After a six-year absence, director Ti West has returned with his eighth horror film, X. A slasher film that takes place during the golden age of porn, X has all the familiar beats of a Ti West film but done in an explosion of sex and gore. We may only be three months into 2022, but X is already standing tall as one of the best horror films of the year.
X takes place in 1979 when a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast soon find themselves in a desperate fight for their lives.
Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew spoke with writer/director Ti West along with actors Brittany Snow and Martin Henderson for X’s SXSW World Premiere. During their chat, they discussed everything from what inspired the slasher film to utilizing intimacy coordinators and wrapping up with everyone’s favorite scene from the film.
Thank you all so much for taking the time to speak with me about X today! To start things off I’ll turn to you Ti. What inspired this story?
Ti West: I had made seven horror movies in a row and wanted to take a break cause I didn’t want to repeat myself. In that break, I was always thinking that the one sort of element of horror that I hadn’t really done was the slasher movie. I never really had an idea because slasher movies have so much set-ups and kills that that’s very technical to film. The gore and things, that’s very fun to watch and very tedious to shoot. So I never really had an interest in making that but it was something I left on the table as far as the subgenre, if you will.
I had been thinking a lot about movies and why I like movies and horror movies in particular, and the craft of filmmaking was a big part of it for me. I had been thinking horror movies felt kind of soft, there were not a lot of slasher movies at the moment when I was thinking of the movie and I wanted to make a movie about filmmaking. But I didn’t want to make a movie about horror people making a horror movie because it’s too meta and I’m not interested in that. But porn and horror are sort…there’s a symbiotic relationship between the two as sort of like outsider genres. Particularly in the 70s, which was the golden age of porn but also exploitation films and also like the sort of most revered time in American cinema. I was interested in the decade in general and I thought if I could take something that traditionally in slasher movies like sex and violence, this very low-brow thing, and try to do something that brought you into the craft of filmmaking by showing you people making an adult movie, that was an interesting way into it. So it was all that combined with getting a little older and thinking like, it’s kind of a bummer getting older, and thinking that’s an interesting idea for a setup for villains. And then it all eventually came out like this.
For you, Martin and Brittany, what was your approach to developing your characters, and how much input did you receive from Ti?
Brittany Snow: I did a lot of research about not only the seventies, but like women in the seventies. I felt it was really important to me that this woman character who was blonde and over-the-top came from a genuine place where she actually was having fun with the way she looked and it wasn’t used as a trope in a way that she was dumb or going to die first. She kind of had an ambitious mind and she was always two steps ahead of what you thought she was thinking. Ti and I always spoke about how she really might be the smartest person in the room and having respect for that type of character. I really wanted to develop that and I thought it was a really interesting way into something that you feel like you might know this archetype, but really it’s something completely different.
Martin Henderson: For me, the character was on the page. Ti had written this guy for me, and I kind of felt from the first read that I had a good understanding [of the character]. It’s a funny thing as an actor, I’ve read so many scripts. Your agent will send you something and say, Hey, take a look at this role or, they’re interested in you for this role, or you’ve been offered this role, and you’ll read it and for whatever reason you’re like, oh, I appreciate they like me in the role or want to see me do it. But every now and again you’ll read a character and they’re not necessarily you, but there’s something about the character that just ignites my creative imagination. It’s a feeling. It’s a sense like I know this guy, I know how to play this guy, and it turns me on creatively. It makes me excited and enthused and confident, but yet there’s a degree of trepidation because you want to obviously honor what the director wants. So for me, it was about understanding Ti’s vision as a whole for the film, for this ensemble, where Wayne’s character fitted into that group and the elements he needed to have in order to make the dynamics work. In a weird way, I’ve never shared this, I think I kind of subconsciously based [Wayne] on my stepfather. My parents divorced in 1980 and all of a sudden I had this guy in my life who was a little like Wayne. So I think I brought a tiny bit of elements of him into it as well. For me, it was more about just the joy of creating a guy and having fun with it.
I’m doing my damndest to try and not spoil anything but what was the hardest scene for you to execute?
Ti West: From a directing standpoint, it was certainly the things that you’re trying to avoid talking about [Laughs]. The thing is this movie was deceptively, technically complicated to make because there’s a movie within a movie, and how much of the movie within the movie do you see? There’s a million choices and a million things you can do, and you can only kind of pick one. It was an idea I was super excited about and then a giant burden I put upon myself while making it. It was a technically ambitious endeavor that seems like it just came out like this. I was always really stressed trying to get the technical craft things to be at a level that they are invisible, which is certainly easier said than done.
Since the film focuses on making an adult movie with graphic nudity involved, were there intimacy coordinators on set to help?
Brittany Snow: I really appreciated that from the very beginning we knew that there was gonna be an intimacy coordinator and it wasn’t the first time I’ve had that on set. I really find it super useful and important and necessary, to be honest, because it adds a level of professionalism that I think from the get-go, even if you don’t get into the intricacies of it being positioned a certain way, you just have an understanding that there is a level of care that has been put upon the crew and the cast with having someone like that there. I think that a huge part, for me too, in making this was that it was all character-driven with [Bobby Lynn] being sex-positive and owning and having agency over her body and sexuality. I think that was super helpful for me to get prepared for those scenes, because it was almost a challenge to get into my own confidence and swagger in that way. I think that was really fun. I tried to look at it as that instead of being like a vulnerable character.
Lastly, without spoiling anything, do you all have a favorite scene from the film?
Martin Henderson: I’d have to give too much away, so I can’t tell you [Laughs].
Brittany Snow: I think all of us together as one was really fun because we all got to play very specific, different people and us all together as a group within a van, without giving anything away, just us in a van is a sight to see. It’s really quite amusing and it was really fun.
Martin Henderson: I loved that, too.
Ti West: The big chunk in the middle of the movie where everyone’s just hanging out, I think is really great.
X is now available nationwide in theaters. To learn more, check out our review!
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