'CARRIE' REMAKE TO USE 'FOUND FOOTAGE' FORMAT AS JULIANNE MOORE GETS CLOSER TO TAKING ON MOTHER OF A ROLE A month after Chloe Moretz was announced as the lead in MGM's new version of Carrie, Deadline's Mike Fleming reports that the studio has made a formal offer to Julianne Moore to take on the role of Carrie's mother, Margaret White. Meanwhile, according to Peter Hall at Movies.com, MGM's CEO Roger Birnbaum visted his alma mater, the University of Denver, this week, as a guest in the school's film history and production classes. During one of the talks, Birnbaum specifically used the phrase "found footage" while discussing the new version of Carrie, which is being directed by Kimberly Peirce, with a screenplay by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa that is said to cling closer to Stephen King's novel than Brian De Palma's film version. Hall explains nicely how the found footage format would tie in with the novel:
Now, before you get out your anti-found footage pitch forks, this shouldn't be that surprising. King's original novel is interspersed with various "official" documents recounting what happened on Carrie's deadly prom night (a writing technique called epistolary, which is basically the literary equivalent of found footage), so if Aguirre-Sacasa's script is indeed going back to the source material, the film focusing on "interviews with the survivors of the prom incident" makes perfect sense. It also doesn't necessarily mean Carrie will be filled with first-person POV found footage as we traditionally know - though the person who posted the recap did confirm to us that Birnbaum specifically used the words "found footage" - but is simply using recorded interviews as a framing device much like the book used newspaper clippings, which actually means Peirce's film will have more in common with the 2002 made-for-TV Carrie movie starring Angela Bettis than De Palma's film.
SPACEK BIO DUE MAY 1ST 'CARRIE' EXCERPT IN CURRENT ISSUE OF ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY The Sissy Spacek memoir My Extraordinary Ordinary Life will be published on May 1. The book was written by Spacek with Maryanne Vollers. The current issue of Entertainment Weekly (the summer movie preview double issue with Batman and Catwoman on the cover) includes an exclusive excerpt from the book in which Spacek tells the story of working on Brian De Palma's Carrie. There's not really anything new here that hasn't been told elsewhere (Spacek having to convince De Palma she was the right choice for Carrie; De Palma explaining to Spacek that discovering the blood in the shower should be like getting hit by a mack truck; husband Jack Fisk helping her grasp the right sense of shock by describing how he got run over by a car, etc.), but it is told in a clear and compelling narrative, filtered by Vollers. The excerpt concludes with this:
The script called for all the high school girls to be partially nude as they romped around the locker room at the end of gym class-- a fantasy scenario that only a man could dream up. Some of the girls were balking. That is, until we all watched the rushes from my shower scene.
I had it written in my contract that I would not appear fully nude on screen. But that was a trick of the editing room; the camera saw everything. Every time Brian shot another take of the shower scene, the clapper board was placed in front of me. And each time the board was pulled away, the camera was right where my contract said it couldn't be. Now, I'm not a shy person-- you can't be in this business!-- but by the time the rushes were over, I didn't know if I should laugh or crawl under my chair. I decided to laugh.
"Thanks a lot, Brian!" I said, as sarcastically as I could.
After that, Brian later told me, the female cast members stopped complaining about their topless locker scene.
Spacek is interviewed about the memoir at The Hook. The book is also likely to have stories about making De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, as Spacek worked as a set designer on that film with Fisk, who was the production designer on Phantom, and the art director on Carrie.
"Never been so happy in my life! Thank you Kim Pierce and thank u MGM for the chance of a lifetime i will never forget!" Deadline: "Moretz didn’t meet with Peirce until last weekend. She got the job immediately... Insiders said that once they make Moretz’s deal, they will focus on landing the psycho mom and supporting cast and they will shoot this year." Remake will be filmed in and around Toronto. Planning for July start date.
