As the director behind Boys Don’t Cry and Stop-Loss, Kimberly Peirce could not have been a more perfect choice to helm the remake of Carrie. Also, as a huge fan of Stephen King’s book Carrie, she can pay it the respect it deserves while simultaneously having a command of the material to elevate it to further heights.
Movie Fanatic caught up with Kimberly Peirce for an exclusive interview about why Carrie resonates now more than ever, convincing star Chloe Moretz to forget about her adoration of Julianne Moore in order to “fight back” and how the story of Carrie transcends the horror genre.
Movie Fanatic: What was your first memory of Carrie? Was it Stephen King’s book or the Brian De Palma movie?
Kimberly Peirce: It was the book. It was this feeling that this girl that I just loved and I wanted to be with and felt connected to. I think I absorbed all her strangeness and could relate to it. There were elements of me that were very conventional and worked in a popular world and there were elements that didn’t.
Movie Fanatic: Your Carrie is incredibly timely and also incredibly timeless. What do you think it is about the Carrie story that is more relevant than ever?
Kimberly Peirce: King is such a good writer. He writes so naturally, but he also writes from the subconscious, a lot like Grimm used to do in terms of collecting fairy tales. Those were stories that were told all over, and they pulled the best versions of them. That’s in a lot of ways what Carrie is, only King originated it. If you look at it, it works on a level of myth. Here’s the girl who’s the misfit at home and at school. She gets a power. The power gives her an opportunity to be in the world. Well, those things tend to have both sides to them. It could be dangerous. It gets the opportunity at love, but that comes about because somebody hurt her and it’s not real. It’s this perfect coming together of these forces that you know is going to explode. You’re watching it tick. We’re all saying, “Don’t go to prom.” It’s not going to go well. You see those forces coming together. It’s a Cinderella story that’s been turned on its head.
Movie Fanatic: And when he wrote it, in the 1970s... King was living in a world of emerging female power.
Kimberly Peirce: Yes! Women have always had power and women were just getting power socially. So women’s lib, this is a fantasy and a fear of when women have power. This is a fantasy and fear about women’s sexuality. With the period comes the power. He was looking forward as a man in the 1970s. Well, women have had that power. They lost that power. It’s been interesting to see women navigating those powers. Certainly, violence in our culture… domestic violence, school violence, it always existed, but it’s more in the modern culture.
Movie Fanatic: You had your fair share of challenges tackling this story. If there was one that you are particularly proud of triumphing, what was it?
Kimberly Peirce: Since Carrie is the main character and the Carrie and Margaret (her mother) relationship is fundamental, it's the gear that drives the story forward. It was vital that you love Carrie. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t identify with her being bullied. You wouldn’t be on the revenge tale. It was identifying with her at school, but mostly at home. Here’s a scene that doesn’t seem as important as the rest, but probably the mine of where this all works. Chloe was quite confident and that needed to be brought down. We were shooting a scene in the house and Julianne had come and it was the scene where she is locking her in the closet. What was vital about that scene is that Margaret has always been the dominator. This was the day when Carrie was going to start fighting against her mother. Julianne goes to lock her in the closet and it was very easy. I thought, “Oh, no. These two need to have a war. This girl needs to grow up and have an adolescent rebellion.” I told Chloe to not let Julianne put her in the closet. Julianne pushed her into the closet, but I encouraged Chloe to not give in. Make her work for it. I told Chloe to fight for her life. All of a sudden, about seven takes in, she took control and refused to go in that closet. She’s like a horse! That’s drama.
Movie Fanatic: I’ve always been so impressed with Julianne Moore. As somebody who has studied acting, what do you see in her that has made her so extraordinary?
Kimberly Peirce: It’s hard to quantify. Julianne has had a fascinating career because she’s really followed her talent and instrument and her heart. She’s done both Hollywood movies and independent movies. I love her for that because that’s how you keep your craft of acting moving forward. She comes to your set with sheer talent, professionalism and knowing her instrument and she’s an extraordinary human being. That’s just what she is.
Movie Fanatic: Carrie is a horror movie, but also transcends the genre. Do you agree?
Kimberly Peirce: Carrie is a horror movie but yes, it transcends it and brings more to it. You have an amazing protagonist that you love. That protagonist is in conflict with her mother, the spine of the story. It reaches out to everybody because it’s classically structured. It has these secondary characters where these girls who bullied her go very different ways. One tries to atone by having her boyfriend take her to the prom and the other digs in even deeper and bullies further. Frankly, the one trying to atone… [whispers] should have said, “I’m sorry!”