At 12, Chloë Moretz caused a national stir when she played Kick-Ass' Hit-Girl, a possibly-brainwashed child assassin who chalks up 41 kills in the flick's 117-minute running time. (Though, this being America, most people were less upset by the blood then they were by her use of the c-word.) But everyone could agree on one thing: Chloë Moretz was bold, tough and a young actress to watch. And along with her new role in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, she was recently crowned CinemaCon's Female Star of Tomorrow. Though the truth is, Chloë Moretz is already the star of today—and if her roles in Kick-Ass, (500) Days of Summer, Let Me In and Hugo have yet to convince you, with the eight major movies she has coming out between now and the end of 2013, rest assured it's just a matter of time.
This version of Dark Shadows ages down your character Carolyn a lot. How does that change the family dynamic?
In the TV show, Carolyn was a lot different than who Carolyn is in the movie. But I think it's fun to have a young girl who's a 1970s hippie and she's just, "Free love!" It's really interesting because she brings this kind of youth to the dynamic of the family, this different outlook on life. I have some really interesting stuff that when people see the movie, they're definitely going to freak out.
Carolyn is from the '70s. In Hugo, you played a girl from the '30s, and Abby from in Let Me In is this ancient vampire from who knows how long ago. Where do you start in creating a young person from a different era?
Being a 15, 16-year-old girl in the 21st century is so different than being a young girl in the 1930s or the 1970s. I just try to strip away my modern instincts on life. I love being able to play someone else and not playing someone from recent times because, to me, people were so much more idealistic than they are nowadays. I feel like from a young age, now you're much more jaded. But in the 1930s, a young girl like Isabelle was so naïve and happy because she knew life through books. Carolyn in Dark Shadows is actually a bit more jaded, but she's more into "Just feel the earth!"—it's much more interesting than being on your phone all the time texting.
It's true. Carolyn's from an era where young people thought they really were creating a new way of living.
Exactly—she thinks she's bringing her old school family into the new world. "This is what is acceptable now." I guess it's still happening nowadays, but she's just a really funny character-she's definitely a character.
Did you listen to the music of the '70s to get inside her head?
Of course! I listened to The Carpenters, Simon and Garfunkel, so many amazing artists. My mom was actually 14 in 1972, which is when the movie takes place, so she told me what she went through at that exact time. I was just able to talk to Michelle Pfeiffer or my mom because they were the same age. What they were listening to, what they were doing at that time—I could grab off of them. I was pretty lucky to have that.
Does that mean there's a little bit of Michelle and your mom in your character?
Definitely. There's definitely a bit of both of them. And because Michelle plays my mom in the movie, I tried to pull little things out of her and put them into who Carolyn is.
Was a Tim Burton set what you expected from seeing his movies?
Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when I was going into it. I was like, "I wonder if everyone's really cool?" You never really know how everyone is going to be on a movie, but literally the minute I walked in, everyone welcomed me with open arms. They were all so, so, so nice. And the most normal people were Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, which you would never expect. You'd think they'd be eccentric, in the corner, kind of weird, but no—they're just normal guys doing what they love.
Is there a past Burton film that you would have loved to have been in at the time?
Of course—Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands. Any of those. They're some of my favorite movies of all time. And this movie is really a lot like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice because the original Dark Shadows was so close to him. Johnny and Tim grew up with it, so it's special to them, and I think that's why this movie is so special: they feel they need to do it the right way.
But for your generation—who has probably never heard of Dark Shadows before—what do you think is going to lure them to see the film?
I think just the fact that it's a Tim Burton and Johnny Depp movie. That's an automatic: "I have to go see this." But I think it's really that in the commercials, Tim is straddling this fine line of camp and drama. He perfectly goes through these stages where you're laughing, and then you're really scared, and then you're laughing again but you don't know why you're laughing because you're kind of scared. It's this amazing roller coaster of all these feelings, and at the same time, you'll be crying because you're like, "Oh my gosh, I'm feeling so much at one time." That's what's special about Tim is he breaks down the movie and puts every piece together, and he's so hands-on with his actors. He's more hands-on than anyone I've ever worked with.
The original show was famous for shooting scenes in one take. If Tim had gone that way to make the film really capture that offbeat tone, would you have been game for the risk?
That'd be really fun. It's definitely a modern-day movie where there's tons of different takes in one scene, but I'd love to do a movie like that. It'd be like doing a play. It'd be kind of scary, but definitely interesting to try to tackle. Sometimes, you'll mess up a line and be like, "Line!" and you'll have to cut and do it again. It's hard when you're working with stunts and stunt people where you have to shade in that they're doing the stunt. In the TV show, they didn't have crazy stunts, so it was a little different than doing this type of movie. There's definitely some really cool stunts that actors are not allowed to do. You could do it in one take, but it'd have to be more like a drama.
Are you still able to do all the stunts you learned from Kick-Ass? You've been busy with so many other types of films, have you been able to keep up with the physical training, too?
Definitely. I love doing my own stunts. Every film I do where there's a stunt, I always go straight to the director and go, "Look. I was trained for a very long time when I was younger and I know how to do a stunt, and I know how to do it the right way, and I know how to not get hurt." I tell them I want to do most of my stunts—as long as it's cleared by insurance and it's safe. Sometimes, they'll be like, "Insurance will not cover it—you cannot do this, we can't put you in that danger." But in this movie, I do 90 percent of my stunts. There's two different stunts that I don't do, but then I have this amazing stunt that I worked with my stunt girl on-she's so good.
Congratulations on just landing the lead in Carrie. What is it about the role that you find fascinating?
Thanks! It's an amazing role and I'm so excited to get in there and try to tackle it and see what I can change up. It's already been done and there's already been the amazing, amazing, amazing Sissy Spacek version of it, but what I really want to do is spice it up and take a more modern, younger approach to it because I am going through what Carrie is going through. She's figuring out who she is, and I just really want to get in there and see what I can do, feel it out.
You've been able to pick interesting characters, but I feel like most films written with parts for kids make the children way too innocent. Do you think that adults forget what being a kid is like?
That's one of the reasons I really wanted to do Carrie, actually, is there's something really special about getting the age perfect on a character. When you pass a a certain age, you have to try and remember what it was like living though that age. When you are that age, you're living through it so it's fresh and it's there and you know exactly how you would react. If you're going to get into a heated conversation, as an older person, you're going to be really defending yourself. But as a younger person, if you're talking to someone you really, really respect, you're going to allow their words to affect you somewhat before you end up defending yourself in the end. So it's a different spectrum-it's very slight and it's not even bad or good-it just makes it fresher when you've got that vulnerability. It's like cornering a dog. The dog's going to be scared, but once you corner the dog too much, it's going to bite you.
Is there an actress whose career you'd love to model yours after?
I take inspiration from a lot of different people and kind of compile it into one thing. I really love Audrey Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman and Grace Kelly.
What are the types of roles you've turned down because you didn't think they were right for the career path you want to be on?
There are definitely a lot of girl-meets-boy, boy and girl fall out of love, and then they get back together. There's nothing wrong with it at all, it's just that I love really deep and interesting projects that are nothing like me. I love getting roles that are so different from me as Chloë, because I feel automatically that if I do a role that's just like me in the movie for five months of my life, I'm going to get bored because I'm almost playing myself, which is what I do every day. I want to play something that's gong to excite me when I go to work. I want to feel, "I'm so excited to do this scene, I'm so excited to express these emotions that normal people really can't." And if you're having a bad day, you have this emotional outlet to direct all our feelings to and therapeutically and healthily let them go. I love playing dark characters.
In your upcoming Emily the Strange, there's two identical characters: the dark and depressing Emily, and then Molly, who's super over-the-top girly, something you rarely get to play. Will you get to play both?
We're still getting the script together, but yeah, I'd play both characters. It should be really interesting. But Molly's so girly, she's almost like a sociopath. She'll be fun.
What do you think the deal is with tabloids watching over young actresses and hoping they don't mess up, but at the same time hoping they do? Boys don't get that same scrutiny.
I have conversations with other actresses all the time about that. They don't try to pit young boys against each other like, "Who wore it best?!" They aren't like, "Who wore the Dolce suit better?!" No one does that with boys. But with girls, for some reason, they love the drama in it. It's their high school ways coming out. I'm really good friends with Abigail Breslin. She's a little bit older than me and we'd always known each other, but we became really good friends a little bit ago. It's funny how they're always like, "So-and-so and So-and-so battling it out!" No! That's not the way it is.
You have four older brothers. When work gets overwhelming, are they good at teasing you and cutting the tension?
I'm always kept down to earth by my brothers and my mom. They're always keeping me in my place and showing me that this is a privilege. I'm incredibly blessed to be able to do all of this, and that's the way we have to look at it. A lot of people will get in over their heads and start realizing how much press they're getting. They start reading the comments, and what my mom has always said is, "If you believe the good, then you're going to believe the bad." So I try to just keep on my path and we follow our instincts, which is definitely a gamble, but it's what I love doing so it's worth it.
What would you be doing if you weren't acting?
If I wasn't an actor, I'd probably be a normal girl. But I think I would definitely be a part of this industry in someway. When I'm older, it'd be producing or directing or writing—which I still want to do if I'm not successful as an actor, which I pray I am.