Mia Goth has long been an It Girl on screen, but her starring roles in Ti West’s busy x and Pearl last year pushed her to new levels of stardom. More than that, they have also given her opportunities to get involved behind the scenes and become more confident in the process. Goth co-wrote Pearla prequel to x focused on her titular character, which came out last September, and also MaXXXine, the third film in the trilogy, coming to theaters soon. Working on the creative side helped build her confidence and it’s something she wants to continue doing. She opened up about the experience during one of the LA Times Talks presented by Chase Sapphire at the Sundance Film Festival, where ELLE hosted Chase Sapphire.
“Honestly, I’d say it just imbues me with a level of confidence that I really didn’t have before,” Goth told the moderator Mark Olsen from LA Times. “I mean, I have complete and total impostor syndrome, and I always feel like I’m not meant to be on the set that I’m on. And then when I wrap my film, I’m always sure I’ll never do another one again. And it’s just ‘grateful to be here’ and ‘hey’… It never feels normal. So I guess I just have the opportunity now to get involved in projects from [their] conception, it’s empowering and it’s given me a new level of confidence and a new sense of myself, really. And it just made me even more attached to my projects. And so that’s definitely something I’d love to continue to expand on.”
The next project is Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity pool starring Alexander Skarsgård, a disturbing psychological thriller following a wealthy couple vacationing at a secluded luxury resort in the fictional country of Li Tolqa. Beyond the resort’s heavily patrolled gates, people are executed for their crimes – but wealthy foreigners can skirt the law if they can afford it. For a handsome fee, they can be cloned and have their sentient body double executed in their place while they watch. When Skarsgård’s James and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) run into holiday companion Gabi, played by Goth, things go wild from there.
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Cronenberg originally planned for Infinity pool to be a short story. “But when I decided to expand it into a feature, I started having memories of this vacation I took at an all-inclusive resort many years earlier,” he said. “And it was a very strange experience, as I’m sure many of you have had.” He recalled that as he left the property and drove past its fence, his bus passed poor locals and dilapidated homes outside the resort area. “And it looked like you’d never visited the country. And it felt like a good setting for a movie about people operating without conventional consequences.”
The concept of privileged people buying their way out of trouble very much exists in real life, but Cronenberg explores it further in the surreal, sci-fi-adjacent world of Infinity pool. The film is “a way of approaching living without consequences and what that does to people,” he said during the panel.
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Goth, who received the script during filming Pearl in her native New Zealand, was immediately intrigued when she learned it was developed by Cronenberg and that Skarsgård was attached. “And then on my Sunday off, I opened the script and read, and I knew about four pages in that this was going to be a really wild movie,” she said. “And from there, I really knew it was something I wanted to do.”
Her Gabi is a bubbly actress in breezy caftans and statement earrings, but she has a mysterious side. “I thought the character was going to be one thing, and then she ended up developing into something completely different,” she said. “And she basically tricked me, tricked me, and I thought she was really impressive.”
She added: “The whole character arc of Gabi, and really the whole movie, I see as a meditation on power. And I found that really interesting. It’s explored in this really nuanced way.”
The strange world of Infinity pool, set in a real resort in Croatia, was liberating for Goth as an actress. “It’s actually quite a gift to have a film that kind of has a big disregard for reality. As a performer, you’re just able to be more free,” Goth said. She praised Cronenberg for “just [letting] you run wild with it. He fully trusts his actors. And from my experience, that’s really the sign of a great director.”
With its focus on the 1 percent behaving badly, especially on vacation, Infinity pool carries similar themes to recent projects such as Triangle of Triangles, The white lotusand even Succession, in which Skarsgård currently stars, Olsen pointed out. (Believe me, as someone who has seen all of the above, Infinity pool is far more confused than the others.) But the overlap is accidental; Cronenberg said he began writing the film in 2014 or earlier. “I think it shares some DNA with those projects, but it’s a coincidence that they’re all coming out at the same time,” he said.
Nor was Skarsgård particularly attracted to the project for its own sake Succession comparisons. “Both projects certainly exist in a very wealthy world and in a very protected bubble,” he said. “The thing that interested me the most Infinity pool wasn’t the narrative that rich people are parasitic assholes, especially when they go on vacation. Yes, we are, but I feel like it’s also kind of an argument. I think we’ve seen that many, many times before.” Instead, he was interested in the effect of Li Tolqa’s strict legal codes on the characters and how they would be psychologically changed by knowing they could bend the law .
“On a psychological level, I found it much more interesting when we got into what happens to these individuals when they see their own executions and how do they know if they executed the clone or themselves? What does that do to you ?” he said.
You will find out when Infinity pool opens in theaters January 27.
Erica Gonzales is Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, film, music, books and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There’s a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.