Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Julianne Moore, Alex Russell, Gabriella Wilde, Ansel Elgort
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Running Time: 100 minutes
Synopsis: Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) is 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. Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King.
Release Date: November 28th, 2013
The history of Carrie dates back to April of 1974, when Stephen King launched his celebrated career as a horror and thriller author with the release of his first published novel, Carrie. It's the terrifying tale of misfit high-school girl Carrie White, who gradually discovers that she has telekinetic powers. Aggressively sheltered at home by a domineering, ultra-religious mother, and tormented by her peers at school, Carrie's efforts to fit in lead to a dramatic confrontation during the senior prom. Thanks to King's storytelling mastery, her name is now synonymous with painful repression, bloody humiliation and even bloodier revenge, but her origins are steeped in an empathetic writer's keen observations about adolescent life. Inspired by two real-life outcasts from his high school days – one lonely girl who was ostracised due to her parents' religious beliefs, the other peer-persecuted for coming from enormous poverty -- King envisioned a pitiable, misunderstood composite teenager on the verge of adulthood who might not be readily likeable, but who could form the center of a gripping emotional narrative. That narrative also might never have made its way into print if King's wife hadn't rescued an early draft from the trash after King suffered some initial doubts about its potential. As King recalls in his memoir On Writing: 'She'd spied [the pages] while emptying my wastebasket, had shaken the cigarette ashes off the crumpled balls of paper, smoothed them out, and sat down to read them. She wanted me to go on with it, she said. She wanted to know the rest of the story."
First Edition Release Date: April, 1974
From the Flap: 'Carrie was the odd one at school; the one whose reflexes were always off in games, whose clothes never really fit, who never got the point of a joke. And so she became the joke, the brunt of teenaged cruelties that puzzled her as much as they wounded her.
There was hardly any comfort in playing her private game, because like so many things in Carrie's life, it was sinful. Or so her mother said. Carrie could make things move--by concentrating on them, by willing them to move. Small things, like marbles, would start dancing. Or a candle would fall. A door would lock. This was her game, her power, her sin, firmly repressed like everything else about Carrie.
One act of kindness, as spontaneous as the vicious jokes of her classmates, offered Carrie a new look at herself the fateful night of her senior prom. But another act--of furious cruelty--forever changed things and turned her clandestine game in to a weapon of horror and destruction. She made a lighted candle fall, and she locked the doors...
Inspired by King's powerful novel, which became a bestseller, Brian De Palma crafted the 1976 film Carrie, which was written by Lawrence D. Cohen. The acclaimed thriller expanded upon King's exploration of social isolation and the need for acceptance. It starred a cast of newcomers (Sissy Spacek, Amy Irving, John Travolta, Nancy Allen, William Katt, Betty Buckley), as well as the formidable veteran actress Piper Laurie in the role of Carrie's mother, and featured groundbreaking effects and lasting cinematic shocks. De Palma's film eventually earned Oscar® nominations for stars Spacek and Laurie, and became a horror classic that has inspired a generation of fans and filmmakers alike.
Decades later, the urge to revisit the source material and galvanise a new generation of moviegoers came to fruition. The original film, a part of MGM's vast library, had such contemporary relevance that Jonathan Glickman, MGM's president of motion pictures, felt compelled to re-imagine the themes that are just as applicable today as they were in Stephen King's 1974 novel, if not more so.
Key to making such a project work is, naturally, the right director. It's what led MGM's Glickman to approach Kimberly Peirce to helm the thriller, finding that his instincts about her suitability were spot on. Given her previous films (Boys Don't Cry and Stop-Loss), MGM and Screen Gems also were confident that Kimberly Peirce had the right sensibility and skill to bring the new Carrie to life. Next, Glickman approached producer Kevin Misher ('Public Enemies") to shepherd in a fresh adaptation of King's classic novel.
Says Kevin Misher, 'What's interesting about Kimberly Peirce directing Carrie is she feels the experience of the lead character in a way that makes it more real, more unique, because Kimberly Peirce is very interested in the experience of the outsider. She's looking to see emotionally, contextually and specifically how a character interrelates with their environment when they don't feel like they fit into the environment."
Regarding the films' continued resonance, Kevin Misher says: 'The issues that it explores – even though it's a pop, horror, psychological thriller of a novel – what it does is actually explore how teenagers relate to their environments as they're going through their own personal experience of evolving from youth to adult, and that's relevant anywhere. It's really a coming-of-age story about a young girl."