'CARRIE' PAPERBACK ON SALE AT CENTIPEDE PRESS LIMITED EDITION HARDCOVER SIGNED BY AUTHOR & SCREENWRITER ALSO STILL AVAILABLE Joe Aisneberg's in-depth study of Brian De Palma's Carrie is a must-read, must-have for any De Palma fan, and a paperback version is now on sale for $17 at Centipede Press. The 100-copy limited edition hardcover, signed by Aisenberg and Carrie screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, is also still available.
As I reported before, the book features extensive interviews with De Palma and Cohen that alone would be a must for De Palma fans, but Aisenberg's deep analysis into every shot of Carrie makes the book a joy to read. Aisenberg has read just about everything written about Carrie, and offers a critical look at those writings, while also gleaning from them useful perspectives on the film. He offers an exhaustive account of Stephen King's conceptualization of and writing of his original novel, as well as King's alternating views of Carrie (both book and film) throughout the years.
This naturally leads into a chapter on how the movie was made from the novel, with Cohen and De Palma providing key details, such as how producer Paul Monash had originally hired a young woman (no one seems to recall her name) to write the screenplay. After her first draft made Monash very nervous (because, as Cohen says in the interview, "it just wasn't good"), Cohen, having loved King's book and having a very strong idea about what the film of it should be, went on a three-week marathon in which he did nothing but eat, drink, and sleep Carrie. There is also a well-considered background on De Palma leading up to the making of Carrie, even quoting the interview De Palma did with the now-defunct web site "Le Paradis de Brian De Palma" to illustrate what Aisenberg calls "a rare romantic insight into De Palma's notion of film":
"The great movies that I remember are the ones that went right into my subconscious, and I don't know why they obsess me, or why I keep thinking about them, or why in a postmodern way I keep trying to recreate them, like Vertigo, for instance. It's just something that's inexplicable. These images have taken seed in your subconscious, and you can't get them the hell out... There are a few great directors that have been able to do it, and that's why we never forget those movies. Aisenberg allows insights such as this to color his analysis of Carrie throughout the study.
These initial chapters are well-researched and fascinating, and then the book really takes off when Aisenberg begins his scene-by-scene analysis, illustrated with black-and-white frames from the film itself. Incorporating an author interview with Betty Buckley in addition to the others mentioned, Aisenberg weaves his research in with the fabric of his analysis, producing a text that is as entertaining as it is insightful. Aisenberg deftly illustrates how the opening volleyball scene establishes Carrie’s theme of competition, which is presented most prominently by the film’s ongoing juxtapositions between Sue and Chris, but also between Margaret and Miss Collins, with Carrie (and, perhaps, “the boys”) stuck in the middle. Like the film itself, Aisenberg keeps moving forward, stopping to consider moments such as when Sue walks into the background of the scene in which Margaret pays a visit to Sue’s mother, and giving that moment just the right touch of curious investigation before linking the scene directly to Orson Wells’ Citizen Kane:
As Mrs. Snell hands over a contribution of ten dollars to be done with Margaret, which clearly annoys the religious woman, a further visual detail complicates the dramatic tension. Through the doorway behind them beyond the pink hallway where Mrs. Snell answered the phone is a sliver of another doorframe (frames-within-frames [Aisenberg highlights these throughout]) in which Sue appears and silently hovers. While most films would probably cut around at this point to make all the characters’ stakes obvious, De Palma expertly stages things on the cheap so that viewers can connect the dramatic dots between things for themselves, imparting to Sue hints of guilty feeling that will shortly lead her to atone for her actions.
When I asked De Palma about this scene, as well as other moments in which he makes use of background and foreground actions, or places things independent of one another on the left- and right-hand sides of the screen, De Palma described the effect in musical terms as “contrapuntal,” with roots in the deep-focus arrangements of Citizen Kane, a film that also lets scenes run on without too many cuts. Indeed, the staging here recalls an early moment in Kane specifically, wherein little Charles’s mother transfers legal custody of the boy to a lawyer. Up front, Kane’s mother (Agnes Moorehead) sits at a table signing over guardianship of the boy to her cold attorney, despite her husband’s protest, while deep in the background, through a window, the boy can clearly be seen playing in the snow enjoying a childhood which has already slipped away. Carrie reverses the terms: the child figure hidden in the faraway depths of the frame is the guilty party, while those near at hand are still “innocent” of life-changing events that have taken place (thus Sue’s image is appropriately blurred and ambiguous).
