On screen it’s Chloë Grace Moretz against the world, but at 19, with her family masterminding her career, the darling of Young Adult movies doesn’t see why she should grow up before she has to
CHLOË Grace Moretz was 11 when we first met, but already a hot property thanks to the ludicrous, deafening, disreputable action-comedy Kick-Ass. She was Hit Girl, its controversial talking point, notoriously dropping the “c-word” in one of her earliest scenes. At the time the movie was supposed to turn British actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson into a superhero; instead it turned Moretz into a superstar.
As the pre-teen assassin, she deployed martial arts skills, gunplay and swearing with the earnestness of a Girl Guide. In real life, Moretz couldn’t even bring herself to use the word “ass” in front of me, and we had to compromise on calling her film “Kick-Butt”. “If I used language like Hit Girl at home,” she told me, firmly, “I would be grounded for the rest of my life.”
Back then she was precocious, polite but magnificently bored by our conversation, offering short but to the point answers while her eyes strayed across to the door, or her mother, who was sitting quietly in the corner. Now she’s about to turn 19 and is so polished that you might forget she’s still a teenager, until she mentions that she wasn’t born when the first Carrie was in cinemas, or when you check out her Instagram pages and find uploads of road trips captioned “Here we go!!!!” or goofy snaps of cake baking sessions with her mother.
Moretz uses social media accounts to reassure people who follow her, “I’m an everyday girl, not one of my characters.” It’s a gap she’s quite emphatic about: “I consciously go for roles that are the opposite of who I am,” she says. “I’m a happy-go-lucky, normal kid. It’s really about picking roles that change me, that stretch me emotionally and change my outlook on things.”
Few everyday teens have four films opening in 2016, including carrying a new franchise, so normal is “super-relative”, she concedes, but she does try to stay out of the spotlight, eschewing nightclubs and big events. Nor does she aspire to becoming half of a Brangelina supercouple; a short romance with Brooklyn Beckham last year was kept under wraps for as long as possible. Now she says she’s single – although if there were a new boyfriend carrying her books, she would hardly blab about it to the press.
As a busy star on the rise, Moretz has a lot to tune out as a young actress, even if she manages to avoid landing on the troll-ridden comments boards of film sites and fanboards. However, there is nothing to alarm her there concerning The 5th Wave; the film may be based on yet another Young Adult bestselling franchise, but Rick Yancey’s novel is highly rated by teenagers and adults alike, and spent 21 weeks on the New York Times’ best sellers list. The usual YA tropes are present and correct – young unrequited love, feisty teens against the world – but The 5th Wave is cinematic in its influences, from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers to Star Wars to War Of The Worlds.
Like all teen heroines, Cassie (Moretz) wants to be independent, away from her parents, fall in love and lead an interesting life. She gets all of these wishes, but in the worst possible way; mankind is being systematically wiped out by wave after wave of disease, disaster and destruction unleashed by aliens who regard humans as an infestation to be cleansed from their nice new home-to-be. The inevitable and lethal fifth wave will eradicate the last survivors, including an average teenage girl who, unlike Hit Girl, has no experience of fighting back.
“Yeah that was funny,” says Moretz, who was able to do 200 pull-ups in a session when she was training to play Hit Girl. “The director, J Blakeson, had to remind me, ‘You don’t know how to handle a weapon, you’ve never shot a gun before. Stop acting like you’re in control of yourself.’ It was the opposite of what I usually do.”
The first part of a trilogy also sets up two romantic interests, although Cassie’s attitude to romance reflects that of Moretz herself. “She doesn’t even really care that much about the love triangle she’s in,” she notes, cheerfully. “That’s more like me. In the sense that I could be like, ‘Ugh, I couldn’t care less about the two boys – but I definitely care about my brother.’
“One thing I found really interesting when I was reading the book was, yes, the world has been demolished by this series of alien attacks, but as they progress, the woods where Cassie retreats to get greener. Everything is more vibrant, everything is more alive, there are more animals running around – in a very strange way, the world is thriving on these attacks. I liked the idea that what we do affects the world, and that maybe if we were taken out, the environment might do a little bit better without us.”
Moretz’s film roles have often come with a very particular set of skills that the actress doesn’t possess in real life. For Carrie, she learnt how to sew by hand and on an industrial sewing machine – “I made a bag.” Speaking Russian in the The Equalizer? “I had a cheat sheet on my phone all the time, with lines written down in phonetics. I’ve forgotten them all now.” How about playing a talented cellist in If I Stay? “My mom said, ‘I have to deal with you fake-playing an instrument for this long?’ And in seven months, you can’t really learn such an intricate instrument so I had a body double who was an amazing cellist and they just put my head on digitally.”
Moretz grew up with her four brothers in a family that was “very artistically based”. Her older brother, Trevor, was especially interested in drama, so the family moved from Atlanta, Georgia, to New York when Moretz was four so that he could attend stage school there. Moretz used to listen to him learning his lines and started reciting them too. From the age of six, she began to do her own auditions for TV shows and films.
