If you were to examine the already-lengthy career of Chloe Grace Moretz, you might think that she specialized in horror film remakes. Including her latest film (and first truly lead role) in the latest adaptation of Stephen King's first novel CARRIE, she also had parts in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE EYE (based on a Hong Kong film), LET ME IN (a rapidly made but surprisingly powerful redo of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN), and you could even throw in DARK SHADOWS if you were so inclined.
But most of us know that, at only 16 years old, Moretz has a lot more going for her than just this collection of remakes. I probably first took note of her in 2009 as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's wise-beyond-her-years sister in (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. The following year she played about as normal a character as she's ever played in the very amusing DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. But that same year, Moretz stole our collective hearts (probably by piercing it with a sword) playing the murderous, foul-mouthed Mindy Macready, aka Hit-Girl, in KICK-ASS. The following year, she co-starred in HUGO for director Martin Scorsese, and played for the first time Kaylie Hooper, one of the few females ever to outsmart and match wits with Alec Baldwin on "30 Rock."
Moretz has held her own with such greats as Julianne Moore, Ben Kingsley, Nicolas Cage, Richard Jenkins, Johnny Depp, and the aforementioned Gordon-Levitt and Baldwin, and will soon be seen working with the likes of Denzel Washington, Sam Rockwell, Juliette Binoche and Charlize Theron. And it's not difficult to believe that one day, her name will be spoken with the same reverence that we do these acting giants.
Her work in CARRIE is that of a high school girl scared in and of her own skin. She lives in constant fear of being mocked by her classmates and chastised by her mother about the evils of the world, especially men. To meet Moretz is to realize that she bares absolutely no resemblance to Carrie White. She's poised, articulate, and her answers seem well considered and genuinely spontaneous. And you realize immediately when you say hello that you are in the presence of one of the most well-adjusted teenagers you will ever meet, thanks to a supportive family (her brother and fellow actor Trevor was sitting in the room next to where our interview took place) and an unflinching dedication to being a better performer. That being said, please enjoy my talk with Chloe Grace Moretz…
Chloe Grace Moretz: What up?
CGM: What’s going on with you?
Capone: Not much. Good to meet you.
[Moretz notices a Pinewood Studios logo on my shirt]
CGM: Pinewood Studios!
Capone: Oh, yeah. I got this from a James Bond junket a few years back.
CGM: I’ve been to Pinewood so many times.
Capone: What were you there for?
CGM: DARK SHADOWS, KICK-ASS. Oh God, I’ve filmed so much stuff there. There and Shepperton. HUGO was all done at Shepperton.
Capone: You may have heard this theory at some point, especially since you just came from New York Comic Con, but, in this day and age, it’s hard to look at the story of CARRIE and not think, “This is like a superhero origin story that never makes it beyond her first day of full power.” Has that ever come up?
CGM: Oh, totally. I mean, it’s the Clark Kent, you know what I mean? It’s the put-upon kid, the kid no one understands, the kid no one gets, the kid no one’s friends with. They get the power because; they’re the ones who have all the right things in line, but usually they have a bit better home life. I think she’s a recipe for disaster because she has no good home life. Whereas, with Peter Parker had a great aunt and uncle, and Clark Kent had his adoptive parents who loved him. Whereas, all the villains had tumultuous families.
Capone: Carrie might have gone that villain route.
CGM: Probably with the bad family life, yeah.
Capone: That’s true. That had never occurred to me in all the years since I read the book and saw the first film.
Capone: It just wasn’t in the pop culture mindset at the time.
CGM: True. Nowadays it’s different; there’s so much comic book stuff.
Capone: It has to do, partly, with you being in it.
CGM: Oh yeah?
Capone: Having just seen you come off of being in KICK-ASS 2. It’s interesting, no one has ever portrayed Carrie the way she actually is described in the Stephen King book. Was there any attempt to sort of pull in elements from the book that maybe hadn’t been there in the other film versions?
