Sydney Sweeney Immaculate
Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate courtesy of NEON

Sydney Sweeney produced and stars in the jaw-dropping new NEON horror movie Immaculate as a young nun who finds out she’s the next Virgin Mary. And from the start, Sweeney knew she wanted her character to end up absolutely “drenched in blood.”

Directed by Michael Mohan, Immaculate features Sweeney as Sister Cecelia, a devout young woman who moves to Italy to join a convent and become a nun. But when she suddenly gets pregnant by immaculate conception, she begins to suspect that something much more sinister is going on behind closed doors.

Sydney Sweeney on Making Immaculate

“I was always very, very gung-ho about making sure by the end of the movie, I’m drenched in blood,” Sweeney tells MovieMaker ahead the film’s theatrical release on Friday.

“I really wanted it. And I really wanted to go through a killing spree to get there. I love it. I think it’s fun, I think I embraced all of it. But also, there’s a realism to it,” she adds.

If you just watched the trailer for Immaculate, you might assume that it’s scares are rooted in religion. But Sweeney says the religious context just better served the story, and that it’s actually science that’s driving the narrative.

Immaculate Sydney Sweeney
Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate courtesy of NEON

“We weren’t setting out to make a religious or nun movie. It truly just better served the buy-in to Cecelia’s journey,” she says. “This movie could work without religion. Like, if you think about it, Father Tedeschi comes from a background of science and it’s more of a scientific journey. It’s an easier buy in to believe that she could be pure enough and innocent enough to be impregnated with an immaculate conception if she’s a nun.”

Father Tedeschi, the convent’s resident priest, is played by Álvaro Morte (Money Heist), and the Mother Superior is played by Dora Romano. Sweeney’s White Lotus cast mate Simona Tabasco plays fellow nun Sister Mary, and Giorgio Colangeli plays Cardinal Franco Merola.

Without spoiling the movie’s very intense — and yes, very blood-soaked — ending, Sweeney gave us some insight into what it was like to shoot that epic final scene.

“The moment we called cut, I jumped out of it,” she says. “For Cecilia, it was a very raw, guttural moment. She had so much built up inside her from the journey that she went on. There’s fear, there’s anger, there’s freedom, there’s pain. There’s just like that feminine rage inside and she just unlocks all of it.”

“We only had this location for a limited amount of time, and we were trying to film that scene, and also the ending of the catacomb scene with Father Tedeschi,” she adds. “So when you have big stunt work like that with the other actor, and then also the prosthetics that he had to have on, the reset time — there’s a lot of elements that go into making sure that you’re scheduling the day correctly. So we didn’t have a major amount of time for the final final scene of the film.”

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She and Mohan blocked out where the camera would be, and then he asked her if she wanted to rehearse the scene before they started shooting.

“I was like, ‘Nah, let’s just see what happens,'” Sweeney says. “We’ll go from there because there’s no mistakes. There’s just learning from things.”

But she nailed it on the very first try.

“We did it, and what you see is the first take,” she says.

How Immaculate Came to Be

Michael Mohan and Sydney Sweeney on the set of Immaculate. Photo by Fabia Lavino, courtesy of NEON

Immaculate‘s origin story began about 10 years ago when Sweeney was a teenager. After reading the original script by Andrew Lobel, she auditioned for the role, but the film never ended up getting off the ground. Years later, she became interested in producing and starring in a horror film — and she thought back to Lobel’s script, which ended up changing quite a bit on its way to becoming what it is today.

“It vastly changed, because one, the character was like 15, 16 years old. It was set in a boarding school in Ireland,” she says. “So it turned into a convent and nuns and reworked a lot of the structure of the story.”

Sweeney herself selected Mohan to direct the film. Sweeney was in his 2018 Netflix series Everything Sucks! and starred in his 2021 Amazon original movie The Voyeurs.

“When I sent him the script, he put together — within the end of the day, which is amazing — this incredible pitch deck of his ideas to bring,” she recalls. “And the last page, or one of the last pages on the slide, was his idea for the ending. I immediately knew that he had the same movie in mind as me.”

As a producer, Sweeney’s fingerprints are all over this film. We asked her to walk us through everything she did behind the camera to bring the film to life.

“I got the rights to the script, I brought on my producing partners, I got the financing from a financing company called Black Bear. I brought on the director, I hired Álvaro, who was someone I met a week prior to starting casting, and I kept saying, ‘Oh, my God, this guy’s perfect,'” she says.

“I sat in on all the casting sessions, I was on the location scouts and push for the locations that I thought would be perfect for it. Many, many sleepless nights revising the script with Mike. I helped shot list, budget, I directed some parts of second unit. I was part of editing the whole film, I sat in the editing booth for days and days and days and weeks and weeks and weeks.”

The result is a horrifyingly beautiful film.

“The rewarding aspects is the entire project. From learning from the ground up, the cast, the crew, building this entire project together — it’s a dream of mine,” she says. “So being able to see it fully come together is just incredible.”

Immaculate arrives in theaters Friday from NEON.

Main Image: Sydney Sweeney in Immaculate courtesy of NEON.