Carrie Set Visit: We go behind-the-scenes of Prom with Chloe Grace Moretz
Visiting the set of Carrie in Toronto last summer was all about the prom as we were invited behind-the-scenes of this climactic scene where Carrie, in her moment of acceptance as the prom queen, gets doused in pig's blood as the brunt of a horrible prank. This singular moment is legend in the horror genre zeitgeist. It made Sissy Spacek a star in 1976, and while Chloe Moretz has certainly achieved fame at a young age, her star will shoot into the stratosphere after the release of this film. Honestly, witnessing something cool on a set visit can be misleading. There has been several times where I've seen something really amazing filmed, only to be disappointed when the final product is shown in theaters. I cannot imagine that being the case here. We felt lucky being able to witness this benchmark scene being shot, and I can report truthfully it looked incredible.
Kimberly Peirce had done several run-throughs with stand-ins, each time moving closer to perfection with the blocking and lighting. The extras had been milling about with us as they did each test drop. To say excitement was building is an understatement. Pretty much all of the actors, except for Julianne Moore who had wrapped production, were on set to witness the blood drop. Chloe Moretz finally came on stage to do a few practice runs with Ansel Elgort, who plays Tommy. This was the full on dress rehearsal, so all the extras got into position. It looked very similar to the 1976 scene, except fully modern. The addition of a projection screen, which was set beside the main stage, highlighted the cruelty of the prank. As Kim did her run through with the cast, the shame and embarrassment from the jeers became disturbing. You can imagine this poor girl, in her moment of triumph, being utterly humiliated in such a public way. Then you add in the close up on Chloe's face that's projected on the screen while the extras laugh hysterically. Ansel Elgort was very convincing. He starts off smiling, really happy for Carrie, then turns to a look of bewilderment and disgust on a dime. The entire scene, beyond the introduction of the characters, is purely physical. We're seeing genuine reaction shots to a heinous event.
With buzz building to a crescendo, the time to shoot the actual take had come. The reporters were situated behind the primary camera to the right of the stage. There was another camera on a crane directly in front of the stage to capture the scene from a wider angle, while Kim had a hand held camera for a close-up shot. Portia Doubleday, who plays the antagonist Chris, was not in this scene but had come on set to witness it and meet with the reporters. We were all kind of hunched together as Kim declared go time. Quiet rings out on set, camera rolling, then action. The extras laugh and clap as Chloe and Ansel get in their positions. They are announced as prom king and queen. They are beaming, the picture of happiness. And then the five gallon bucket of pseudo pig's blood is dropped like an anvil on Chloe. She nails it, stunned, horrified. Like textbook from the practice runs, the extras and cast is quiet for a single beat, they all look at the projection screen showing the mortified Carrie. And then the laughter explodes like a bomb. Kim yells cut, and we all know that they'd just nailed it on the first take. The costume assistants rush to towel Chloe off and to get her reset in case another shot is needed. She's whisked away to be cleaned up. Kim, and pretty much everyone else, rushes to the bank of monitors to witness the replay. She runs back the scene at normal speed, then slow motion. Print it. Cinematic poetry on display for all to see, a distinct cheer erupts from the crew and cast. Kim is beaming, really ecstatic to see the scene come off without a hitch. I was in full on geek mode. It was great witnessing something so important to the film that everyone had worked so hard to pull off flawlessly.
We interviewed Chloe Moretz shortly before she shot the scene, so she was fairly excited. She's been an actress from an early age, so audiences are familiar with her. And I've interviewed her previously for Kick-Ass. But you're still surprised by how young she is. At the time of filming she was fifteen. Her mother was on set with her, and as a minor, there are strict rules dictating how much time she can spend filming in a day. The great thing about Chloe is she comes off very much her age, just a bit more mature. Sometimes when interviewing children who've grown up in Hollywood, it feels like you're talking to a forty year old in a kid's body. It can be kind of creepy. There was nothing of the sort from Chloe. She's a movie star, confident and self assured, but comes off like a bubbly teenage girl. Here's our interview below:
So are you excited to shoot the upcoming scene, the blood dump at the prom?
Chloe Moretz: Oh yeah. It's interesting because I've seen a couple videos of what they're going to do, and during filming of one of the scenes with Margaret and I-actually where I tell her like, "No Momma, I'm gonna go," I'm in the prom dress and she's like, "Repent Carrie, don't do it," and I'm like, "No Momma, I'm gonna go," it was during that scene where I walked off set into the gymnasium and I was just hanging out shooting basketball in my prom dress, and I turn around and they're like "Okay so we're about to do the blood dump." We were like, "Wait, what?" and literally thirty people just start filing in trying to watch it. So I'm really excited to do it in a second, but it's like five gallons of a liquid being dumped on your head so it's really heavy.
