“You guys came on a good day,” says Chloe Moretz. The actress is wearing all black – black t-shirt, black pants, black Ugg boots. The dour color scheme makes sense: in only a short time, she will be doused with a full bucket of pig’s blood.
“I’m really excited to do it,” she tells us. “But it’s like five gallons of a liquid being dumped on your head so it’s really heavy.”
It’s August of 2012, in Toronto, on the set of “Carrie.” Moretz is vivacious and confident and very pretty, but she is playing the title role here – a mousy social outcast with telekinesis. Indeed, such a wide gulf separates the actress and her character that upon first meeting the then-15-year-old, director Kimberly Peirce stated her intention to “beat [the] little confident person out” of Moretz in order to get the performance she needed. So she sent the actress to a homeless shelter.
“It was beautiful,” Moretz says of the experience. “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. …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. “
“I said ‘Look, the truth is that you're walking the red carpet, you're working with Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, the world loves you, your family loves you – that's great for you as an individual and you've got to hold on to that,” says Peirce of prepping Moretz for the role. “’But for this movie, we have to take all that confidence and security and personality and we have to put it over here. We have to take a hammer and we have to crack that, and then we have to make you sheltered, scared, a misfit, unusual. You've been beaten by your mother.’”
Peirce is a petite woman with a commanding presence and a fierce, scalpel-like intelligence. Her answers are detailed and methodical, taking us through her thought processes point by point. First winning acclaim for her 1999 feature-film debut “Boys Don’t Cry” – which netted Hilary Swank an Oscar for playing the role of real-life murder victim Brandon Teena – she went on to write and direct the less well-received 2008 Iraq War drama “Stop-Loss” starring Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum. “Carrie,” only her third film in 14 years, is her first real stab at the mainstream – which is not to say that she's lost her independent spirit.
“I don't really like to think of it as a remake, even if it is,” she tells us, referencing the original Brian De Palma film which itself is based on the 1974 novel by Stephen King. “I like to say, ‘Okay, what's our movie going to be?’ With all due respect to De Palma, 'cause he's brilliant, I love him, what I did see was an opportunity to do something different. Not better, not worse, just different.”
For those unfamiliar with the story, it centers on Carrie White, a telekinetic high-school loner living with her religious-zealot mother who becomes the target of a cruel prank orchestrated by vengeful popular classmate Chris Hargensen that involves a high-school prom and one strategically released bucket of pig’s blood. Needless to say, none of this ends well.
The title character was played with piercing realism by Sissy Spacek in the original film, and the actress was subsequently nominated for an Oscar for her performance - as was Piper Laurie for ably chewing scenery as Carrie’s mother. Here, the latter role is filled by four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, who clearly wasn't shy about stating her opinions during production.
"It's really fun having an adult come to set and say 'I'm not going to say that line,'" Peirce tells us. "I'm not used to that, you know what I mean? I'm like 'Well, why not?' And she's like 'Well, because…blahblahblah.' Okay, that's fine. It's just wonderful that somebody has run all the options and thought about it and has a very decisive choice about it."
As Peirce tells it, "decisive" may be an understatement.
"What was great was Chloe would have to go home at a certain hour, because Chloe only has a certain number of hours because of her age," she continued. "So it would just be me and Julianne and the crew doing some of her scenes alone and she just went. I mean, when I say you try to cross that edge, she would go over but it would be grounded. So we were all just watching it. I have to say, when she's…in our movie, Margaret locks Carrie in the closet, that's a staple of the story, right? We also have Carrie lock Margaret in the closet. Oh wow, does Julianne go there."