Israeli Gay Porn Star Jonathan Agassi Loves His Mom

In the Ophir-winning documentary "Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life," director Tomer Heymann shows the former actor and escort's many facets.

Jonathan Agassi was once the most famous gay porn star in the world. He won awards, he traveled the world and he was a very successful actor and escort. But Jonathan is also a human being with a family, a life and a story. An award-winning documentary, “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life” by Tomer Heymann, is making its U.S. premiere May 13th 2022. The film follows Agassi over eight years through his highest highs and lowest lows.

Agassi spoke with me about his journey, his real life, and why he thinks you, your mother and your rabbi should see the documentary.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

To start, can you introduce yourself?

Of course. Hi, I’m Jonathan Agassi. I’m the main character in “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life” by Tomer Heymann. I live in Tel Aviv, but I was born in New York and most of my career was based in New York so it’s very exciting to know that the film is finally premiering there.

How did the documentary come about and why did you want to have the documentary made?

To be honest, I wanted a much happier film. A film about an Israeli gay porn star who makes it all over the world. But life came along and, well, everything that happened, as you see in the documentary.

About 10 years ago, I was in the peak of my career and everything was awesome. I was very famous around the world. This is when Tomer met me for the first time and offered to do this documentary and I immediately said yes. It was very exciting for me, and it just came at the right time. I never thought we’d shoot for so long and become such good friends. Tomer and I are just a very good combination. We started to shoot and became very good friends. I wanted him by my side always.

Having seen the documentary, it’s not all happy all the time, but you definitely bring us through a powerful emotional arc.

This is not a happy film, you’re right. This is not a happy film.

The name of the film is “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life.” What does that phrase mean to you? Why is that the name of the movie?

To be honest, that was a surprise to me that this became the name of the film. It came from my first big interview in Israel where they acknowledged me as a porn star and made a huge article about me. I was talking about this image I created, this “Jonathan Agassi” creature that I created, when I said that this image saved my life. I had a very different life before. I was a makeup artist. Just a regular guy. Life was very different. But when I became Jonathan Agassi, I became much more confident and assertive. It was a big change for me in my real life. So becoming Jonathan Agassi saved my life. But for the film, you can take it so many more places. I don’t know how to explain it well in English but it’s a bit cynical.

You make it clear that Jonathan Agassi was a character you played and a name you took on, but it’s the name you still use. Do you still see yourself as Jonathan Agassi now that you’re retired from porn?

Wow. Good question. Well, it was a process. When I finished with my career in porn, I said “you know what, I’ll change my name and go back to my real name,” which is Jonathan Langer. And I did it on Facebook and everything and I regretted it so much. I thought at the time that Jonathan was a character invented and now that I’m going back to normal life I should change it again. But I said, you know what? This is stupid. I’m Jonathan Agassi. This is my name and as I’m talking to you now, I’m Jonathan Agassi for sure. That’s who I am, on the inside. But a little bit different than I was 10 years ago. The one 10 years ago was very cocky and very crazy, out there, showing off. But today, I’m still Jonathan Agassi and I still feel sexy sometimes but I’m much calmer and more relaxed in my life. I love that part of my life, that I have this thing in my life that I did for 10 years almost. I’m glad I have that in my memory, to know that I created the Jonathan Agassi I am now.

Why do you think sex and porn is all still so taboo?

It depends. There are conservative people, and there are people who love to show their dicks all over the place. Porn and sex and everything, it was a way to pronounce myself. I thought that it was my power. And I’m sure that many people feel like that. Many people work in sex and do OnlyFans. So, I don’t think it’s such a taboo anymore with our generation.

Somebody actually came into my shop just yesterday and asked “why don’t you have an OnlyFans?” And I said “Um….” But no, I don’t think I’d do it today. I think? No, I don’t think I’d do it.

For a lot of viewers, this might be the first time they truly thinking about the real lives of porn stars and sex workers. Did you always see “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life” as a general audience film or did it start as more of a niche film for the gay community? 

Tomer and I were sure that this film would only make it to the gay community. But it spread out and everybody came to see it. 90-year-olds saw it. Religious people even saw it. A straight rabbi came to see the film a few times because he’s very interested in relationships and families with gay children. So now I think this is a film for everybody. There are some guys I know who do porn for many, many years and their lives are very normal. They have day jobs and have boyfriends and don’t do drugs. But there’s also my part of the industry.

But besides the porn part of the story, you see the whole journey of my life, starting as a kid and what happened through how I became a porn star and fell into drugs. This can happen to anybody. Everybody who saw the film said, “I so relate to you.” Everybody can relate to some parts of it, especially the family part with my parents’ divorce, the issues between them, and the issues between me and my father. I’ve been learning from it myself ever since I saw the film for the first time. I’m still learning things about family, relationships, and myself. I never thought people would connect with my story, but they did.

Clearly “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life” is reaching general audiences. Last year it won an Ophir Award, which is basically the Israeli Oscars. What is one thing you hope people understand about sex workers after watching the film?

