"Carrie" Director Talks About Remaking Classic Horror Tale

From director Kimbery Peirce (TV's “The L Word”) comes Columbia Pictures' new thriller “Carrie” based on the Stephen King novel and starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.

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“Carrie” is a reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White (Moretz), a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, Margaret (Moore). The teenaged girl unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.

The filmmaker talks about the eagerly anticipated remake in the following interview.

Question. What was your reaction when you first heard about the opportunity of shooting a new version of “Carrie”?

Kimberly Peirce. I loved [Brian] De Palma’s version of the movie. So, out of respect for a friend and a fellow director who had made a classic with this material I called him and expressed my interest in doing a contemporary version. And he said, “You’ve got to do it!”

Q. What appealed to you about this story that made you want to direct it?

Peirce. When I re-read King’s amazing book I was hit by the sheer fun and power of the story and his storytelling and the delight he takes with all his characters. I wanted to bring the audience as deeply as possible inside Carrie’s journey - inside her intense longing and effort to be a normal teenager amidst the mockery of her peers; inside her discovery and use of these amazing powers; inside her strange and deep bond with her religious and protective mother, Margaret; and inside the fatal conflicts that arise as Carrie ventures into the world to become a woman.

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Q. How do you see Carrie?

Pierce. I see her as someone who is poor, self-sheltered, innocent and desperately curious about the world.

Q. Why did you choose Chloe Moretz for the main role of Carrie in this new film?

Peirce. There are many kids that try to be actors every year, but Chloe is someone who has been consistently cast in movies and done good work. And she has great screen presence! So, that’s where we started with her…

Q. And what has she been like to work with?

Peirce. Chloe Moretz is amazing! Obviously any director is going to say that about their main actor, but what is unique about her is that she is a wonderful performer that has beautifully been able to play a really precocious adult aged-up girl. She is on the verge of blossoming, and this is the story of a girl who blossoms. So, we also had youth on our side.

Q. What is her relationship with her mother Margaret like in your eyes?

Peirce. Margaret and Carrie’s profound mother/daughter relationship is the heart and soul of the movie as Margaret tries to prevent her daughter from growing up and using her powers. From there you widen out to include all the other characters that help to push Carrie to her ultimate end. I wanted to make an emotional, modern and very fun version of this story.

Q. How did you encourage Chloe to go through that transformation?

Peirce. By telling her that she had to have a teenage rebellion. That got her interested… And, in acting terms, she did it!

Q. And what can you say of Julianne Moore, who plays Carrie’s mother?

Peirce. Julianne is a dream to work with! She has experience and great command of her craft. And she also has fantastic instincts, a wild side, and a willingness to go over the edge where you want and need her to go to bring the character to life. As a writer/director you write material, you imagine how it will be performed and, if you’re lucky, you get an actor of Julianne’s caliber and talent who takes it to a whole new place which is deeper, more real and more specific than you imagined. She is mesmerizing and the soul of this movie with Chloe.

Q. Do you believe that being a woman helped you identify even better with Carrie and her story?

Peirce. I like to think that men and women can direct the same movies; but certainly, as a director, you draw from your own experience. I have a mother, and there are some mother/daughter issues that are mind-blowing in this movie. And I can also identify with being a teenage girl that had a rebellion! So, you grab what you can from your experience but also leap forward to tell your story.

Q. Was it a big undertaking to tell a story that has so many fans from its past incarnations?

Peirce. I didn’t initially see the connection between my work and a horror remake, but when I re-read the book it hit me on such a personal and deep level. Like my other films this one is a protagonist-driven story, yet it is also a rich ensemble piece. Carrie draws a number of vibrant characters that both aid and obstruct her into her journey. And, as she comes into conflict with each of them, their fates collide into a wonderfully emotional and physically violent climax. What thrilled me about doing Carrie was being able to continue this kind of work and amplify it using genre, fantasy, and Visual FX into a new and thrilling landscape.

Q. Did you embrace the opportunity to work with visual effects in this film then?

Peirce. It’s exciting as a filmmaker to be able to play with newer and bigger tools, but the key for me is to remain constantly grounded in story and character. I hope you’re madly in love with and engaged by Carrie, her mother, the other characters and the story, furthered by the effects.

Q. How did you shoot the famous scene where they dump blood on Carrie during her prom?

Peirce. Usually you cover action sequences with multiple cameras because you typically get only one or two chances with it. We needed the blood dump to be as impactful, terrifying and fun as possible. So, we did months of research and development, tested dozens of blood dumps, and found every possible problem. A straightforward bucket pour misses the target; but, using a chute, which guarantees a direct hit, it causes the human head to act like an umbrella, sending liquid flying off. Thin blood falls off; thick blood is gross and gooey; too little blood runs out; too much is an avalanche. We went from 3 to 4 to 5 gallons, settled on 5 feet above, chose a 45-degree cascading pour, and set the viscosity and thickness to get the right look. And still we had no guarantees it would work when Chloe was under the rig. We were literally all holding our breath, and then it worked! People have asked me how much blood we used in making the movie… I would guess about 1000 gallons!

(Opening across the Philippines in Oct. 16, 2013, “Carrie” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.)

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