The human head is not perfectly round. Director Kimberly Peirce knows this after a number of tests to see how fake blood reacts when dumped on someone’s head. In fact, the shape creates a kind of umbrella effect when the blood hits it spot on, and that’s no good. We need to see just enough blood on the girl’s face so that it’s mortifying, but not so much that she can’t see. The first test was a perfect dump, but just a few millimeters off so that it ended up spilling behind her. After two more tests with the stand in, Peirce thinks they’re ready for the real thing. Chloe Grace Moretz is called to stage and her pretty dress is destined to be ruined. You see, it’s prom night and Carrie White is about to be very, very angry.
Hit the jump for my full report from the set of Kimberly Peirce’s new adaptation of the Stephen King novel Carrie, which also stars Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Ansel Elgort, Portia Doubleday, Gabriella Wilde, and Alex Russell. The film opens in theaters on October 18th.
Late in the summer of 2012, Collider was invited along with a handful of other journalists to the Toronto set of Carrie. Screen Gems/MGM’s new iteration of the material came in with a high bar to cross, as Brian De Palma’s now-classic 1976 adaptation of King’s horror novel is engrained in the minds of moviegoers everywhere. Moreover, Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek’s Academy Award-nominated performances as mother and daughter cast a long, long shadow.
Peirce was aware of this fact going in, so she wanted to go back to King’s source material instead of trying to remake what De Palma already did. The new Carrie is a wholly separate adaptation of the novel, infused with modern sensibilities to speak to an entirely new generation.
For those unfamiliar with either iteration of the story, it centers on a young, sheltered girl who suddenly begins to develop telekinetic powers. She’s lived a life more or less of solitude with her devoutly (and somewhat fanatically) religious mother, but a bullying incident at school sets a series of events into motion that lead to a devastating act of revenge against her tormenters. Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday)—the school’s “mean girl”—plots an act that will humiliate Carrie in front of the whole school, while a rift rises between Chris and her best friend Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) that leads to Sue attempting to make up for all the wrongs directed at Carrie over the years.
Filming at Prom
Though we were already eager to see what this new Carrie had in store, I have no shame in admitting that the press pool lit up like a Christmas tree when we were told that we’d be watching the cast and crew film the climatic “blood dump” scene. When we arrived on set, Moretz and newcomer Ansel Elgort were filming the scene where Tommy and Carrie are announced as the prom’s King and Queen. Their names are called, the school song starts playing, and the prom attendees burst out into applause as Tommy and Carrie walk up to the stage.
Judy Greer’s Ms. Desjardin—the school’s gym teacher who acts as a bit of a mentor to Carrie in bringing her out of her shell—is thrilled beyond belief to see Carrie finally treated as the sweet, good-natured girl that she is. Until she bursts into a telekinetic rage and unleashes unspeakable horror on the entire gymnasium, that is. Elgort’s Tommy is elated as well, with smile a mile wide filling his face as he escorts Carrie to the stage where the two embrace hands in a touching moment that may or may not hint at more than platonic feelings between the two.
Tour of the Sets
Lunch was then called, as the crew needed ample time to ready the stage for the blood dump scene. We were escorted on a tour of the soundstage, which housed the gymnasium set, the locker room set, and the interiors of the White house. The gym was decked out with twinkle lights, trees, tables, punch, cookies, and two thrones for the King and Queen. In a show of how Peirce and the producers have updated the story in order to speak to this young tech savvy generation, four flatscreen TV’s were running slideshows that featured awkward couples photos that were taken at the prom. We also saw candid shots of students hanging around school and attending sporting events (the “jock” sport of choice at Ewen High is apparently lacrosse).
Though this new Carrie takes place in modern day, the White household would look perfectly normal in 1968. The color tones were drab and muted, crucifixes and crosses graced the walls, and the dining room area looked to double as a sort of sewing factory for the seamstress Margaret White and her adept daughter Carrie. The infamous closet in which Margaret locks Carrie so that she can repent and pray for forgiveness (for sins like getting her period) was unsurprisingly unsettling, complete with a crucifix mantelpiece and worn bible. Spoiler alert: Jesus’ eyes do not glow in this new adaptation.
Upstairs we got a look at Carrie and Margaret’s rooms, and what struck me most was a small piece of painting paper and box of watercolors on Carrie’s desk. In a house covered in beige and droll, the presence of colors was quite striking. Carrie’s room also housed a rock collection and a number of Bible verses written down and pinned on the wall above her schoolwork.
One of the questions that racked my brain when I heard they were remaking Carrie was how the pivotal locker room scene would fit in. The opening scene in both the book and the movie takes place during a group shower at school, and it’s absolutely essential to the plot. Nowadays, it’s rare that high schools require students to shower after gym class (at least it was in my experience), so I was wondering how they’d make it feel realistic. Why with a pool, of course! In Peirce’s film, showering is a requirement after using the school’s pool. The pivotal scene between Carrie and her classmates had already been filmed, but the shower floor was still littered with tampons. Even on an empty set with no lighting setup, the effect was chilling.
