When you think of a modern day take on Stephen King’s classic horror novel Carrie, the actress Judy Greer doesn’t immediately come to mind. The actress is best known for her scene-stealing comedic work on Arrested Development and Archer and in films like 13 Going on 30 and Elizabethtown, but she’s also stretched her dramatic chops to great effect, most recently in 2011’s The Descendants. For director Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie, Greer plays the role of the sympathetic gym teacher Miss Desjardin, a character who goes out of her way to try and aid the shy and bullied Carrie, played by Chloe Grace Moretz. Of course, things don’t exactly go smoothly.
Last summer I visited the set Toronto set of Carrie along with a handful of other journalists, and Greer sat down with us to discuss her work on the project. The actress talked about her unlikely casting, how she altered her performance after seeing Moretz’s portrayal of Carrie, how the new film differs in tone and focus from De Palma’s adaptation, what Peirce brings to the pic as a female director, arguing to change her character’s fate, and more. Hit the jump to read on.
JUDY GREER: You’re my favorite. What’s your name? You’re my favorite. 1:1 later.
So how many people have you slapped so far?
GREER: Just Carrie, just one so far, but we have a lot more to shoot.
Is this one of those films where you dispense with anything everybody knows from the first film and try to start clean?
GREER: I didn’t do that. I don’t know if I was supposed to or not. Maybe that’s a better way, but I love this movie. I love the book even more than the movie, and I felt like because I was such a huge fan, I didn’t want to dispense with it. I wanted to honor it and try to add to it.
Pay homage in a way?
GREER: Yeah, yeah, that’s kind of how I looked at it, but also, I don’t know. If I was playing Carrie, I might have done differently but I felt like as my character. I mean, I’m definitely bringing myself to the role but I wanted to pay homage. I hope I did. We’ll see.
The whole concept of bullying is kind of at the forefront right now, and it’s been 35 years since the original Carrie, so how do you the reaction’s going to be to the violent scenes in this film?
GREER: Well, you know we’re shooting the main shit right now so I don’t know, but I’ve seen the bathroom stuff and what I’ve seen of it has made me cry. I think because bullying has really become such a problem right now, I think it’s maybe going to be more impactful right now, just because of where that is in society and how much more we’re hearing about it. At least 35 years ago, you didn’t have the internet telling you every single thing that happened in every school and college around the world, but this seems to me—and maybe it’s because I know Chloe and I didn’t know Sissy Spacek—but seeing the stuff happen to Chloe really breaks my heart and makes me feel really sad and it makes me feel sad to think of kids going through that. Just watching her performance in the shower scene is really heartbreaking.
When you were approached for the role and given the script, seeing that you were a fan of the original, what was so different about this that you felt it was worthy of re-approaching or reinterpreting?
GREER: Well, I think that it’s been long enough that we can have a new audience for it, and actually, bullying was one of the things that made me interested as an audience member in watching this movie again. Had I not gotten the role, I would still have been excited to see it, and I think because now the take on it is bullying moreso than I remember the first time, that it was just kind of an outcast story, and that’s what made it interesting to me, and that’s why I think it’s a fresh perspective. I also think that Chloe is such an amazing talent that it wouldn’t have been worth it to make this movie with someone who was not going to really be able to play the role and she’s a good reason to make the movie if she wants to make it. Does that make sense?
Are you generally around even when you’re not shooting scenes?
GREER: Yeah, I had a big chunk of time off when they were shooting the stuff in the house with Chloe and Julianne Moore, so I went home for a little a while, but I’ve been around for a while now. I’m pretty into Toronto, I have to say
Is it weird being around so many kids?
GREER: Yeah, it’s really weird, and I hope my next movie is with like 80 year olds because I want to feel young again. (laughs) I feel so old here.
So there are some moments in the book where your character’s a little warm and sympathetic towards Carrie. Could you talk a little bit about how your character in this version is maybe different?
GREER: I think that it was not really a total conscious choices but I feel like I’m playing her more sympathetic to Carrie then my plan was, going into it, and I think that’s because I kind of felt for Chloe. I really adore her and felt immediately like I want to take care of her and not to be all acty-schmacty, but I feel like it’s better to be honest about how I’m feeling. If it works with the script and I think it does in this case, then try to act differently, because I feel it’s okay for Miss Desjardin to be really sympathetic to Carrie and I like the idea that this woman had an opportunity at the end of the school year to do something really great. In my mind, I was thinking she is really going through the motions this year and she’s over it and just like the rest of the kids, she can’t wait for it to be summer vacation. But then when this comes up, she thinks, “I think I’m going to do something good here so I can go on my summer vacation and feel like I’m an awesome teacher. I’m like really good at my job.” But she picked the wrong charity case, man. I was telling Kim [Peirce] when I first met, like “It’s really my fault all this stuff happens. If I had just left well enough alone.” (laughs)
GREER: Awesome, it’s been great. I’ve been a fan of hers since her first movie and I had lunch with her to talk about doing the movie and I was really going into it with, “I really want this part, I really want this part. I’m going to lunch and really try to impress her and try to get this role,” but then we ended up having this three-hour lunch and when I left I was like, “I don’t even care. I just have to work with her on something. If it’s not this, it’s got to be something” because I respect her ability to tell a story and I think that being a woman and telling this story is interesting. I’m so glad a woman is directing this remake because I think that will add a lot to the storytelling and even visually, what she sees and what’s important to her as a woman, and as a director, I think will add something that we haven’t seen in a movie before. I hope. I think so. I’ve seen a lot of it, it’s awesome.