Later on, in his analysis of the prom scene, Aisenberg lays out very nicely Carrie’s deliberate echoes of David Lean’s The Bridge On The River Kwai, and elsewhere delves into the film’s inspirations from John Boorman’s Deliverance and Akira Kurosawa’s Throne Of Blood. Regarding the moment of shock just after the pig’s blood spills over Carrie, and the film shows Carrie’s viewpoint in a kaleidoscope effect, Aisenberg states that it recalls “some of the overdone visual distortions and expressionistic devices of silent movies, such as in F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924), whose themes, incidentally, parallel Carrie’s enough to compare them, I think.” Aisenberg also compares this moment in Carrie to a similar subjective visualization of shock from the 1958 version of The Fly.
I stated above that Aisenberg has read just about everything related to Carrie, and, well, he has listened to just about everything, too. The book includes bits of information throughout from the very rare Criterion laserdisc edition of Carrie, which included audio commentary by Cohen and Laurent Bouzereau. At one point, Aisenberg also serves up a quote from a recent Raising Cain-focused episode of the online radio show Movie Geeks United, in which editor Paul Hirsch discusses the music for the final dream sequence of Carrie:
The temp score for the nightmare was Albinoni’s Adagio for Organ and Strings, which was the saddest music I could find for Amy Irving laying the flowers on Carrie’s grave. And then I found a deliberately arrhythmic moment. I mean I lined the music so there was an arrhythmic moment when the hand shoots up out of the ground, and for that I used the main title from Sisters, which starts with an anvil strike, a sharp metallic sound just at the moment when the first rock is dislodged, you know, starts to move, and the hand comes shooting out. So you have this soft sweet, sad organ and strings interrupted at a very unexpected moment by a loud anvil strike guaranteed to startle anyone. So Pino [Donaggio] just copied that.
Aisenberg’s Carrie expertise makes for an eye-opening book, and provides a necessary credibility when he goes for the gusto and declares that both De Palma and Hirsch are wrong when they insist that the split-screen section at the prom does not work. “The scene is thrilling, marvelously realized,” states Aisenberg, adding that “the use of split-screen serves several purposes.” After quoting De Palma explaining his original rationale for conceiving the sequence in split-screen as a way to avoid simply cutting from Carrie to things moving around, Aisenberg explains why he thinks the sequence works so well:
Indeed, [De Palma’s] solution seems an ingenious way to dramatize Carrie’s power in action—she looks here, she looks there, and on the other side of the screen objects do her bidding. The effect is heightened by the stunning way Carrie’s face, at one point, slides from the right side of the screen to the left. De Palma’s frames and expertly montaged juxtapositions throughout the movie suggest irrational lines of influence hard at work between things; the split-screen liberalizes it. Also, from a practical point of view, this device makes the most of relatively little in the way of special effects-induced chaos, since all that’s really happening during the first part of the sequence is that the lights change and a fire extinguisher hose stands up like a penis-snake and starts spraying everybody. As with the volleyball game, where a single unbroken take was employed by the director so that the audience could see it being played in real time, De Palma may have instinctually hoped that by combining as many images on screen as possible he could trick viewers into thinking they were seeing al the destruction happen before their eyes.
Split-screen has stylistic-thematic significance as well. Throughout the film characters have been shown acting on several contradictory levels in bifocal shots, that oppose but mirror one another. Once the split perspectives come together in Carrie’s ultimate degradation, the traumatic force literally breaks the image itself in half, and a new doubling of the viewer’s experience sets in. The audience sees exactly how Carrie is misperceiving the situation in her crazed state, believing there to be a much bigger conspiracy at work than there really was—one including everybody, even Miss Collins.
