A candid look at the life of a male porn superstar

The resulting production is the seven-part Netflix miniseries Supersex, which traces the story of Siffredi from his childhood, born into poverty as Rocco Tano in the Italian town of Ortona in the 1960s.

The series takes its title from a comic book-like porn magazine, featuring a superhero called Supersex, which Tano found in the street as a young boy. He became obsessed with it, and after moving to Paris in his twenties, he fell into the sex club scene, where a chance encounter with the actor who played Supersex, Gabriel Pontello, set Tano, who later changed his name to Siffredi, off on his career to becoming one of the biggest names in the adult entertainment industry.

The now 59-year-old actor has continued to star in porn films – with a few forays into arthouse cinema, in French director Catherine Breillat’s films Romance (1999) and Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) (2003) – and, as seen in the series, despite publicly announcing his retirement in 2004, he returned to the industry in 2009 because of his love of performing.

Its unexpected focus

But those drawn to Supersex expecting a thorough recap of Siffredi’s adult film career will be surprised to see that his substantial body of work is glossed over, and only really mentioned in the final few episodes of the series. Instead, the show is more interested in the upbringing of Tano (played by Alessandro Borghi) and the genesis and creation of his alter-ego, Siffredi. In particular, it explores how his repressed family and abusive older half-brother Tommaso (Adriana Giannini), who switches from love-bombing to sexualising and manipulating him, impacted on his identity, sexuality and understanding of what it was to be a man.

Another key moment in the story is the childhood trauma he suffers when his severely disabled brother, Claudio – who suffered brain damage after being attacked by a local gang – dies, destroying his beloved mother, Carmela (Tania Garribba), sending shockwaves through the family, and leaving Tano with a pain that he carries thereafter.

It should be said the series is caveated with the captions that it’s “loosely inspired” by Siffredi’s life, rather than being a wholesale biopic, and Manieri says that Tommaso and the woman both brothers idolise, Lucia (Jasmine Trinca), are both fictional characters drawn from multiple people and influences in Siffredi’s life. However, Claudio and his death was very real. “Claudio really was his brother, and is one of the first things that brought me into his story and why I chose to do it,” says Manieri, “because of the connection between pain and power; and how he must take this power to go beyond the pain.”

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