Kimberly Peirce on “Carrie”: “You do the best you can”

The "Boys Don't Cry" director opens up about her experience working with the studios -- and what's next VIDEO

Topics: Video, carrie, kimberly peirce, Julianne Moore, Boys Don't Cry, Stop-Loss, Chloe Moretz,

Kimberly Peirce on "Carrie": "You do the best you can"Julianne Moore and Chloe Moretz in "Carrie" (Credit: MGM Pictures/Michael Gibson)

“I just want to say, too, that we won a People’s Choice Award — favorite horror movie. So that was kind of fun.”

That’s how Kimberly Peirce ended her interview with Salon, describing a very different sort of prize than the ones she’s gotten in the past. Peirce’s debut feature, “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999), broke the hearts of moviegoers coast-to-coast and launched the career of Hilary Swank. After “Boys Don’t Cry,” Peirce took some eight years before the release of “Stop-Loss” (2008), a well-reviewed film about the Iraq War. Then came, last fall, “Carrie,” which is available on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow and on demand now. An exclusive clip depicting the making-of process is below.

Peirce’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel about a bullied girl who gets bloody revenge on her high school classmates — previously put on film by Brian De Palma in 1976 — received mixed reviews. Some critics praised the film’s loyalty to the source material, while others, like Grantland’s Wesley Morris, found something lacking:

“you can feel [Peirce] caught in the awkward position of wanting to challenge the material, to open it up further rather than furnishing the film with as much vaginal imagery as she does. You can also sense her not wanting to alienate the audience or the studio.”

Peirce addressed some of the criticisms she’d heard, acknowledging that “there were some people that took me to task for not changing enough.”

“I did change things. It may not have been as much as some people wanted. But you have a book that’s very specific in time and place and how it represents some things. It’d be challenging to change a lot of things and still have the story work. I understand why you can’t wholeheartedly change the whole thing. I was hired on a green-lit movie, and there’s not a lot of time. You change as much as you can while you’re shooting.”



The director compared her experience on “Carrie” to the one on “Boys Don’t Cry,” a passion project of hers that took, in her telling, five years to make: “I was able to be inside of and control everything because I had the luxury of time. ‘Stop-Loss’ and ['Carrie'] are kind of the same size. You’ll find that directors say, ‘I wish I could’ve shot here, I wish I could’ve had that actor.’ A movie is just an endless supply of want. And then there’s the reality of what you get. Movies are made when they’re made. I’d like more time, of course. You don’t always have that. You get a movie that’s an opportunity, and you do the best you can.”

Peirce described her vision for the film as a “superhero origin story” and noted she was happy that viewers of her film were able to more strongly comprehend the mother-daughter bond between the telepathic Carrie and her controlling mother. But she denied that her existence as a female director inflected the story in any way: “I hate to reduce things to ‘A woman can do this’ or ‘A man can do that.’ I don’t want to think a black or white director can do only certain things either. If being a female-bodied person has a relationship to the film — with bringing up her relationship with her powers and the mother-daughter relationship — well, it’s fictional, but they’re realistic. If people wanted me to give more than that,… there’s only so much I could do in a short time.”

Peirce does not see herself, post-”Carrie,” working in the world of studio film, though she is currently working on a sex comedy “with a gender twist” to be produced by Judd Apatow. Citing films with “social concern” like “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Fruitvale Station” and “12 Years a Slave” as in line with her interests, Peirce said: “I think the truth is, I’d like to get back to a version of where I was with ‘Boys Don’t Cry.’ I loved ‘Carrie,’ and I had a wonderful experience … There’s social concern in the movies I like, a strong protagonist that breaks my heart. There are echoes there of where I came into my artistry — and that’s where I’m going to end up going back. And I don’t care if it’s movies or TV.”

Over time, a new audience will discover “Carrie” on home entertainment. And that’s fine with Peirce — great, in fact. She encouraged Salon readers to check out the Blu-ray edition: “There’s an alternate ending that’s stronger than the one we had in release.”

Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...