Other tidbits from the book's De Palma interview include: a brief discussion about the two songs written for the film, one of which producer Paul Monash (whose wife wrote the lyrics to both) wanted to run over the opening credits (De Palma says he fought tooth and nail against that); De Palma switching cinematographers after initial filming around the school because he did not like the way Isador Mankofsky was lighting the girls (De Palma didn't like the way they looked); and how after figuring out how Margaret would be killed, they decided to go back and shoot scenes of Carrie in the closet, for which set designer Jack Fisk created the haunting Saint Sebastion figure "with all the arrows in it."
There are at least two more books about Carrie in the works, including a monograph by British critic Neil Mitchell, and a making of. These will undoubtedly be marvelous additions to the ongoing dialogue about this great film, but will in no way displace Aisenberg’s book. Aisenberg’s personal take on Carrie, informed by his exhaustive research, combined with the exclusive interviews with De Palma, Cohen , and Buckley, should make this a permanent fixture of any De Palma fan’s (and movie fan’s) bookshelf.
'CARRIE' REMAKE LEAD NARROWED DOWN TO TWO AS OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL SET TO CLOSE TWO WEEKS EARLY, ON APRIL 8 According to Vulture's Claude Brodesser-Akner, Kimberly Peirce has narrowed her choices down to two actresses for the lead in her remake of Brian De Palma's Carrie: 15-year-old Chloë Moretz (who made a splash in Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, and also appeared in Martin Scorsese's Hugo) and the 24-year-old Haley Bennett, who played the title role in Mickey Liddell's The Haunting of Molly Hartley. In the latter film, according to The Toronto Star's Tony Wong, Bennett gave a performance that was "evocative of Mia Farrow's turn in Rosemary's Baby, in a role that is more demanding than most teen horror flicks." Wong further stated that the "verse-spewing mother" in Molly Hartley was "straight out of Carrie." Speaking of the mother character, Brodesser-Akner suggests that Peirce is taking a tip from the Oscar nods previously thrown to Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie for their work in De Palma's Carrie and going after Oscar-winning actresses for the part of Carrie's mother. For that role, the Vulture article states that "Peirce has approached Jodie Foster and is interested in Julianne Moore." Shock Till You Drop's Ryan Turek notes that the latter two actresses have each portrayed Clarice Starling on film.
Meanwhile, Broadway.com reports that "Prom Night is Over." Carrie: The Musical, which had been extended through April 22, will instead close early off-Broadway on April 8. According to Broadway.com, "The production officially opened on March 1 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, and will have played 34 previews and 46 regular performances at the time of closing."
COHEN ON 1988 'NIGHTMARE' OF 'CARRIE' MUSICAL SAYS WHEN THEY REFERRED TO 'GREASE', DIRECTOR THOUGHT THEY MEANT ANCIENT GREECE The Brooklyn Rail's Tommy Smith posted a Q&A with Lawrence D Cohen yesterday, in which the Carrie screenwriter (and Carrie: The Musical book writer) discusses differences among the three different adaptations he's done of Stephen King's novel. Smith asks Cohen for some details about how seeing a production of the Alban Berg opera Lulu prompted the idea of turning Carrie into a musical.
Rail: How would you articulate that experience? What aspects of that did you use for creating Carrie?
Cohen: Intensity. My partner Michael Gore, the composer, and I walked out of Lulu that night and he looked at me and went, “If Alban Berg were alive today, he’d be writing Lulu for the Met.” And it was one of those “ah-ha” moments where the light bulb went on. And I didn’t say a word. I looked at him. He looked at me. And we started walking up to Café Luxembourg from Lincoln Center, jabbering a mile a minute, with a gazillion ideas. What Carrie had was highly intensified, hugely heightened, operatic-like moments. I like that kind of theater. I really respond to that intensity of performance. Carrie was very weird material to choose to musicalize, until we thought about it and it didn’t seem weird to us at the time, at all.
