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Chloe Grace Moretz, who appears on THR‘s Masters of Horror list, owes her career to horror. The actress starred in 2005’s remake of The Amityville Horror (which grossed $108 million worldwide) at the age of 6. “It was the first time I was ever scared on a set,” she says. “Ryan Reynolds picks me up in one scene and grabs me, and I remember walking away and telling my mom that it scared me a little.”
Her role as Chelsea, the youngest in a family living in a haunted home, led to a part in 2008’s The Eye, which starred Jessica Alba. As a young teen in 2010, she played a troubled vampire in Let Me In and the vulgar kid vigilante Hit Girl in Kick-Ass, which won her the hearts of fanboys everywhere.
After charming families in Martin Scorsese‘s Hugo and camping it up in Tim Burton‘s Dark Shadows, Moretz, 16, is returning to horror with Carrie, MGM and Screen Gems’ adaptation (out Oct. 18) of Stephen King‘s 1974 novel. MGM originally was looking for an older actress (Sissy Spacek was 27 when she played the outcast who takes telekinetic revenge on her high school tormentors in Brian De Palma‘s 1976 film).
The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Moretz about taking on the iconic role, her own dealings with mean girls and what else she has in common with the wide-eyed outcast.
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Tell me about being cast in this film. What kind of audition process did you go through?
I went in with a meeting with MGM — it feels like so long ago now — and they mentioned a couple projects to me, and they mentioned Carrie. At that point, they were already thinking of older girls, 20 to 25, that could play young. I was like, “There’s no way I’m going to be doing this because I thought it was going to be a hack — cheesy and bloody and gory. It’s going to ruin Stephen King’s novel.” And then I read the script and I fell in love with it. Then they attached [director] Kimberly Peirce. That’s crazy — she does a movie like every eight years. You can’t book her. So, then we got Julianne [Moore, who plays Carrie’s mentally ill mother], and then I did the audition process. I did four meetings at three hours apiece, and then I had two auditions at six hours apiece.
I can imagine that was a very vulnerable role for you.
I think what worked for me is that I feel incredibly vulnerable around teenagers, people who are my age. I never went to high school. I never had the time to understand them. I’ve never been able to — except for my best friends, who I’ve known since I was 6.
I spoke to my friends about this movie, and they said, “Chloe Moretz is too beautiful for Carrie. She would have been a popular kid in high school.”
It’s interesting that they say that because if you read the book, it says that she has the possibility to be beautiful. There’s something within her, in her face, that she could be beautiful. The Carrie in the book is a little overweight, but she has a really pretty face. She has a heart-shaped face with red hair. You can see in the film, I wasn’t Chloe — I was a different person. I looked … feral.
How many times did you read the book to prepare for this role? You seem to really know the material. Did you watch the 1976 version of the film?
I read it like five times. I didn’t watch the movie again. I watched it when I was 11 — my mom didn’t know I watched it.
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Have you ever had experiences with mean girls like in this film?
Oh yeah. I had someone tell me it was a dress-up party so I dressed up. They told me it was a belly-dancing party. My mom picked them up, and they weren’t dressed up, and my mom said, “no,” and she drove us back to my house. She left the girls in the car and she changed me, did my hair, put me back in the car and sent me on my way. She hated those girls after that. She never allowed them over.
Some people say this story is the ultimate revenge tale for outcasts. What’s your take on this story?
I don’t think that it’s making a stand for politics or against social media or a stand on bullying. Because at the end of the day it’s based on a book that was written in the 1960s. And I think the common denominator is foolish kids — kids who have hate and have problems and they don’t know how to deal with it. Kids who are ostracized.
I recently rewatched the 1976 film. It’s interesting to see the differences when it comes to nudity and violence. Do you think the expectations of horror audiences have changed?
I think that’s the difference between a male and female director. Kim respects women immensely. You can just tell the difference in a male-directed movie and a female-directed movie. There’s such a maternal aspect to Carrie and I think that really reads through onscreen. To have that security and have that bubble of having a female director, you felt safe. The shower scene was done so appropriately. We never showed any boobs or any naked women, whereas in the first one it was like, boobs and vagina all over. We really just wanted to make it — it’s really a story about a young girl who is being ostracized. It’s not a story about sex. That’s not what Carrie’s looking for with Tommy. She just wants happiness and freedom.
Let’s talk about the blood. What did that look like, feel like?
There’s a lot of different types of blood. There was dry blood, fire blood, wet blood, dirt blood. So we had that first dump of blood, which was a totally different blood type. It was water, food thickener, coloring and soap. So it was really gelatinous. It was the consistency of soap, and it felt like that in your eyes. It did not feel good. But the other stuff was actually tattoo transfers. We used kids’ face paint, fake dirt, real dirt. We had layers and layers. I couldn’t lay on anything because I would get up and my skin would peel off with it. It’s that sticky.
You career started out in horror with Amityville Horror. What do you remember about shooting that film?
I remember being really terrified by one of the Indians. There’s a scene where the Indians are hung on meat hooks. I remember seeing him walk around, and I looked at my mom, and I was terrified. But she took me up to meet him and he was the nicest guy ever. It’s funny because I remember being so scared of him. It was the first time I was ever scared on a set. I remember Ryan Reynolds picked me up in one scene and grabbed me, and I remember walking away and telling my mom that it scared me a little.
Do you remember the first scary movie you ever saw?
Probably when I secretly watched Amityville Horror. Actually, my mom was watching Silence of the Lambs and I was supposed to be asleep besides her. I was, like, 9. She thought I was completely asleep, so she was watching it — it’s her favorite movie — and I remember being terrified.
Carrie opens in theaters on Oct. 18.
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