Is Candy From The Deuce Based On A Real Person?

Come children, back to the seedy streets of Times Square in the ‘70s, where prostitutes, pimps, and johns formed a rich (and illegal) economic ecosystem, and where tourists walked briskly past peep shows on their way to Broadway theaters. HBO’s newest drama, The Deuce, takes us back to those legendary, long-gone New York days, and tells us the origin story of the porn industry.
Despite its inherently misogynistic subject matter, with scenes that include female objectification and assault, The Deuce tells its story in a way that gives voice to women. That’s largely in part due to the character of Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a wry, detached prostitute who’s immersed in Times Square culture, but intellectually floating above it all. Candy's able to bring natural artistry to her area of employment, and becomes an porn producer.
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But is Candy based on a real person? The short answer: yes. In addition to being inspired by a figure directly from that Times Square culture, Candy's character has roots in Candida Royalle, a porn star turned feminist pioneer.
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Our story starts at the Tin Pan Alley bar.

Much of The Deuce’s action takes place in a bar (and mob front) run by Vincent Martin (James Franco). Vincent Martino is based on a legendary New Yorker who ran a bar called the Tin Pan Alley, a melting pot where people of varying social levels and roles – artists, prostitutes, and cops — converged. It’s been memorialized by regular patrons like photographer Nan Goldin and artist Cara Perlman.

One Tin Pan Alley regular was a woman named Candy, who was partly the inspiration for the character.
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What was Candy’s place in the bar?

In the pilot episode, the character Candy doesn’t set foot in Vincent Martino’s bar — but in real life, she worked there. Candy had been a part-time bartender at the Tin Pan Alley, and was influenced by the politics discussed among the patrons’ colorful individuals.

“She started started as a prostitute/street walker and was a little bit actualized, a little bit, by the politics she heard in the bar from Vincent’s girlfriend, but also had some preliminary involvement in the early days of porn,” Simon told Paste Magazine of the character.
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Mix a little bit of Candy with a lot of Candida.

Remember that the character Candy was based on two people: Candy the bartender, and Candida Royalle, the woman you have to thank for the “Female Friendly” porn category.

Candida Royalle first got into adult film acting as a way to support her art career while living in San Francisco in the ‘70s. When she was 30, she began producing and directing her own films, with the hope of filling a niche in the market: erotic, almost educational, porn geared towards women and couples.

“Women were curious and wanted to see if there were some sexy movies they could enjoy with their partner, and there was nothing out there for that,” Royalle told Smashing Interviews magazine a year before her death in 2015.

Royalle’s issue was that porn being made for men, and men only. “Women had no voice in the movies, and it was time for that to stop,” Royalle explained.
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Royalle's female-oriented philosophies produced some unique films.

Royalle wanted to do something different with her production company, Femme Productions. “I had no interest in putting out the same old boring crap that was out there forever,” she said, after having starred in that same old boring crap.

Consequently, Royalle's erotic films showcased women’s sexuality in interesting, aesthetically pleasing ways — using very creative plotlines.

In one film, Revelations, a couple lives in a dystopian future in which an oppressive government suppresses sexual libido. Then, the wife stumbles upon a collection of home adult videos. After discovering her sexuality, the wife gets arrested.
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The Candy/Candida crossover.

Candy the character has a lot in common with Candida Royalle. Once she gets involved with the porn industry, Candy’s able to think about sex artistically, not just economically.

“I think she’s an artist,” Gyllenhaal said of her character in the NY Post. “She’s a filmmaker. The world that she’s in is the world of selling sex. We have four people on a bed and she thinks, ‘What does that bounce do?’ and ‘That frame that the camera makes and where it chooses to go changes everything.’ Once that [desire] gets woken up in her, there’s no way she can [go] back.”
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Beyond Candy and Royalle, Maggie Gyllenhaal got further inspiration from real-life figures.

How best to prepare for the role of a sex worker in the ‘70s? Talk to some. Gyllenhaal met with former sex worker and adult star Annie Sprinkle for context. Gyllenhaal asked Sprinkle about her experiences, with questions ranging from the practical to the mundane. How many people did she sleep with a night? What did she do when it was cold? Did she wax?

For a contemporary perspective, Gyllenhaal also visited an L.A. porn shoot.

Her takeaway? Porn videos "shoot really slowly.”
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