"THEY WERE DANCING AROUND IN TOGAS DURING THE OPENING GYM SEQUENCE"
Elsewhere, Cohen contrasts the new version of the Carrie musical (potentially "our dream of the piece") with the 1988 version ("It was our nightmare of the piece..."). Cohen is then asked to provide a "Reader's Digest" account of what made the 1988 version so wrong:
We ended up being asked by the Royal Shakespeare Company. They had done Les Mis and were looking for a follow up. Having gone through a lot of really major directors, we ended up being persuaded that Terry Hands was the right match. He had come to New York with two productions with Derek Jacobi—a Cyrano and Much Ado that were brilliant—and he talked a really good game, and we were three smart guys, and when the RSC says we’d like you to be our next production? It was pretty hard to turn our 20-year-plus-old selves to say no to that. It turned out to be a pretty dreadful mistake. Meaning, this director thought when we referred to, in conversation, Grease: The Musical, he thought we were referring to ancient Greece, G-R-E-E-C-E. And they were dancing around in togas during the opening gym sequence. It was deranged. It was like, the ship has sailed, there is no stopping it, other than to kill it, but we had no power to do anything. And Terry was used to working with a lot of dead writers, starting with William Shakespeare. So three feisty guys like us? We gave him notes and they went into the Bermuda Triangle. So as a result, we didn’t recognize the show, other than watching Betty Buckley and Linzi Hateley, who had thrilling, wonderful moments on stage; the rest of the piece was just like being on Mars.
DE PALMA'S MOVIE "HAS THE INCREDIBLE ILLUSION OF FIDELITY" TO THE NOVEL Cohen also gets a bit into the differences between the various versions of Carrie when asked by Smith whether he thinks "the myth of the previous production is contributing to this [new] show":
Cohen: Definitely. It’s to the good and to the bad. The good is that it has kept the show very much alive and mythic—people wanting to do it, people wanting to see it. And that’s great. The bad is that I think that people saw a version of it and that’s what they think the show is. The reality is, the book is the book, and it’s that story. The movie has the incredible [i]llusion of fidelity, but its very different as an adaptation—it stays true to its core value, absolutely, and it has eliminated everything else. The musical was its own 1988 version. And this is another attack at it. They’re all valid to me. They’re just different. One isn’t better or worse. They live as their own thing, which I think is cool.
Rail: It’s a different take on the same structure of this fable of Carrie, and each incarnation has had a reverberation of its own for the time.
Cohen: Utterly right. With this version, what ended up happening was, we got together and had a chat about what we would each like to do, and we were very much on the same page about getting on the horse again, and ready to do it. Because there were so many requests, we wanted to put a version of it out there in the world that we liked, as opposed to one we hated. And it was really in answer to that demand that wasn’t going away. And we felt badly the show we wanted wasn’t there. There’s an audience that’s determined, at whatever cost, they want to see the old Carrie, and they’ve got that in their minds and they know the lines by heart like it’s the Rocky Horror show. There’s nothing to say or do.
1988 'CARRIE' MUSICAL: CLIVE BARNES WAS RIGHT(?) About a month ago, Isn't It Delicious posted a look back at the 1988 version of Carrie: The Musical, placing quotes from some of the rare positive reviews at the top of the page, including this one from the New York Post's Clive Barnes: "Surprise, Surprise! Terry Hands blood, sweat and tears staging of Carrie for his Royal Shakespeare Company works. ...a project that seemed unlikely from the outset, has unexpectedly emerged as a strong, effective and remarkably coherent piece of terrific total theatre." The Newyork Times' Frank Rich is quoted, "...the fiercely concentrated Ms. [Betty] Buckley brings theatrical heat to every slap-happy bout of corporal punishment, every masturbatory hand gesture indicating her sexual repression, and every aria invoking Jesus and Satan." The blog post includes a terrific array of pictures from the production, as well.
Cohen talked to Playbill's Harry Haun about the reviews of the 1988 show, and how they don't exactly reflect the legend of it:
There are a zillion myths concerning the production — partly, I think, because we've chosen not to speak for all these years, and those are the bits that have just gone on. For example: we got a devastating review — a withering review — from Frank Rich in The Times, and people think they were all like that. They weren't.
If you went back and looked at that, Clive Barnes in The Post was every bit as much a rave. We would be running today, had Clive Barnes had his way in terms of the review. The Hollywood Reporter review — if our mothers had written it — couldn't have been better. But, in the myth of the past, all the reviews were terrible.
