Last week I got to sit down with Matthew Reeves and Chloe Grace Moretz, the director and star of “Let Me In”. We got to talk a lot about the new film, and Chloe’s break out role as Hit-Girl in “Kick-Ass”.
When making Kick-Ass and Let Me In, do these roles prepare you for more action roles, or more drama?
Chloe Moretz: Everything really. It is physical, it is mental. “Let Me In” definitely let me stretch my emotional boundaries. I had to show more in my eyes than in any other film that I’ve done because it is the quietest film that I’ve done. There is barely any dialogue between me and Kodi [Smit-McPhee], and I had to express this love, and at the same time this sadness to him with my eyes. He definitely helped because he gave so much to me I was able to give back to him.
Matt, can you talk a little about directing Chloe get to those silent moments?
Matthew Reeves: That was the thing that struck me when Chloe first came in. I didn’t want someone to come in and play a vampire,” per se. A lot of the young actresses that came in were doing that. Chloe came in and we discussed it. The first time she came in I could see her thinking, and that is so much what the role is about. Then I said, “Come back in, I’d like to work some more.” I showed her some photographs, and Chloe became incredibly internal. I knew just from spending time with her in those auditions that she was incredibly thoughtful. You could see a lot of what she was feeling coming across when she wasn’t saying anything. The movie, in terms of their relationship [Abby and Owen’s], the moments between the lines of dialogue where the most comes through.
How was shooting in New Mexico?
CM: I’ve shot there before. It was really amazing to be back in Albuquerque because it is such a great town, and the people are great there, and the crew was phenomenal. You would shoot there again, right?
MR: Yeah, it was great. We shot about half of the movie in Albuquerque, and half in Los Alamos, where the movie was set. Los Alamos was great because they have shot some stuff there, but not a lot. All of the locations that we shot there, no one had ever shot there. I originally wanted to set the movie in Colorado, but somebody said, “Listen, your budget is tight, and we’ve got these great tax incentives in New Mexico.” I didn’t know a lot about New Mexico so I said, “Wait a minute it has got to snow.” They said, “It is desert, but it is high desert.” Then I realized it was John Ford country. I thought that it would have this quintessential American vista, which the film opens with. It is funny, my friend Drew Goddard grew up in Los Alamos, and he said that the shot was the view from his parent’s house. I thought it would be interesting to set it in Los Alamos because I was looking for an American suburb. In the Swedish novel Linqvist talks about how the place where he grew up was this planned community that has no history except the recent history, and it has no church, and the inhabitants therefore are not prepared for the evil that is about to be visited upon them. I wanted to find an American version of that. When Los Alamos came up, I thought that is a very unusual suburb that sprouted up from all at once from a very particular part of American history.
And you chose to keep the story in the eighties?
MR: I really related to the story of coming of age. [John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of “Let the Right One In”] and I are about the same age. In reading the book I noticed all the cultural specificity to growing up at that time in Sweden, and in trying to translate it I wanted to be very faithful to the coming of age story. A lot of that stuff is verbatim out of the book, but I wanted to put it in a context that I remembered from growing up at that time. I thought it would be interesting to set it in the Reagan era, and the idea of a twelve year old boy who was bullied mercilessly, who had very dark thoughts, in a world where people around him were saying that evil was outside of us, that the Soviets were evil, and that Americans were fundamentally good. He would be very confused.
When crafting the film for American audiences was there a conscious decision to make a certain mood?
MR: There wasn’t an attempt to do that. I would say that it has to do with the tone of Linqvist’s novel. The thing about this story is that Lindqvist has managed to express the pain of growing up through a vampire tale, but you are meant to identify with the characters. In that sense it is warm and tender, but the darkness is about the juxtaposition of those tones. What struck me about the book was that there was real darkness, but there was real tenderness. That’s very unusual. It really is meant to make you identify with them, and connect to their pain through this story. In that sense it doesn’t distance them from you emotionally so it doesn’t seem as eerie. Hopefully there are a lot of other eerie stuff that gives it that horror side.
The Policeman character played by Elias Koteas was not in the book. What made you put in that character?
MR: In the book there is a policeman, and his name is Staffen. Some of the dialogue is from him. And there is another character that is Latka, who is Virginia’s boyfriend. I wanted to introduce the Policeman character as a kind of movement, a kind of fate that was moving closer and closer to the “Romeo and Juliet” story. I liked the idea of introducing the Policeman as the moral eyes of the movie. He was looking at the face of events and asking what could responsible for these terrible murders, who could do that. Looking at this horror right in the eye, and not understanding it. Then he would be getting closer and closer to Abby, and you would know that she was in trouble, and it would heighten the “Romeo and Juliet” story.
