Last August Dread Central had the opportunity to head up to Toronto, Canada, to visit the set of Screen Gems’ upcoming remake of Carrie, and here’s Part 1 of our Set Report.
Carrie is a project that first piqued our interest because of the studio’s intriguing choice of director for the project: Kimberly Peirce. Peirce is a storyteller not necessarily known for her horror prowess, but she is a filmmaker who has the ability to masterfully tackle challenging and often thought-provoking material alongside some of her more seasoned peers. Her feature film debut was the Oscar-nominated drama Boys Don’t Cry, which made people quickly forget that Hilary Swank was also The Next Karate Kid, and her stunning follow-up, the 2008 war-themed drama Stop-Loss, proved that then up-and-coming actor Channing Tatum was more than some kid who could dance.
As she’s clearly someone who knows how to bring out the best in rising talent, Screen Gems is banking on Peirce to pull a three-peat with Carrie and the film’s star, Chloe Moretz, who’s already proven in projects like Kick-Ass and Let Me In that she’s an actress with talent that far exceeds her years.
We arrived on the set of Carrie on a very momentous day for production- it was Prom Night and Carrie was about to get doused in pig’s blood. Before the big scene began, we had an opportunity to chat with both Peirce and Moretz about their experiences collaborating on this latest adaptation of Stephen King’s iconic tale of a telekinetic young woman tormented by her unrelenting peers and overly religious mother (this time around being played by Oscar winner Julianne Moore).
During our interviews Peirce discussed her thoughts on what sets her adaptation of King’s novel apart from De Palma’s 1976 film, her approach to the violence and tone of the film, what she did to prepare young Moretz to step into the character of Carrie White, and much more. Moretz talked about her experiences working with Peirce, how she prepared for the titular role, and her thoughts on being considered something of a modern-day “scream queen.”
Check out the highlights from our set visit interviews below, and check out more with the cast of Carrie here!
Peirce on choosing Moretz for the iconic role of Carrie White: Well, it’s fascinating. When I met her, I said to her, “You’re very young.” Which was very good for the role because it’s very age appropriate, right? It’s about a high school girl and she was young. And I said, “What’s interesting it you’ve done mostly younger roles, but this a role where you actually have to be a young adult. You have to be a young woman.” And I said to her, “You actually have to go through something that you probably haven’t gone through yet in your young life.” She hadn’t been to prom, she hadn’t done certain things. And I said, “So we need to set off a teenage rebellion in your life.” And I actually said, “You need to move out of your house.” And she was like, “Okay, Kim. I’ll do it.” She couldn’t do it.
But I think that was always the nature of what we said. I said, “Oh, I have somebody who’s on the upper side of childhood who has to move into young womanhood.” And so that was kind of the exercises I did with her, what I did with Hilary (Swank) on Boys (Don’t Cry) and what I did with Channing (Tatum) on Stop-Loss. It was really, “We’re going to grow you into this role so you can revolt, rebel, and go against the adult figures in your life.”
So what’s been amazing, and again, with all humility I say this, I’m really proud of her. I think that you’re going to see that she’s really transformed in this movie. She has really gone from a fantastic older child actress, moving into adulthood into… I think what this taps into is young womanhood. I mean young personhood; it could be boy or girl, but this just so happens to be the story of a young girl. And it’s wonderful, their times. Especially once Julianne got here. I think all the stuff was really good, but I think what happened with her and Julianne, because it was so intimate, and I think we shot it for two or three weeks in the White house, I think we lost track of time. But there really is a relationship between mother and daughter. I think that she was growing her up. I’m proud of all of it, but really that.
Moretz on being ‘broken down’ for the role of Carrie: It was interesting because I live a very privileged life, obviously. I’m an accomplished young actor, I have a very solid normal family, tons of siblings, and a mother that loves me. Aunts, uncles, I have everyone around me to tell me they love me, and Carrie doesn’t really have anyone. Margaret loves her daughter but almost loves her too much and restrains her from what she wants to do; whereas, my mom loves me more than anything, but she allows me to make my own choices in life. So it was definitely an interesting thing to break that down and strip away who I am, this young girl who is kind of like a go-getter and really competitive and everything to Carrie, who is this wounded animal.
Peirce on the violence of Carrie: The movie is R rated, definitely. The thing that makes me happiest is, like I said, I like violence because I like looking at it; I like looking at and understanding emotional and physical violence and how they work with one another. We’ve already shot some of the house destruction, quite a lot of it. Which is basically, if you’ve read the book, Carrie causes stones to come down. And these stones, they’re coming down and they’re threatening…Carrie’s mother is already dead but they’re threatening Carrie and Sue. It’s a beautiful moment for me because Sue comes in, and this is the girl who has always refused getting involved, has refused saying, “I’m sorry”, has refused helping. That’s been her problem. At the very end she finally says, “You know what, I’m going to go in and I’m going to do the right thing.” So she goes into the house, and she finds that Carrie has killed her mother.
