"I loved how unexpected her twists were." Sydney Sweeney on Immaculate

“I loved how unexpected her twists were.” Sydney Sweeney on Immaculate

Sydney Sweeney, Alvaro Morte and Michael Mohan discuss religion, horror and a shocking ending to their new movie, Immaculate.

“Something that I’m really interested in is the balance of entertainment that is quite lurid, but also quite beautiful,” says director Michael Mohan. We’re speaking to him about his latest movie, Immaculate, which sees a nun, Cecilia, enter an isolated Italian convent only to soon find herself pregnant through – seemingly – immaculate conception.  

Cecilia is played by Sydney Sweeney, who says it was Cecilia’s character journey that really pulled her into playing her: “I loved the crazy journey that she went on,” she says, “I loved how unexpected her twists were. And the challenges that she as a person and as an actor would put me through.”

That’s not the only element that appealed to Sweeney…  “I’ve also been a huge fan of the horror genre for a really long time,” she laughs. “My dad loves horror films. So I was attracted to this story because of the genre. But then also, a lot of the horror stemmed from reality. It felt very grounded and I liked that.”

Sweeney’s love of horror is shared with Mohan, who touched upon plenty of classic horror influences when directing the movie. “I really wanted to harken back to the horror films of the American New Wave,” he says. “Like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, or Don’t Look Now. What those films tend to do is they’re very intimate with their characters. 

“When I go to see a horror movie, I don’t want them to just push the envelope I want them to rip the envelope to shreds. So because we were making [Immaculate] independently, we had the freedom to really go for it. I applaud my producers and my financiers and Black Bear for allowing us to make an ending that is as crazy as the ending in this film.”

Now, it may seem a little early in an article to talk about the ending of a movie but Immaculate does what all good horror movies should do: leave you with a shocking ending that stays with you as you walk out of the cinema. 

Of course we give no spoilers here at SciFiNow but Sweeney’s character plays a central role in that last scene of the movie and for Alvaro Morte, who also stars in the movie as Father Sal Tedeschi, the priest who lures Cecilia to the Italian convent, it’s the scene that he’s most looking forward to people seeing: “I think it’s a brilliant decision by the director,” he says, “and it’s an absolutely amazing performance by Sydney. It has a mix of feelings within just one scene!”

What’s surprising, then, is that that scene wasn’t in the original script of the movie… “When I read the script for the first time, there were two things I wanted to change,” Mohan reveals. “The first is that originally she was a high school student, and I wanted to change her into a nun. 

“The second thing was the ending. This script was originally written for a studio and it had a much more traditional, happier ending. I just wanted to end the film with something so sick and so… you know, I keep using the word catharsis, where it’s just building to this moment that leaves you absolutely breathless. So, when I finished the script, I had the vision for what that shot would be. I just knew it.”

What’s more surprising, considering that this is a scene the cast and filmmakers believe is one of the best scenes in the movie, is that what audiences will see on cinema screens is the first take. “What’s in the movie is take one!” Mohan nods. “We did four takes. We did a safety but the first take just had this magic to it. So that’s what’s in the movie.” 

The ending scene that you see in Immaculate is the first take.

When she wasn’t smashing it out of the park with her take one scenes, Sweeney was also acting as a producer on the movie, and was a part of it from the very beginning: “I produced this movie so I actually got to be the one who hired the director,” she nods, “I hired Alvaro, I hired the cast, brought on the financiers, picked the locations. It was my baby!”

This isn’t the first time that Sweeney and Mohan have worked together. The pair worked on the 2021 thriller, The Voyeurs and were keen to work together again. But it wasn’t until Immaculate happened that it felt right. “I was scared to read the script when she sent it my way because I knew she was making this and I didn’t want to say yes unless I knew I could bring something to it,” Mohan tells us. “She had brought me scripts in the past and I just didn’t feel like I was right for it even if the script was good. But with this one, when I read it, I got to the reveal that happens in the middle of the movie, and it completely took me by surprise and I just knew I had to be a part of it. So I jumped in and I was on the ground in Rome three months later.” 

For Alvaro Morte, it was the fact that Sweeney was involved that drew him to the movie: “The first thing that helped me to decide to be in the project was that Sydney Sweeney was there,” he confirms. “She is such an amazing actress and I can tell now, working with her, that she’s just so amazing. 

“They sent me the script and what I was really excited about was that it wasn’t just a horror movie. It’s a movie that talks about feminism, talks about motherhood. It talks about a world of women controlled by one man.

“So it’s an entertaining movie, of course. You’re going to have fun, you’re going to get scared but then when you get out of the theatre with your friends, you have material to talk about.”

That sentiment is shared by both Mohan and Sweeney. “I think there are a lot of themes in this film and messages that different audience members are going to find a connection to,” Sweeney says, “and it’s up to the viewers to be able to have their own discussion about it.”

“I think it’s a movie that can be interpreted any number of ways,” Mohan adds. “First things first, if people just want to go on a rollercoaster ride and not think too deeply about it, I do think the film delivers. But if you think about it on a deeper level, anybody who’s religious or not religious, we’re dealing with crises of faith. Sometimes it’s faith in your religion, sometimes it’s faith in your fellow man. Speaking as a former Catholic, one of the things we’re constantly doing is reconciling our own feelings about what our church believes and what we believe. Sometimes those things don’t align and hopefully this allows people to think about their own relationship with faith in a deeper level.”

Immaculate deals with a crisis of faith.

Oh but let’s not forget the scares. Immaculate is a horror movie after all. “There are a lot!” Mohan laughs. “We have the traditional jumpscares that will jolt you out of your seat. We have gore, it’s briefly on screen but burns into your brain so you won’t forget it. But then there’s just this overarching sense of dread because of the terror inside of her. She’s pregnant. She doesn’t know why. That’s not something you can run away from.

“Traditionally in religious horror movies, especially modern ones (which don’t get me wrong, I love those films), the end of the films culminate in the nuns fighting a supernatural creature made out of ones and zeros. In our film, the blood is practical. The terror is real, the terror is inescapable, the terror is visceral. And it’s all leading to this climax where hopefully people feel this sense of catharsis, that they’re cheering for something absolutely horrific. So my hope is that if you see maybe one horror movie a year, I hope this is the horror movie you see, but also if you’re a diehard horror fan, the ending is something that gives you something unexpected.”

Oh yeah, we’re back to that ending. Speaking of which… “So far, the audiences I’ve seen it with, they love that she’s done this thing that is absolutely disturbing [at the end]. I have such a fucked up sense of humour and it just brings me so much joy!”

You’ll have to see that ending for yourselves as Immaculate is released in cinemas on 22 March.

Find more interviews, reviews, news and exclusives at SciFiNow