Gore then explains to Haun the real reason the show closed after five performances: "Because Ken Mandelbaum never chose to interview the authors or anybody who was at the heart of that production, most people don't know that — three performances in — our producer, who was European and not experienced on Broadway, got nervous because he didn't get the [Frank] Rich rave he wanted, closed his bank accounts, then got on a plane to Germany. The reason the show closed after five performances is that there was no payroll to pay anybody. Regardless of the perception — whether audiences didn't like it or the show wasn't doing well — the reality was he left town, there was no money to pay anybody, and it was too difficult — and too late — to find other producers." The article by Haun then gets Cohen's, Gore's, and lyricist Dean Pitchford's collective perspective on what went down:
Carrie got on the wrong track right at the get-go. Because Michael Bennett was a friend, he gave the three creatives some of his rehearsal space at 890 Broadway so they could do a backers' audition — Pitchford directing, Gore playing the piano and Cohen reading the script. "Based on that, all of a sudden, it was moving," Gore says. "We had producers before we had Act Two. It was on a fast track, and the next thing we know — wow! it was up!"
And who can fault them for going with their most prestigious offer? Terry Hands, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, offered the facilities at RSC, his proven skills as a director and, head-turning most of all, $8 million. They said yes!
"It was irresistible as an offer," Cohen recalls. "He had 20 years experience directing and running with Trevor Nunn the RSC, so all three of us were thrilled at being a part of that esteemed company. He also spoke a really good game, and he was very, very smart. Then, we moved into the process of actually putting on the show."
The warning signs came early, according to Gore: "There are so many elements that just have to come together correctly in any play or musical, and we knew it was over when we saw the costumes, which were very abstract and looked like Greece. Not the show — the country. Every area, actually, did not resemble what we had in mind."
Carrie — in the hands of Terry Hands — became an unrecognizable, Anglicized aberration of their original concept. "He had all kinds of classical ideas about how this was to be done, and he decided it was a tragedy in 12 tableaus," Pitchford relays with a discernible grimace.
"Tableaus," Cohen underlines archly, "is a word we no longer use."
"Every day he was just taking out dialogue," Pitchford continues, making a vicious ripping gesture in the air. "The through-sung musical like Phantom of the Opera is very much a British creation — different from American musicals where you stop and talk and then you sing a song and then go back to talking — and Terry's only frame of reference was Phantom, Evita and Les Miz. He wanted to lessen the distance between musical numbers, and they were tumbling one on top of the other, without the story being quite covered. The American musical is a very homegrown kind of animal, and we had a British director who had not grown up in the traditions the three of us had."
"Nor," notes Cohen, "had he gone to an American high school or understood what that was about. The word 'prom' didn't mean the same thing to him that it meant to all of us. It was a chasm. That we spoke English in common was the confusion."
PLAYBILL VIDEO FEATURES SEVERAL SONG CLIPS FROM NEW 'CARRIE' MUSICAL
Meanwhile, film and theatre enthusiast Mark Leonard says he has the ticket stub and Playbill to prove he was at the notorious 1988 show, and recalls the rather passionate standing ovations afterward. "Audience members were practically standing on their chairs," he states. "This thing was getting to some people." Leonard has seen the new version, as well, and says that while it is not perfect, "they mostly pull it off!" He adds, "This subdued production, with standout performances from [Marin] Mazzie and Ranson may not belt a home run. But it’s, at least, a ground-rule double—and decidedly worth your while."
