Axel Braun Unveils 20th Anniv. Director's Cut of 'Compulsion'

LOS ANGELES—When Axel Braun reflects on Compulsion—one of his seminal worksthe first word that comes to mind is “pivotal.”

“It’s the movie that took my career to a whole new level,” Braun says. “Until then, even though I had been in the industry for more than 14 years, I was still known as ‘the son of Lasse Braun.’

“After Compulsion, people started referring to him as ‘Axel’s dad.’ It changed everything.” 

So it was only fitting that less than a year into his retirement from adult entertainment that the winningest director of all time immersed himself in a new passion project that entailed revisiting his dark classic.

Inspired by the chance to commemorate the movie’s 20th anniversary, Braun embarked on an emotional trip down memory lane when he decided to re-edit the 16mm film he shot for Elegant Angel in 2003.

The special 20th anniversary Director’s Cut is available on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD starting today at, and—almost a year to the day after Braun called it a career.

The first and only movie that Elegant Angel ever shot in the format led to the first AVN Award of Braun’s legendary career when he took home the 2004 trophy for Best Screenplay.

“So you can imagine the significance it had for me,” Axel says. “Winning an AVN Award had been my goal since I got in the industry in 1990, and that night was a fantastic, almost surreal experience.”


Compulsion also took home the AVN Award for Best Couples Sex Scene—bestowed on his lead actors Ashley Long and Kurt Lockwood—and went on to win a total of 15 awards worldwide. The wide range of honors included hardware from organizations such as Adam Film World, XRCO, Venus Berlin, Delta di Venere, and the Barcelona International Erotic Film Festival.

Compulsion was truly the turning point of my career, and marked the beginning of an onslaught of accolades that I was very lucky to receive all the way up to my retirement in June 2023, when I left as the most awarded director in history. And it all started with Compulsion,” Braun adds.

He left nothing to chance with the Director’s Cut, returning to the original 16mm reels and redoing the telecine in 4K, cleaning all the audio and changing all the music in a grueling, yet rewarding process that took several months to complete.

Braun tells AVN it was not a difficult decision to take on the task.

“Well, I retired last June ... I was bored!” he cracks. “All jokes aside, I shot Compulsion on 16mm film, and 20 years ago the best telecine conversion available was 720p ... I just wanted to give this movie, that had been so important for me, a proper treatment.”

Braun reveals that he first tried to do it for the film’s 10th anniversary, but at the time Elegant Angel founder Patrick Collins had sold his studio and retired.

“And the new owner didn’t want to waste time digging in his warehouse to look for the footage of some old movie that wouldn’t have made him any money,” Axel explains. “Luckily, EA has now become property of the good folks at Adult Empire (the largest adult film distributor in the country) and they are awesome.

“So the stars finally aligned and here we are.”


He admits some of the film footage was lost, so he had to up-convert certain parts and use AI tools to de-noise it. However most of the 16mm reels were still preserved and he was able to telecine them in 4K.

“I re-edited everything, changed most of the music, cleaned up the sound, added some SFX, did some ADR, and color-graded the entire thing,” Axel adds. “It was a painstaking process that took me several months, but I am super happy with the result and very, very proud of it.”

He continues, “I have to say it holds up incredibly well. The acting is formidable, and the sex is probably more intense than today’s standards (especially the final scene). It also feels very real, and while Compulsion had more dialogue than most adult movies at the time, every bit of it helps the viewer understand the characters’ motivations and desires in the sex scenes.”

The riveting narrative of Compulsion centers around gangster Big Charlie (Patrick Collins), his young bride Maya (Ashley Long) and his son, Nick (Kurt Lockwood).

Braun recalls how the Hall of Fame studio mogul Collins took a leap of faith when he green-lighted the film.

“I had known Pat for years, through the work I did with my father,” Axel says. “In 2002, he bought the U.S. rights for a movie I had shot in Europe and he liked it so much that he offered me an exclusive directing deal.

“During that time we became very close, he became a mentor, a dear friend and almost a father figure to me. I had a film school background and we shared a love for movies and storytelling, so at some point I showed him some of my student films, which were all shot in Super 16mm, and he became fascinated by the filmmaking process.”

In January 2003, when Axel was 36, Collins made him the general manager of Elegant Angel.

“Which means he trusted me enough, and when I pitched him the idea of having Elegant Angel, a gonzo-only studio, shoot a big-budget feature on film and compete against powerhouses like Vivid and Wicked, he stared at me and said,  ‘Man, this is the craziest, most fucked-up idea I've ever heard ... I LOVE IT!’” Axel tells AVN. 


Upon the release of the movie in September 2003, Collins told AVN, “This show is all about passion, and Axel has passion to spare. On top of it, the added difficulty of shooting on film gave everyone the drive to excel. No one could coast, or work on autopilot for this movie.

“Most of the performers had never worked on a project of this scope, and they soon realized that it wasn’t just a different ballpark, but an entirely different game. Axel really wanted to raise the bar, and Compulsion is doing just that.”

Braun tells AVN Compulsion was part autobiographical as he drew from some of his life experiences—in particular, his relationship with his father Lasse, the adult film pioneer who passed away in 2015.

“But the real inspiration was Patrick,” Braun says. "I had this character in mind that was a heightened version of him, and the nucleus of my story began forming around it. Pat had never acted before, but his charisma was undeniable. … He hit it out of the park and delivered a truly epic performance.”


Axel remembers the exact day he began writing it—April 19, 2003. Then he led the principal photography over 12 days in July, with temperatures soaring into triple digits. The “shortest” shooting day of that stretch was 18 hours.

But composing the screenplay was a whole other story in itself.

Braun recounted his unconventional writing process.

“I had written features before, but this one was on a whole different level, and the stakes were very high,” the director recalls. “It was a massive financial undertaking for the company and I knew what its success or failure would mean for my career.