Obviously the modern attitude towards violence is a bit different than it was when De Palma’s film came out. How you noticed many differences in how that stuff is handled in the new film?
GREER: The only difference that I noticed is the nudity. There’s not as much nudity as the original and nudity just means something so different now I feel than it did in 1976 that I think it would take you out of the story to see that kind of thing, but that could be because they want to play to a younger audience, but I’m finding now more and more that nudity is so rarely serves the story in any film. Even though we knew in our minds that those girls were in high school in the original, you knew that they weren’t, and here, I feel like our girls look like they’re in high school and it’s like “Ew” that would be really creepy and I’m really happy because I got to know them and I don’t want them to be naked in the movie. I don’t want this to be their experience, you know?
What specifically do you think Kim is bringing to this film that makes it a different take on the story than De Palma’s?
GREER: Well, I’ve never met [De Palma] but I just think as a woman, I think she has so much sympathy for Carrie and I feel like she sees herself in Carrie in some way. I’ve never had this conversation with her, but it just feels that way listening to her direction and her passion for the project and telling the story and making sure that moment is really authentic. I think it’s really seeming to be a story a lot about this girl and less about the horror. I think, right now.
GREER: No, we have to get through all this bit first because all our clothes are going to get ruined and we’re going to have to… yeah… no, we haven’t started that and that’s I think what we’re doing. I haven’t looked at a schedule because when I’m on location, I’m just here and I have to work all the time but I think yeah, for the next couple weeks, we’re getting electrocuted and blown up and set on fire and arms and legs cut off and stuff like that. It’s going to be awesome! I’m so excited!
So do you know your fate?
GREER: I’m still arguing about my fate. We’ll see. But I did want to get cut in half. I thought that would be really cool. One time I got my brains blown out of my head in a movie but that was fun. I have really cool pictures of it. (laughs)
Does being on set for a movie like this bring you back to your high school experience a little bit?
GREER: Not as much. I don’t know why. I think because we’re not actually in a high school. Maybe when we were shooting in the school, I was feeling more like it. Every time I go back to a school for work, I always feel so huge. Everything seems so little. The lockers seem smaller than I remember and the length of the hallways seem shorter when you’re a kid. Don’t you remember, “How am I ever going to get to class on time?” or at least that’s how I was because I was such a nerd. “I’ll never make it and I have to pee so bad!” but no, I don’t know. That stuff reminds me of it, but this feels I don’t know, and there have been so many pieces of things because of all the special effects and everything, we have to stop and start a lot, which I don’t remember in high school.
You said that you were really excited to get the part. What was it that made you want to play it?
GREER: It was actually when I was rewatching the movie that I kind of remembered… I hadn’t seen it in years and I remembered how much I loved it the first time but sometimes I see a role and think like “Oh, I would be good at that. I think maybe I could do that in this way,” but I really felt strongly about the role, and probably just because of my age now. I felt like I really could relate to her when I watched Carrie the first time, I felt so much more like I was relating to the high school girls so now watching it from this point of view made it seem more interesting and something like I could actually maybe get… which I did, so that’s awesome, but like sometimes it’s like, “Oh, I could never play that” and with this one I was like, “Maybe I could get it, that would be awesome. Work with Kim Peirce, that would be so cool.”
And Kevin Misher, one of the producers. Kind of how it came up was that I was shooting a movie with him in Shreveport, Louisiana, like about a year ago or something and we were having dinner one night, a bunch of us, and I was like, “So what’s our next movie that we’re doing” and he was like, “Uh, Carrie, a remake of Carrie” and I was like, “Great, I’ll do it” and he was like “Actually, there is a role you can do in it, there actually is” so I was like, “Cool, I’ll play it.” And by the way, that never happens for me, like EVER. And he totally made it happen so that’s why he’s my favorite producer. So that’s it. Thanks guys! Thanks for coming and talking to us and caring.
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
- 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
- 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