The “Blood Dump”
Towards the end of the night, after three blood dump tests using Moretz’s stand-in, it was finally time for the actors to take the stage and catch this thing on camera. Moretz and Elgort took their places while a handful of “high school students” gathered at the bottom of the stage and awaited their cue to begin laughing uproariously. The mood was tense as Peirce spoke with her actors; it’s impossible to brush off the fact that this is the iconic scene in people’s minds going in, and if you don’t get it right then the film greatly suffers.
Moretz calmed herself as she awaited the “Action!” call, and when the time came she lit up exactly as she did earlier when taking the stage. We could see the look of absolute glee on her face as the crowd cheered, then the bucket of blood came raining down. Elgort exclaimed, “What the hell?” with blood covering half his face not dissimilar to a certain two-faced Batman villain, and like a pro twice her age, Moretz’s face at once conveyed shock, horror, despair, anger, and confusion. Her dress was soaked as blood ran down the back and sides of her head, and as the crowd started to laugh, Moretz tried to make her way off the stage in a fit of total and utter embarrassment. “Cut!” came a loud voice from the back, Moretz took a beat, and then a giant smile from ear to ear came across her face as the throng of onlookers broke out into a fit of enthusiastic applause.
Here’s are a rundown of some of the things to know about this new Carrie that I gleaned from my set visit:
- Kimberly Peirce didn’t want to think of the film as a remake, she saw it as an opportunity to do something different. She wanted to really develop Chris as a villain.
- The use of telekinesis in the film is much closer to the book, in that there is more of it.
- When approaching the telekinetic powers, Peirce went through the script page by page and gave a number rating from 1-10 for the level of Carrie’s powers during the telekinesis sequences.
- Peirce aimed to write an arc for Carrie’s powers, sort of like a superhero origin story.
- They tried to do as much of the film’s effects practically as possible, but there’s also a mix of CG-created effects. They blend the two in order to achieve some of the contortion shots necessary to show the affects of Carrie’s telekinetic powers.
- They shot some of the post-conflict stuff that happens towards the end of the movie first, so that the visual effects team could get started early.
- The visual effects team planned a lot of intricate sequences for some of the film’s deaths, including filming at 1000 frames-per-second and stopping time.
- A couple of the deaths in the film are homages to specific character deaths in De Palma’s film.
- When Peirce started collaborating with Moretz, she told her that she needed to set off a teenage rebellion in her life because the role of Carrie called for her to be a young adult.
- Peirce took a page out of King’s book when it came to the film’s tone, as she wanted to balance the horror with humor.
- When casting the film, producer Kevin Misher was looking for a group of young actors that were on the threshold of breaking out.
- Their take on Margaret White is that, though she has a horrible methodology, she turns out to be right about everything she says to Carrie.
- They had to adapt the Margaret White character for modern day, so instead of making her a simple religious fanatic, they made it clear that she’s almost made a religion of her own.
- The aspiration from the beginning was to make a classic horror movie that has real characters and not just shock scares.
- From the beginning, the studio was committed to making an R-rated movie.
- The film is not a remake of De Palma’s movie. They went back to the book for the inspiration, and in turn made a new adaptation.
- Moretz describes the film as a darker, more twisted version that focuses on the mother-daughter relationship.
- Moretz visited homeless shelters in preparation for the role, in order to get to know people who had come from abusive relationships.
- The producers communicated with Stephen King, but he didn’t actively consult on the movie.
- The carnage in the new film is more intense and more widespread than it was in De Palma’s film.
- There were updates made to the story in order to make it more contemporary. Cell phones play a larger role in the film, as does social media.
- Julianne Moore didn’t want to play Margaret White as simply a bible-thumping mother, she wanted it to be more substantial. She went back to the book for inspiration in crafting her take on the character.
- The characters are played as real high school students, so that brings some levity to the film.
- Watching the bathroom scene being filmed made Judy Greer cry, and after she saw Chloe’s performance, she altered her take on Miss Desjardin to be a tad more sympathetic towards Carrie.
- When we did the set visit, Greer was still arguing with Peirce and the producers about changing the fate of her character.
Catch up on the rest of our Carrie set visit coverage below:
- Chloe Grace Moretz Talks Playing with Telekinetic Powers, the Grueling Audition Process, Preparing for the Role, and More on the Set of CARRIE
- Director Kimberly Peirce Talks Telling a Mother/Daughter Story, Modernizing an Iconic Property, the Level of Violence and Sex, Bullying, and More on the Set of CARRIE
- Judy Greer Talks Paying Homage to the Original, Being Heartbroken by Chloe Grace Moretz’s Performance, and More on the Set of CARRIE
- Producer Kevin Misher Talks Finding the Right Cast, Keeping a Well-Known Story Suspenseful, Committing to an R Rating, and More on the Set of CARRIE