New York Comic Con, like most every other comic book, sci-fi or fantasy convention on planet Earth, is notoriously a boys club, designed chiefly for adolescent males (or the adolescent males in grown men). But on Saturday, Comic Con got a much-needed blast of feminine fresh air, as the stars and director of the upcoming “Carrie” remake took the stage at the IGN Theater – Julianne Moore, director Kimberly Peirce, and Chloe Grace Moretz were on hand as was producer Kevin Misher. They talked about the differences in this film to the Brian De Palma original, how much they adored the Stephen King source material, and how many gallons of blood was used. They also showed a brand-new teaser that gives good hints at what’s to come.
First off, they showed a brief teaser trailer that was, if you were paying close enough attention, deceptively telling. The teaser consisted of a single shot, which starts at the high school, which of course is burning to the ground. But instead of stopping there, which was where the climax of De Palma’s film was almost exclusively staged, the camera cranes up and takes a gods-eye-view, surveying the entire town, as buildings tumble and burn. Over this cleary computer-assisted footage we hear various townspeople talking about what happened, everything from “I don’t want to say it was a government conspiracy, but…” to “Nobody thought she would…,” until we finally end up in the middle of town, where a teenage girl stands, in her prom dress, covered in blood.
This teaser says one thing, besides, “We have computers now!,” which is, that this is much, much more similar to the original King novel. Both the multiple narrators and the town-wide destruction suggest this. It made us curious as to what other elements the filmmakers would fold in from the original source material, and how closely they’d be hedging to the Brian De Palma adaptation.
That was one of the first questions Peirce addressed, actually, and she did so thoughtfully. “I do want to do a shout out to Brian. He set a lot in motion by making a fantastic movie,” Pierce said humbly. “I’m a friend of his but I didn’t take anything from his movie. I took a lot from reading Stephen King’s fantastic novel – Carrie’s plight, Carrie’s mother, and thinking ‘My god, this is a fantastic story.’ That was always what I went back to.” Pierce added that it wasn’t just her who was obsessed with tapping the King novel (a novel that, infamously, King’s wife rescued from the trash bin after he had given up on it). “The cast always took us right back to the book. They share this love for King’s material.” It should be noted, though, that later in the panel, when someone asked about whether or not she’d be borrowing any De Palma flourishes, including his extensive use of split-screen in the final prom, Pierce teased, “It’s yet to be seen…”
Moretz and Moore seemed like the best of pals on stage (and really happy to be spending time with each other again), but said that their relationship on screen was occasionally pretty bizarre. “Julianne is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. We’d have to go from laughing and making jokes to her stabbing me,” Moretz said. “It’s a funny relationship we had. We’re cool.” Moore, who seemed to take a maternal role on and off camera, said, “I wanted it to be safe and comfortable and fun because I feel like the more connected you are as people, the further you can go as actors.” Moore then added, devilishly: “We were able to push it pretty far.”
Everyone on stage, you got the sense, knew how big the shoes were that they were stepping into. It’s a testament to their confidence that you came away from the panel feeling like “Carrie” had the possibility of being really, really great. Still, the legacy loomed large. Pierce started out by stating the differences in the actresses. “Chloe is an actual adolescent. Sissy was amazing but she was 26,” Pierce said. “There’s a teenager in a story about being a teenager. I felt incredibly lucky to have someone who is in that stage of her life.” Chloe, for her part, said (with surprising maturity), “Everyone always asks me, ‘Are you going to live up to Sissy’s character?’ I don’t know. But you have to be completely secure in what you’re doing and what you’re putting on screen.” Moretz added: “I just have to think about it like any other movie.”
“There was a lot of room out there, a lot of bandwith for ideas,” Peirce elaborated. “There was a number of things we could do now that were, for a lot of reasons, they couldn’t do back then. Ours is naturally its own thing. It’s been one of the most rewarding, crazy, fun experiences. The mother/daughter relationship really is profound and it’s the heart of our story.”
Another added dimension to this new version is that it is taking place during an era where bullying is more widely accepted as being an actual cultural phenomenon, one that should be closely monitored and prevented whenever possible. “The idea of bullying, certainly there is a wider awareness of bullying now. So I certainly think in some of the scenes there’s an awareness of the teacher and the school,” Pierce said. “There’s also a subplot about what one of the characters does in social media.” Moore added that she thought that Stephen King was ahead of his time for addressing this and suggested everyone read his brilliant nonfiction book “On Writing,” which gives background on the two young girls who inspired the Carrie character. “He took this really big idea about social marginalization and put it into an entertainment. In it we are reflecting something in society and in schools,” Moore said. “These people are flawed. And that’s really important. You’re seeing a flawed mother and high school students who are conflicted.” Moore suggested this empathetic element is part of makes King such a special storyteller. “One of the great things about Stephen King and this story is allows us to participate with many different ways.”
But social issues and mother-daughter bonds aside, “Carrie” is a balls-to-the-walls horror movie, one with a very drippy ending, followed by a whole lot of carnage. Of the “red bath,” Chloe Grace-Moretz said, “It was the most fun for about the first two weeks of it. And then it just got sticky and wet and it was 40 degrees outside.” Still, the blood became part of her character. “It was amazing because each day in the blood it became something else,” she said. “We had all these different types of blood – wet blood and fire blood – since we don’t shoot chronologically. Each day, the blood became part of who you are. I got used to going home every night covered in blood.” When an audience member asked Peirce to calculate how much fake blood she went through on “Carrie,” she did some quick math in her head. “5 gallons per bucket, 50 tests…” Pierce said. Then she turned to Chloe. “Bloodying you up…” Then she came up with a number (which could, for all we know, be a conservative estimate). “1000 gallons of fake blood!”
More nerve-wracking than a prom night gone wrong though, are the expectations of this remake, which is just around the corner. “Carrie” comes out in March and everyone will be watching (forgetting, perhaps, that just a few years ago there was a TV movie remake that aired on NBC). When an audience member suggested that the pressure was on, Peirce, who gives off a calming, Zen-like vibe of absolute confidence that never comes across as cockiness, said, “I didn’t feel any pressure because I fell deeply in love with the story. I just thought I would do it in a way with a great team that was really a blast. I respect the original but I didn’t feel any pressure.”
“Carrie” opens on March 15th. Bring your prom date.