About the Production
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 ostracized 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 galvanize 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 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 Kim 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 Misher, "What's interesting about Kim directing CARRIE is she feels the experience of the lead character in a way that makes it more real, more unique, because Kim 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, 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 Peirce lined up, the team needed to find a contemporary way into the story. Misher recognized that certain elements needed to be modernized 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. 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 King's story. Says 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 Peirce, with the task of directing a new version of a beloved classic ahead of her, she read and reread the book: "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, 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 De Palma, and went so far as to call and ask how he'd feel if she took on the project. Fortunately, De Palma thought it was a great idea and gave Peirce his blessing.
In any event, Peirce was more interested in being true to 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 Peirce. "I went back to 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."
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