'MaXXXine': Ti West on 'bittersweet' film release and trying to keep trilogy's final movie a secret

"The other two no one knew they existed. This one people were waiting for," West said.

Beginning with the movie X, and onto Pearl and now MaXXXine, all starring Mia Goth, filmmaker Ti West has impressively accomplished a unique horror trilogy, subverting many expectations anyone would have walking into a slasher film. With an impressive cast that includes Elizabeth Debicki, Giancarlo Esposito, Halsey and Kevin Bacon, MaXXXine it's an exhilarating, but bittersweet ending to a cinematic era, for both fans and West.

"It's a little bittersweet because on the one hand, it's such a relief to be done, but on the other hand, I've been doing this for nearly five years," West told Yahoo Canada. "So it's a little bit strange to ... go, 'Well what am I supposed to do now?' Now that I'm not doing something in the X universe."

"I've been working seven days a week, 12 hours a day on these movies for nearly five years. So I'm figuring it out as I go. But I feel good about the movie, I feel like we stuck the landing of this so unlikely trilogy that I'm really just kind of excited for people to finally see it."

MaXXXine release date: July 5
Cast: Mia Goth, Elizabeth Debicki, Giancarlo Esposito, Halsey, Kevin Bacon, Moses Sumney, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Monaghan, Lily Collins, Sophie Thatcher, Simon Prast
Director and writer: Ti West
Runtime: 104 minutes

It's a little bittersweet because on the one hand, it's such a relief to be done, but on the other hand, I've been doing this for nearly five years.

Mia Goth and Halsey in Ti West's MaXXXine, in theatres July 5
Mia Goth and Halsey in Ti West's MaXXXine, in theatres July 5

Following Peal and X, Maxine Minx (Goth) is a 1980s adults film star, striving to break into Hollywood films. Her big break comes when she's cast as the star in a horror movie sequel, The Puritan 2, with the production led by filmmaker Elizabeth Bender (Debicki). Elizabeth takes her job seriously, and she wants no nonsense from any of her actors, particularly the actor in her film's starring role.

While Maxine's dreams are seemingly coming true, the city of Los Angeles is facing the threat of a killer, the Night Stalker. In reality Richard Ramirez was the serial killer, rapist and robber who was given the moniker, who killed at least 13 people in California in 1984 and 1985.

But it's difficult to escape your past, and the traumas of Maxine's life start to become a very real threat to her quest for stardom.

Something that's a particularly effective evolution in MaXXXine is that Goth's character has an even stronger sense of desperation to be famous.

"I think that's part of what people really love about the character, that she's sort of fearless and unapologetic about that," West said. "She's finally sort of in the belly of the beast, as Elizabeth's character says."

"She's so close to finally being there. I think it's so difficult to make it to whatever your ambition or whatever your goal is, and she's finally almost there. And then the threat of losing that is almost worse than having to try to get it in the first place."

Mia Goth and Elizabeth Debicki in MaXXXine (Justin Lubin)
Mia Goth and Elizabeth Debicki in MaXXXine (Justin Lubin)

While Goth has been the constantly beloved star of West's films, there are a lot of new actors stepping into the X world to close out the trilogy, including Debicki.

Interestingly, West didn't particularly think Debecki was going to be interested in MaXXXine.

"I honestly didn't think she would want to do it, I didn't think she would respond to it," West explained. "So I sent it to her agent and then Elizabeth was in town and she was like, 'No, she read it. She'd like to meet you,' And even then I was like, she's going to tell me that she doesn't want to do it."

"She just really liked it and I think coming off The Crown she was very excited to do something [that's] nothing like Diana. And then we just totally hit it off and she's such a amazingly talented person, and just so pleasant to be around. She totally understood who the character was and what the movie was."

Mia Goth in MaXXXine (Dons Lens)
Mia Goth in MaXXXine (Dons Lens)

MaXXXine really works as a love letter to films and cinema, with several references to famed movies from the 1980s and horror films beyond that decade. While we won't spoil them all for you, we'll tease that West did get the opportunity to film at the Bates Motel from the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho.

"It was very strange because I wrote it into the script and it was sort of a nod to what was happening in X, they have a conversation about Psycho," West explained. "But as soon as I wrote it I was like, oh no, we're going to have to shoot there. What if we can't? I don't have a backup."

"Thankfully the Hitchcock estate gave us permission and when we actually filmed there, it was very surreal, because it's a very strange thing to set up a camera and frame, if you're not making Psycho. ... To actually film there and photograph it in a kind of ominous way, it's very strange. There was something just odd about it cinematically and historically that I don't totally know what to make of it, but it felt like something."

What's particularly fascinating about Bacon's participation in the film is that it's reflective of the beginning of his career, in Friday the 13th. West actually also had that film as a reference in MaXXXine, which changed when Bacon came onto the project.

"He was like, 'I'm happy I didn't make the list,' and I was like, 'Well you did before you were in the movie, you were in the original script,'" West revealed. "When he was wanting to read the script I was like, I better change this."

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 24: (L-R) Mia Goth and Ti West attend the World Premiere of A24's
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 24: (L-R) Mia Goth and Ti West attend the World Premiere of A24's "MAXXXINE" at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 24, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The shining star in all the X films is Goth. An impressive actor that fully takes control of the screen, one of the most powerful and infectious performers to watch.

While X and Pearl were filmed back-to-back in New Zealand, there was a bit of a break before MaXXXine, which was a different setup for the continued collaboration between West and Goth.

"It was a little bit of like we had to get the band back together, ... because we were in New Zealand and we made the two movies in a row, and now we we're back in L.A., where we both live, with our lives happening," West said. "And we had to sort of re-find the motivation to go that hard on another movie, because the only reason to make a third movie was to really try to outdo the other ones, or at the very least match them, and do something totally different."

"The other thing that was interesting on this one, the other two no one knew they existed. This one people were waiting for. ... I did think about it sometimes that there was an expectation of the movie arriving. Even when we were making the movie there were people trying to take photos of it and get scoops about what it's about. And we had worked so hard to keep the other movies secret, and to keep this movie secret, so it was just kind of a big endeavour to get back into. But once we started shooting, it was pretty much business as usual, for the most part."

Mia Goth in MaXXXine (Justin Lubin)
Mia Goth in MaXXXine (Justin Lubin)

For many trilogies, or franchises more broadly, there's always a movie or two that feels like it slumps in comparison to others. What's particularly unique and exiting about West's X films is that they're all quite different and distinct, which lends itself to not falling into that trap. Certainly some people may be more attracted to one movie or another, but each one succeeds in its own way.

Getting to the third film, West also has a brilliant way of still never losing that connective tissue between the three films, that particularly excites fans of the trilogy.

"There's the themes about her ambition, but also just movies in general, and cinema and how it's affecting the characters," West said. "And so to make three movies that are connected, but you could argue which one's your favourite because they work as standalone movies, that was big."

"A part of the goal for me was to try to make a bunch of sequels that don't wear out their welcome, and one way to do that is by kind of reinventing it as it goes along."