Based on the best-selling novel by Gayle Forman, If I Stay tells the story of Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young girl who is deciding whether to pursue her musical dreams as a cellist at Juilliard or follow a different path with the love of her life, Adam (Jamie Blackley), who’s on the verge of becoming a rock star. When a tragic accident changes everything in an instant, Mia is caught between life and death with only one decision left to make.
At the conference at the film’s press day, actress Chloë Grace Moretz talked about when she knew that she wanted to act for the rest of her life, what this journey has been like for her, why she finds herself drawn to dark and damaged characters, how much she had to practice the cello to look believable, how she deals with long distance relationships in her own life, bringing the relationship between Mia and Adam to life, her feelings on life after death, working with Stacy Keach, who plays her grandfather in the film, and whether she’s read the last Kick-Ass comic book. Be sure to watch the trailer and check out our Chloë Grace Moretz interview after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
CHLOE GRACE MORETZ: I started acting when I was five years old. I found it randomly, through listening to my brother study monologues. I auditorally started memorizing them for no reason, and started repeating them to anyone who would listen to me. And then, I begged my mom to let me do whatever that meant because I couldn’t put into words exactly what that meant. It just meant me happy. And then, when I was 11 years old, I realized what I was doing and I looked to my mom and said, “Can I make this something I can do for the rest of my life?” She was like, “Yeah, sure, if you want to.” And I was like, “Okay, great! I think I might want to do this forever.” I think that was the moment that I realized I was doing more than just gymnastics or tennis.
MORETZ: It’s been really hard. I’ve been working since I was five years old, and everyone in my life, outside of my family, would look at us and go, “You’re crazy! Take your kid out of the business and put them in school because you’re never gonna succeed.” That was my entire life, being brought up. My mom was always like, “If you love it, do it. If she’s actually having fun, and I know that my kid is having fun, she’s gonna do whatever she wants. Whether that’s gymnastics, learning the car, acting or just being a normal kid, she’s gonna do what makes her happy.” That’s how I’ve always lived my life.
But it’s been hard, for a number of reasons. I’m still fighting for every role that I get. I’m still fighting the boundary of how old I can be or how young I can be, or how they want me to be something that I’m not. You’re constantly having to struggle, especially as a female actress, against the higher powers that are trying to keep you in a spot that makes them feel comfortable. That’s a major thing that I’m battling with, right now. And even though it’s been hard, it’s also been easy. I’ve always followed my heart. With every project that I’ve ever chosen, it’s been something that I felt I couldn’t live without, and that I couldn’t spend another day of my life not knowing that I didn’t do that role, gave my all to that role, and gave all of my emotions and soul to it. So, yes, it’s been hard, but it’s also been incredibly uplifting and incredibly eye-opening. Without it, I wouldn’t be quite the same young adult and young woman that I am now.
MORETZ: I think because I have quite a normal family and I’m bored with how normal my family is. I want to mess stuff up a bit. I chose the messed up characters because I find that that’s acting. I want to explore emotions that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to explore.
How much practicing did you have to do with the cello, in order to look believable?
MORETZ: There was about seven months of training with the cello. There was this If I Stay cello that traveled around the world with me and found me in every location that I went to. That gave me this looming feeling. So, I trained with it, every day for seven months, two hours a day. Honestly, I’d be silly to say that, in seven months, I learned such an intricate instrument. So really, what it was about was learning the emotionality of it and the passion that comes with being a cellist. You have to surrender your entire soul to the instrument as you play it. The technicality came more from the Frankenstein head-cutting and putting it onto another person’s body. That meshed the two sides of Mia perfectly.
MORETZ: I come from the mind-set that, if you want it to work, it will work, whether it’s a friendship or a relationship. If you’re both in the same mind-set and you want to be together and you want to make it work, you can make it work. It just takes dedication and knowing that there might be some miscommunication and lack of communication sometimes. I’m in a job where I spend 11 months of my year not at home, so you have to understand what you’re getting yourself into. Even my best friends are like that. I’ve had all of my best friends since I was nine years old. We text more than we actually see each other, but we’re still best friends. So, if you want to make it work, I’m pretty sure you can make it work.
The relationship between Mia and Adam resonates with everyone who has experienced first love. How did you bring that to life?
MORETZ: Everyone says you have to draw from a modicum of self-experience for roles, but when you’re in relationships with people, not every relationship is the same and not every love that you find is the same. The love that you get from each person is totally different. You learn, from each relationship, that there are many different ways that you can love someone. Jamie [Blackley] and I just became good friends. We were able to create this love relationship, just by goofing around with each other and being silly and having a good time. We would rap to Kanye [West] and be kids and just have fun on set. It’s always awkward, when you’re having to kiss someone, and then RJ was like, “Turn your head to the right, please. Make it look like you actually like each other.” Once we got it, it worked.
MORETZ: What I find interesting about this movie is that, even though it deals with life after death and this middle-ground area, it isn’t based in religion. What I love about this movie is that you can watch it without being force-fed one religion. You just understand that there is a soul, there are beings, there are emotions, there are feelings, there is love, there is passion, and that exists post-accident and post-death. I don’t even know if that deals with life after death, but it deals with incredibly real feelings that you feel, and they do continue on, in a sense. I don’t know if that really answers the question, but it comments on it, a little bit.
What was it like to work with Stacy Keach?
MORETZ: Working with Stacy was absolutely amazing. He’s such a genuinely good guy, as a person. He’s so paternal and sweet and kind, so it wasn’t hard to have this great relationship with him because I have this piece in my heart for him, that I’ve had since I met him. After the car scene, when the hospital scene rolls by, we shot double coverage on that and I was so torn up. I did not expect for him to drop that tear. I was just like, “Man, you killed me.” It was hard. He’s an amazing guy, and he really hit my heartstrings pretty hard.
Have you read the last Kick-Ass comic?
MORETZ: No, I haven’t yet.
If I Stay opens in theaters on August 22nd.