Vanessa del Rio Biopic Casts Zulay Henao to Star + Datari Turner Will Co-Produce


Vanessa del Rio

A year ago, we alerted you to a Vanessa del Rio biopic that was in development at the time, titled “The Amazing Life of Vanessa del Rio,” which the producers described as “Boogie Nights” meets “Taxi Driver.”

The movie will chronicle the porn star’s career set against the backdrop of NYC’s then gritty organized crime-controlled Times Square, during the tumultuous 1970s & 1980s.

To be directed by Thomas Mignone, best known for his previous feature film “On The Doll,” starring Brittany Snow and James Russo, as well as several award-winning music videos for bands like Slipknot, Mudvayne, System Of A Down, and Sepultura, the production has finally cast the actress who will play del Rio: Zulay Henao, who co-starred in Tyler Perry’s “The Single Moms Club.”

Zulay Henao

Also, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Datari Turner will be one of the film’s producers, alongside Arthur Sarkissian.

In an era when the lines between pornography and mainstream celebrity are blurred, with sex tapes becoming launching pads for lucrative careers in the entertainment industry, porn icons of old like Vanessa del Rio would probably fare very well in this century.

She was huge (in more ways than one) in the 1970s and early 1980s, appearing in well over 100 porn flicks (softcore and hardcore) including “Rear Busters,” “Afro Erotica,” and many more.

In fact, I’d say she was one of the business’ first real superstars.

Born and raised in Harlem NYC, to Cuban and Puerto Rican parents, she entered (no pun intended) the porn industry in 1974, and went onto have a career that spanned some 25 years, appearing in films as recently as in 1999, at the age of 47.

She’s 62 years old now, and is still involved in the adult entertainment industry, but not in front of the camera. She apparently has a website, does conventions, gives talks, makes appearances here and there and such, to earn a living.

She even appeared in a few hip-hop music videos over the years.

And now, a new feature film based on her extraordinary life is in the works.

According to the project’s website, central to the film’s story line are the federal government’s determined efforts to force organized crime businesses out of New York and ultimately to the San Fernando Valley, while films and music lyrics were suddenly being censored, and politicians and adult-industry mavericks battled in the courts and on the streets, the producers say, all told “through the eyes of a young, rebellious Vanessa del Rio…”

An IndieGoGo campaign successfully raised over $30,000 last year, that was to go towards kickstarting production.

And based on the video pitch below from the campaign, Vanessa del Rio herself appears to be involved in the making of the film – or, at least, approves of its making, and is probably contributing to the telling of the story of her life.

But I’m intrigued. It seems like it’s going to go beyond just her life as a porn-star (although I’m sure there are lots of interesting stories there to tell), with the comparisons the producers are making, and it looks to provide a snapshot of New York City during those years in which she was at the top of her career.

From the filmmakers:

Vanessa del Rio’s story is very unique and special. She fully embraced the sexual revolution lifestyle but never allowed herself to become a victim. The organized crime elements percolating underneath all the fun Vanessa and her friends were having set up a dramatic and often vicious narrative backdrop for the story as seen through Vanessa’s young, rebellious eyes. Our goal is to produce a high-quality, full-length feature film that is authentic and true to Vanessa’s story in a way that the typical Hollywood studio system would not allow or even consider. We feel crowd funding allows us to create the kind of film you the audience truly wishes to see. We have a very dedicated production team that has worked on many film and video projects together, and we have an extreme level of passion for this project. We recognize your help and support provides us with the opportunity to really bring to life a story that’s never been told in the right way, with no blinders on.

And now they’ve found their star in Zulay Henao.

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