With Kimberly Peirce lined up, the team needed to find a contemporary way into the story. Kevin Misher recognised that certain elements needed to be modernised to reflect the 21st century world of adolescents and community life, and in determining the direction of the film, he brought on screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa ('Big Love," 'Glee"), a longtime admirer of the story. Kevin Misher's team went back to the book and tapped into the story's timeless central themes: coming of age, friendship, betrayal, isolation, and the need for acceptance. In exploring Carrie's character, they focused on the socially awkward protagonist's fledgling telekinetic powers and her feelings of wanting to grow up and away from her mother's oppressive, controlling nature.
There were also chances to bring a modern-day perspective through the ubiquitous presence of technology and social media as a way young people interact with each other, whether for good or for ill. But such nods to the social issues of today were never approached as a chance to alter the central impact of Stephen King's story. Says Kevin Misher, 'What makes a book relevant forty years on and perhaps forty years from now is the fact that it deals with timeless issues. So while we wanted to be relevant to today because ultimately the movie is about teenagers, we also didn't want to be bogged down by being so specific to issues of the moment that were less timeless than Stephen King's book."
For Kimberly Peirce, with the task of directing a new version of a beloved classic ahead of her, she read and reread the book: 'Stephen King is a phenomenal story teller. I was blown away by how powerfully he taps into our deepest fears and desires, and just how cinematic the book is," she says. As for tackling a new film adaptation, she notes, 'Brian De Palma's film is iconic in that it captured the era's cultural freshness and indelible performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie." Having said that, Kimberly Peirce adds, 'The material was ahead of its time, universal and so good that forty years later there is enough space culturally for both movies to exist." She is quick to say that she is a friend and great admirer of Brian De Palma, and went so far as to call and ask how he'd feel if she took on the project. Fortunately, Brian De Palma thought it was a great idea and gave Kimberly Peirce his blessing.
In any event, Kimberly Peirce was more interested in being true to Stephen King's original story than trying to recreate a legendary director's version of it. 'What I wanted to capture was the essence of Stephen King," says Kimberly Peirce. 'I went back to Stephen King's characterizations of Carrie, her mother, and the girls, and to Carrie's response to being bullied. Carrie is a misfit and an outcast who, like most of us, longs to be loved and accepted. When she discovers she has special powers, she feels hopeful about her existence in the world and the fact that there may be others like her. I loved this. I dove in, in a modern sense, to Carrie's powers, what they are, how she explores them and how mastery of these powers defies her. They come when she wants them to, but also when she least expects them as a result of emotions she cannot control. I was thrilled to shape this into a super-hero origin story."
As with any indelible horror story, Carrie's characters are three-dimensional. That meant casting Carrie gave the filmmakers the opportunity to balance the supernatural elements of the movie with performances grounded in humanity. When it came to casting the title role, one of the more turbulent teenagers in the history of pop culture, that decision in particular was crucial – which is why everyone was excited at the prospect of talented leading lady Chloë Grace Moretz embodying Stephen King's creation. The filmmakers admired Moretz's abilities and offered her the role based on her auditions and striking body of work. 'Chloë is very much ahead of her time and Carrie is very much behind the time, so the nexus of those two realities made for a very, very unique Carrie," says producer Kevin Misher.
And yet, unlike Sissy Spacek, who was in her late 20s when she took on the role, Chloë Grace Moretz is a bonafide teenager, which allowed her to readily identify with the world Carrie is maneuvering. 'I've gone through a lot of different stuff," says Chloë Grace Moretz. 'I'm actually living it and I remember it all, and I'm here in it while portraying her, so it was really close to home. That's why it's so beautiful for me to do it. I felt an attraction to the role." Casting an age appropriate teenager was also an instinct in contemporising the movie; audiences today may not accept a Carrie that is, in real life, 26 or over.
Kimberly Peirce says it couldn't have been more helpful having Chloë Grace Moretz going through some of the same experiences Carrie did. 'When I talked to Chloë Grace Moretz, she was being asked out to the prom, literally at the same time that we were shooting our movie," says Kimberly Peirce. 'Chloë Grace Moretz, a confident and successful young actress with a loving family, is naturally very far from our character Carrie White, an underprivileged girl who is mocked at school and repressed at home. We worked to help Chloë Grace Moretz understand and inhabit the more difficult sides of life. We were lucky that Chloë Grace Moretz was just starting to go through many of the experiences that Carrie was going through. That youthful innocence and sweetness, and the beginning of her teenage rebellion, forms the spine of Carrie's character. I am very proud of Chloë Grace Moretz's transformation. You're going to see Chloë Grace Moretz grow up before your eyes on screen.
