Mia Goth Was ‘Terrified’ Filming ‘Pearl’ Because She ‘Never Went to Film School’

"I didn’t have any tools to gear myself up to something like that," Goth said of a particularly disturbing scene in Ti West's slasher.
Christopher Moss

Mia Goth may not have a film school degree, but she’s well-versed in her cinematic influences.

The “X” actress made her film debut in Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” in 2013 and now lands her first screenwriting credit with “X” prequel film “Pearl,” in theaters September 16. To portray the titular teen dreaming of stardom, while hiding slasher tendencies, Goth looked towards Björk in “Dancer in the Dark” and Bette Davis in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” as inspirations.

Pearl and West also drew from Michael Fassbender’s extended monologue from “Hunger,” directed by Steve McQueen, for a particularly taxing scene. But the scariest part of playing Pearl proved to be the loftiness by which Goth and co-writer/director Ti West set out to capture her breaking point, rather than her bloody outbursts.

“I was really terrified to shoot [the monologue], because I never went to film school,” Goth told W Magazine. “I didn’t have any tools to gear myself up to something like that.”

Director West scheduled the scene towards the end of production, which Goth called “a great move, because the emotional turbulence Pearl had gone through up until that point, and the intensity of what that shoot required from everyone, helped and informed the monologue that that came that day.”

Working alongside West and co-writing “Pearl” “became truly one of the most creatively fulfilling experiences of my life,” Goth added.

IndieWire’s Kate Erbland praised Goth’s “dedication” to playing Pearl in the prequel film, writing that Goth is “doubtless an extraordinary performer.”

The “X” trilogy rounds out with the upcoming installment “MaXXXine,” picking up with Goth’s final girl from the first feature. Director West previously told IndieWire’s Eric Kohn that the third film will be “about how home video has affected people” in the 1980s.

“I’m very proud of these,” West stated. “They’re super different and very out-of-nowhere. You won’t need to see one to see the other, but they do complement each other.”

He added, “I’m trying to build a world out of all this, like people do these days. You can’t make a slasher movie without a bunch of sequels.”

West continued that the driving force behind the “X” trilogy is to involve viewers in the filmmaking process and history of cinema as a whole, much like Goth’s guerrilla-style film school experience.

“I wanted to do something where all of the crafts of the movie were very apparent charms of the movie. So part of the reason they’re making movies in this movie is to get the audience to have a crash course on the clumsiness of what it’s like to make a movie,” West explained. “And then hopefully they’ll think about what I’m doing in the movie-movie, and they’ll be a little bit of appreciative of what it’s like to make the movie for the people and for me.”

West noted that Goth was the first person he met with for the dual roles of Pearl and Maxine.

“She just had a real grasp of what the movie was. She had supreme confidence,” West said. “I could sense her ambition and drive. I liked that confidence. It meant to me that she was going to totally own the characters and would make it fun to play them off each other.”

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