After seeing her doused in blood and flinging knives with the flick of her fingertips, it’s hard to imagine that Chloe Grace Moretz would shy away from much of anything. So, what scares the new face of Stephen King’s sheltered-teen-turned-telekinetic-murderer?
“Put me in front of a class of kids my age and it’s terrifying,” Moretz said in an interview with the college press, in which The PHOENIX participated on Oct. 14. “I don’t know the culture, I don’t know high schoolers, I don’t know kids my age outside of my best friends.”
There was a good deal of controversy surrounding her casting in the titular role of the recently released reboot of Carrie as people questioned the appropriateness of such a young actress dealing out the iconic carnage that cemented the 1976 film adaptation a place among the freakiest flicks of all time. To put it in perspective, Sissy Spacek was 26 when she played Carrie in the original; Moretz was only 15 at the time of filming. But considering that the character was 16 years old in King’s novel, Moretz believes that her similarity in age lends truth to the role.
“I’m such a big advocate of playing characters at their real age,” she said. “Can you guys really, really remember what it was like to be 15 years old? You don’t actually remember what that feeling [is] like when you go to your first prom, … when someone first puts you down in your life. And you have to remember those things as an actor.”
While it’d be a stretch to assume that any 15-year-old could pull off the whole sweet-but-damaged-and-prone-to-demonic-tendencies thing Carrie has going on, if anyone can handle it, Moretz can. She exudes confidence and seems to constantly toe the line between laid-back and spirited. It’s easy to forget that she’s (now) 16 when you hear the eloquence and assertiveness with which she talks about the film.
“I really wanted to show the different layers to her,” Moretz said, in regard to what differentiates her portrayal of Carrie. “She’s not dumb. She’s naive and innocent. She’s full of wonder and enthrallment.”
It’s a side of 16-year-old Carrie White that doesn’t really come across in Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation. Fans of the original are sure to remember her wide-eyed telekinetic outbursts and her religious whackjob of a mother. But the thrill relies largely on the exaggerated, one-sided nature of the characters; little time is spent exploring their complexities or offering answers.
In the new take, Moretz worked with co-star Julianne Moore (who plays Carrie’s mother) and director Kimberly Peirce to give viewers a more thoughtful look into Carrie’s transformation from shy and isolated teenage girl to unhinged murderer.
“I spent a lot of time with girls like Carrie,” Moretz said. “I have met abused girls and religiously ostracized young women. They lose the ability to … control their own emotions, feel what they want to feel, love who they want to love.”
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Carrie White grows up firmly under the unrelenting thumb of a mother who takes “crazy church lady” to a whole new level. To give you an idea, after an unfortunate incident at school in which Carrie gets her period in the locker room and endures the torment of her cruel classmates while she thinks she’s dying because her mother never told her about it, she gets thrown in the “prayer closet” under the stairs as punishment for bringing the “curse of blood” upon herself. Yeah, it’s that kind of crazy. But Moretz, Moore and Peirce didn’t want the truly destructive nature of this relationship to get lost in hyperbole.
In order to show the abuse Carrie endures in the home and the realistic effects it would have on her life, Moretz brings an awareness of it to all of her movements on screen – from the delicate twist of her toes as she stands in the pool during gym class to the more obvious flinch when school hottie Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) approaches her.
“[The] physicality was something that was very important to me to portray,” she said. “I wanted to show the intensified sensations that [abused girls] get from being around people. When you are physically abused, you are always watching your back, no matter what.”
But while abuse is an important factor in Carrie’s life, Moretz doesn’t see it as the only thing that defines her as a person.
“I found it interesting to see this girl who, no matter how many times she is isolated and ostracized and used and manipulated, always finds a silver lining within life,” she said.
This is illustrated beautifully through a pair of scenes that were absent in the original film. First, we see Carrie researching telekinesis, discovering YouTube and watching in wonder as someone turns the page of a book with a wave of his hand. That night we see her levitating books in her room, exploring her new powers. We also see her shopping for the material to make her prom dress, aglow with excitement at the prospect of her very own fairytale evening.
It’s all part of a greater effort to humanize Carrie and create a more believable context for her famed prom rampage.
“The crazy macabre that takes place after the telekinesis takes over her is like alcohol,” Moretz said. “It’s like a drug, it’s a disease. It’s something that she cannot control. With every strong emotion she has, this demon takes over her.”
To drive that idea home, Moretz and Peirce also fought to keep scenes establishing her conscience and innocence that the studio wanted to cut because they felt the narrative lagged and that there was “too much repetitive emotion.” The most notable of these is the scene in which Carrie is in the bathtub washing off the pig blood her tormentors poured on her.
“You have to have that moment of Carrie understanding that it wasn’t her,” Moretz said.
They were careful also to show Carrie giving each of her victims a second chance this time around, whereas in the original she acted without hesitation.
But, of course, these measures to provide meaning had to compete with the amped-up Hollywood helping of gore and brutality.
From start to finish, the film capitalizes on any and every opportunity for a little blood and suffering. It kicks off with a horrific depiction of Carrie’s birth in which her mother writhes and screams and begs for God’s mercy. This might just be one of the most cringe-worthy parts of the entire movie, contended only by the numerous scenes in which Moore graphically inflicts harm upon herself.
And, if you thought (or heard) that the prom scene was bad in the original, wait until you see what kind of damage Carrie does to her classmates without those silly, antiquated standards of decency the 1976 adaptation was held up to.
Still, Moretz contends that there is a hint of beauty among the bloodshed.
“I think what makes [Carrie] special is the enthrallment she has with the outside of life and that no matter how vulnerable or ostracized she is, that she always finds this spark in life, you know, this little sense of being,” Moretz said.
Do Moretz’s efforts stand up to Sissy Spacek’s iconic portrayal of Carrie White? Watch and decide for yourself. Carrie is now playing in theaters.