“MaXXXine” caps horror trilogy with 'big, sprawling Los Angeles ensemble movie'

Director Ti West tells EW the film, once again starring Mia Goth, is "substantially bigger" than "X" and "Pearl."

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All the films in director Ti West's horror trilogy that began with 2022's X are essentially about movies themselves.

That first entry starred Mia Goth as Maxine Minx, who's part of an amateur porn crew attempting to shoot a smut film in secret on a remote farm when they are set upon by the homicidal elderly couple that owns it, Pearl (also played by Goth) and Howard. "These people are not part of the movie business, but they want to get into it. It's an opportunity from the outside to break in with pornography," West tells Entertainment Weekly. "X was a lot about the absurdity of making a movie."

Goth returned for Pearl, a prequel shot back to back with the first film, this time telling the origin story of the killer from X who, like, Maxine, was fixated on becoming a star. It's "a movie about someone aspiring to have the life that the movies seem to [show], and how that would affect someone," West comments.

<p>Dons Lens/A24</p> Mia Goth returns as Maxine Minx in 'MaXXXine'

Dons Lens/A24

Mia Goth returns as Maxine Minx in 'MaXXXine'

Now with MaXXXine (out July 5), the culmination of all this groundwork, Goth is back playing the lone survivor of X as she travels to Los Angeles to finally get her big break. "What people think it's like making movies — or what people think Hollywood is versus what it is actually — is a big part of what's happening in the movie," West says. "I guess 'seeing behind the curtain' is a thematic element."

And, of course, because it's an R-rated horror story, not everyone makes. "Some people, in a very gruesome way, don't make it to the end," West teases. "If you're expecting it to be part of this X movie and people will be killed, yeah, I'm going to deliver on all those things. But it's going to zig instead of zag in a lot of places that people aren't expecting. It's a very decadent world that she lives in, and it's a very aggressive world that she lives in, but the threat shows up in an unexpected way."

When audiences pick up with Maxine, she's in Tinseltown in 1985, six years after she escaped the farm in X. She has reached the top of the adult film industry, but she's plateaued and looking to break into "real movies." Maxine finally gets her big break from Elizabeth Bender (The Crown Emmy nominee Elizabeth Debicki), a noted filmmaker who made an indie horror hit called The Puritan. The sequel, The Puritan II, is now being made as a big studio project, and Bender decides to take a chance by stunt casting a porn actress, Maxine, in a lead role opposite another actress (played by Lily Collins of Emily in Paris).

<p>Justin Lubin/A24</p> Mia Goth and Elizabeth Debicki in 'MaXXXine'

Justin Lubin/A24

Mia Goth and Elizabeth Debicki in 'MaXXXine'

Forces surrounding Maxine threaten to shatter her dreams of stardom. Kevin Bacon, a longtime admirer of West's work, arrives in the film as a private investigator hired by someone pretty powerful to track her down. The film is also set against the backdrop of Richard Ramirez, a.k.a. the serial killer known as the Night Stalker who was active in California from 1984-'85. Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale play police detectives pursuing the Night Stalker, and they set their sights on Maxine when multiple women in her orbit show up dead.

<p>Justin Lubin/A24</p> Kevin Bacon as a private investigator in 'MaXXXine'

Justin Lubin/A24

Kevin Bacon as a private investigator in 'MaXXXine'

Also featuring Halsey, Giancarlo Esposito, Moses Sumney, and Sophie Thatcher, West acknowledges that MaXXXine is a "substantially bigger" film than X and Pearl. "The thing that the other two movies don't have is that sort of scope," the director says. "To try to do a big, sprawling Los Angeles ensemble movie is what the movie was, and that's just a big undertaking." If X channeled slasher classics such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Pearl channeled old-school Hollywood musicals, MaXXXine invokes what West describes as a genre of Los Angeles movies, as evidenced by the St. Elmo's Fire movie theater marquee and the Bates Motel set that pop up in the trailer. He also adds, "There's a kind of noir-ish mystery vibe to the movie that's very fun."

West confirms that MaXXXine "will probably be the end of the Maxine era," but there's a chance the films could expand beyond a trilogy. "I do have one idea that plays into these movies that could maybe happen," he mentions. "I don't know if it'll be next. It might be. We'll see."

<p>Justin Lubin/A24</p> Sophie Thatcher and Mia Goth in 'MaXXXine'

Justin Lubin/A24

Sophie Thatcher and Mia Goth in 'MaXXXine'

Part of the fun West had with X and Pearl came from audiences not knowing much about either before they were thrown right in, especially when the prequel was surprise released shortly after the first. West is trying to preserve some of that mystery and intrigue in his work. But West says, after working on this trilogy for three-and-a-half years, he's eager for a break. After he finishes speaking with EW, the filmmaker goes right back to work on color correction and finalizing the titles for MaXXXine.

"Then hopefully I can just put this in a box under the bed, take a breath, and figure out what's next," he continues. "I'll say that, if there's more to be done in this X franchise, it's certainly not what people are expecting it to be. It's not just picking up again a few years later and whatever. It's different in the way that Pearl was an unexpected departure. It's another unexpected departure."

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