It’s about seeing how a person can get from one point to another. To see the full journey from the highest high to the lowest low and what causes it. If I’m talking to somebody in my position, working in sex or having problems with their family, I tell them to see the film. Crystal meth really got into Israel in the past few years, and I said to a few guys that I know who are just in the beginning of the fall to go see the film. And once or I twice I’ve gotten a message thanking me for the film and telling me they will definitely try to make a change and stop doing what they’re doing that is bad for them. This is the best thing that I could get from this film. If I can give inspiration to somebody, it’s amazing. I hope a lot of people in New York see it.

I hope this film can help be a turning point for folks as well. What was the turning point for you?

I’m very self-aware. I looked like shit by the end of the film. I didn’t go back to Israel because I wanted to, but because I didn’t have work anymore, I didn’t even have escort clients anymore. I was skinny, I looked like shit. I lost everything. I just remembered that last month I was in Paris doing the biggest festivals and now I’m living in my mom’s house and looking like this: Broken. To see myself in the film… I didn’t remember my life back then, I remember my life very differently. Everything was very pink and beautiful and happy. To suddenly see how it really was, it was really eye opening.

It was a very long process. It took four years to stop everything. It was rehab after rehab after rehab. And I did everything alone. I had to rehab from sex and rehab from drugs. Rehab from attention. It was so many levels of change. I don’t know what gave me the force to do it really, but I think when I lost my appearance and my whole control of life that was the point that I said “cut.” And it happened to me many times after. An addict will always be an addict. It turned from drugs to alcohol, and then it was smoking. So even in my sober life I’m still doing rehabs all the time. Whenever I see that I’m doing something that isn’t good for me, I cut it immediately. Drugs, alcohol, and even with people. I know how to do it much better now and it takes me less time to do it, but back then, it was a really long process. I don’t miss this process, it was very difficult. But I’m happy I got there.

At one point in the film you say that you don’t need a boyfriend because you can make your clients hug you whenever you want. How do you feel now about love and relationships?

It’s very different now. I will share something with you. I haven’t had sex in four years. It’s kind of a process to know how I like sex now and how I see sex now. Why are people attracted to me and what can I give to other people? It’s a complicated question because I don’t know right now. I don’t know how I see sex now and I don’t know how I want people to see me. I’m not a sex animal anymore. Everyone who used to know me knew that sex was my world. I was having sex 10 times a day! I don’t know where I am now but I’m learning, slowly, slowly. I haven’t had relationships either for the past five years. But I also didn’t look for one. I was focusing on myself. But I think that I’m starting to open up, a little bit.

I work in a very big kiosk and people sometimes hit on me, obviously. They ask for my number and the first thing when I open WhatsApp is a cock pic. Why? Because he thinks I’m Jonathan Agassi, so it has to be about sex like that. It’s very hard to change how people see me, even though it’s been many years already. I don’t see myself as a sex idol, or anything like that. I don’t even remember what it’s like to have sex.

Are you self-conscious about how people perceive you?

I’m always suspicious of people. Do they know? Do they not know? Especially the ones who are acting out, pretending they haven’t seen my films.

Relationships are a central part of “Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life,” especially your unique relationship with your mother and the relationships you have with your family as a whole. What has your relationship with your family, especially your mother, meant to you throughout your life? 

Look, my mom is my best friend and she always was. She was there for me in every situation, when I was a porn star and today. Just before this conversation we were talking and I asked if my hair looks okay. We have no secrets and everything is open between us. I’m good friends with my sister, though we see each other just once in forever. My brother, we’re not such good friends. And of course, my father, I’m not in contact so much. Just birthdays and whatever. But my mother, she was my rock. In the beginning it was hard for her. The fact that I wanted to be a porn star? It’s not something she got so easily. It wasn’t something where I told her I want to be a porn star and she said “yay!” It was also a process for her. She needed to learn how to deal with me in that situation. But she was great. She was the best mom ever. Always by my side.

You had basically unconditional support. There’s nothing more anybody can really ask for from a parent or anybody.

Nothing more. I hope that parents, or whoever sees this film, will take inspiration from her and understand how you need to act with a child who is going through hard things.

How do you look back on the porn and escorting part of your life and where do you see yourself now?

I’m thankful that I had it. I always have a good memory of it. Tomer always says I always forget how hard it was sometimes with my boss and my career. But I don’t remember it like that. I remember the good stuff like the money I made and my travel all over the world. I had a room full of shoes! I’m just grateful that I had this time and I’m grateful that I learned from my mistakes. And I’m happy that I learned from my mistakes.

People always ask about my ambitions in life. I had some before. I thought about being an actor but to be honest, with COVID and everything happening in the world, you cannot really do anything. But right now, I’m happy. I have a great job that I love. I have a beautiful house and a beautiful dog. I love my friends, I love my mom. So, I’m happy right now.

Wherever life will take me, it will take me.

Jason Flatt

Jason Flatt (he/him) is a program manager at a community soup kitchen working with youth to improve school food systems. When he’s not laboring over what to write in his bio, he’s probably playing a different game of “on the other hand” that would put even Tevye the Dairyman to shame.

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