At the venerable age of 14, Chloë Grace Moretz is both something of an acting veteran — she’s been performing since she was six — and poised on the cusp of a very promising film career. Having stolen (500) Days of Summer as Joseph Gordon Levitt’s precociously world-weary little sister, she literally blasted her way into movie fame as the colorfully-tongued vigilante Hit Girl in Kick-Ass, and followed that up with a chilling, emotionally impressive performance as an age-old vampire in the unexpectedly great Let Me In. Things are just getting started for Moretz, however: next month she’ll star in Martin Scorsese’s much-anticipated 3D fantasy, Hugo, and she recently wrapped production on Tim Burton’s horror melodrama, Dark Shadows (playing Michelle Pfeiffer’s daughter, no less). This week, Moretz stars alongside Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in (daughter-of-Michael) Ami Canaan Mann’s Texas Killing Fields, an atmospheric police thriller in which she plays an adolescent drifter at the center of the hunt for a mysterious killer. We had the chance to chat with Moretz earlier this week.
You seem to be endlessly busy with films — what was it that drew you to Texas Killing Fields in particular?
Chloë Grace Moretz: I really loved this role because it was more than just a girl who was, you know, abused and had a hard life. It was a girl who was bigger than the town she lived in and the situation she’s in; she has more to do in life than to be just stuck there forever. And I liked that. I liked how she knows it, but she never speaks it.
You and [onscreen mother] Sheryl Lee spent time at a drug rehab center to prepare for your roles, right?
Yeah. We actually went to a halfway house just out of New Orleans, yeah. It was really, really special — I met a lot of people who were either still using meth or had been clean for several years. So I heard some really amazing stories.
Do you usually go to that extent to prepare for a role?
Yeah, I mean — I definitely try to. I try to immerse myself in the character and figure out who she is, and what her expectations are and what her limits are — what she’ll do and what she won’t do. This definitely helped me on her emotions and how, you know — the women I met, they were always putting up a front, brushing everything off kind of nonchalantly. And then when you start asking them more questions, and they got more comfortable with you, they almost became a sort of child; they got very concave, you know how kids get nervous and they run behind their mother’s leg? They almost did that. Of course, there wasn’t anyone’s leg to grab, but there was that look in their eyes.
The performance has a haunted quality without saying too much, which is not easy to do. Your accent is also quite good — do you practice or does it come naturally?
I work with my brother Trevor — he’s my acting coach, and he actually does my accents, too. Like for my accent in Hugo Cabret where I’m British, well I play British — well I had a British accent but I’m French — he gave me that accent and worked on it with me, so yeah.
Where does Trevor get his expertise in accents?
Ah, he was taught at a professional performing New York arts high school, and he actually trained under some of the best acting coaches out there.
You often play these rebellious or wayward adolescents — from Kick-Ass to Let Me In to Hick, and even Carolyn Stoddard in Dark Shadows — are you drawn to these kinds of characters?
I don’t know — I kind of just look for a good role. A role that’s not me, you know — I love playing characters that are not me, who’re able to express emotions that no one could be able to express in everyday life. So I kind of look for roles like that, that are very much different to who Chloë is. Because if I’m playing myself all the time, that’d get kind of boring.
What kind of film would you be in if you played yourself?
Oh god! It’d be boring! [Laughs] The character would just be normal, you know; she’d just have a normal, everyday life, I guess, for a 14-year-old.
You don’t have much of a normal 14-year-old’s life, though. I mean, how do you balance all these movies? Do you even go to school?
Well I am home-schooled, but I go to a real school with an actual class and everything, I just do it at home — which is distance learning. But I really am just a normal 14-year-old. Yeah, I travel the world, but at the same time that’s the actor in me that does that, you know — the Chloë in me, the girl that grew up in Georgia and lives in LA, she’s just a normal 14-year-old; that’s the real me that no one really sees until they’re close to me. Because when I’m doing interviews and stuff, and doing press tours and all that, I’m “actor Chloë,” which is a different side of me. But when I’m with my friends, my guard goes down telling me to just be a normal girl.
Do you have any inspirations as an actor? Was there anyone you looked up to?
Audrey Hepburn is definitely a huge inspiration in my career. I absolutely love her, and her movies — they just make you smile. But I also like the diversity of her career, because she did movies like Wait Until Dark, which was so amazing where she played — have you seen that movie?
I have, yeah. It’s very different to a lot of her usual stuff.
It is. It’s beautiful, because you always see her as this happy character who’s always — yes, she’s always tormented inside, but at the same time she’s happy and she puts up a front; but when you see that movie it’s so chilling, it’s terrifying. And she is so smart in the character with everything she does. I absolutely love Audrey Hepburn.
Speaking of inspiring characters, what was it like working with Marin Scorsese on Hugo?
Working with Marty was really, really amazing. He’s such a phenomenal director and — I mean, he’s Martin Scorsese, so what do you say, you know? I had a phenomenal time doing it, and it was just… it was special. I got to play a 1930s Audrey Hepburn-like character. And I think this movie will definitely change cinematography, I definitely think it’ll definitely change a lot of things with 3D. It just makes movies special.
Originally published on Rotten Tomatoes, October 2011