Director Kimberly Pierce speaks to Mini Anthikad-Chhibber about remaking Carrie The Popular and ultimate revenge of the nerds story

Stephen King, like Philip K. Dick, is a great favourite with Hollywood filmmakers with many of his works made into successful films. And just like Dick’s science fiction stories have been translated on to celluloid by some of Hollywood’s best and brightest (Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall and Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report among others) King’s tales have inspired Hollywood auteurs including Stanley Kubrick (The Shining) and Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption).

However, the movie that started it all was based on King’s first published novel, Carrie (1974). Master of style, Brian De Palma, heard of the book from a writer friend and expressed an interest in filming it. The film about a lonely misfit who unleashes her telekinetic powers and lays waste a town, was a critical and commercial hit. The 1976 film got Academy Award nominations for Sissy Spacek who played Carrie and Piper Laurie who played her mother.

Carrie, the ultimate revenge of the nerds story has had numerous avatars — a musical, a sequel and a TV film. And now comes news of a remake directed by Kimberly Pierce. The first reaction would be why Carrie a perfect movie loved and feted by critics and the public.

“Why Carrie, is a good question,” Kimberly says with a laugh over telephone from Los Angeles. “I read the novel as a child. I reread it when I was offered the film. It is an extraordinary novel. It is a classic Stephen King tale. I fell in love with Carrie White — she is a misfit, a profound protagonist, in a difficult relationship with her mother, Margaret, who is ambivalent about her daughter.”

Describing Brian De Palma’s film as iconic, the award-winning director of Boys Don’t Cry says: “Maybe I was naïve not to feel the burden. I didn’t set out to make a remake. It is a reimagining, an adaptation. I look at the novel as good source material. It is all about the book. I wanted Carrie to be about the mother-daughter relationship. It was an interesting challenge to feel the love amidst all the violence.”

A friend and great admirer of De Palma, Kimberly called to ask De Palma how he’d feel if she took on the project. De Palma apparently thought it was a great idea and gave Kimberly his blessing.

One of the enduring images of Carrie is blood. The movie opens with Carrie’s first period at gym. Then there is the bucket of blood emptied on Carrie at the prom. “I look at the period as emblematic of power, of a talent,” says Kimberly. “I have a talent to tell stories, you have a talent of writing and Carrie has telekinesis. I dove in, in a modern sense, to Carrie’s powers, what they are, how she explores them and how mastery of these powers defies her. They come when she wants them to, but also when she least expects them as a result of emotions she cannot control. I was thrilled to shape this into a super-hero origin story.”

Describing the film as “a revenge thriller with elements of horror and drama,” Kimberly says, “It is also the story of a mother and daughter, their relationship, both as a love affair and as a duel, forms the heart and soul of the movie. It is a story of justice.”

While the 1974 novel was set in the near future, 1979, and Kimberly describes the De Palma film as being of its time, this version of Carrie has been brought up to speed. “I loved the opportunity to modernise the story. Chris shoots Carrie’s shame on her smart phone and uploads it on YouTube.”

Talking about casting the title role, Kimberly says: “I looked at hundreds of girls in the U.S. and also internationally. Chloë (Grace Moretz) is extraordinarily talented. When I first met her, she was very confident. Chloe, a successful young actress with a loving family, is naturally very far from our character Carrie, an underprivileged girl who is mocked at school and repressed at home. We worked to help Chloe understand and inhabit the more difficult sides of life. I took Chloë to homeless shelters to make her understand we live a life of privilege, what if it were not so...”

Casting four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore as Carrie’s controlling, conflicted, deeply religious mother, Margaret, was a no-brainer according to the 46-year-old director. “Julianne was the only person who could play Margaret. I wanted a woman with gravitas and warmth. I cast warm actors. It is difficult to find an actor, a woman of a certain age with all these qualities. Julianne is on the top of the list.”

To all who feel the work is anti-religion, Kimberly insists she has “great respect towards religion and religious people. Margaret doesn’t practice Christianity or any particular religion rather it is her own religion.”

The new version of Carrie will surely offer a different perspective. Whether better or worse will be revealed on January 17 when the film opens at a theatre near you.