When we talked to you for Let Me In, you hadn't seen the original movie because it was rated-R. Now that you're older, were you able to see the original Carrie, or did you not want to see the original?
Chloe Moretz: I haven't watched it since I booked it, but I have seen the movie now of course, because it's one of the most iconic movies out there. It's brilliant and I think Brian De Palma did an amazing job with the movie. I really love what Kim's doing with our movie and we're really kind of taking our own take on it. It's a darker, more twisted version that really focuses on the mother-daughter relationship and really mines that out, which is our main focus.
Kimberly Peirce was talking about how she sort of had to break you down from your normal confidence to a more insecure place, was that a difficult move for you to make?
Chloe Moretz: 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, 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, to Carrie who is this wounded animal.
Kim also had you visit some homeless shelters. Talk about that experience and how that helped to inform your performance.
Chloe Moretz: 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. 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. 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.
How strange is it to have a high school experience while making a movie, since you haven't been able to go to prom and you haven't been able to experience some of these things yourself?
Chloe Moretz: It's interesting because I'm technically a sophomore now in America, I'm not a freshman anymore so that's like a big deal. But it's interesting, I'm at a prom, having the whole experience. It's cool because my high school experience so far has taken place on movie sets and in my living room, so it's a change of scenery that's for sure. But I'm on summer break still, so no school for me.
You've worked with a lot of big time directors and have had a lot of experience for someone your age. What have you learned from Kimberly Peirce specifically as a director?
Chloe Moretz: 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." 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. We really bonded over that. This is my real first lead in a big studio film and taking everything on. The relationship between a lead one 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.
You said Carrie conveys a lot through a look, and in the original when she uses her telekinetic powers, there's that crazy kind of look. Was that hard for you to develop?
Chloe Moretz: Well, what I definitely wanted to not do is steal what she did, because I think what she did was amazing and iconic and everyone knows the typical hands-out, eyes-open look. There were so many times when someone would suggest that. People wouldn't even think about it, but I was doing one of the photo shoots and someone was like, "Just stick your hands out like this!" and I was like, "No! I can't do that," because the minute I do that, I'll be stealing someone else's character. My main thing about this film was building my own Carrie, and she's not what Sissy did, she's not what De Palma made Carrie to be, it's what Kim and I have constructed to be this being, what we have made into this living, breathing human. It took a while to figure out what exactly. I remember the first time, it was the screen test. I was already here and we were just testing all the clothing and stuff. We did one of the TK (telekinesis) tests, which had special effects and all this wind and stuff. I was like, "Uh Kim, we haven't really talked about this. What am I supposed to do?" And we ended up coming up with some interesting stuff that, I'll tell you what it's pretty cool. We did some onset visual effects, so in one of these scenes I'm practicing my TK and when I move my hand over something it actually moves, so it's kind of a little bit like Harry Potter (laughs), it's really cool. At one point in your life you've looked at remote and been like "Move!"
Bullying has obviously come to the forefront lately, especially with social media like Facebook and Twitter. Did you feel an added sense of responsibility playing out this character's arc knowing that this film deals with some of those heavier issues?
Chloe Moretz: Well, a large element of this movie is partly the bullying aspect of how Carrie is taken advantage of and made fun of just because of peoples' weaker self, to push whatever their insecurities are onto someone who takes everything from everyone. And yeah, there were a lot of things we brought into the script. We brought some social media aspects of it. That's stuff that actually happens on Facebook and Twitter. We also brought some interesting things in where some things happen on a social network, but Carrie doesn't even realize it because she doesn't even know what Facebook is (laughs), at the same time it's sweet that she's so unaffected by what they want to affect her with. But I think, honestly, the main point of the movie is Margaret and Carrie. I think that's the main pinnacle of her, it's her mother.
You've booked a ton of creepy projects over the years. Is that random? Are you drawn to the horror genre? Do you consider yourself a scream queen or is it just happenstance?
Chloe Moretz: I'd say it's just happenstance. 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 "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 remake is it going to be? Is it going to be like a real beautiful movie or something slashery and tentpoley?" They sent over the script and when I read the script I just inhaled it. You know 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. 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 like a five-hour session of Kim and I just working on ten 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. You always want to have someone tell you 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. 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.