on a European stadium tour. “We have been having a blast, and we form of had a second. And we're doing songs with LMFAO, and Ke$ha, and Katy Perry, and Child Rock, and Too $hort. And we're working with all of those massive stars.”

Diplo met Rex within the mid-aughts via fellow white rapper Riff Raff. “He represents the time in L.A. once I first moved right here. Steve Aoki at Banana Break up, events downtown—it was the other of pretentious L.A. We have been all losers, too, however we have been humorous and intelligent,” says Diplo. “Simon is the form of man you simply need to hang around with. He’s acquired that silver tongue, makes you're feeling comfy; you may't get sufficient of him. All the ladies I work with, of their late 30s and 40s, Simon was their crush. Women love him. He left his mark on the town.” Diplo paused. He began to marvel aloud if he and Rex had ever dated the identical lady at completely different factors, earlier than in the end concluding, “Yeah, we've.”

Rex had left modeling for MTV, left New York for Hollywood, and left Hollywood for music. “Then, a couple of years into it, I spotted, Uh-oh. Possibly I ought to have caught with appearing, as a result of I do not need to be rapping once I'm 48 years previous.”

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Los Angeles additionally began to really feel miserable, and he took his life financial savings and, in February 2020, purchased a home on 4 acres of land in Joshua Tree. “I someway was capable of evade cubicle workplace areas this entire time and be form of my very own boss and do what I would like,” he says. “I look again on my Hollywood life and all of the issues I've carried out. Possibly it is over. And whether it is, I am okay with that. I will transfer out to Joshua Tree and see what occurs.”

He breaks out photographs on his cellphone, and it appears to be like just like the Airbnb of your wildest goals, with a foremost home constructed from a delivery container and a fireplace pit made out of a Cadillac rim, and an out of doors bathe and an previous trailer for a guesthouse. Rex could be very a lot in a form of seeker mode, getting in contact along with his masculinity and spirituality. He not solely goes to Burning Man alone and stays for over per week, however he additionally met his final girlfriend on the playa. He does prison-style exercises at house and goes to the farmers market and buys a bunch of meat and produce he'll cook dinner in a forged iron pan. He reads lots of self-help books.

Throughout the pandemic, his house in the course of the California desert turned a form of protected haven. He was cruising once more. One time, Diplo came around (“I used to be actually into the vibe,” he says) and shoot a video, and so they killed a rattlesnake along with a shovel.


Possibly Simon Rex is a really fashionable man, and the world has lastly caught as much as him. Take into account his porn scandal, which, within the age of OnlyFans, feels virtually quaint. He was 18 and courting the woman he had been ready on within the casting room the place he was found; she was aspiring to legit modeling however doing nude shoots for the likes of Penthouse and Hustler to get by. Rex lived together with her and her youngster. “So we have been broke, principally, and the little child's beginning to name me daddy, and he is two years previous. I am like, Oh, shit. I am in method over my head with this woman. So principally, she was like, ‘Hey, would you do a video additionally to pay the hire?’” All in, he did two solo jerk-off movies. He didn't and doesn't consider himself as a porn star. “This was extra like, ‘Oh, that is one thing I made the error of doing once I was 18 years previous.’ It isn't like I had a profession. They despatched me to Milan, after which we broke up, and I simply went off to stay my life.”

A few years later, the movies surfaced whereas he was at MTV. The press was neither notably sort nor delicate about it. The Village Voice's Michael Musto known as the scandal "scrumptious," and wrote that Rex "is outwardly simply as adept at j/o-ing as v/j-ing,” and included a photograph from the video.

“Somebody was like, ‘Oh, I acknowledge that man. He is the man in that video,’” says Rex. “And I assumed MTV was going to fireplace me, however they did not. Matter of truth, MTV mentioned, ‘You realize, Jenny McCarthy is certainly one of our VJs, and there is photos we've of her in Playboy, and it is actually no completely different.’"

