Publicity photo of Ben Dover.
At the end of March, O2 were forced under a High Court order to surrender nearly 10,000 of their customers' details to UK porn tsar Ben Dover and his production company, Golden Eye International. Ben – real name Lindsay Honey (born to do it) – is one of the UK's most successful producers of adult entertainment, starring in many of his own films. Mr Dover and his representatives now say they're gonna send out letters demanding £700 from people who have been downloading his films illegally. Uh oh.
There could be a lot of awkward conversations over the breakfast table when the household bill payer, Mrs Smith, opens the post and finds herself scrutinising her son and husband in an attempt to find out which of them downloaded British Housewife Hussies for free last month. I picked up the phone to get Mr Dover's take on what file-sharing's done to the porn industry, hoping that it wouldn't be quite as awk (it sorta was).
VICE: Hi Ben, how's it going?
Ben Dover: I'm good, yeah.
So, what drove you to take on the copyright bandits?
The income from DVD sales and legitimate outlets for adult entertainment have been completely eroded by the advent of everything on the internet being free. As a consequence, my income dropped 90 percent within two years. People like Revenue and Customs, who aren't the sharpest tools in the drawer, think I'm up to something dodgy. I'm going, “Hang on a minute, look at the world we live in. I'm in the porn business, have you not noticed that nobody buys porn any more?” Obviously no one who works at Revenue and Customs watches porn.
What do you think about people downloading porn for free?
At the end of the day, if I can't make money out of porn, the only way I can make money is to get to the people who are not buying it. The main thing that spurred me on was this whole kind of moral attitude of: “Oh yeah, but everybody does it.” But if everybody went round burgling everybody's house, because everybody's doing it, does that suddenly make it OK? Apparently in a lot of people's eyes it does. I need to earn a living. I'm not a charity.
Would you not be tempted to download a new album or film on the web that you wanted?
Well, no. I'll tell you why, because it's too flippin' complicated. I live in a beautiful apartment block right next to a shopping centre. I'm quite keen on that Not Going Out which I keep missing on TV, so I literally walked two minutes out my house, went into HMV and bought the whole Not Going Out box set for £14.99.
I guess –
Why am I gonna sit there and sign up to one of these torrent sites and then it turns out to be a scam and it infects your computer and bla bla bla and all the rest of it?
Which of your films have been most highly pirated?
I'm not sure off the top of my head. I'm thinking it's probably The XXX Factor or Fancy An Indian?
Do those films sell well?
Yeah, they were the best-sellers. My housewife stuff always sells really well. The top sellers were The XXX Factor 1 & 2, DP Darlings, the housewife series and the Indian film I did.
Some of Ben Dover's more heavily pirated films.
There could be some awkward conversations between couples when you send letters out to people telling them to cough up for pirating DP Darlings or Fancy An Indian?
It wouldn't surprise me. At the end of the day, if you wanna keep the fact that you keep porn from your missus, go in the shop and buy it. Or join my website and download it from there. You could pay £20 to join my website and within a month download every movie on there.
What if that was why they didn't buy a physical copy or want it on their credit card bill, because they would be more likely to be found out?
That's like saying we really need a flat screen TV, so I'm gonna break into the flat next door, stick it on the wall in our house and when the missus comes home I'm gonna say: “I won it in a competition.”
Have you considered how would you make a living if you can't make porn any more?
Oh my God, yeah. It's a sinking ship there's no two ways about it. I'm lucky because I still work freelance for other companies. In a bizarre twist of fate, I'm still the highest paid porn star in the country and I'm pushing 60. The irony's not lost on me.
That's pretty lucky.
Yeah, and I'm still in shape. But, yeah, I'm basically an actor, but I can't get any acting work. And I'm a drummer, a good drummer. Funnily enough in the last couple of days I've found out there's a possibility I'll be joining a Guns N Roses tribute band, Guns 2 Roses. They're like the official tribute act. I'm doing a gig with them at the Grey Horse in Kingston with a view to joining them permanently.
That's pretty exciting.
Yeah, they're going to fucking Japan in the summer. I still think of myself as an actor or a drummer first, you know? After 32 years in the porn business I still think I'm gonna get a call from U2 or one of my favourite bands to play drums. Also I do stand-up comedy, I'm on the stand-up circuit.
Phew. So you have a few different incomes, then?
Well I don't get paid for the stand-up, no.
I still have a very nice lifestyle. When I say I'm skint, people say, “No, you're not skint mate, it's just now you've only got three cars instead of five.” The other thing I'm concentrating on at the moment is – you know who my son is, don't you?
Oh! My son's quite a famous actor.His name's Tyger Drew-Honey.
The guy in Outnumbered?
So, you're doing something with him?
No, no. But because of his career, I'm now in touch with people like Ricky Gervais, Andy Hamilton, people like that.
You know, Armstrong & Miller, Rob Brydon, people like that. I'm trying to think of anything that I can do. I still do like, two or three shoots a week in porn for other people, so I literally just turn up, fuck someone and come home and it pays good money.
So in between that I've been concentrating on my stand-up. I've also shot a pilot documentary called The Only Way Is Dover.
I take it it's not set in Dover.
It's a piss-take of The Only Way Is Essex, obviously. It's a bit like Curb Your Enthusiasm. It's not about porn, it's about what we do when we're not doing porn – a mock-doc. I'm trying to build up an audience on YouTube then sell it to Channel 5 or let Ricky Gervais… Or try to find a production company to actually do it proper. Part one is on my YouTube channel, there's also a bit of drumming on there and some stand-up.
The Only Way Is Dover
Aside from TOWID, do you have any other productions in the pipeline?
I've got a new series, Like Father Like Son, which is a twist on that male fantasy of the mother-daughter scenario. This is about girls who wanna have sex with a father and son.
[awkward silence] Not my real son, obviously. He's only 16 and incredibly successful.
If you you could say one thing to people downloading your films for free, what would it be?
I'd say: 'For goodness' sakes, porn's supposed to be a luxury product, it costs less than a round of drinks, stop being so tight.'
Thanks, Ben Dover. Good luck with Guns 2 Roses, The Only Way is Dover, Like Father Like Son, stand-up comedy and anything else you might be up to.
Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshuahaddow