The prospect of tackling a new adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Carrie in the wake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 film is daunting enough in general, but the producers of Kimberly Peirce’s new film faced an incredibly tough task in filling the titular role—one that netted Sissy Spacek an Oscar nomination for her iconic performance. Luckily that’s where Chloe Grace Moretz comes in. The 16-year-old actress is one of the most promising young talents in recent memory, with a resume that already includes working with directors Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton in such varied films as Hugo, Let Me In, and Kick-Ass.
While visiting the Toronto set of the new Carrie late last summer with a group of journalists, we got to speak with Moretz about the daunting task of taking on such an iconic property, whether she watched De Palma’s adaptation before crafting her own performance, how integral her relationship with Julianne Moore is to the film, visiting homeless shelters as part of her research, her portrayal of Carrie’s telekinetic powers, how she landed the role, the arduous audition process that she went through with Peirce, and much more. Hit the jump to read on.
CHLOE GRACE MORETZ: You guys came on a good day.
Question: So are you excited to shoot the upcoming scene (the blood dump at the prom)?
MORETZ: Oh yeah. It’s interesting because I’ve seen a couple videos of what they’re gonna do, and during filming of one of the scenes with Margaret and I—actually where I tell her like, “No Momma, I’m gonna go,” I’m in the prom dress and she’s like, “Repent Carrie, don’t do it,” and I’m like, “No Momma, I’m gonna go,” it was during that scene where I walked off set into the gymnasium and I was just hanging out shooting basketball in my prom dress, and I turn around and they’re like “Okay so we’re about to do the blood dump.” We were like, “Wait, what?” and literally 30 people just starting filing in trying to watch it, and it happened and it was so cool. So I’m really excited to do it in a second, but it’s like five gallons of a liquid being dumped on your head so it’s really heavy, so they’re like “Just don’t fall,” and I’m like “I’m not gonna fall, don’t worry.” The minute I say that, I’m gonna fall.
I remember when I talked to you for Let Me In you hadn’t seen the original movie because it was rated-R. Now that you’re older, were you able to see the original Carrie or did you want to see the original Carrie?
MORETZ: I haven’t watched it since I booked it, but I have seen the movie now of course, because it’s one of the most iconic movies out there. It’s brilliant and I think De Palma did an amazing job with the movie. I really love what Kim’s doing with our movie and we’re really kind of taking our own take on it; it’s a darker, more twisted version that really focuses on the mother-daughter relationship and really mines that out, which is our main focus.
Kim was talking about how she sort of had to break you down from your normal confidence to a more insecure place, was that a difficult move for you to make?
MORETZ: It was interesting because I live a very privileged life, obviously. I’m an accomplished young actor, I have a very solid normal family, tons of siblings, and a mother that loves me. Aunts, uncles, I have everyone around me to tell me they love me, and Carrie doesn’t really have anyone. Margaret loves her daughter but almost loves her too much and restrains her from what she wants to do, whereas my mom loves me more than anything but she allows me to make my own choices in life. So it was definitely an interesting thing to break that down and strip away who I am, this young girl who is kind of like a go-getter and really competitive and everything to Carrie who is this wounded animal.
MORETZ: It was beautiful. I’ve never done that before for a role and I learned so much. Because, like I said I come from such a privileged life, and to go meet these people who have never known any semblance of love and money and life; what we go through every day, being able to go out to Whole Foods if you want to and buy an all-organic meal, they have never lived that. And I talked to these women who have been sexually abused and physically abused and verbally abused, and they’re so strong. Even though they’ve had so much done to them, they’re so strong, and you look into their eyes and you learn so much just from talking to them.
Carrie doesn’t speak much in this movie at all, she has virtually no lines, so it’s all looking at her and trying to figure out what everyone else is doing to her from what she’s conveying to you through her eyes and her mannerisms, and through her smile or her tears, and that’s how these women were. I laughed with them and I cried with them and I spent like a week with all of them, and I learned more than I’ve ever learned—even as Chloe. I realize how privileged I am to be in the business that I am and to be loved.
How strange is it to have a high school experience while making a movie, since you haven’t been able to go to prom and you haven’t been able to experience some of these things yourself?
MORETZ: It’s interesting because I’m technically a sophomore now in America, I’m not a freshman anymore so that’s like a big deal. But it’s interesting, I’m at a prom, having the whole experience. It’s cool because my high school experience so far has taken place on movie sets and in my living room, so it’s a change of scenery that’s for sure. But I’m on summer break still, so no school for me.
MORETZ: I’ve learned so much from her because not only is Kim a phenomenal director, she really knows an actor. Sometimes we don’t even have to speak, she’ll be like, “Just do that, and that, yeah,” and we just don’t have to speak to each other and we know what to do, it’s like a symbiotic relationship. I learned a lot from her because she has a lot of personal experiences that she shared with me, and we really bonded over that. This is my real first Lead 1 in a big studio film and taking everything on, and the relationship between a Lead 1 and their director is so special because in a way, I am part of Kim, you know? I’m kind of living her life in a way, it’s like living vicariously through each other and she’s wonderful. She’s definitely up there with Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese and all the people I’ve worked with before.