Chloë Grace Moretz is a big fan of Stephen King's novel, which she calls 'beautifully written," so it was imperative in her mind to make it as emotional as possible. 'It is probably the most vulnerable I've ever been as an actor," says Chloë Grace Moretz. 'So in some ways, it's kind of terrifying for it to come out, but at the same time, it'll be kind of an awakening for me because I've never been able to show that level of my personal emotions on screen before."
Kimberley Peirce has nothing but praise for her leading lady's work ethic, too: 'Chloë Grace Moretz's phenomenal! Not only is she a real pro who knows her craft, she's a really hard worker. Chloë Grace Moretz had a lot of work to do on the -wire' [a harness in which the actor is hoisted above ground] when she's levitating. Typically, an actor on a wire can stay in character about half as long as usual because it's so physically exhausting, but Chloë Grace Moretz stayed up there, in the harness and acted it perfectly." She adds, 'The other thing about Chloë Grace Moretz is that the camera loves her. She has an inherent charisma and energy on screen. And she knows the lens, knows where to look, and knows how to hold herself, because she knows what the camera is seeing. When I give Chloë Grace Moretz a direction, she knows what I want, and she nails it take after take after take."
When it came to Carrie White's ultra-religious and controlling mother Margaret, Academy Award®-nominated actress Julianne Moore was cast in the part originally played by Piper Laurie (who was also nominated for an Academy Award® for her portrayal). Says Kimberly Peirce, 'Having Julianne Moore play Margaret was a dream come true. She's a brilliant stage and film performer with an extraordinary intelligence, sensuality, and playfulness to her and her work.
She deepened the entire film, making it more fun, emotional, and powerful." In addition, Kimberly Peirce adds, 'When Julianne Moore came on set a couple of weeks into production, she helped trigger a profound growth in Chloë Grace Moretz. Julianne Moore is a brilliant actress, a consummate professional, and one of the most generous actors I have worked with. She's also a great mother to her own children. She brought all of these qualities to her relationship with Chloë Grace Moretz - they really bonded and became a mother-daughter unit. You feel their connection in every one of their scenes - the emotion, the intensity, and their love and need for one another. Their relationship, both as a love affair and as a duel, forms the heart and soul of the movie. It's what drives the movie forward from scene one to the climax."
Chloë Grace Moretz says working with Julianne Moore was 'one of the most amazing experiences" she's ever had as an actress. 'If I could work with her on every movie I do for the rest of my life, I would. She brought so much to this project and she really made both of our characters even more advanced. What Julianne Moore showed, because Julianne is a mother, is that Margaret is never trying to harm her daughter. Margaret is trying to be the best parent, and she doesn't know how to because she is so paranoid and terrified of what might happen to her daughter. She wants to keep her in the house, keep her in the closet, keep her safe, keep her a child."
Julianne Moore, a devoted fan of Stephen King's novel and Brian De Palma's film, credits Kimberly Peirce coming onto the project and her approach to the material as key factors in clinching her involvement. 'It's such an iconic film and amazing story, so you approach it with some trepidation, but I think Kim Peirce is a wonderful director and this take on the story has a great point of view," says Julianne Moore. 'A lot of things Kimberly Peirce did go back to the book. You have to definitely do your own thing, rather than remake it."
Although the adolescent story is the same, Julianne Moore notes, 'so much has changed in the ways teenagers communicate, so I thought the social media element was a compelling way to update it. I also loved that more of Margaret's shocking and scary back-story from the book was incorporated into this script."
Though she has portrayed many complex characters over her illustrious career, the versatile actress had never tackled a role quite like this. 'Margaret is a miserable person, and quite frankly, she was miserable to play," Julianne Moore adds, laughing. 'At its core, Carrie is about adolescent rebellion; it is certainly extreme in the relationship Carrie has with her mother, but at a certain point in everyone's life, they grow up and away from who they are as a child. Carrie's at that moment when she wants to move forward and claim her adolescence but has a parent who's obstructing that path. In addition to all that, she's dealing with being at the bottom of the high school social hierarchy."
