Chloë Grace Moretz has some pretty big shoes to fill as the telekinetic teenager in director Kimberly Peirce’s Carrie. The role, made iconic by then-27-year-old Sissy Spacek in director Brian DePalma’s 1976 adaptation of the Stephen King novel, would be daunting to most adult actresses, yet Moretz is just 15.
While promoting the film at New York Comic Con, Moritz didn’t seem the least bit nervous about taking the torch, and after an impressive turn in 2010’s Kick-Ass and formidable on-screen training with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton, it seems the young actress is ready for the challenge. During a roundtable interview, she expressed her intricate understanding of King’s novel, and teased a reimagined cinematic version that nods to the written material. She also discussed her penchant for dark roles, details of the infamous prom night sequence, and breaking down her personal confidence in order to embody the character.
Have you seen DePalma’s 1976 version of the film?
Yes, I saw the original film when I was about 13 or 14, and I love the original film. I think it was a beautifully made film. It was very theatrical – it was a very big movie. I hadn’t read the book until I booked the part. And that’s when I absolutely really fell in love with it. And every day on set, every scene I had, I compared the scene in the book to the scene in the script. I wrote down all the notes that I had and all the ideas that I had and all the beats that I had for the character, and then I would go to the novel and I would look at what Stephen did. I melded the two together, and that’s when I created this kind of great collaboration between the book and my idea.
You’ve played some other pretty dark roles, specifically in Let Me In and Kick-Ass. What made you want to take on Carrie?
Well you know, what really attracts me to darker material is that I don’t like playing really light characters, in the sense that I don’t like playing characters that are more like me. Because I have a good life, I have a really supportive mother, I have a great family – and that type of stuff is just kind of boring for me. I like playing characters that really stretch me and really make me feel something I’ve never felt before, and make me express feelings I’ve never expressed before. It’s not exactly just going for a genre, and it just happens to fall into the darker region.
Carrie is a pretty timeless tale. What struck you about the Stephen King book?
What I found so amazing is the dimensions that go along with Carrie and how in the book she’s not just this angry girl who has no reason to be mad and just wants to hurt people for the sake of hurting people. Carrie is this person who is put down by everyone around her, even by the person who she loves the most, her mother. She looks up to her mother more than any other person in the world, and that’s the main person in her life who tells her, “No, you’re never going to amount to anything.” But really, you also realize that Margaret is dealing with her own issues from her past. And so that’s why in this movie, obviously you don’t go very far back into Margaret’s childhood … but you do get a sense of what had happened and … why she’s treating her daughter like this. I wanted to read the book because the book takes you way farther back than a script can ever take you, and it adds another dimension and another layer to your character.
In the original film, Carrie is very wide-eyed and much like a victim, whereas in the book she’s much angrier. Which way are you playing the role?
It’s in the middle. What I really wanted to show with my character is that she wasn’t naive to the point of stupidity. She understood everything that was going on around her to the point that she over-comprehended what people were saying to her. What happens with Carrie is that every bad that is put out towards her, she takes it in more than people even realize. And she grows stronger and harder, and then at that prom it breaks down. And that’s when everything she’s kept together, everything that she’s kept contained from her mother, her peers, her teachers, everyone around her – it unfolds. The telekinesis takes whatever is your strongest feeling at the moment and it multiplies it by a thousand. And that’s why it comes out like that.
This film is being re-made with a female director. Do you think that made a difference, perhaps helped you explore some different areas?
Completely. It brought such a maternal aspect to the movie that I don’t think you could’ve gotten in another way, because working with Kim – when you mention the word “period” to a man they cringe, you know? They go, “Oh, that’s not real, right? That doesn’t happen!” And then with a woman, it’s just a part of life and it’s a part of who you are and that’s what happens. In this movie I was able to connect with Kim on such a personal level … we created such an amazing bond together – this maternal bond. I felt so safe and so comfortable to do whatever I had to do to make this movie the fullest that I could make it, because she could put me in the position where I have never felt so secure, and insecure, at the same time. It’s such an insecure character that I had to take everything that I’d built up with myself, and the opportunities that I have been given and where I am now … and I had to strip it away. And I had to take all my insecurities … and I had to bring them out in myself. That’s why, when you see this movie, you see something that – as me – I’ve never done before on screen. And I’ve never been able to put that out, and felt safe enough to put that out. And in this movie I did, because Kim and Julianne [Moore, who plays Margaret] allowed me to.
Addressing the promotional image that was released, of you covered in blood, first: What was it like to recreate that iconic scene? And also, it looks like you’re not standing in a gymnasium – does the scene happen in a different setting?
I can’t obviously say much, but there’s the gymnasium and the gymnasium happens, and I have to go home. That still was taken outside the house on the way home, and the thing that was actually really cool with our film is that, with DePalma’s it kind of went straight from gymnasium to home … whereas our film really shows that arc of the full telekinetic powers of how at the gymnasium, it was just growing, and then it escalates, and then by the time she’s home you see it come completely down and it comes full circle. This girl who starts off not wanting to be in her mother’s arms, gets out of her mother’s arms, and then by the end of the movie all she wants to do is be in her mother’s arms. So yeah, also, being in the blood was really fun and it was like crazy and everything and yeah – the typical fun stuff actually happened, too.
What sort of weight or responsibility did this film take on with the term “bullying” being such a socially conscious subject now?
Well, in my life personally, as Chloë, I’ve dealt with a lot of different stuff from peers and people like that who’ve, you know, I’ve been made fun of a lot. And you think that just because I’m an actress people would actually think it was really cool, but it’s actually not at all cool to other people because they feel threatened, and then they put you down and then you have to become the better person. One of the main things is that it’s not actually bullying, it’s just ever being told no, ever being told you’re not going to amount to that, ever being told you’re not going to be who you want to be – is what Carrie stands for. And that’s why when you watch this movie, it’s taking everything that anyone’s ever told you, “No” and you’re living for it. You’re living with her.
Carrie opens March 15.