Beyond being the tag line for Kimberly Pierce's 2013 take on Stephen King's classic horror novel Carrie--memorably, enduringly first brought to film in 1976 by director Brian DePalma and star Sissy Spacek--"You will know her name" can also fit as a mission statement the last few years for its teenage star, Chloë Grace Moretz. With films such as Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning Hugo and the cult favorite superhero franchise Kick-Ass under her belt the last few, short years, she has not only established herself as one of the leading talents in her age range but is quickly emerging as one of the most recognizable and respected actresses in any demographic. On Friday, October 4, Moretz sat down for a roundtable interview in Beverly Hills to discuss taking on not only an iconic story and character of the titular meek, bullied, telekinetic teen scorned once too many, but perhaps an even more legendary individual scene in the history of movies. (Note: spoilers follow for anyone not familiar with any version of Carrie, whether on film or on the page.)
Did you have any previous familiarity with the previous feature film version of Carrie before taking on the role?
It's a funny story because I saw the first film when I was filming Let Me In with Kodi Smit-McPhee. We watched it together for the first time, and we're both at the time like 12 or something. My mom was like, "I actually don't know if this is the most appropriate movie you should be watching, Chloë," and I'm like, "Yeah, whatever." [laughs] I fell in love with the story. DePalma made such a brilliant movie; he really did adapt King's book very well. I think he was a lot less linear to the book than our movie is, but DePalma really took his own instinct and ran with it and did such a beautiful piece of work.
I think what it was on [Kimberly Peirce's] side was not to copy camera angles, not to copy exact look, not to copy exact blood dump. My big thing was that I'm never going to be doing this. [recreates Sissy Spacek's arms-down stance in the 1976 film] I'm never going to be doing that iconic thing that she did because it's too obvious. I'm going to keep my hands above my waist at all times, although if they are here I'm not going to be doing that symbol, because everyone knows that's the iconic Sissy Spacek, and we both agreed on that. And we wanted to kind of keep the mannerisms away from that so we were able to put our own spin on it because I wanted to be original. What we really did was just have the book there on set every day, and we compared page in the script to page in the book.
How does Carrie's relationship with her overprotective mother Margaret compare with your own relationship with your mother?
Well, my mom doesn't throw me in the closet and doesn't hit me with Bibles. [laughs] My mom is honestly one of the most amazing moms, but I think what she and Margaret have in common is that they love their child very, very, very much. And I think that is what was so cool about [co-star] Julianne's [Moore] take on the character because Julianne brought such a sense of love and endearment to the character. So no matter how hard she's hitting Carrie, she'll always go back into the closet and braid her hair and say, "I love you"--and you can see in Margaret's eyes that she wants nothing but a good and a safe environment for her daughter because she knows what could happen. She knows she's kept her daughter living under a rock, and she knows they're going to laugh at her. But at the end of the day, there's a twist in the fact that she's thinking that if they do laugh at her, at least she'll come back to her and she can be her haven. She kind of wants that but doesn't want that because she always wants to be her God. That's Margaret, and my mom is the type of mom who'll give me enough space to mess up, but she's like, "The minute you do, that's when I'll reel everything back in. But I'm going to give you enough space and enough time to make your own decisions and to form your own ideas and solutions to problems that happen in everyday life."
What was your first reaction to seeing yourself covered in blood in the prom dress?
I actually cracked up. [laughs] The first time we did it, it took two and a half hours to put all the blood on, so I kind of saw Carrie being made in front of my eyes. And we had this bust of my face that was a total cast. On Dark Shadows, I was a werewolf, and we had a cast of my face from movie, and they bought the cast for Carrie, and they had my face lying there all day. So the blood drips, that was a very strategic thing that they had mapped out in pre-production, so it was all a transfer. So I wish it was a bit more shocking since I saw the transfer go on, and I was sticky and tired. But I think that was the moment when I knew I was doing Carrie. That was the real moment I went, "All right, I'm actually doing Carrie. I am Carrie, covered with blood."
