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 Chloe Grace Moretz embodying King's creation. The filmmakers admired Moretz's abilities and offered her the role based on her auditions and striking body of work. "Chloe 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 Misher.
And yet, unlike Sissy Spacek, who was in her late 20s when she took on the role, 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 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 contemporizing 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 Moretz going through some of the same experiences Carrie did. "When I talked to Chloe, she was being asked out to the prom, literally at the same time that we were shooting our movie," says Peirce. "Chloe, 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 Chloe understand and inhabit the more difficult sides of life. We were lucky that Chloe 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 Chloe's transformation. You're going to see Chloe grow up before your eyes on screen.
Moretz is a big fan of 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 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."
Peirce has nothing but praise for her leading lady's work ethic, too: "Chloe's phenomenal! Not only is she a real pro who knows her craft, she's a really hard worker. Chloe 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 Chloe stayed up there, in the harness and acted it perfectly." She adds, "The other thing about Chloe 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 Chloe 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 Peirce, "Having Julianne 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, Peirce adds, "When Julianne came on set a couple of weeks into production, she helped trigger a profound growth in Chloe. Julianne 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 Chloe -- 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."
Moretz says working with 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 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."
Moore, a devoted fan of King's novel and De Palma's film, credits 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 Moore. "A lot of things Kim 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, 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," 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."
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 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 Moretz and Moore as the leads. Peirce explains, "We needed an amazing ensemble cast of strong supporting actors who could hold their own against Julianne and Chloe, 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 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, 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 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!'"
Wilde describes Sue's journey as huge. "She's very much the popular girl who sort of has everything, and she's kind," says 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, 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. Peirce says, "Portia 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," 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."
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 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 Peirce. "That darkness was an important characteristic to balance Tommy's lightness, and these actors complemented each other beautifully."
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 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. Peirce says, "Judy 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." 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 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 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."
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