“I wanted to be isolated from the world during the writing process, and I also wanted to smell the danger of the streets. So, on a gloomy Saturday morning, I got on my motorcycle and rode it to a very sketchy area of Downtown L.A., where I looked for the shittiest motel I could find.

“It was on the third floor of a decrepit building. I went to park my Harley half a mile away in a guarded lot, and walked back as it started to rain. The room was dirty and smelly, with bars at the window, a small desk and a wooden chair, no heating or air conditioning, a bed you’d never want to lay on, and of course no internet. It was perfect. Armed with a carton of Marlboros, two bottles of wine, and my laptop, I sat there for 32 hours writing non-stop.

“On Monday morning I printed the first draft for Patrick and told him I wanted to work with him on his character’s dialogue, so for the next two weeks, I showed up at his house every morning at 7 a.m. and we would spend an hour working on it, until we found the right voice for Big Charlie.”


Compulsion became the first of eight AVN Best Screenplay awards that he would win in his career.

“And although I quit smoking and drinking, my writing process never changed,” Braun adds. “The first draft of each one of them was written in complete isolation inside a shitty hotel room.”

The filmmaker says the female lead of Compulsion was supposed to be superstar performer Belladonna.

“At the time she was the biggest star in the industry, and I was very close to her because I was married to her sister,” Axel reveals. “So I wrote the movie with her in mind, but two days before filming was scheduled to start she had some serious health issues, so I had to scramble to find a last-minute replacement ... but how do you replace somebody like Belladonna? First I looked for somebody who had a similar kind of energy and look, but I quickly began feeling as if I was settling for a lesser version of what I could have had.

“Then I remembered that I had just shot Ashley Long in two gonzo projects and I had been impressed by her attitude and professionalism. She had a completely different vibe, but in that moment, with a quarter of a million dollars (and my reputation) on the line, I decided to play it safe and cast her.”

It proved to be a “blessing in disguise,” Braun continues.

“Ashley was absolutely phenomenal in every possible way, and I honestly believe (not to take anything away from Belladonna, who I’m sure would have been fantastic) that the movie worked much better with her, because it forced me to make some changes to the script that actually made it more interesting,” he says.

“The male lead was a whole other story, we hadn’t even started casting for that, and we were in the middle of auditioning the girls. Jewel Valmont, a popular performer who had just gone from brunette to platinum-blonde and changed her name to Ava Vincent, came in to read for the role of Shelly and she was so brilliant that we cast her on the spot.

“Before she left, she recommended her boyfriend, a newbie named Kurt Lockwood. We had never heard about him and we were not willing to risk a movie of that caliber on some new guy, so we didn’t pursue him and started looking at all the top young guys.”


Then the next day at 9 a.m. on the dot, the receptionist notified Braun that there was a guy in the lobby who wanted to meet him. His name was Kurt, and he didn’t have an appointment.

“I was on a long call with a distributor, so I told her to have him wait,” Axel remembers. “Between the pre-production load and all the other stuff that came with running a company like Elegant Angel, it was a very busy morning and I ended up on back-to-back calls and meetings, even skipping lunch.

"At 4 p.m. I finally had a moment to breathe and asked the receptionist to hold my calls for 30 minutes so I could grab a snack, and she reminded me that ‘Mr. Kurt' was still sitting there, waiting. He had been there for seven hours.”

Axel looked at the surveillance camera footage and saw Lockwood calmly reading the Compulsion script, showing no signs of impatience or frustration.

“I had him come in while I scarfed down some crackers and Nutella, and I was instantly blown away,” Braun continues. “He was ridiculously good-looking, extremely polite, very respectful and ... he had memorized the entire script. Not only his potential part, but all the other roles.

“‘In case I don’t get the lead, at least I’ll be prepared to read for a different part.’”

Lockwood urged Braun to quiz him—and he did.

“I would read random lines of dialogue for different characters, and he would immediately reply with the next line,” Axel says. “Unreal. We talked for a while and there was no doubt in my mind that he was perfect for the role, but I still had to see how he would interact with Ashley, and especially Patrick who would be playing his father.

“I called Pat, who had taken the day off for a dentist appointment, explained the situation and asked him if he could come in. Less than a half hour later I had them both on camera, acting out one of the most dramatic scenes from the movie. It was incredible.

“And, needless to say, his chemistry with Ashley was off the charts. I could not have asked for a better male lead, and I owe Kurt so much for the performance he delivered and most importantly for the way he conducted himself throughout the shoot. He was a very talented touring musician, and left the industry not long after, in order to focus on his music career, but 10 years later I managed to track him down and convince him to come back and play Jack Bauer in 24 XXX: An Axel Braun Parody, which ended up winning the first of my four Movie of the Year AVN Awards.

“Once again, Kurt Lockwood proved to be not only a phenomenal actor and a class act, but also a lucky charm for me.”


Braun tells AVN the most enjoyable part of bringing Compulsion back to life last year was experiencing the production with the perspective of time.

"So many stories about the making of this movie, and so many great memories ... I felt like I re-lived the entire shoot, along with that particular time in my life and all the people who were such an important part of it,” Axel says.

“I had assembled the most talented group of people I could find, from the brilliant Eli Cross, who would go on to become my right-hand man for the best part of two decades, to award-winning director Ren Savant, to Playboy cinematographer John Luker, to photographer extraordinaire Hank Hoffman, who played a huge role in so many of my subsequent projects.

“Through the scorching heat and the crazy long hours, they all gave blood, sweat and tears to this movie and I will forever owe them a huge debt of gratitude. The biggest challenge?

“Fixing all the sound issues, dealing with the missing chunks of dialogue, and scanning through hours and hours of footage. Grueling, but so worth it.”