CGM: Oh yeah, yeah. There was so much stuff in the book that we pulled from. A lot of her clothing we pulled from in the book. A lot of her emotions we pulled from the book, a lot of the anger. The anger that she’s trying to push away, the anger that she says it’s not okay to be angry--that understanding. She’s much smarter in the book than we think she is. I think in the original movie, you go, “What is she?” And then, in our film, I think you really see that she is just innocent, naive, and she wants to know. She’s innocent, but she’s not dumb. She is a brilliant girl in the fact that she’s more in tune with senses and emotions than anyone else is. There’s a lot to pull from the book, especially her point of view on everyone else that we really pulled in, you know what I mean? A lot of the gym stuff, when the whole blood scene happens, that was a lot from the book. We didn’t want to take too many liberties.
Capone: The classic metaphors are all at play here--the rise of adolescence, there’s a bullying aspect to the story--and Kimberly [Peirce, director] always does a really good job pulling those things out. Which between-the-lines stories were you most interested in bringing to the surface?
CGM: I think the story that really wasn’t told within the original was really the story of that mother/daughter relationship. It really wasn’t really fleshed out and shown, and I really wanted to, with Kim and Julianne [Moore], go through that and really show everything that you read, show all the emotions and also take what we know from having a mother/daughter relationship that Julianne and I have had, which are great mother/daughter relationships, but really show what that means.
Capone: The other fine line that the film is always walking is about religion and how religion can twist a relationship.
CGM: Totally. No, I don’t think our film is a stand on religion or bullying. I think our movie just shows you the cause and effects of these tumultuous relationships. I think that on the religion side of it, what I actually like about the movie is that Carrie is almost a disciple. Carrie is quoting the true word of God; she is the one telling her mother it’s sacrilegious that she’s misquoting God, and that you shouldn’t do that. Carrie is really, she’s the disciple in the situation. And her mother, it just shows you what people can do through religion, how they can manipulate religion and misquote religion to become very erratic.
Capone: You’ve had opportunities over the last few years especially to work with some of the greatest actors including Julianne Moore, Ben Kingsley, Nicolas Cage, Richard Jenkins. Are you still in the position where you feel like you’re learning from people that you work with?
CGM: Of course, man. I just worked with Denzel Washington. I think that Julianne Moore, Denzel Washington, and Juliette Binoche were the three people in my life that thus far have really, really furthered me as an actor because they are very hands on and supportive. I had an amazing relationship with all of them, and I learned more, in the last year and a half with them, than I have in my entire career practically.
Capone: Anything specific you picked up from Julianne?
CGM: I think it was the way that she can be so fun and so sweet and so interesting, and then immediately jump into this character and not have to evebe method or even be in character all the time. But, she could have this normal side of her and also jump into these crazy characters, which never happens. You never get that; you either get the one that’s really, really deep into it or really, really out of it to where they don’t do it.
Capone: She can just flip it on and off?
CGM: Yeah. She can literally go from laughing to crying and being really intense. It’s insane.
Capone: Can you talk about the day shooting the prom scene, the day that bucket of blood actually dumps on you.
CGM: That day was pretty built up. I think everyone on the entire movie was like, “We've got to get this day right. We've got to get the blood right. If we don’t do it. We only have two takes to do it. We have to get it right.” And, I was like, “I just don’t want to know when the blood’s going to hit, I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want to see anything, I just want to be in character, and if it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t it doesn’t.” I just wanted to be oblivious to it all.
Capone: So, you didn’t actually know the specific moment when it was going to hit?
CGM: No, no. I didn’t want to. They never tell you on rollercoasters when you're going to go over the edge because it’s a surprise, and it gets you.
Capone: At least you can see it coming on a rollercoaster.
CGM: True, unless you have the really high drop ones. And then you’re like, “Oh God! Oh God, it’s gonna happen!”
Capone: When you first were asked to play Carrie and saw the script or read the book, was there something in particular about this girl that you latched onto and said, “Yeah, I can work with that. I want to try that out”?
CGM: Honestly, the very first thing that got me was being able to work with Kimberly Peirce, even before I read the script. And then once I read the script, I realized the movie lives and dies by Carrie, and that’s what I really liked. The fact that you’re very much in her mind, and there was so much for me to do, so much emotion to go through and physicality. There were so many psychological things that I could play with and have fun with. It was a challenge, and it was an exciting challenge. So, I think for me, that’s what really made me want to do it is that challenge. It’s “Can I take this on?” And, I wanted to take it on.
Capone: You’ve done a lot of genre work, whether it’s superhero films or horror. You’ve done three or four remakes just in horror films. That darker material, is that something you’re drawn to?