Julianne Moore was impressed by her onscreen daughter's ability to channel the ups and downs of adolescence into her performance. 'She's so talented and incredibly hard working and very present," says Julianne Moore, 'and she brings a tremendous amount of herself and her ability to the role. I think one of the things that's so lovely about this is that she is actually an adolescent, so I'm working with somebody who's in the midst of that change, and that's kind of unusual."
In filling out Carrie's peers at high school – the suspiciously friendly (Sue and Tommy) and the overtly unfriendly (Chris and Billy) – the supporting cast needed to be strong and distinctive, especially with such talents as Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore as the leads. Kimberly Peirce explains, 'We needed an amazing ensemble cast of strong supporting actors who could hold their own against Julianne Moore and Chloë Grace Moretz, because their stories, in conjunction with the main character's stories, are what drive the movie forward. These kids have to be a different species than Carrie. So with the help of legendary Hollywood casting director Avy Kaufman, we threw a wide net and ended up casting a quartet of exciting young up-and-comers." Says Kevin Misher, 'One of the obligations you have in the modern interpretation of Carrie is when you look at the original movie, it birthed four young actors: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, Amy Irving and William Katt. They all became fairly famous after the movie, so you've got those same four roles, and I think what we were able to do was find four of the great young actors of this generation. Hopefully after this movie, everybody knows who they are and points to Carrie as their starting point."
For the role of the remorseful Sue Snell, Kimberly Peirce says, 'we needed a gorgeous and charismatic girl who could lose herself and behave badly, and then have a thoughtful and compelling awakening in response to her actions." British newcomer Gabriella Wilde, best known from The Three Musketeers, fit the role. Says Kimberly Peirce, 'We looked at hundreds and hundreds of girls, and nobody got it right. Then at the last minute, Avy Kaufman calls me up and says, -There's this girl, you've never heard of her.' She sends me the tape and I'm like, -She's perfect!'"
Gabriella Wilde describes Sue's journey as huge. 'She's very much the popular girl who sort of has everything, and she's kind," says Gabriella Wilde. 'She's not a mean popular girl, but she is very much in that group, and I think by the end she becomes a lot more self-aware. She changes a lot."
When it came to casting the intricate role of relentless bully and head of the posse Chris Hargensen, Kimberly Peirce auditioned a multitude of young actresses looking for the right balance of mean and sexy. When Portia Doubleday appeared, they knew they'd found their Chris Hargensen. Kimberly Peirce says, 'Portia Doubleday was absolutely spectacular because she was ferocious, articulate, confident, smart, sexy, and she had sass! She was able to convey Chris's certainty in a dark morality with terrifying ease."
Doubleday loved playing Chris, the Carrie-tormentor who sets the events in motion that ultimately spell doom for the unwitting promgoers. 'She's fun because she's rebellious and always seems to act out and push the limits," she says.
Finding Tommy – the good-hearted hunk that, at his girlfriend Sue's request, becomes Carrie's unlikely prom date -- proved an adventure. Having auditioned many actors, the filmmaker had a hard time finding the right guy at the right age. 'Though performers can usually play a variety of ages and I don't like to limit them, there is something about youth, especially teenage youth that can't be imitated," Kimberly Peirce explains. 'Then Avy Kaufman brought in completely unknown New York actor Ansel Elgort. He's handsome, charming, tender and he's eighteen. It was undeniable."
Ansel Elgort did not disappoint, and the actor loved how multi-dimensional Tommy was in the story. 'He's the cool kid in school, but he's also righteous and he has depth to him beyond just being a jock," says Ansel Elgort. 'He's a real person with an arc."
The final piece of the casting puzzle came when the filmmakers cast Alex Russell as Billy. 'He's handsome, rugged, real, he has heart and he can convey a darkness," says Kimberly Peirce. 'That darkness was an important characteristic to balance Tommy's lightness, and these actors complemented each other beautifully."
Alex Russell says the challenge with Billy was to make him somebody the audience wants to see, even though he does bad things. 'He's just very charismatic, charming and he's passionate, and he's an animal," says Alex Russell. 'That's what excites me about him."