Very OnlyFans, I comment.

“I've an OnlyFans?”

Do you may have an OnlyFans?

“No, I used to be asking, Do I've a faux one I do not find out about? I do know I've a faux TikTok.”

Oh, you do?

“Yeah. With like 500,000 followers, and I might be making one thing loopy, folks inform me.”

It is humorous, as a result of it is the form of factor that now can be completely regular for you, to be like an 18-year-old influencer VJ who does some attractive OnlyFans movies.

“This man’s a survivor—he retains going and going,” says Baker. “I keep in mind Michael Musto making a giant deal of those nude photographs and publishing them in The Village Voice, and I assumed, Why is that this man being thrown underneath the bus?”

Baker had sketched out the concept for Purple Rocket a couple of years in the past and was pursuing different initiatives, however with the pandemic, filming was really possible. He did not need an A-lister, though well-known actors are rumored to have needed the function of Mikey. “There have been different folks thought of, names being thrown round. I've short-term reminiscence loss, and I smoke lots of weed, so it was my spouse, Samantha, who was like, ‘Simon, hi there?’”

Rex taped himself for the audition, and Baker known as him up asking if he may drive to Texas in three days so he wouldn’t need to quarantine. Rex deleted social media off his cellphone and confirmed up with all his lengthy monologues memorized. “I confirmed him some movies of males who're like Mikey—I had carried out analysis within the grownup movie world. I mentioned, ‘Do not impersonate, however you get it.’” (Baker thinks Rex has the vary: “He may convey the humorous like Ryan Reynolds, the physicality of Mark Wahlberg, do Bradley Cooper.”)

The character of Mikey wasn’t one which Rex needed to dig notably deep to search out. “I am round L.A. actors on a regular basis, and there is nothing however individuals who suppose they are going to be an enormous star someday, and so they're simply delusional. They usually're exhausting,” says Rex. The key was to get the viewers to root for Mikey by taking part in him just a little likable, just a little boyish, just a little charming, just a little goofy. “It was necessary to make the viewers really feel conflicted about why they're form of rooting for this horrible man, who's principally a low-level pimp, drug supplier, consumer.”

I ask if he thought Mikey voted for Trump. “I do not suppose he voted,” Rex says. Do you suppose he will get vaccinated? “I believe so, as a result of if you consider it, I think about within the porn trade, they're vaxxed. They have to be vaxxed. And if not, he'd get a faux vaccination file.”

That is who he tried to embody. However that’s the factor: He's at all times embodying these characters, maybe so nicely that individuals suppose they’re simply him. “I could not be extra reverse in actual life than somebody like Mikey. I am the man who, I am actually self-aware of being loud on my cellphone, or hogging up the aisle on an airplane. I am a neurotic,” he says. When he was Grime Nasty, he had a tune known as “1980,” with a hook that goes, “I’m on cocaine,” and other people would throw luggage of coke at his toes onstage, like he was a ballerina having a shower with roses.

“They believed that this persona of Grime Nasty was actual, and so they could not separate the truth that I am doing a personality. They usually actually thought that I'd love coke. I hate coke.” He had attended all these Al-Anon conferences rising up, and had it ingrained in him that alcohol and cocaine didn’t lead anyplace good.

“I suppose I did it to myself. I created these personas, and I requested for it,” says Rex. Possibly he’s simply too convincing at all of it. “However folks do not actually know who I'm. I've put out so many foolish characters and issues through the years that I simply at all times need to reinvent myself.” So now what's his persona, severe actor? Rex smiles. “Indie darling.”


PRODUCTION CREDITS:

Pictures by Evan Angelastro

Styled by Dolly Pratt

Grooming by Melissa DeZarate

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Theodore Lovelace holds a degree with an emphasis in political science and communication. Having worked in the counseling field for over thirty years, Mr. Lovelace has provided counseling services for individuals, couples, and families.

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