Her first big movie role was as Ryan Reynolds’ daughter in The Amityville Horror reboot when she was seven. By 12 she was working with Martin Scorsese, who thought she was British when she auditioned for his 3D fantasy, Hugo. “I was so young I didn’t really understand the enormity of it.” She hadn’t seen much of Scorsese’s work either, and certainly not Goodfellas or Taxi Driver. “I had only seen The Aviator when we began, but by the time the film finished I’d seen much more of his work, and I was, ‘Oh God, I just did a film with Martin Scorsese!’ Hugo was an amazing experience. Every day Marty would show up in a perfect Armani suit, have his milk and a croissant, and then we’d go to work. Even though it was a huge production, he made it feel very small and intimate.”
Moretz has also been unnerving as a child vampire in Let Me In, freaky yet sympathetic in a Carrie remake in which Oscar-winner Julianne Moore played her bible-bashing mother, and had a ball with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton in the horror comedy, Dark Shadows. “I would throw weird ideas at Tim and he’d be like ‘Do it!’ Or he’d have an idea, and actually draw it out and hand it to me. I worked on a really good sick-of-it-all eye roll for the film. Tim Burton said it was really good and Johnny Depp loved it, but when I got into a fight with my mom at home, I did my very professional eye roll, and mom just went, ‘Stop bringing your characters home with you!’”
For a while Moretz went to an ordinary school, but from the age of nine she was taught at home by tutors. Trevor is now her acting coach, accompanying her on set and texting her between takes with suggestions. He also co-manages her with Teri Moretz, their mother. The actress’s other siblings are a big part of Team Chloe too; Brandon is her business manager, Colin is a writer she hopes will help her to create projects, and Ethan is at university studying to be a line producer, so he may help set up finance for his sister’s movies. “They really are 100 per cent of my life; my brothers, my baby dog and my mom are my world.”
This tight unit does not include her father McCoy, a plastic surgeon who left Teri when Moretz was very young and is no longer part of the scene. “I look up to my mother,” says Moretz. “She is somebody who is really admirable – she battled kidney cancer and is a 10-year survivor. She has lost a child, she’s been a single mum, she has gone through so much in her life that I can’t not look at her and be proud – even though we fight all the time. I don’t take her advice sometimes, but I still admire her incredibly.
“In my business, Julianne Moore is my biggest inspiration and guidance. She has been mentoring me since we did Carrie together – personally too. She’s a person that shows that you can be a normal woman with a calm home and family who love you, but at the same time be a brilliant actress who makes two or three movies a year.”
Moretz actively goes through comic books and novels in search of potential material. “I never liked auditioning just for the little girl. From a young age I gravitated towards roles that were strong, and even now I read scripts about these girls who have to be rescued, and it annoys me a little bit.”
The wave of superhero movies has not improved choices for actresses. “If there’s a female superhero, it’s always a more sexual plotline rather than an actual character on screen,” Moretz observes. “Maybe there will be some cool female superhero movies in the future, because I would love to help change things. Apparently there’s a Wonder Woman movie coming up, and hopefully they won’t sexualise Wonder Woman too.”
Like Moore, Moretz wants to use her fame to raise awareness of issues close to her heart. In Moretz’s case, these include racism, sexism and homophobia. “Most of my real childhood and adulthood has been with two gay brothers so I was automatically pro-equality – but especially LBGT, plus community. One of my close friends came out as gay when he was 17 and we always felt protective of him.”
Her brothers, Colin and Trevor, came out when Moretz was still in primary school, and their experiences affected her deeply. “I was confused; why does anyone even care about sexual orientation, who they find cute and who they want to kiss? Would it matter if I wanted to kiss a girl, compared to wanting to kiss a boy? It doesn’t matter. My mom doesn’t care, so why do these parents care? Why do these kids care? Why do they make fun of them for it?”
Moretz also enjoys chewing over party politics. She’ll be able to vote for the first time later this year and has already decided on Hillary Clinton for the presidential election. She chatted with her at a fundraiser last year. Moretz likes her policies on education, and was thrilled when Clinton revealed that she knew the actor’s work too.
Mind you, she’s hard to miss, especially when she is also about to appear in a live action version of The Little Mermaid as the title character (slated for 2017), as well as in Brain On Fire, a biopic about a reporter who is mistakenly sectioned and placed in psychiatric care. At the other end of the scale lies the ribald comedy Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, in which she plays the ringleader of a female sorority pack who torment Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne.
“It was really wild,” she hoots. “It’s certainly one of the most raunchy, raucous comedy roles I’ve ever done. The only other comedy I’ve done is 30 Rock and stuff like that, so the big test for me was to see if I could jump into this comedic world and thrive. It was kind of weird to deal with, because I’m used to doing drama, but it was fun.”
There’s another challenge in November Criminals, scripted by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight. An edgy murder thriller, it teams her with Ansel Elgort, the rising teen idol who got his first screen break in Carrie, opposite Moretz.
“Now he’s a heart-throb,” she says drily. “And I don’t get it; I just don’t see him romantically at all. When I first met him on Carrie, I was, ‘Oh, he’s cute, he’s tall, and he sings and stuff.’ But now he’s just my brother so it’s, ‘Ew, no! Get outta here.’ And it’s pretty unromantic kissing on a film set in front of crew members with someone who is your friend.”
• The 5th Wave is in cinemas from Friday