Versatile character actress Judy Greer completes the key cast as empathetic teacher Ms. Desjardin, who takes a personal interest in keeping Carrie safe from bullying, and calling out Carrie's wrongdoers. Kimberly Peirce says, 'Judy Greer is one of my all-time favorite actors and I've been a fan of her work for a long time. She's incredibly smart, compelling, and very funny. Together we worked to make Desjardin's character go from someone who is a bit checked out and doing her time, to someone who sees something that deeply affects her, and as a result decides to step in and do the right thing. Judy's sense of humor lets us go deeper into her character and enjoy watching her try to help Carrie and all the girls." Kevin Misher adds, 'Judy Greer both emotionally and humorously can give you a lot of dimension to a scene, so rather than just a supporting character who performs the plot function, Judy just gives you fifteen different gears in every single scene."
For Judy Greer, Rita Desjardin was a chance to play the kind of observant teacher who is both exasperated by her students and indelibly drawn into their state of well-being. 'This whole situation that comes up with Carrie is at first frustrating for her, and then turns itself into an opportunity," says Judy Greer. 'I think that Miss Desjardin would rather not get involved, but once she does, she goes 100 percent all in and I think that's the type of person she is."
Behind The Screams
Carrie was filmed in Toronto during the summer of 2012. As important as any character in the movie, the house Carrie lives in with her mother needed to establish a home environment that evoked isolation and behavioral severity. Production designer Carol Spier took inspiration from King's novel in creating the White house. 'We were trying to keep in mind Margaret's character, who she was, where she came from," says Carol Spier, who found a bungalow on a Toronto residential street that came close to the style she wanted. 'We put a new porch on, moved the front door and put new windows in, then added dormers to the rooftop. The interiors we built on a soundstage."
As for the inside of the house, the goal was to keep it as simple and puritanical as possible, a place where someone of Margaret's God-fearing nature wouldn't feel threatened. Says Carol Spier, 'We did very simple moldings, no embellishments, and no curves. Everything is angular. We did hide a few crosses, but not the in-your-face kind. It was very subtle. And the colors were very drab. Definitely no red anywhere. Red was being avoided because Margaret thought red was the color of sin."
Carol Spier worked hand in hand with the special effects team as well, who needed a house that could collapse easily when Carrie goes into full retribution mode in the third act. 'We had to see the house through different stages," says Carol Spier. 'We had to build everything so it could break and fall away. We did a certain amount with the construction, and then visual effects took it further."
As for the house's destruction, which involves stones dropping from the sky, visual effects supervisor Dennis Berardi – after careful research and storyboarding and pre-vizzing the sequence -- opted to go with a full-on digital takedown instead of destroying manually-built scaled models. 'I scanned the house with a lidar scan and photo-surveyed it with over 6500 photos and a full lidar scan of that," says Dennis Berardi. 'We shot the house destruction first, which is really rare in filmmaking. But it's great because it's such a complicated sequence, that I needed the time to do it."
Elsewhere, in terms of Carrie's telekinesis and the bloody, extended prom destruction sequence, Dennis Berardi opted for a hybrid effects package of old school camera tricks, stunt work and up-to-the-minute digital effects. 'We're doing reverse printing, a lot of physical effects, but we're also trying to appeal to the modern aesthetic for an action film or effects movie," he says. 'We wanted to find that place where we can do digital work that doesn't feel forced, that doesn't hijack the narrative."
For the prom sequence, for instance, actors were digitally scanned so they could be replicated during the climactic destruction as digital doubles. For scenes when Carrie uses her telekinesis -- or 'TK power" -- on Margaret, the team used a combination of wire-rigging and separately filmed poses for an eerie composite-photography effect. Adds Berardi, 'There's been a lot of work to find the right amount of digital work that doesn't overtake it."
Ultimately, with Carrie, the cast and filmmakers saw a chance to deliver a powerful new interpretation of Stephen King's legendary story, one steeped in our fascination with a certain misfit who holds mysterious, dangerous powers that wreak havoc when unleashed. Because for all the ways the movie pulls out all the stops in its horrifying third act, it stems from feelings and emotions everybody can understand. Says Chloë Grace Moretz, 'It definitely has a terror aspect. Seeing everything that's happening and the things that are happening inside the character's mind that are now affecting you, that's what's so terrifying about it."
Like all memorable horror, Carrie builds on a memorable protagonist. 'I think Carrie White is an extraordinary character," affirms Kimberly Peirce. 'I think she's wildly exciting, I think she's amazing. I just can't wait to introduce her and Chloë Grace Moretz's interpretation of her to a new audience. I think our movie is wildly fun and meaningful, and I think it'll just take you on a great ride…" especially once the blood drops.
Release Date: November 28th, 2013