How do you reinvent a horror movie classic? You go back to the basics.
To bring the blood-soaked story “Carrie” back to the big screen, director Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) went back to the 1974 Stephen King novel of the same name, which famously gave birth to Sissy Spacek‘s terrifying 1976 film.
“I adapted the book,” Peirce explained at last year’s New York Comic Con. “I had read it as a kid, and then I read it, literally, three times in a row. I just didn’t want it to end, because Carrie is so infectious. You just want to be inside her story, you wanna go down this road with her.”
She continued: “What I brought to it was simply saying, ‘God, I love this book. What would be the modern version of this?’ What I was able to focus on was a kind of realism, bringing up the relationships. Certainly, the mother-daughter relationship is the heart and soul of our horror movie.”
Stepping into the role of Carrie White, a sheltered and socially outcast young girl who famously exacts revenge on her cruel classmates, is 16-year-old actress Chloe Grace Moretz (“Kick-Ass,” “Hugo”). One of the most talented young stars in the business, Moretz said she worked with Peirce to combine elements of Carrie’s literary character traits with those in the original draft of the script, which slanted towards the Spacek portrayal. And despite the inevitable comparisons to her predecessor, Moretz was determined to create a unique version of the tragic heroine.
“It is a very iconic role,” Moretz said. “When you think of ‘Carrie,’ you think of Sissy Spacek covered in blood with fire behind her. As an actor, you have to go, ‘Well, I don’t really care what you want it to be, I’m gonna go and make my own character and I’m gonna be happy with what I put on the screen.’ I just try and not think about what people expect of me and what people expect of the film.”
Julianne Moore, who plays Carrie’s devoutly religious and abusively overbearing mother Margaret, also looked to the book for inspiration. The Oscar-nominated actress recalled novel details about the matriarch’s dalliance with a religious sect, the creation of her own church and the death of her husband during pregnancy, which she initially mistook for cancer.
“All this gruesome and sad back story about alienation and isolation was tremendously interesting given what Carrie goes through,” Moore said. “This is a woman who, through her psychosis, has been increasingly isolated and whose only family, only relationship is to this child. It explains that intensity and reluctance for [Carrie] to grow up. All that stuff is in the novel. It was really fun to access.”
For Moretz, channeling the emotions of a bullied teen girl came naturally, despite the fact that she is home schooled and has never truly experienced the social hardships of high school.
“Being an actress, you’d think people would be like, ‘Oh, my god, that’s so cool, let me welcome you in!’” she explained. “But, no. People get really confused at such a young person being successful and good at your craft, that they start pushing you away, because that’s their self-defense. And they go, ‘Oh, why would you wanna do that? Don’t you want a normal life? Don’t you miss out on life?’ And then they start judging you.”
Moore, on the other hand, cops to being a “dull” and “ordinary” teenager who performed well in school and participated in the drama club, but failed to make the cheerleading squad or drill team. Despite keeping a low-profile, the 52-year-old claimed she still found herself on the edge of social circles.
“I traveled a lot. I went to two different high schools and two different junior highs,” she said. “I really remember the feeling of being outside, not having friends and being brand-new. I think that’s an important thing for all of us to remember. I think we all do. I don’t think there’s a person alive who doesn’t remember feeling a little less-than when you’re an adolescent.”
Making Carrie feel a “little less-than” has deadly consequences for her tormentors, who use the shy teen’s moment of triumph as a platform for orchestrating her greatest humiliation. And as it was in both the novel and the 1976 film, the resulting chaos is a moment fans won’t soon forget.
“I got all ready and I’m in a beautiful prom dress and I got pretty makeup on and I’ve got the shoes,” Moretz said, as she recalled filming the famous prom scene. “We did this as one big shot. I walk from the table, everyone’s clapping, everyone’s freaking out. I walk up the stairs, go onto the stage and I just stand there and accept the flowers. I told them, ‘I don’t wanna hear anyone say anything about it, I just want it to happen.’ I get up there, and I’m freaking out and I’m holding Ansel [Elgort’s] hand, and I’m squeezing it so hard and I’m shaking and I’m smiling.”
“And then – boom – it hits.”
“Carrie” is in theaters everywhere now. Click here to order your tickets through Fandango.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.