You said Carrie conveys a lot through a look, and in the original when she uses her telekinetic powers there’s that crazy kind of look. Was that hard for you to develop in this movie for you?
MORETZ: Well what I definitely wanted to not do is steal what she did, because I think what she did was amazing and iconic and everyone knows the typical hands-out, eyes-open look. There were so many times when someone [would suggest that]. People wouldn’t even think about it but I was doing one of the photoshoots and someone was like, “Just stick your hands out like this!” and I was like, “No! I can’t do that,” because the minute I do that I’ll be stealing someone else’s character. My main thing about this film was building my own Carrie, and she’s not what Sissy did, she’s not what De Palma made Carrie to be, it’s what Kim and I have constructed to be this being, what we have made into this living, breathing human.
But it took a while to figure out what exactly—I remember the first time, it was the screen test. I was already here and we were just testing all the clothing and stuff and we did one of the TK tests, which had special effects and all this wind and stuff. I was like, “Uh Kim, we haven’t really talked about this. What am I supposed to do?” And we ended up coming up with some interesting stuff that, I’ll tell you what it’s pretty cool. We did some onset visual effects, so in one of these scenes I’m practicing my TK and when I move my hand over something it actually moves, so it’s kind of a little bit like Harry Potter (laughs), it’s really cool. At one point in your life you’ve looked a remote and been like “Move!” But it actually happened, so.
Bullying has obviously come to the forefront lately, especially with social media like Facebook and Twitter. Did you feel an added sense of responsibility or anything on top of playing out this character’s arc knowing that this film deals with some of those heavier issues?
MORETZ: Well a large element of this movie is partly the bullying aspect of how Carrie is taken advantage of and made fun of just because of peoples’ weaker self, to push whatever their insecurities are onto someone who takes everything from everyone. And yeah, there were a lot of things we brought into the script, we brought some social media aspects of it that’s stuff that actually happens on Facebook and Twitter. We also brought some interesting things in where some things happen on a social network, [but] Carrie doesn’t even realize it because she doesn’t even know what Facebook is (laughs), at the same time it’s sweet that she’s so unaffected by what they want to affect her with. But I think, honestly, the main point of the movie is Margaret and Carrie. I think that’s the main pinnacle of her, it’s her mother.
You were talking a little bit about Carrie being kind of a wounded animal. Are there any playlists or music that you listen to to get you into that spot?
MORETZ: Oh yeah, yeah. Do you know that Sia song, “Breathe Me?” You know it’s super twisted, it’s a dark song. You can really beat yourself up for that song and that’s definitely a major song that I listen to for this type stuff. And “Fix You”, Coldplay. That really one gets me. Yeah, music is a large element in my life, and also pictures, family members, stuff like that, that’s a major element to this movie.
You’ve booked a ton of creepy projects over the years and I was just wondering is that random? Are you drawn to the horror genre? Do you consider yourself a scream queen? Or is it just happenstance?
MORETZ: I’d say it’s just happenstance. What I do is I read scripts and I just take them in, and if I connect to a script and I feel the need to—like with Carrie, I went in for a meeting with MGM. They were like “Oh we have a couple of projects we’d like you to think about,” and I was like, “Oh cool,” they said, “One’s Carrie,” and I was like, “Oh God, what does that entail? What type remake is it gonna be? Is it gonna be like a real beautiful movie or something slasher-y and tentpole-y?” They sent over the script and when I read the script I just inhaled it, and you know when you read a script within three hours you know that it’s a movie that you have to do. Immediately I read the character of Carrie and I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing this role, I couldn’t imagine going, “Yeah here’s the script, you go take the role.” I felt the need to go and fight for this role to the death, and that’s exactly what I did.
I literally went in a week later with Kim and they were like, “You know Chole you’re pretty young for the role, you don’t really have the biggest chance of getting it,” and I was like, “Don’t worry, I will.” (laughs) I went in with Kim and I had really just beaten it out with Trevor, my brother who’s also my acting coach, and we really went through it all and we had it mined out to the core. I went in with Kim and I was like, “we’ll be done in like an hour”; it was like a five-hour session of Kim and I just working on 10 pages of work together for five full hours. We did everything; I had like carpet burns on my arms when I left, I was completely exhausted from tears and emotions. It was so wonderful, though, because I had the best time.
As an actor you always want to be challenged and you always want to have someone tell you you can’t do something, because I always want to be like “I can do it and I’ll show you I can, and I’ll do it better than anyone can” (laughs). I just had so much drive and Kim really pushed me to my limits and really made me go there, and no one’s done that to me yet. I’ve never had a character that I’ve been allowed to go crazy for, and I got to. That even wasn’t enough, I went in the next day for another three hours, and then finally a week later she called.
Catch up on the rest of our Carrie set visit coverage below:
- Collider Goes to Prom on the Set of CARRIE; 25 Things to Know About the New Adaptation
- 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