And there’s a beautiful line where Carrie says, “I’ve always been hurt my whole life.” And there’s a moment where the stones are coming down, Carrie has this supernatural power, she could kill Sue, but because Sue makes this apology, Carrie saves her. The violence that then comes down is very much like, I think every great monster movie does this, like Frankenstein even the Terminator does this, monsters must die at the end, no matter how beautiful and perfect they are. And in the end, Carrie allows herself to be killed as a sacrifice for Sue. So there’s an example where it’s emotional and it’s physical.
Moretz discussing her experiences visiting homeless shelters in preparation for her performance: It was beautiful. I’ve never done that before for a role, and I learned so much. Because, like I said, 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; what we go through every day, being able to go out to Whole Foods if you want to and buy an all-organic meal, they have never lived that. And 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.
Carrie doesn’t speak much in this movie at all, she has virtually no lines, so it’s all looking at her and trying to figure out what everyone else is doing to her from what she’s conveying to you through her eyes and her mannerisms, and through her smile or her tears, and that’s how these women were. I laughed with them and I cried with them and I spent like a week with all of them, and I learned more than I’ve ever learned—even as Chloe. I realize how privileged I am to be in the business that I am and to be loved.
Peirce on trying to create a surprising vision of a well-known story like Carrie: That’s a great question. I think it’s always a challenge when you’re telling a story that people know but hopefully good storytelling– well, there are two things. One is that you definitely have to have surprises and changes so that keep them interested, that you take them down roads they didn’t expect and give them suspense and surprise. But hopefully if you do really good storytelling, there’s still something there for the people who maybe have seen these moments before. There’s a reason we go back to stories that we love so even if there is a familiarity, if you do it in a different way, and hopefully if you do it well enough, you actually feel the satisfaction of that anticipation being given back to you.
Peirce on her approach to the story of Carrie: When I heard about the project I was at first- not suspicious really, more like not sure. I’m actually friends with (Brian) De Palma; we’ve hung out a ton. Years ago we were quite close. Not that we aren’t now, but he’s living in Europe. When the idea first came up I thought, “I love Brian. I love Brian’s movie. I don’t know why I would do that.”
Then I had some really exciting meetings with the studio. Then I picked up the book – my fiancé and I actually go to the Middle East every winter because she’s from Turkey – and so I had the book and I actually read it cover to cover three times. And I had read it when I was younger, but to read it being older it’s like, “Wow!” That thing is a page turner. It’s pure pop. It’s totally fun and exciting so I think the first thing was, just in rereading the book, it just completely grabbed me and it was exciting. So then I was like, “Oh, now I understand why they thought of me for this” because at first it wasn’t so clear.
Not to say that you tread the same territory, but these are issues that I’ve written about, I’ve filmed before. I love relationship stories. I don’t want to call this a tragedy and say it’s depressing, but it definitely has that kind of structure. I love the rise and fall. I love a small town. I love an ensemble cast and I go crazy for that. I love violence. I love humor. I love emotional violence and physical violence. So as I was reading it, and the pages were turning and I fell so deeply in love with Carrie again that it was like regardless of whether there had been another movie, even if it was a movie I loved and respected, this is a story I would make a movie of. I think that’s the first point.
The second point is that I don’t really like to think of it as a remake, even if it is. 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. I feel like in some ways the book has a more expanded canvas so a lot of the characters are more fleshed out in the middle, and a lot of that movie, it rises and it falls. So for me the remake is really just a make. It’s, “Let’s make a good movie.”
Moretz on working with Peirce for Carrie: I’ve learned so much from her because not only is Kim a phenomenal director, she really knows an actor. Sometimes we don’t even have to speak, she’ll be like, “Just do that, and that, yeah,” and we just don’t have to speak to each other and we know what to do; it’s like a symbiotic relationship. I learned a lot from her because she has a lot of personal experiences that she shared with me, and we really bonded over that. This is my real first Lead 1 in a big studio film and taking everything on, and the relationship between a Lead 1 and their director is so special because in a way, I am part of Kim, you know? I’m kind of living her life in a way, it’s like living vicariously through each other and she’s wonderful. She’s definitely up there with Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese and all the people I’ve worked with before.
