Mia Goth on ‘MaXXXine’ and the End of the ‘X’ Horror Trilogy

Mia Goth on ‘MaXXXine’ and the End of the ‘X’ Horror Trilogy

Don’t call her a scream queen.

Mia Goth may have amassed a filmography dominated by horror films like “A Cure for Wellness,” “Suspiria” and “Infinity Pool,” but she prefers not to limit herself.

“I don’t want to be boxed in,” the 30-year-old actress from London said in a video interview. “I want to do everything.” Still, her work involves a fair bit of screaming, and she is quite good at it.

The “X” trilogy is no exception. Directed by Ti West, the films follow the lives and crimes of Pearl and Maxine, both played by Goth. As we meet them in the first movie, “X,” Pearl (Goth under a pound of prosthetics) is a sexually deprived older woman with murderous tendencies, and Maxine is a young porn actress who dreams of making it big. They meet when Maxine arrives at a farm for an adult film production being shot there, but their hosts, Pearl and her husband, clash with the crew and things get bloody quickly. The second entry, titled after the main character, serves as Pearl’s origin story, and brought Goth greater recognition for her bold, meme-able performance. The third, “MaXXXine” (in theaters), picks up with its title character in Hollywood when she finally catches a break. All are anchored by Goth’s work, which remains deeply sincere even as it grows delightfully unhinged.

Distributed by A24, each movie riffs on different styles and eras, with “X,” playing off ’70s exploitation cinema, “Pearl” paying homage to early Technicolor melodramas and “MaXXXine” taking on the ’80s B-movie slasher.

In a wide-ranging interview, Goth spoke about working on the trilogy and filming shortly after the birth of her daughter, now about 2, with Shia LaBeouf.

She said she could not address the lawsuit filed by an extra against her, West and A24, alleging that she intentionally kicked him on the set of “MaXXXine.” She did say that she was “very grateful for A24’s support.”

She also discussed Joan Jett, taco stands and gaining confidence as a performer. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

“X” and “Pearl” have become beloved movies in horror circles. What do you think makes these characters so appealing, especially to young women?

There’s something that’s so unapologetic as to who they are and what it is they want. There’s something really attractive to that and appealing to people — they see that and it speaks to something within them. I’m just having fun with them. I think people appreciate that.

Could you talk about how your relationship with these two characters changed over the course of the three films?

My confidence as a performer is probably what evolved more than anything during the three films. I remember shooting “X” and being really self-conscious. It was the first time I was working with A24, and they meant so much to me. I was really trying to make a good impression. Eventually that faded away, and I got more concerned with the work and not the result. By the time I got to “Pearl,” I felt so warmed up, and that really did influence how I portrayed her.

With “MaXXXine,” we shot it in L.A. I was able to go home. I just had my daughter. I felt really empowered. Me and Ti had a great working relationship, and a bunch of people that worked on the crew for “X” and “Pearl” came in for “MaXXXine.” It was just a family. It felt like a party. I think that really translates into the movie we ended up making.

With “X” and “Pearl” filmed back-to-back, was it difficult to tackle these major roles in such quick succession?

That’s actually quite helpful. You can say to yourself, “I’m on this job for five, six weeks and it’s going to be really intense and I can give my all to it in that time.” I can see the finish line and I can strategize my energy and where my performance is going. It helps keep everything very focused.

You were one of the producers on “MaXXXine.” Was there an idea that you brought to the set or to the script that you were excited about?

Probably the cast. I didn’t really have input with the script this time around. That was all Ti. When it came to casting, I had more input there and we would brainstorm actors that we think would be right for the role. That was a really exciting process.

What was a song you were listening to a lot while you were filming?

I made a huge playlist for this. Music is such an important part of prep for every movie that I do. Maybe Joan Jett, “I Love Rock ’N Roll.” I was listening to that pretty consistently at the time. It gave me that energy and confidence I needed for Maxine and who she is and where she’s at in the world when we meet her.

Were there any performances that you were looking to as inspiration for Maxine?

I went into the Debbie Harry rabbit hole for a while and was listening to the music and watching interviews. Her “I don’t give a [expletive]” attitude — that is who Maxine is, and that’s so far removed from who I really am. It’s been quite informative to have this time with Maxine because there’s a lot that I can take from her approach to life, but it’s just so not who I am. I wish it was.

Maxine hopes that her role in a horror film will bring her wider commercial success. Your career has largely been in genre films. Do you have any desire to take on more traditional dramatic roles, or is there something about genre work that appeals to you?

The horror genre has really embraced me. It has felt really good, and there’s been a mutual exchange there — I’ve also embraced the horror genre. I think the genre has great roles for women that are more difficult to come across in other genres. It would be silly for me to turn down the opportunity to get to explore all these really great big characters. But having said all that, I would like to explore.

Are you interested in doing more producing in the future?

I would love to do more producing. Character studies. Films with very little plot. I love people. I don’t like plot. My favorite movies are about people: them in their bathroom or them at a taco stand trying to pick which taco to eat. Or a blush — someone touches someone on the shoulder and they blush. Small moments. But it’s so grand to me.

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