‘Maxxxine is very different from both of them’: Ti West on closing out his X horror trilogy

2024-07-02 10:00


A still photo of Halsey and Mia Goth in the film Maxxxine.
Maxxxine. | Image: A24

For the last few years, Ti West hasn’t stopped thinking about the horror villains Pearl and Maxine. Since 2020, the writer and director has been fully immersed in the genre-spanning franchise that started with the ’70s slasher flick X and continued with the technicolor prequel Pearl, which were filmed back-to-back in New Zealand during the pandemic and released in 2022. Now things culminate with the premiere of the series’ third act, the very ’80s thriller Maxxxine. It’s been an intense process that has meant West hasn’t had much time for anything else. “It’s all such a blur at this point,” he tells The Verge. “It’s been seven days a week, 12 hours a day, for four and a half years.”

The franchise was born, in part, out of practicality. West had initially only pitched X to the powers that be at A24 but had ideas for a bigger trilogy in the back of his mind. And after getting a cast and crew to New Zealand and building the sets, he realized he could film a lot of that work again for a prequel. “We had already spent all of this time and money building a Texas farm in New Zealand. How do we reuse it for free?” he remembers thinking. “How do we amortize all of those costs and make the movie less of a risk for A24? That’s where the idea came from from a practical standpoint.” He ended up writing the script for Pearl in a two-week-long flurry while in quarantine so that they could start shooting right away.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 24: Ti West attends the World Premiere of A24’s “MAXXXINE” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 24, 2024 in Hollywood, California. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images
Ti West at the premiere of Maxxxine in Los Angeles.

Because of this, the first two films serve as accompanying pieces. Not only are the sets largely the same, but Mia Goth stars in both. In Pearl, she’s the titular villain, and in X, she plays both an aged Pearl and Maxine, the sole survivor of the elder’s latest massacre. Stylistically, the films are different — one awash in bright Wizard of Oz colors, the other grimy like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre — but they share a tight connection through the story, location, and cast. West says that he always had “rough ideas” for a trilogy but didn’t really commit to writing until he knew the next movie was a sure thing.

Pearl and X were scrappy films, and their success meant that West was able to expand the scale and ambition of Maxxxine with a bigger-budget production. The farmhouse is gone, swapped out for a glitzy Hollywood full of stars. The story follows Maxine as she attempts to make it as an actress only to get caught up with a killer stalking Los Angeles, and Goth is joined by a cast that includes Elizabeth Debicki, Halsey, Giancarlo Esposito, and Kevin Bacon. That increased scale means increased expectations, but West says he intentionally decided to go bigger for the third movie because the goal was “to not repeat ourselves.”

“That was part of the concept of the trilogy: they would be very different and cinema would be the connective tissue,” he explains. “But also, the other two movies are contained, and they didn’t have scope. To take it to Hollywood, to take it to Los Angeles, the movie needed to have scope … if X is a movie about someone who wants to get into the movie business from the outside, and Pearl is about someone who looks at the movie business as hopeful, Maxxxine is a movie where you’re here now. What’s it actually like?”

Tying to this idea of making each film distinct was the goal of also making each stand on its own. They complement each other, and the viewing experience is richer if you watch them all, but you can start at any point in the story. West says that he wanted “to make a trilogy where you didn’t have to see the other movies. That alienates a huge portion of the audience who would never watch a movie like X, so they won’t see Maxxxine. Pearl is a great example of that: I didn’t want people to think they couldn’t see Pearl because the idea of X freaked them out too much.”

That’s how he ultimately landed on the franchise’s unique naming scheme. The original idea was to follow X with XX and culminate in XXX, but that changed once he started work on the later films. “Once I wrote Pearl, it was clear this movie should be called Pearl,” he explains, adding that “by some miracle, Maxine has an X in her name, so we could just add Xs. I don’t know what we would’ve called it if she didn’t have an X in her name.”

For now, Maxxxine marks the end of the story. But, as with before, West is still kicking around some ideas for where the franchise could go from here. While he’s not giving anything away just yet, there is one key difference this time: he might actually take a break. “I’d like to try to get the snowball rolling on whatever I’m hoping to be next,” he says, “and then take a little vacation before jumping into it.”

Source: https://www.theverge.com/24190083/ti-west-interview-maxxxine-a24