Chloë Grace Moretz Wants To 'Fear The Next Step' | WYPR

Chloë Grace Moretz Wants To 'Fear The Next Step'

Feb 23, 2019

In the new horror-thriller film Greta, Frances and the titular Greta find each other in a time-honored old movie way: Frances sees a woman's handbag in a seat on the New York subway. This nice young woman, who has just come to New York, does a nice thing.

She opens the bag, finds a wallet, ignores the money, and returns the bag to its owner, who turns out to be an elegant older woman full of conspicuous kindness and courtesy. They seem happy to find each other.

"I don't get many visitors here. I've been so lonely since my daughter left," Greta says. "I can help you," Frances responds. My mom actually used to say I'm like chewing gum."

Watch out! What starts as poignant turns toxic.

The acclaimed French actress Isabelle Huppert plays Greta. And the fresh-faced young woman, Frances, is portrayed by Chloë Grace Moretz, who has been a working actor and star since she was about six. "It's always an interesting experience filming a thriller or a horror movie," Moretz says, "because you're dealing in emotions that are very heightened, and especially with this film, Isabelle and I felt it was very important to grow that friendship in the beginning, so when it does turn, and you find out who Greta really is, it comes as a sucker punch, and almost more so a heartbreak than just the fear that you feel in that moment."


Interview Highlights

On the character of Frances

I've played a lot of characters since I was a young girl that were very steadfast, and very loud and boisterous in a lot of ways, and this character is one that is much more of a sober character, you know, she lost her mother about seven months prior to when we meet her, so she carries a lot of weight on her. And you know, she comes from a small town in Massachusetts and she's living in the big city for the first time, you know, I wanted to kind of keep that sentiment about her, where she isn't cynical, she isn't worn down by it yet.

On having fun playing against Isabelle Huppert

She is someone that I have looked up to for my entire career, she is a French cinema icon ... to be able to carry this movie in a two-hander with her, to go 50-50 with her was such an honor and we had so much fun playing these characters ... I think when you're dealing with such dark circumstances, you do try break the silence a little bit, and she and I — well, not to give too much away, but there's a moment in the story where Isabelle's character loses an appendage. In that movie we had prosthetics, and it was this funny thing that we kept having popping up, in different coffee cups and meals on set, where this bloody appendage would just float around set.

On whether being a child actress means missing out on childhood

I want to continue to question myself ... and have myself fear the next step that I'm going to take, because I think through fear is how you blaze a new trail within your own heart and within your own mind. - Chloë Grace Moretz

You know, I've had so many years to really think about it ... Of course, I wasn't in your typical school system, I was home-schooled since I was nine years old. But I had this ability to travel around the world and be surrounded by people like Martin Scorsese at 13 years old, and Tim Burton at 14 years old, and Sir Ben Kingsley and Julianne Moore ... for me it was one of the most special experiences, to be able to be a kid and be surrounded by people of so much inspiration, and to get inside their minds. I wouldn't give anything in the world to change my childhood.

On where she wants to go next

A few years ago now I took a year and a half off to reconfigure where I was and really start this next iteration of my career, as the adult that I now am, on the right foot. And for me, this hopefully next 20, 30, 40 years I want to continue to question myself, and to find anonymity in the characters that I take on, and have myself fear the next step that I'm going to take, because I think through fear is how you blaze a new trail within your own heart and within your own mind.

The easiest thing you can do as an actor is to know you're good at certain areas of what you do, and to continue to do them. But to call yourself out, and to slam yourself against a wall a little bit, and be like, stop it and try this, is very terrifying, honestly, and you end up really questioning yourself. But in the end it's really empowering.

This story was edited for radio by Viet Le, produced by Sophia Boyd, and adapted for the Web by Petra Mayer.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Frances and Greta find each other in an honored, old-movie way. Frances sees a woman's handbag in a seat in the New York subway. This nice, young woman who has just come to New York does a nice thing. She opens the bag, finds a wallet, ignores the money and returns the bag to its owner. She turns out to be an elegant older woman with conspicuous kindness and courtesy. They seem happy to find each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GRETA")

ISABELLE HUPPERT: (As Greta Hideg) I don't get many visitors here. I've been so lonely since my daughter left.

CHLOE GRACE MORETZ: (As Frances McCullen) I could help you. My mom actually used to say I'm like chewing gum.

SIMON: Watch out. What starts as poignant turns toxic. "Greta" is a new horror thriller by Neil Jordan. Greta is played by Isabelle Huppert, the acclaimed French actress. And the fresh-faced young woman, Frances, is portrayed by Chloe Grace Moretz, who's been a working actor and star since she was about 6 years old. Chloe Grace Moretz joins us now from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

MORETZ: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Boy, this film can be frightening to watch. What was it like to make?

MORETZ: You know, I think it's always an interesting experience filming a thriller or a horror movie because you're dealing in emotions that are very heightened. And especially with this film, Isabelle and I found it really important to grow that friendship in the beginning so when it does turn, and you find out who Greta really is, it comes as a sucker punch and almost, you know, more so a heartbreak than just the fear that you feel in that moment.

