Porn again: Meet Morgana Muses, divorced at 45, adult movie star at 54

By | August 16, 2019

Morgana Muses might just be the ultimate late bloomer.

Divorced at 45 after years of miserable marriage, at 47 she had her first encounter with a male escort and discovered sex wasn’t so bad after all. In 2012, she turned that encounter into the stuff of a pornographic movie in which she starred.

She’s since gone on to write, direct and star in many more. She is now, at 54, a revered, respected and much-awarded “icon” of the porn industry, with a day job in a sex shop in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs.

Adult movie star and director Morgana Muses (seated), with Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess, co-directors of the documentary about her life, at Passionfruit Sensuality Shop. Photo: Justin McManus

Adult movie star and director Morgana Muses (seated), with Isabel Peppard and Josie Hess, co-directors of the documentary about her life, at Passionfruit Sensuality Shop. Photo: Justin McManus

She is also the star of Morgana, a documentary about her life – at once both remarkable and remarkably ordinary – which has its world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Friday, followed by a panel discussion featuring comedian Judith Lucy, the film’s co-directors Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard, Reason Party (formerly Sex Party) MP Fiona Patten, and feminist film academic Deb Verhoeven, as well as Morgana herself.

It’s a big moment for this mother of two, whose daughters have some idea of what she does but whose wider family have disowned her. “I’ve put my heart and soul into this film and I don’t know how people are going to react,” she says. “I’m both excited and nervous about it.”

The film follows Morgana’s life from rough-and-tumble childhood games in the opal tunnels of Coober Pedy to a largely sexless marriage in Albury, much of it traced with inventive use of miniatures crafted by Peppard, whose background is in stop-motion and horror.

“I didn’t know much about porn at all,” Peppard says of her involvement in the project. “But I was interested in the idea of women taking back control of the imagery, making stories about female desire.”

An animator, a porn star and a pornographer walk into a bar and make a film together.

Morgana Muses

She describes the film as a three-way collaboration. “You know, an animator, a porn star and a pornographer walk into a bar and make a film together.”

Much of the more adult stuff in the film was shot by Hess, Morgana’s 29-year-old cinematographer and regular collaborator.

The pair met five or six years ago when Hess, who was still a film student, scored some work on Morgana’s third film, directed by one of Hess’s lecturers at Swinburne, Anna Brownfield.

“There was something that just clicked,” she says, “and we were friends immediately, despite the 25-year age gap.”

While it’s primarily a portrait of Morgana’s journey from powerless despair to body-positive agency, the film can’t help but shine a light on the little-known world of pornographic filmmaking in Australia. And the body-positive, queer-skewing, feminism-inflected space it reveals is far from the morally murky terrain of mainstream porn.

“I think porn is like any industry – it’s got its ethical producers and its unethical,” says Hess. “There’s no monolith porn industry in Australia, just a bunch of independent creators. People like to think of it as this evil, dark world but the truth is the productions are for the most part safe, clean, and wanting to do right by your performers.”

Morgana’s work goes well beyond the usual staples of the form; in some of her recent pieces, there’s no sex at all. In one, The Life of Bi, she explores her mental health struggles, telling the camera “I am a filmmaker with clinical depression and bipolar tendencies”.

There’s no sense, though, that she’s not in control, either in her own work or as the subject of Peppard and Hess’s film. “They’ve depicted me in a very accurate manner,” she says. Despite being as exposed as it’s possible to be, she adds, “I always felt very safe and protected”.

Though she acknowledges her films have a limited audience, Morgana says she has been surprised and gratified to realise her tale does not.

A scene from Morgana.

A scene from Morgana.

“I thought my work and my story would target women over 40 or 50, but I’m actually getting a lot of men contacting me to say, ‘Thank you, because I’m not in a good place in my marriage, I feel like my life is over and there’s nothing there for me’,” she says.

And what is it she thinks they connect with?

“It gives them hope that there is no expiration date on their wanting to explore life and sexuality,” she says, “and to have a fulfilling sex life.”

Morgana screens at the Capitol on Friday at 9.15pm followed by a panel discussion, and at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins Auditorium on Saturday at 11.30pm. Details: miff.com.au. The Age is festival media partner.

This story Porn again: Meet Morgana Muses, divorced at 45, adult movie star at 54 first appeared on The Age.

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