Carrie: Julianne Moore on Stephen King as “Humanist”

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In the remake of Carrie, filmmakers wisely cast the roles of the title character and her slightly off-kilter mother. As previewed in the Carrie trailer, Chloe Moretz is Carrie and Julianne Moore is her mother, and the pair are tremendous together in the haunting update of the 1970s classic.

Julianne Moore Chloe Moretz Carrie

Moore portrays Carrie’s mother a little differently than in the original, and as seen in this Carrie clip, whenever she feels her daughter has sinned, she locks her in a closet and tells her to pray. For Moore, regardless of the character’s mental state, the process has to always be the same.

“It just has to do with what the material is and what you’re thinking about and what you think would be interesting about her, what’s complicated. I loved all the self-mutilation. When I was thinking about the notion of abuse, because what we see in the book is Carrie’s mother being really strict, putting her in that closet and making her pray and having all these rules, I was trying to think about other stuff that went along with who she was and what a psychopath she was,” Moore said.

“I thought one of the most abusive things to do to a child is to inflict pain on yourself because kids can’t bear it. They don’t want to lose their parent. They don’t want that parent to be hurt. It’s the idea that the very first image you see of her perceiving she does something wrong, she comes up and her mother’s hitting her head up against the wall, and she’s like, ‘Stop it. Please stop it.’ So it was those kind of textures I went for.”

Part of that process is finding the look, the walk, the mannerisms and frailty of this woman. “She’s kind of a hag, right? Oh my God,” Moore said and laughed. “That’s how I looked on the set. I was just so dreadful, no makeup and then all my cuts and everything like that and bruises on my head and scraggly hair.”

Julianne Moore in Carrie

Moore had been quoted as saying that Hannibal was the most pressure she felt before doing a film. Now that Moore is cast in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, does she find that a new level of pressure? Or, how about following up a classic horror film like she is with Carrie?

“I don’t really think about that, to be honest with you. It sounds silly to say that I don’t think about the outcome. But I can’t think about the outcome. That’s not part of my job. My job is really to try to figure out who my character is and how my character exists within the story. Other than that, it’s all out of my hands,” Moore said.

“I try to do my job the best way I can.”

Being a huge Stephen King fan, she was taken by the story of how King’s first novel even came to be as an example of not worrying about the outcome and simply just doing your best. “I love the novel. He wrote this novel, then he threw it away and his wife fished it out of the trash,” Moore said and smiled.

“He had based this character Carrie on these two girls that he went to school with, both of whom were extremely marginalized by their situations -- one by extreme poverty, the other one by her parents’ very extreme religious views. Neither one of those girls lived very long. They both died in their 20s. So this is a book that’s really about the consequences of social isolation. That to me was fascinating.”

As iconic as Brian De Palma’s Carrie is, with such a rich text from King to work from, Moore felt a professional honor to bring his first book’s true themes to life.

“There’s a tremendous amount of stuff to draw on in there,” Moore said. “The thing that Stephen King does in such magnificent ways is that he takes these social issues, in all his books really, and complicated characters and he makes them wildly entertaining and sometimes involves paranormal. So it’s very interesting for me to explore in that way.”

Julianne Moore Stars in Carrie

And Moore also believes that although there is a mother-daughter story at the center of Carrie, it is not necessarily a female-centric tale. “I think that one of the great things about great writers is that they don’t feel that they’re writing stuff that’s gender specific,” she said. “I think Stephen King is a humanist.”

So, when did Moore first recall seeing the original Carrie and what was her reaction to it? “I saw it in 1975 with everybody else! There was a long, long line for the movies. It snaked all the way out into the parking lot, like curled around and stuff, and we all were waiting to go in and couldn’t go in until the other kids came out,” Moore recalled.

“The kids that came out were ashen. They were just white. They looked terrified. So we were like, 'Oh my God. What could it be? What could it be?' Of course the original, it’s not that scary until the very last moment and then you’re just terrified.”

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