SIMON: Frances, your character, tells her much more cynical roomie at some point that she's going to return the bag because, where I come from that's what we do. How do you see that character of Frances?

MORETZ: Well, I find Frances an interesting character for me to take on. You know, I've played a lot of characters in - you know, since I was a young girl that were very steadfast and very loud and boisterous in a lot of ways. And this character is one that is much more of a sober character. You know, she lost her mother about seven months prior to when we meet her. So she carries a lot of weight on her. And, you know, she comes from a small town in Massachusetts. And she's living in the big city for the first time. And, you know, I wanted to kind of keep that sentiment about her where she isn't cynical. You know, she isn't worn down by it yet.

SIMON: Was it at all intimidating to have to play scenes jaw to jaw with Isabelle Huppert?

MORETZ: Most definitely. You know, she is someone that, you know, I have looked up to for my entire career. But she is a French cinema icon. You know, she's someone that everyone knows - the formidable Isabelle Huppert. But to be able to carry this movie, you know, in a two-hander with her, to go 50/50 with her was such an honor. And we had so much fun playing these characters.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GRETA")

HUPPERT: (As Greta Hideg) I'm lonely.

MORETZ: (As Frances McCullen) Greta, everybody's lonely. That does not mean that you get to follow people around and terrorize them.

HUPPERT: (As Greta Hideg) Everybody needs a friend. You said you always stick around like chewing gum.

SIMON: I have to ask - what was remotely fun about it? (Laughter).

MORETZ: So much, actually. I think when you're dealing with such dark circumstances, you do try to break the silence a little bit. And she and I - well, not to give too much away. But there's a moment in this story where Isabelle's character loses an appendage. And, of course, with that said moment...

SIMON: Oh, yeah. That doesn't give too much away. But go ahead, yes.

MORETZ: (Laughter). In that type movie, we have prosthetics. And it was this funny thing that we kept having popping up in different coffee cups and meals on set.

SIMON: Oh.

MORETZ: Yes.

SIMON: Oh.

MORETZ: Where this bloody appendage would just float around set. So the little things were always there, most definitely.

SIMON: All right. That's funny.

MORETZ: Yeah.

SIMON: All right. I got to ask you a question about being a child actress.

MORETZ: Yes, go ahead.

SIMON: With respect for you and your parents...

MORETZ: Mmm hmm.

SIMON: ...Do you think becoming a child star took you away from childhood?

MORETZ: You know, I've had so many years to really think about it. And being 22 now, for me, I think - of course, I wasn't in your typical school system. I was home-schooled since I was 9 years old. But I had this ability to travel around the world and to be surrounded by people like Martin Scorsese at 13 years old and Tim Burton at 14 years old and Sir Ben Kingsley and Julianne Moore in...

SIMON: Excuse me.

MORETZ: ...Another sense.

SIMON: This is on the edge of rubbing it in. But go ahead.

MORETZ: (Laughter) No problem. But for me, it was one of the most special experiences to be able to be a kid and to be surrounded by people of so much inspiration and to get inside their minds. I wouldn't give anything in the world to change my childhood.

SIMON: Where do you see your career going now?

MORETZ: So a few years ago now, I took a year and a half off to reconfigure where I was and really start this next iteration of my career as, you know, the adult that I now am on the right foot. And, you know, for me, this, you know, hopefully next 20, 30, 40 years, I want to try to continue to question myself and to find anonymity in the characters that I take on and have myself fear the next step I'm going to take because I think through fear is how you blaze a new trail within your own heart and within your own mind. So I'd like to continue to try and keep guessing, you know, and not just become complacent.

SIMON: Find anonymity.

MORETZ: Yes. You know, anonymity to me is something that - growing up with my face in movies for so many years, even if I was doing, you know, a comedy or a horror or a romance or, you know, whatever else, I felt that there was a preconceived notion of what I would be like on screen. And I think we have these emotional tropes in our lives where we have a certain cry. We have a certain laugh. We have a certain smile. We have a certain way of saying I love you. And I wanted to 180 from that and to go the complete opposite direction.

SIMON: So in a sense finally get your instinctive reactions and...

MORETZ: Precisely. Yeah.

SIMON: Boy, that's got to be rough.

MORETZ: It is daunting. I mean, it is something where - you know, it's like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. It's - the easiest thing you can do as an actor is to know you're good at certain areas of what you do and to continue to do them. But to call yourself out and to, you know, slam yourself against a wall a little bit and be like, stop it and try this is very terrifying, honestly. And you end up really questioning yourself. But in the end, it's really empowering.

SIMON: I hope you don't hurt yourself against the wall.

MORETZ: (Laughter) I'll try. I'll wear a helmet.

SIMON: Chloe Grace Moretz, who stars in Neil Jordan's film "Greta," thanks so much for being with us.

MORETZ: Thank you very much. This was a wonderful conversation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.