VANITY FAIR: MALE AND FEMALE PERSPECTIVES ON 'CARRIE: THE MUSICAL' Over at Vanity Fair's Hollywood Blog, Bruce Handy (who also says he saw the 1988 version) and Juli Weiner provide male and female perspectives on the new version of Carrie: The Musical. Unfortunately, both perspectives seem to be in agreement that the new show is not very good, although Handy steps out to praise Molly Ranson's performance ("she gave the whole thing a weight it didn’t deserve"). Weiner was surprised at "how much of the dialogue was sung: I’d say there were probably 25 lines of spoken dialogue in the two-hour production. It was essentially an opera." The two bloggers discuss how the songs are not catchy enough to be memorable (but they do provide a sample of the lyrics), which leads them into a discussion of the non-main characters, and the new show's minimalist depiction of Carrie's telekinesis:
Juli: I can’t remember a single melody or hum a few bars of anything. We did scribble down some of the silliest lyrics, though. You had a good one …
Bruce: I did! Although I may have misheard it. After Chris hatches her plot to humiliate Carrie, her boyfriend sings, "You always amaze me, the way that you think/If I was your daddy I’d buy you a drink." At least that's what I heard. I think you heard, “If I was your daddy I’d get you a shrink,” but I think my interpretation is the more authentically Freudian. Did you have a favorite cast member?
Juli: Well, there were so many tiny strings of plot that never went anywhere or tied to anything! My favorite characters were those that had to do with nothing: the popular boy who can’t help himself from making homoerotic comments to his friends, and the Lolita-esque student who tries to seduce her teacher for maybe (?) half a sentence and then is never heard from again. I love these characters for their gratuitousness; their presence is just so extravagant! Who was your favorite character?
Bruce: I liked all the mean students because the actors who unconvincingly played them were so clearly theater nerds who had presumably been picked on in high school and were now acting out their mean-kid fantasies. It was like seeing Curt from Glee play Jack in a Lord of the Flies musical. (Hey, that’s a great idea! They could even use the kill-the-pig song from the original Carrie.) We haven’t talked about the almost non-existent telekinesis, which I remember as sort of the point of any version of Carrie in any medium.
Juli: First of all: “medium”—good pun. Second of all: what telekinesis? You mean that time a chair tipped over, perhaps accidentally, and the lights flashed? How did the original production do it? I was incredulous they dumped red paint on Carrie offstage instead of rigging a bucket to the ceiling! I paid—well, not actually, but theoretically—to see that actress get covered in red paint! (Carrie is really bringing out the mean high-schooler in me, too.)
'CARRIE' CONSENSUS: BETTER, BUT TOO TIMID ALTHOUGH FEAR-NET REVIEW SAYS THEY GOT IT RIGHT With the Off Broadway revival of Carrie opening tonight at New York's Lucille Lortel Theatre, the reviews have begun coming in, and the consensus seems to be that the show, while better, is too timid. Betty Buckley suggested as much last week when she called it the "PG-13 version" of the original Broadway show that she appeared in back in 1988. The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney calls the new show a "well-intentioned but misguided revision" that was perhaps never meant to be a musical. Most of the reviews (which appear to have come from critics who have seen one of the previews in February) so far seem to agree that the show comes alive when it features either of the two main characters, Carrie and her mother, but that none of the other characters make much of an impression. Despite all of this, FearNet's Bradley Steele Harding is enthused by the show, which he says has more of a minimalist approach than the 1988 version. "The main reason that Carrie: the Musical refuses to die," writes Harding, "is that songs created by Gore and Pitchford are so bloody memorable. While there were several pieces in the original that were standouts, some of them simply didn't serve the narrative. Here every song either furthers the action or adds nuance to the characters."
NEW BOOK DELVES DEEP INTO 'CARRIE' INCLUDES NEW INTERVIEWS WITH DE PALMA, COHEN; FULL REVIEW TO COME I've been reading this excellent new book by Joe Aisenberg that delves deep into Brian De Palma's Carrie, providing a wealth of details about its creation, its critical reception, how it compares with Stephen King's novel, and so on. Aisenberg has done an outstanding job, looking thoroughly at each scene from the film chapter-by-chapter, and peppering his analysis with insights via original interviews from several members of the Carrie cast and crew, as well as quotes from the many articles written about Carrie over the past 35+ years. The book is part of Centipede Press' "Studies In The Horror Film" series. The 100-copy, limited edition hardcover, signed by author Joe Aisenberg and screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, is currently available for pre-order from the Centipede website. A trade paperback edition is aiming for publication in March. The book's appendix includes Aisenberg's full interviews with De Palma and Cohen. I'll post a more in-depth review soon, but if you love Carrie, you'll love this book.
