Kimberly Peirce is aware there’s a lot at stake on her new re-imagining of Stephen King’s classic Carrie (in theaters today). In the nearly 15 years since Boys Don’t Cry — the searing 1999 drama about murdered transgender male Brandon Teena — launched her directing career and won Hilary Swank an Academy Award for the year’s best actress, the out 46-year-old filmmaker had made only one other film, the 2008 Iraq war drama Stop-Loss.
Perhaps weighing just as much as living up to perceived industry expectations is the knowledge that both the 1974 novel Carrie is considered sacred by countless queer people who relate to the bullied telekinetic titular character. Probably just as many consider Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation, which scored Oscar nods for stars Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, to be unsurpassable. The gifted Peirce offers her own take on the material and makes it into a timely 21st century tale that incorporates social media as a bullying device, and features rich characterizations by Chloe Grace Moretz as the heroine and, especially, Julianne Moore as her religious fanatic mother. Peirce chatted with Queerty about why the story still resonates with gay audiences.
Probably more than any horror film, the original Carrie holds a particularly special place for LGBT audiences. How do you account for this?
I think the story of Carrie is so relevant to queer people because it’s so emblematic of the queer experience. If you’re queer and you live in a heteronormative society, you are the outcast. You are the misfit, even as our communities find a way to give us self worth or a sense of pride. Why do we have pride marches? We have them because society took away our sense of pride. We want to go out into the street and say, “we’re here, we’re queer, accept us.” So I just think part of the idea of being queer, although it’s changing because we’re becoming part of the mainstream, was we didn’t have enough societal pride and we were in search of it. I think a lot of queer people have felt they were the misfit. Whether you’re a gay man or lesbian, or wherever you fall under the umbrella, they went through stuff like this. I think that’s why people relate to it.
Is it fair to say that Carrie is in some ways a companion piece to Boys Don’t Cry?
Absolutely. I think that they come from the same DNA, interestingly. They seem so different. You have a really strong central protagonist whose need is to get love and acceptance. They’re not getting that it from basic society. Brandon transforms himself into the male he believes he should be and dates women he wants to. Carrie is like, I’ve got superpowers I think I’m going to use them. I think I’m going to go to prom with the boy I like and with the powers I have. It was the same with Brandon, thinking I’ll go down to Lincoln living as a man instead of falls city and see what happens. They both build to this explosive and tragic inevitability.
And I think the difference is that Brandon Teena was cut down and died. He lived large and experienced the fullness of his identity, but he paid the price of death for it. The thing about Carrie is she takes the power into her own hands. I think that’s why people feel a sense of empowerment because she has powers and when you mess with her she messes back.
Right. And I’d say Carrie is the ultimate fantasy revenge tale for LGBT people.
I think it’s a fantasy for anybody who wants a sense of justice. What I’m very protective of is I made it very clear that Carrie went after the very people who did her wrong. It’s a very classic justice and revenge story. Once her powers come out she looks for Chris, she looks for Billy, she looks for their accomplices. One by one she goes after them and has a big showdown outside the school. I think the sense of the revenge fantasy is really important – and fun and entertaining.
Watch the trailer below.
A version of this interview also appears in Frontiers magazine.
The director is making me more and more critical of this movie before I even see it.
The trailer leaves no need to see the film. Even if you’ve never seen the original, it tells the entire story and shows every single milestone. I can’t imagine anyone who has seen the trailer feeling the need to go see this -and if they do, they’ll leave feeling disappointed that there wasn’t more to it. My only curiosity is, “Will it have the same final shot?”
Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie ARE unsurpassable. I won’t see this like I skipped the TV remake. It would just frustrate me.
Speaking of trailers that tell the entire story, I saw the “Dallas Buyers Club” one about the HIV positive man Matthew McConaughey is in and talk about showing the entire movie in chronological order in a trailer. Guy is jerk, guy gets HIV and is shocked, guy hates trans woman, guy befriends trans woman, guy goes to Mexico to get HIV meds, guy starts business to get HIV meds to patients, guy gets in trouble with authorities, guy dies. All in the trailer.