Peirce on relating real-life bullying to Carrie‘s overall themes: I think I, as a person alive in our world who has made a movie about bullying with Boys Don’t Cry and a movie about the war, that’s just a thing that in my life I’m very aware of. I’m not unaware of it. But at the same time, and the movie certainly reflects the reality of that, the thing that drew me to the story… if it was only a bullying story, I don’t think there would have been enough to make this kind of movie about. I think what ends up happening is that there’s an authenticity and reality to the times it’s happening in; that actually, De Palma was kind of ahead of his time. I think that the movie is coming out when this stuff is real, but I think the story itself is still a fantasy story, it’s a superhero story, it’s a supernatural story, it’s a thriller and it has horror elements.
Peirce on working with Julianne Moore: Having read the book three times coming in, it was, “What does it mean to create Margaret right not only in general but also, what is it to create her in the modern world?” So that meant that we had to make an authenticity to the religion, because there are…you know, religion is a really prime force in our country right now. So it’s very interesting to pick Julianne after doing what she did, the research that she had done. She’s just such an honest and well trained and worked out actress that she really made sure to do her research and make it real.
So we wanted to make sure the Margaret had that religious grounding, but that Margaret had made her own religion. That’s what was so fun. It was like there was religion, and then there was Margaret going off with her husband. We made it completely by the book. That was one thing, whenever in doubt about character, we went back and it was like, “Okay, so she met this guy, they kind of had their own religion, it got really complicated, she had this child, she thought that child was a cancer, she birthed the child alone.” These scenes are great in the book. Then she just went off on her own. So it was, “How do we keep her religious, but not completely nutsy so you can’t relate to her?” So it was about completely about making her an authentic character at each point.
Moretz on her burgeoning career as a “Scream Queen”: What I do is I read scripts and I just take them in, and if I connect to a script and I feel the need to—like with Carrie, I went in for a meeting with MGM. They were like, “Oh we have a couple of projects we’d like you to think about,” and I was like, “Oh cool,” they said, “One’s Carrie,” and I was like, “Oh God, what does that entail? What type of remake is it going to be? Is it going to be like a real beautiful movie or something slasher-y and tentpole-y?”
They sent over the script, and when I read the script, I just inhaled it. When you read a script within three hours, you know that it’s a movie that you have to do. Immediately I read the character of Carrie and I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing this role. I couldn’t imagine going, “Yeah, here’s the script, you go take the role.” I felt the need to go and fight for this role to the death, and that’s exactly what I did.
I literally went in a week later with Kim, and they were like, “You know, Chloe, you’re pretty young for the role; you don’t really have the biggest chance of getting it,” and I was like, “Don’t worry, I will” (laughs). I went in with Kim and I had really just beaten it out with Trevor, my brother who’s also my acting coach, and we really went through it all and we had it mined out to the core. I went in with Kim and I was like, “We’ll be done in like an hour”; it was a five-hour session of Kim and I just working on 10 pages of work together for five full hours. We did everything; I had like carpet burns on my arms when I left, I was completely exhausted from tears and emotions. It was so wonderful, though, because I had the best time.
As an actor you always want to be challenged and you always want to have someone tell you that you can’t do something, because I always want to be like, “I can do it and I’ll show you I can, and I’ll do it better than anyone can” (laughs). I just had so much drive and Kim really pushed me to my limits and really made me go there, and no one’s done that to me yet. I’ve never had a character that I’ve been allowed to go crazy for, and I got to. That even wasn’t enough; I went in the next day for another three hours, and then finally a week later she called.
Look for Kim Peirce’s Carrie in theatres on October 18th. For more information visit WhatHappenedToCarrie.com! If you’re SUPER brave, you can even give the White residence a call at 207-404-2604.
Related Story: Official Carrie News Archive
A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz), a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother (Julianne Moore), who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.
The quiet suburb of Chamberlain, Maine, is home to the deeply religious and conservative Margaret White (Moore) and her daughter, Carrie (Moretz). Carrie is a sweet but meek outcast whom Margaret has sheltered from society. Gym teacher Miss Desjardin (Judy Greer) tries in vain to protect Carrie from local mean girls led by the popular and haughty Chris Hargenson (Portia Doubleday, Youth in Revolt), but only Chris’ best friend, Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde, The Three Musketeers), regrets their actions. In an effort to make amends, Sue asks her boyfriend, high school heartthrob Tommy Ross (newcomer Ansel Elgort), to take Carrie to prom. Pushed to the limit by her peers at the dance, Carrie unleashes telekinetic havoc. Brian De Palma’s 1976 film version of CARRIE earned Oscar nominations for stars Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.
MGM and Screen Gems’ CARRIE is directed by Kim Peirce and produced by Kevin Misher (Public Enemies). J. Miles Dale (The Vow) serves as executive producer, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Big Love) wrote the script from King’s original story. CARRIE’s creative team includes Director of Photography Steve Yedlin (Looper), Production Designer Carol Spier (Eastern Promises), Costume Designer Luis Sequeira (The Thing), and Editor Lee Percy (Boys Don’t Cry).
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