Did you have to remember not to touch your face when you were sticky and tired?
Yeah, I actually had a huge problem with that because I would start peeling [the blood] off my skin. They're little transfers, like tattoo transfers that you but on your body with water and everything, all over. So we do a base of that, and then we go over it with these bottles of blood, different colors of blood, and drip them on my body and rub it in with thick smoke and mud. I would like live in [the serial killer TV series] Dexter--clear plastic everywhere with blue tape, really disgusting looking with blood everywhere. [laughs] My trailer was covered in blood. But my car was the funniest because between takes, it was so cold outside, I'd run to my car and try and warm up, but then the blood would get hot, and it would cake onto my skin and get all tacky. And if I put my hand on there and left it for like a minute and pulled it off, it would just rip my skin off because it was so sticky. So I had to stop myself from wanting to just peel it off as it got warm and it covered with a cakeiness that was sticky like maple syrup.
Did you and the crew feel pressure on recreating such an iconic scene?
I think [the crew] was more terrified than I was because at the end of the day I was the actor who had to stand there and get it dumped on me. But I think they did something like 50 or 60 or 70 blood tests with one girl, dropping the blood every day, like five times a day, trying to figure out what height, what air pressure, do they drop it from a real bucket or do they use a compressed thing, what gives you the best splatter, different types of blood. We had to do two takes, first take one night, then a whole other night, to do it, one take [each day]. That's all they had for that entire blood drop. Then they're going, if we don't get this right, we're done, you know what I mean? It was two different [scene] set-ups each night, so if we don't get that first set-up right, we can't do it again, so you're screwed. It was being able for me to just walk on set and be super chill, I'm like, "Cool, whatever happens, happens." You know? "I'm good guys; don't worry about me." They were all so stressed out like, [in frantic tone] "OK, the camera's here, and the camera's here, and then we have this dropping, and then this is your head, and we don't know what we're going to do because it's a four-hour turnaround..." And I'm like, "OK, guys; calm down." [laughs] My only thing is I don't want to see anyone counting like one, two, three; I don't want to hear anything happening. I just want to be completely in the moment, smiling, happy, like I just won prom queen, and just whatever happens, happens. Then for me what was hard was knowing that after the blood hit, you then have to keep going on with the scene. So we didn't just like, blood hits, cut, you're done. It was like, blood hits, then follow it through for about five minutes and do the entire scene--which is really long. It's a really long time period. It was so funny because right after that first blood drop, Ansel [Elgort, who plays Carrie's prom date Tommy] looked at each other, and we started cracking up, and we hugged each other, and everyone was like, "NO!!!" because our blood got all over each other. [laughs] And he just slipped and fell right on the ground, and then I was slipping... it was ridiculous.
Do you think kids of every generation will always relate to the character of Carrie?
I think so. i think everyone's dealt with things that Carrie's dealt with, and you'll always have a heart for Carrie because she at the end of the day is a naive girl. Everyone has those moments where things just go right over their head and you're like, " I know that you're all laughing at me, but I don't know why you're laughing at me. It's an interesting character to play.
How do you most personally relate most to Carrie?
The naivete i think was my main thing. I have been home schooled since i was 9 years old, and in the scheme of what my friends are accustomed to in everyday life and what i'm accustomed to in everyday life, I live in a different way than them. I live in a very sheltered bubble. I'm always with my brother and my mom; I always have my little group around me. I don't interact with a ton of other kids my age all the time, and I kind of live in my little area. But they interact with hundreds of kids every day, and they deal with way more drama and way more hate and way more love than I do, in that sense with people that aren't your family. So what I think I kind of attach with Carrie is that she doesn't know that world of teenagers, and it's the one place that I don't feel comfortable. When I'm with a bunch of teenagers I don't know what I'm doing. [laughs] It is not my safe zone. [laughs] So I think that's where I really was able to connect with Carrie.
(Special thanks to 42West and Screen Gems)