Mr. E. Jones
I read the NYT interview she did. The part where she recounts her discussion with de Palma about the bucket of blood scene is cringe inducing.
Brian DePalma’s Carrie is a classic, but there really is room for a different version I think, and I’m generally a horror film purist.
We have a different understanding of “bullying” than in 1976, when the original movie was made. At first Piper Laurie’s thought it was a comedy because because the part was so OTT. Unfortunately we now know that Jesus-freaks like Margaret White actually exist and they aren’t in the least bit funny.
The original was not a direct adaptation of King’s story, but this one stays way more closer to his original storyline. So even if you decide not to see it, many King fans will, as well as fans of Julianne Moore due to this.
you mean the trailer showed the actual historical storyline which can also be read anywhere – ya don’t say.
Ya know they did the same with that film about Harvey Milk…amazing! ;0
As a fan of King’s novel and DePalma’s ’76 film, I’m compelled to point out the obvious discrepancy in the comparison: Carrie White wasn’t a thief, a forger, and didn’t mask her identity in an effort to have sex with 13-year-old girls.
I’ve heard good things about Julianne Moore’s portrayal of the mother…I mean come on, Piper Laurie went WAAAAY over the top. It was great, but Moore could go another way and be great.
HOWEVER, my issue is that it gets boring after a while when a movie casts somebody beautiful to play the part of a girl who was bullied for being awkward, unattractive etc… and then puts her in a sweatshirt and tells her to put her head down, because you know THAT will make her ugly.
They are basically proving the scene in that movie “Not Another Teen Movie” where the girl was supposedly ugly, and the makeover she got to be beautiful was taking off her glasses and undoing her ponytail. lol
@Cam: Believe it or not, I couldn’t agree with you more. (See? We can be friends. Let’s go to the movies!)
Hmmm, (Looking Around) there must be a historical marker here somewhere!!
I usually don’t like remakes anyhow. They just seem like what they are – cheap imitations. Case in point.. “POSEIDON”
@BJ McFrisky: @Cam: Wait. You two like each other now? I… I need to lie down. My head hurts.
@Caliban: That’s an excellent point. I agree that our heightened awareness of bullying, particularly against LGBT youth, lends a different perspective to this version. I’ve seen so far a rave review or two of this “Carrie” that places it above the ’76 film, in part because of Julianne Moore’s more chillingly realistic portrayal of the mom.
@Cam: Depends on how the script is written, styling done, and how the actors carry things out. And even so, you see those things happen in real life anyway. I was part of the misfits group in high school, and one of my closest friends was one of the most beautiful girls on campus, short, raven haired, clear skin, and a voluptuous hourglass figure. But her interests (manga, anime, & j-pop) and her dress style (tame goth meets subdued cosplay) made her too independent and different to fit in with the “populars”, not to mention the drama she had going on at home. So if the role is written right and the actor can make the character real, and the supporting actors perform accordingly, I’m good.
No matter if she’s cute though, when you have that home life (SEVERELY RADICAL Christian mother) you gain tons of characteristics that would have you unlikely to fit in. From a young age she’d be unable to hang out with kids who didn’t come from homes as strictly religious as hers. She wouldn’t get to have access to secular anything (music, tv, technology, etc). She wouldn’t get to learn about things that we think of as commonplace (anything sexual such as hormones, menstruation,protection, etc.) or that brings out a girl’s natural beauty (basic make-up, current hairstyles, current fashion, etc.) These are things that are obviously noticeable by others and in the shallow world of high school will have others readily shunning or shaming you. And no matter how pretty you may be inside and out, if everyone else continues to tell you that you are ugly, that’s how you may start to feel.
Let’s go to the movies?wish it will not let me down
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