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‘X’: How the Female Stars of Ti West’s Porn-Centric Slasher Got Comfortable with ‘Outrageous’ Sex Scenes

Mia Goth, Brittany Snow, and Jenna Ortega tell IndieWire how initial fears gave way to crucial conversations, script changes, and some wild sequences.

X, Ti West

“X”

Christopher Moss

Porn — the possibility of it, the promise of what it might do — is at the center of Ti West’s ’70s-set horror outing “X,” which follows a scrappy group of Texans who alight for a quiet farmhouse to film their very own X-rated film, as inspired by the massive success of “Debbie Does Dallas.” Of course, given that this is a horror film from Ti West, nothing goes to plan — quiet farmhouses owned by creepy, leering elderly people are hardly safe, especially for free-wheeling aspiring filmmakers with a taste for flesh — and the film’s blood-soaked opening moments make that very clear indeed.

But West soon throws the film back in time, allowing his audience to catch up on a very busy 24 hours for said scrappy film crew, including star-in-the-making Maxine (Mia Goth), free-spirited Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), and the reserved Lorraine (Jenna Ortega), the trio of leading ladies of both “X” and the fake pornographic film at its center. Along with ringleader Wayne (Martin Henderson), big talent Jackson (Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi), and wannabe director RJ (Owen Campbell), the ill-fated cast and crew do manage to film a variety of decidedly X-rated scenes before the blood starts being shed.

And, in a film bursting with blood and guts and broken bones and plenty more where that came from, it was those sex-charged scenes that were really scary. But as the film’s trio of leading ladies told IndieWire during a recent interview, West and the rest of his cast and crew endeavored to make the scenes as easy, fun, and safe as possible, no matter how “outrageous” they were on the page.

“Probably filming the porn film was the scariest moment for me, but more than anything, I think it was just the anticipation of it all,” Goth said. “I knew that everyone that was in the kitchen making this happen, they were going to execute this film to a really high level. And then I read the script and that confirmed what I already thought.”

She added that, in frequent conversations with West, the filmmaker “always said that it was going to be done in a tasteful way.” (Goth’s admiration for West and his vision has already been fruitful: the pair shot a secret prequel to “X” that stars Goth in a, how to say, unique role — more on that to come later this week on IndieWire.)

x movie

“X”

Christopher Moss

Snow’s experience was similar — excitement mixed with anticipation and some healthy fear — but West’s dedication to not being salacious with any of the sex scenes helped.

“I initially read the script and I was a little scared, because it was outrageous in the best way,” Snow said. “Not only was I going to be baring my soul and my body, but also my singing. There was a lot of scary elements to it. Then I talked to Ti and I realized that the way that he was going to shoot it, that the sexuality of the characters was more based in who they were and what their endeavors were, as opposed to shooting it in a gratuitous way where you were really going to feel like it was exploitative in terms of their bodies.”

For Ortega, a former Disney kid who has been expanding her work into decidedly more grownup fare, the chance to do something really different was intriguing.

“I had never read anything like it before, and that was super-enticing to me,” Ortega said. “I love that my character comes off one way initially, and then flips the script mid-film. … I just had a lot of faith in everybody who was behind the project and faith in the script itself. I was really eager to do something that I had never done before and put myself in an environment that was so different from anything I’ve ever filmed.”

For each of the film’s female stars, keeping up a constant stream of conversation with West was key to feeling comfortable, and not just in terms of how the sequences would be filmed, but why they existed. “Ti made us feel very, very comfortable,” Snow said. “We also had a lot of control and agency over how it was done, which I think was crucial in doing this.”

As Goth noted, the porn shoot is part of each character’s primary motivation. They all want to be there, there’s never anything untoward about the situation.

x movie still

“X”

A24

“The intention behind it all was really important to me. This group of people, it’s sort of a means to an end. They’re not just making a porno for the sake of making a porno,” Goth said. “They’re all very ambitious and they’re all very driven and they have their own ideas of what success means and what they want. It’s them wanting to make something more of themselves, and wanting to really just create a better life for themselves. That, I could understand, and I related to that.”

Snow added that it was important to her that Bobby-Lynne, one of the more eager participants in the porno “was powerful and had agency over her body.” And while Ortega’s Lorraine first arrives as the quiet, God-fearing, boom mic–wielding girlfriend of RJ, she eventually decides that she wants to get in front of the camera, too.

“That wasn’t a conscious decision. The scene actually wasn’t initially in the script,” Ortega said. “When I signed on, that wasn’t a part [of the film]. It was something that came later on. … [It was] flipping the stereotype over and just taking somebody who you wouldn’t really see in that position suddenly in that position. I think it adds to the spontaneity of the decision and also just the spontaneity of the film.”

While both Goth and Snow bare all on-screen, they’re not alone: Henderson and Mescudi strip down, too. “I think that it was really important for us that Scott and Martin were just as naked, because I think it shows that there was more of an atmosphere and a meaning to this porn movie that was justified [in terms of] us all using our bodies as a, I don’t know, like a mechanism, instead of it being gratuitous,” Snow said.

All three stars pointed to intimacy coordinator Tandi Wright — “the sweetest, kindest intimacy coordinator in the world,” Ortega said — for adding to their comfort and spawning still more conversations with West and the rest of the cast and crew.

x movie still

“X”

Christopher Moss

“I think in the past couple of years, it’s been a prerequisite to any scene that you feel is intimate in any way, even when I’ve kissed someone in a scene, I feel like it should be taken seriously, because I think it needs to be treated mechanically and like a dance. It has to be professional, and the actors have to feel comfortable,” Snow said. “This is a professional situation. Tandi was so fantastic to work with and made us feel, not only comfortable in terms of our own skin, but comfortable within our characters and really allowing us the space to be who we were supposed to be in that moment, and not thinking about the physicality and the vulnerability of it all.”

Goth had never worked with an intimacy coordinator before “X,” but found the experience to be incredibly helpful as well.

“I didn’t really know what to expect with our first meeting. It was me and with Scott and Tandi, and we met up in a hotel room and we just got to know each other a little bit,” Goth said. “I found it very beneficial. because we were able to get through any awkwardness that you might have felt on set beforehand. It just really allowed you to get to set on the day and start having fun with it. You build that sense of trust and safety with your coworker.”

Was it scary? Sure. But the results speak for themselves. “Just thinking about it and going over the scene and getting ready for it all [was scary], but by the time you do the first take and you’ve established what it is and what needs to get done, that goes away,” Goth said. “Then you can start having fun with it and just try to make the scene as good as possible.”

A24 will release “X” in theaters on Friday, March 18.

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