Chloe, how was it to see yourself in this film?
CM: I’m very proud of the work, but at the premiere, I hadn’t seen the finished film. When I saw it the sound wasn’t like all “RAAA!!!” and craziness, so I thought, “It’s not that scary right now. I’m not freaked out by myself.” But then when I saw it in L.A. I was the only one screaming. My mom was like, “Chloe? Quiet!”
MR: Obviously there is all of this tender stuff that is core of the movie, but the other thing is that she was very able to jump into primal side. Her mother would be sitting behind the monitor saying, “I don’t know where that is coming from.”
What did you think when you saw yourself with the vampire makeup?
CM: I laughed. When I booked this film I thought, “This is going to be awesome, I’m going to have fangs, I’ll have a white face. This is going to be cool.” And I showed up and Matt was like, “We’re thinking acne all over your face.” But it turned out to be something totally different than I was expecting. That’s what I love about “Let Me In” is that it is different than any other vampire movie out there right now. Matt definitely made that happen.
How was working in the makeup?
CM: The eyes were crazy. I couldn’t see.
MR: She couldn’t see, and she had to run.
CM: I had to run down hallways, and turn, and stuff. It made me completely blind. I didn’t run into any wall though. I put my life in danger.
MR: I wanted to do a vampire that was adolescence gone wrong, so she didn’t have fangs, but her teeth were that moment before you have your braces. All of those things that happen when your body is out of control. And she was thrilled to know that was the direction that we were going.
The character of Abby is such an adult role, being your age how do you prepare for something like that?
CM: My brother is my acting coach. He’s been my acting coach since I started the business. We figured out the role in the beginning, and when I met Matt we went more in depth with it, obviously since he’s the director. He showed me pictures of this homeless family. It was a full family that lived on the go. He said, “This is how I envision Abby. This old soul in the eyes, but at the same she’s this thirteen year old girl who has had a rough life.” If you are three hundred years old would you remember your parents? Would you remember your life? Would you even remember who you were? What is your name? Are you human any more at all? Do you have any semblance of life in you? It was a lot to figure out, but every day was pretty amazing to get into costume, and become this character.
How much did you try to stay with the Swedish version of the film, and how did you try to distance yourself?
MR: They way we tried to stay with the original was the story. There were different aspects of the book that I tried to draw in, and there were ideas of what we could make personal, or American, or contextual. The scenes that are the most similar are the ones that are verbatim out of the book. A lot of those scenes on the jungle gym, the dialogue is virtually the same. It is because I wanted to be faithful to the story that I’d fallen in love with. Visually there was no attempt to ape that at all. My director of photography had not seen the movie. Kodi hadn’t seen the movie, Chloe hadn’t seen the movie, Richard Jenkins hadn’t seen the movie. The idea was that we would try to make our own version of the story because the only way that it would come through is if we were committed to it. If we had tried to copy it then it would have come off as hollow and empty. In fact I tried to do something that I though would be different. Do it a bit more point of view, which is a bit more my style. This movie is a bit more intimate I hope, in terms of being closer, being more in Owen’s point of view.
Do you feel, as a filmmaker adapting someone else’s work, a responsibility to the author of the source material to succeed so as to bring more people to that material?
MR: Absolutely. I felt a real responsibility. I reached out to [Lindqvist] and we started an email communication. First he told me he really liked, “Cloverfield,” which was really cool. He said he was excited about me doing this because it was a fresh spin on an old story, which was what he was trying to do. When he talked about it being his childhood, I related to it on that level, but when I realized how personal it was to him I did feel a tremendous responsibility.
Chloe, did you see Kodi in, “The Road”?
CM: I’m not allowed to watch “R Rated” films except my own. Even though I do “R Rated” films it is acting. I wasn’t even allowed to see “Let the Right One In.” I got to see “Interview with the Vampire,” and I got to see “Kill Bill” for “Kick-Ass.” Which was awesome, one of my favorite films ever.
What about “Kick-Ass 2?”
CM: It is not announced. “Kick-Ass 2” the comic book is on. Matthew [Vaughn, director of “Kick-Ass”] hasn’t talked to us at all about it. He’s doing “X-Men” right now. I hope after that. Honestly, I haven’t been told a single word about it.
What about a sequel to “Let Me In?”
CM: That would be hard. Vampires never age. He’d recast me.
MR: As I said, I have a lot of responsibility to Lindqvist, and I actually heard that he might be interested in expanding the story in some way, although I heard it might be a prequel, but who knows what he’ll do. Honestly I’d follow what he’ll do. I think the material is so beautiful that the last thing I’d want to do is start making up other versions of his story.
Interview By: Paul Myers