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Kevin Bacon Reveals Why 'Going Big' Is Like Going Home In MaXXXine - Exclusive Interview

"MaXXXine" is the concluding chapter in a trilogy of horror movies from writer-director Ti West, which began in March 2022 with "X" and continued later that year with "Pearl." In "X," Mia Goth plays Maxine Minx, an adult film actor whose participation in a film shoot at an isolated farm ends in a bloodbath that only she survives. In "Pearl," Goth plays the younger version of the psychotic elderly woman (also played by Goth) who slaughters the film crew in "X," showing how a brutal family life and her failed attempts to join a dance troupe and become a "star" end up turning Pearl into a killer.

In "MaXXXine," set in 1980s Hollywood, the title character is now a top adult film star and trying to make the leap to mainstream films with a role in a slasher movie. But Maxine is haunted by the events of "X": As people around her begin getting murdered, a private detective named John Labat (Kevin Bacon) arrives on behalf of a mysterious client who wants to see Maxine — and may have a connection to her past and the killings.

The sleazy, seedy Labat is, for Kevin Bacon, another striking on-screen performance in a career that began, coincidentally, in one of the most iconic slasher films of all time, 1980's "Friday the 13th." Bacon's sparkling resume of classic films since then is too long to go into, and as he tells Looper in our exclusive interview, his approach to Labat was the same as with all his roles: "I don't want to be me, even in something where it seems like it's my voice and my dialect and my look or whatever that is; still, I don't feel like I'm me," he says. "[Roles are] all transformational to a certain extent."

How JFK and MaXXXine are weirdly connected

According to the production notes, you'd seen "X" and "Pearl" and were interested in working with Ti. How did that develop into a role for you in "MaXXXine"?

Yeah, I had seen both of those movies. I'm a fan of genre, especially if something is slightly under the radar and cool and filmmakers are doing interesting things with the genre with not a lot of money, and "X" and "Pearl" really fit into that. I asked to meet with Ti, but I didn't know it was a trilogy. I didn't know that there was going to be a "MaXXXine," and so we talked for a while, and then he said, "Well, I do have this thing I'm doing, and I'll send it to you."

Did he say, "I saw you play Willie O'Keefe in 'JFK,' and you did that New Orleans sleazy character really well, so I think I've got something for you"?

I don't think he made [Labat] from New Orleans based on Willie O'Keefe, but I can tell you that interestingly, there were parallels to our conversation in that when I was doing "JFK," Oliver [Stone] said to me, "Are you okay to be transformational in this part?" I don't really know what exactly he meant by that, but I think it's because that's how I look at parts — I don't want to be me, even in something where it seems like it's my voice and my dialect and my look or whatever that is; still, I don't feel like I'm me. They're all transformational to a certain extent.

That being said, I think Oliver wanted to be sure that I wasn't afraid of it or afraid of going for it. I think Ti also wanted to make sure that I was good with going big, with doing some stuff with the hair and makeup and wardrobe and dialect and body and all that.

Clothes make the man

Did you hear a voice for Labat and get an image in your head of who he would be once you read the script?

That's exactly right. That's how I put it. You start to hear the voice, and I started to think about New Orleans. I went back to New Orleans and spent some time there, then rented a car and also drove up through parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, up through the South to get myself in a little bit of a headspace there. I thought about my own ideas for him and for his backstory, worked on that. Then we started to discuss the exterior pieces of it in terms of the look, et cetera.

It's a funny thing when you're in a position like I am — which I'm certainly 100% grateful to be in — where I don't audition. It's a bit of a flyer for a director. They don't know exactly what I'm going to do until I do it, and at that point it's too f***ing late to change your mind. The actor is there, he is dressed, he's made a decision about his whatever. Of course Ti was involved with all that, but he really didn't know, and the very first scene that we shot was a scene up in the Bonaventure Hotel with Maxine where my character is introduced. I can imagine that right before he said "action," there might be a moment where he is going, "God, I hope Bacon is okay. I hope he doesn't s*** the bed with this character."

Your outfit and the bandage you wear on your nose is reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown." This is a movie about movies, so was there a little homage going on there?

That's a Ti question. It never was for me, and it wasn't until I put on the suit, I put on the fedora, and I had gotten the cut and the bandage, and I went, "Yeah, it's Jake Gittes, right?" It didn't occur to me until I saw it. I didn't steer the wardrobe and the look in that direction.

We had a funny thing — you wouldn't even really notice it — but when Labat comes to town, he is in his old-South, Tennessee Williams-type linen suit. Then the next time you see him, my look was very much [Hollywood producer] Robert Evans. I had gone shopping someplace in the very short time that I was there. It wasn't something that I packed from New Orleans. It was something that I went out and bought and was proud of. That's when she comes up, punches me with the keys, and then I go back to the other suit because this one now has blood all over it. I love these little things. This is why great artists in hair and makeup and wardrobe and everything become such a part of the process.

How MaXXXine took Kevin Bacon back to '80s Hollywood

Do you remember the first time you actually came out to Hollywood? Was it in the '80s, when this movie is set, and do you remember the vibe when you first came out here?

It was this movie. I was someone who'd never been to California, and first time I ever came out, I was maybe 20. I can't remember what I would've come for. I'd have to look and see why I would've come out before "Footloose." But I do know that I had not spent much time there. When I got the part in "Footloose," one of my first experiences was being flown out to California to practice the dance and gymnastics stuff, and it was at the Paramount lot. They had commandeered a sound stage that was going to be used just for me and some of the other cast to learn how to do these moves and to work with the choreographer and the gymnastics trainer and all that stuff.

Pulling through the gates at Paramount in the '80s in my rented car was a pretty amazing experience, and making "MaXXXine" definitely sent me back to those days. For many years, if I came out to work here, I would live at the Chateau Marmont. I spent probably years of my life there, which is right in the heart of where this movie takes place.

Working with Mia Goth and Eddie Murphy (not in the same movie)

How was working with Mia?

She's great. She's such a focused actor. She felt strongly that she wanted to keep a distance from me. That's her process. It's not like she wanted to be called by the character's name or anything like that, but she did want to keep her distance. Once that was clear, I was like, "Great. You do you." I've worked with people that have that kind of focus and intensity, and I've worked with people that are like, "Hey, let's go get a beer after work." To me, everyone's process is not as important as what ends up on the screen, and she's a remarkable actress. She's just remarkable. She's so good.

Before we go, can we get a quick word on appearing in "Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F" and making your mark on a legendary franchise?

Super cool. The first one came out the same year "Footloose" did, which I didn't even know until I started promoting it. It's 40 years since both of these movies came out. Definitely a bucket list thing to get to work with Eddie. Love his stuff. He's a great, free, relaxed, present, and loose performer, so really fun to get into the ring with him and play that part. [It's] another part where there was good stuff on the page, but I worked with also a very collaborative team in terms of filling in the blanks. 

I have to say that even though I've just done two bad guys back-to-back, they exemplify the thing that I feel the most grateful for in my career in that they're totally different guys. You look at the character in "Beverly Hills Cop" and the character in "MaXXXine," and they're completely different people.

"MaXXXine" is out in theaters July 5.