Mia Goth on How ‘Pearl’ Changed Her, Previews ‘MaXXXine’

Mia Goth has been a secret weapon of auteurs ever since her preternatural debut in Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” at 18. Since then, she has been a scene-stealer in films by Luca Guadagnino (2018’s “Suspiria”), Claire Denis (2018’s “High Life”) and Autumn de Wilde (2020’s “Emma”). Her profile exploded last year after she starred in Ti West’s twin horror films “X” and “Pearl.” She co-wrote the latter, which centers on a girl intoxicated by the idea of stardom and desperate to escape her dreary life on a farm. Goth’s next project is the eagerly anticipated Sundance film “Infinity Pool,” a psychological thriller directed by “Possessor” helmer Brandon Cronenberg.

You’ve worked on many bold films with unique directors. How do you pick your projects?

Well, the director is first and foremost the most important element when I’m deciding which project to do next. If you don’t have total trust in the person leading the ship, then there’s really not much point in being involved in a project. That’s also what I gravitate towards when I’m watching movies myself: Who’s directing the movie? From there, it has a trickle-down effect to everything else that’s going on within the film.

What specifically drew you to “Infinity Pool”?

The first thing that had me intrigued about this project was Brandon. I had watched his previous films and was a huge fan of those, and thought he has a really unique outlook on the world. He is incredibly thought-provoking, and with all of his movies it’s not a “lean back and relax” sort of experience. It’s very much lean in and engage, and that’s what I think movies should be. That’s how I think they should be created — to challenge the audience in one way or another. And so I was very excited to receive his script; I received it when I was filming “Pearl” in New Zealand. I was just so intrigued that on my Sunday off I poured myself my cup of coffee and opened the script, and within about four pages I knew that this was something I had to do and be a part of.

As an actor, you use your whole range of emotion, from big moments to subtle nuance. How do you decide the best instances to go for it versus to pull back?

The whole process is quite instinctual on that front. It’s something that you just kind of feel out, and once you get to set and you get a sense of the day and what’s required, and you’re thinking back to where your character has come from and where she’s headed and taking all of that into account as well, you really follow your gut and your instinct more than anything.

Which of your characters was most difficult to play?

I would say Pearl. I believe Pearl has fundamentally changed me as a performer. It’s given me a whole new sense of self and a whole new level of confidence in terms of what I think I am able to do. It was a lot, but also just incredibly rewarding and such a gift to play. I really feel as though it fundamentally changed me in many ways for the better.

Was there a moment in the past year when you began to sense that “Pearl” took off in pop culture?

It’s really wild to witness. I’ve never been a part of something that’s resonated with people as much as “Pearl” and “X,” but even as you bear witness to all of this, I have a weird sense of detachment to all of it. It doesn’t feel real in many ways, and it’s bizarre but amazing. It’s so exciting and such a gift.

Are there any specific challenges or risks that you would like take in the future, either in front of or behind the camera? 

I would love to do a movie in another language. I speak Spanish and Portuguese and there are a couple of performances that I’ve seen with other actors where they’ve done it and I’ve always been really impressed by that. I think that would be a great challenge. Also, anything that I haven’t done before. I don’t ever want to be pegged into one thing. I just want to do whatever I can find that’s constantly challenging me in different ways. That is something that will always be very welcomed. 

Are there any directors that you’d love to work with and/ or filmmakers that have influenced your taste in film? 

I love Andrea Arnold. I think she’s an incredible director and somewhat underrated. I watched “Fish Tank” right around the time I was filming “Nymphomaniac,” which was the first film that I ever did. I found “Fish Tank” to be as influential for me as the experience of filming with Lars, and both of those components in that period of time when I was 18 years old really formed my blueprint of what it is that I’m trying to achieve as an actor and the sorts of directors that I strive to work with, and the kind of stories that I want to tell and the kind of filmmaking that most resonates with me. That’s what excites me most is very little plot, extremely character-driven stories where there’s really not much going on outside of whatever it is that a couple of people in the film are going through. For me, that’s always the best cinema. I think you get over a certain budget, sometimes you creep into a $15, $20 million, you lose something because they’re just answering to too many people. Then you start having to think about results in a different kind of way. You lose the beauty of people. 

In the same way that a lot of your films are so bold and artistic, you take a lot of creative risks on the red carpet, too. How would you define your style? 

I think less is more, and I gravitate towards more timeless pieces and classic, but maybe have a little bit of a modern flair with the angles that occur. There are some incredible designers that I get to work with and they’re able to master that balance between timelessness and modern flair with strong looks. 

Is there anything you could tease about “MaXXXine” [the final film of the trilogy that includes “X” and “Pearl”]?  

It’s the best script of the three by far. It’s going be the best movie of the three. We’re all so tight now. This is going to be our third movie we’re working on together and everyone’s coming back together, so it’s bringing the band all back together again. We just have a shorthand with each other. We know how everybody works and we’re all so excited. It’s the biggest story of the three with the highest stakes and Maxine has gone through so much at this point. So when we find her in this new world, she’s just a force to be reckoned with and she goes through some pretty wild adventures. 

Are you filming it later this year? 

Yeah, I’m in prep with the script, doing my homework, getting everything ready. Then you let it all go once you get to set and just hope that some magic comes from it.

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