BETTY BUCKLEY LOVES NEW 'CARRIE' MUSICAL SAYS UPCOMING SHOW IS MORE FOCUSED, BUT LESS DANGEROUS
The MCC Theater's new Off Broadway musical version of Carrie officially opens March 1st, and has been in previews for the past couple of weeks. Betty Buckley, who played the gym teacher Miss Collins in the Brian De Palma film, also played Carrie's mother in the 1988 Broadway musical version that has become the stuff of legend. Buckley is pictured above with the stars of the new version, Molly Ranson, who plays Carrie, and Marin Mazzie, who plays her mother. Buckley told the New York Times' Patrick Healy that she "completely enjoyed" the new production, and is thrilled for the team that put it together: composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford, and book writer Lawrence D. Cohen, the latter having previously adapted Stephen King's novel for De Palma's film. "I always felt their work in this show was ahead of its time, really provocative and very passionate theater,” Buckley told Healy of the team that also worked on the 1988 version. “I’m really proud of the work we did back then, and I’m a huge fan of these guys. I always wanted the score and the story to be seen for its intensely, emotionally moving qualities, and I think you can see those qualities in this production.” Healy's article continues:
The major difference between the new Carrie and the Broadway production, in Ms. Buckley’s view, is that the current director, Stafford Arima, has created a “homogeneity” in tone, design, and performance that makes for “focused, consistent, understandable storytelling.”
“The problem with the original production,” she continued, “was that the directorial concept was very abstract, and the director Terry Hands thought the piece resonated as Jacobean drama. He achieved that through some very, very bloody scenes. Linzi [Hateley] and I presented a psychologically accurate portrayal of a deeply, emotionally disturbed mother and daughter.”
Ms. Buckley described the Off Broadway revival as “the PG-13 version of the original,” then added: “I would love this production to be more dangerous. I think that’s what we had going on that made it resonate for all these years. It’s not about adding camp to this production, but about adding even more truth. The show is perfectly timed right now, because we’re so aware of the sort of bullying in schools that Carrie experiences.”
Healy begins his article with an account of the 1988 show's opening night:
When the lights went black at the end of the first Broadway preview of Carrie, on April 28, 1988, the actress Betty Buckley recalled hearing something she had never experienced in her 20 years in theater: Boos from the audience. Ms. Buckley, who had won a Tony Award in 1983 for Cats, played the fanatically religious mother Margaret White in the musical, and her character had just been killed by the telekinetic powers of her daughter, the title character. Both Ms. Buckley and Linzi Hateley, who played Carrie, lay on the stage in the dark, hearing the boos; Ms. Buckley recalled that Ms. Hateley, making her Broadway debut, whispered, “What do we do?”
“We get up,” Ms. Buckley said in reply. They stood, the lights came on, and the boos turned to cheers and applause for the performers in the show, which would go on to close after 21 performances, one of the biggest flops in Broadway history.
Another New York Times article by Healy from earlier this month looks at the two versions of the musical, with picture comparisons, as well as quotes from Cohen, among others. "The three of us did not exactly have the best time with the Broadway production," Cohen told Healy. "We had a dream 30 years ago for a show about outsiders,” and “now every day the three of us look at each other and we’re like, ‘We’re getting closer.’"
Meanwhile, Mark Kennedy at the Associated Press interviewed Ranson, who told him that she loved De Palma's film, and thinks the story is particularly relevant today. "Really, at its core, it's the story of a girl who's trying to fit in," Ranson told Kennedy. "It's the story of an outsider, which I think everyone can relate to in one way or another. Especially now, with all this bullying. It's kind of a great time to be doing this." Ranson, 22, was not yet born when the original Broadway version happened in 1988. The new version tones down the blood, especially during the prom scene. Regarding the blood, Ranson says, "It'll look good. It'll look real. It's going to be done really beautifully and subtly — artistically, kind of abstract."