“I had a moment two years ago when I was super unhappy with the projects I was putting out,” actress Chloë Grace Moretz said at a Provincetown Film Festival event earlier this year. “I had a really rough time with the studio system and trying to get questions answered. I was confronted with these aggressively large hurdles and I was like — ‘I’m tired of trying to hurdle a system which is set up for me to fail.'”
At 21, Moretz spoke with the world-weary wisdom of that battle-hardened show business veteran that she is. After becoming a successful child actor, Moretz parlayed a string of pulpy horror movies into a career as one of the most sought-after young actresses in Hollywood. She moved into accessible comedies with “500 Days of Summer,” “Hugo,” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and returned to artier horror like “Let Me In” and “Carrie.” To the mainstream, however, Moretz is perhaps best known as teenage super-heroine Hit-Girl in the raunchy action-comedy “Kick-Ass.”
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“For instance, a big character I was gonna play, they wanted to put me away for the last three minutes of the movie and have a man fight my battle,” said Moretz, declining to name the project. “I was like, ‘I’m so confused, how is this even a question?’ It just seemed a little regressive and not exciting. I was 18 and looking at these adult people and giving them a very solid argument.”
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Against her agents’ wishes, she pulled out of her movies and re-evaluated her artistic goals. Moretz said she asked herself: “What content can I be putting out that feels progressive, that feels like it’s doing something for my soul? And the first movie that really connected to me was ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post.'”
The second feature from “Appropriate Behavior” director Desiree Akhavan, “Cameron Post” is the first of two dramas coming out in 2018 about gay conversion therapy, a harmful practice still legal in 36 states. (Joel Edgerton’s similarly themed “Boy Erased,” starring Lucas Hedges, comes out this fall, and Jamie Babbit’s “But I’m a Cheerleader” tackled the topic with campy absurdity in 1999.)
In “Cameron Post,” Moretz plays the title character, a young woman whose evangelical guardians ship her off to a conversion facility after catching her making out with a girl on prom night. Once there, she befriends a crew of misfits (Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, and Emily Skeggs) while contending with the center’s adult counselors, one disarmingly friendly (John Gallagher Jr.), the other chillingly severe (Jennifer Ehle).
“Cameron Post” won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, a boon for Akhavan as well as Moretz. With a plum role in Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated “Suspiria” remake, Moretz’s pivot to indies is clearly panning out — if not financially, certainly in reputation. All because she went against her agents’ advice.
“My agents were really against it. They thought I shouldn’t take a risk on this. They were like — ‘You’re crazy. You’re gonna lose your career,'” Moretz recalled. “I was up in the $100-million-dollar studio system, and crashed back down to a barely $1 million dollar movie. With this amazing script and a character that a lot of people would have shied away from.”
“Cameron Post” has inspired Moretz personally, as well: She recently sold a docu-series about conversion therapy to “a very big network.” Moretz will produce the series with her mother and brother, Trevor Duke-Moretz, who is also her manager. She said she originally accepted the role because of her two gay brothers, citing “pray the gay away” as a common refrain in her Texas hometown.
“It was closer to home for me than even I was aware,” she said, explaining that Trevor confided that he went to church for 8 months after realizing he was gay to “try to pray it out.” “That’s just the conditioning that we came from,” she added.
In their research, Moretz and Akhavan spoke to conversion therapy survivors, and both were shocked to learn how common the practice remains. They went in expecting the survivors to be middle-aged, and instead found every survivor was under 30. “That was so jarring,” said Moretz. Although many of the scenes are based on real survivor stories, Moretz said some stories were too awful to be believed. “Some of the stuff we couldn’t even put in because it would have felt implausible.”
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” opens in select theaters on August 3.