It is very rare for pornographic actors and actresses to cross over to the mainstream film industry. Exceptional performance of pornographic actors and actresses is recognized in the AVN Awards, XRCO Awards and XBIZ Awards.The AVN Awards are movie awards sponsored and presented by the American adult video industry trade magazine AVN (Adult Video News). The AVN Awards are divided into nearly 100 categories, some of which are analogous to industry awards offered in other film and video genres, and others that are specific to pornographic/erotic film and video.The Venus Awards are presented each year in Berlin as part of the Venus Berlin trade fair.

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In other countries, the "star" system is not common, with most actors being amateurs.

Most performers use a pseudonym and strive to maintain off-screen anonymity.

A number of pornographic actors and actresses have written autobiographies.

A pornographic actor (or actress for female), or porn star, is a person who performs sex acts in film that is usually characterized as a pornographic film.

Pornographic films tend to be made in a number of distinct pornographic subgenres and attempt to present a sexual fantasy and the actors selected for a particular role are primarily selected on their ability to create or fit that fantasy.

Pornographic films are characterized as either "softcore", which does not contain depictions of sexual penetration or "extreme fetishism", and "hardcore", which can contain depictions of penetration or extreme fetishism, or both.The genres and sexual intensity of films is mainly determined by demand.Depending on the genre of the film, the on-screen appearance, age, and physical features of the main actors and their ability to create the sexual mood of the film is of critical importance.Most actors specialize in certain genres, such as lesbian sex, bondage, strap-on sex, anal sex, double penetration, semen swallowing, teenage women, interracial or MILFs.Irrespective of the genre, most actors are required to appear nude in pornographic films.In pornographic films directed at a heterosexual male viewer, the primary focus is on the women in them, who are mostly selected on their on-screen appearance or physical appeal and for their willingness and ability to perform the required sex acts.