CGM: Yeah, though, I’m not purposefully going, “I’m only going to do genre films.”
Capone: It doesn’t feel that way.
CGM: No, no. I think for me, I'm definitely interested in those films more just because a lot of the characters that I enjoy playing are dark characters and are different than who Chloe is, who has a very normal. I have a good family life. I’m very loved and supported. So, for me, acting is playing someone I’m not, and not playing someone I am. That’s why I want to play characters like Carrie because it’s the polar opposite of who Chloe is, and that’s exciting. Whereas, if I’m playing this girl who has a happy home life living and going to prom with the best guy and getting everything she wants most and striving for in life is just boring. It’s not exciting.
Capone: It’s weird to watch someone who has the life you’ve described play someone who has zero confidence and zero ability to…
CGM: …emote and react.
Capone:Or just to talk to someone.
CGM: Social skills.
Capone: Yeah, exactly. What do you tap into to find that person?
CGM: I think everyone has that. It’s like when you’re a toddler and you want nothing more than to just hide behind your mom and be like, “I’m not here, this is not real, don’t look at me.” I think everyone has that side to them, and you just have to find your most vulnerable things. What makes you feel unloved, what makes you feel unwanted, what makes you feel like you’re insignificant?
Capone: You’ve never really playeda typical high school kid.
CGM: No. Or in a typical high school movie.
Capone: .Unless you count, like, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, which isn't even high school.
CGM: KICK-ASS is probably the closest I’ve gotten to a “high school” movie. Even that is way mutilated [laughs].
Capone: I want to ask you about some things you have coming up because you’ve got quite a lot.
CGM: Sure, sure, sure.
Capone: You mentioned the Denzel Washington movie, and the one with Juliette Binoche. Can you talk quickly about those two?
CGM: Sure. The one with Denzel is called THE EQUALIZER with [director] Antoine Fuqua, and it is a brilliant, brilliant script. He's one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with. He’s a brilliant man and is really hands on, and he and Denzel’s relationship is amazing to watch.
And then, I have the Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart movie called SILS MARIA with [wrtiter-director] Olivier Assayas, who is a brilliant guy. That’s an exciting movie too. I’m really excited for people to see these. I’ve done so many this year, and I want them to come out and have people actually see them. I know I’m going to be so busy from promoting all of these at once. I’m going to be doing, like, six movies at once.
Capone: THE EQUALIZER, I assume, is based on the TV show.
CGM: It slightly is, but it isn’t. I think that they’re siding more on the "isn’t" side? I don’t really know yet because they haven’t given me all the stipulations of what to say, but it is loosely based on that, definitely. The whole idea of him equalizing situations and him saving prostitutes, that is very real.
Capone: You also made a movie with one of my absolute favorite people in the world, Lynn Shelton.
CGM: LAGGIES, yeah.
Capone: And I just talked to Sam Rockwell not too long ago about it.
CGM: Oh yeah, he’s great.
Capone: Tell me about who you play in that.
CGM: That’s a great movie, it’s really fun. It’s called LAGGIES with Keira Knightley and I, and it’s fun. It’s a story about this early-to-mid-30s woman who is at a point in her life where she doesn’t really know what she wants, and so she leaves her fiance for a little bit to go off on a retreat and runs into me and my friends. And we go into this weird coming-of-age story between a mid-30s woman and a 17-year-old girl, and it’s hilarious and so funny. And tonally it's very Sundance-y, you know what I mean?
Capone: I know that when Lynn writes her own films, the films tend to be mostly improvized. But I know this film had a script by someone else that she was trying to stick to. Did you still try to get to play around with improv a little bit?
CGM: Yeah, yeah. We definitely played around a lot, we’re always mixing lines around, but I think this was one of her first movies where she actually had a full screenplay
Capone: I think it was her first movie where she had that.
CGM: Exactly. This is her first movie with a script, with like a storyline to really follow.
Capone: Are you really making a movie that Terry Gilliam is producing?
CGM: [She calls out to her brother in the next room] Trevor?
Trevor: That's WHITE CIRCUS. We’re attached to it.
CGM: Yeah, we’re attached. It’s a great script.
Trevor: It’s amazing!
CGM: It’s a brilliant script. It’s very like BIG FISH.
Capone: Well, thank you so much. It was great to meet you.