Cape Town - The opportunity to star opposite screen legend Isabelle Huppert in the psychological thriller Greta was simply too good to resist, says Chloë Grace Moretz.
Chloë plays Frances McCullen, a vulnerable young woman still grieving from the loss of her much-adored mother, who strikes up a friendship with a lonely widow, Greta, played by Isabelle.
But Frances’ act of kindness – she finds Greta’s handbag abandoned on a subway train and treks across the city to take it back to her – will have devastating consequences.
The eccentric, endearing woman, who claims to be French and estranged from her daughter who is roughly the same age as Frances, is not what she appears to be.
In the following Q&A Chloë talks about starring alongside Isabelle, what attracted her to the project and her thoughts on stalkers.
Neil Jordan compared you to Jodie Foster. Do you feel a connection to other actors who started young?
I think, inherently, the young actors that have been able to bridge that gap into adulthood, I connect to. From Natalie Portman to Jodie Foster – those are people that I’ve always looked up to and taken cues from in my career. So yeah, I think it’s an honor to be in the same category.
What was it like to work with Isabelle Huppert?
It was incredible to work with Isabelle. She’s someone who has always been an inspiration to me, as a young woman, from a time I was very young. Being able to have the opportunity to go toe to toe with her, and have her be this evil villain, but also one of the most loving, heart breaking characters as well – it was just an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I loved the idea of the story, but being able to do it with Isabelle was I think the reason to have this movie be made.
When did you discover her?
Heaven’s Gate was probably the first real foray into Isabelle Huppert – that’s when I first discovered her. She is someone who I feel is very uninhibited, and that has never changed within her. She’s never allowed the societal oppression of age, how we try to push that on women, it hasn’t affected her. I feel like she could play a 21-year-old tomorrow and you really wouldn’t question it. She feels ageless.
You worked with Juliette Binoche too. Is there something about French actors?
They’re two of my favourite actors I’ve worked with. Not just because of how wonderful they are as actors, and how professional they are, but just how really caring and intimate they are with you as a friend. Juliette and Isabelle have both become very close to not only me, but my entire family, which I think speaks highly to who they are as people. They don’t allow ego, or put themselves in a position where they feel unattainable, which is so rare.
You see a lot of scripts. What was it about this one?
For me, first and foremost, I loved the nostalgia of it. It felt like a 90s thriller we don’t see anymore – like Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction – movies that I grew up with that are just exciting and fun. But the fact that it also subverted the typical male/female relationship and is now an older woman and this younger woman who just lost her mother. That was something that just felt very new, like a breath of life into a nostalgic piece that you could connect to. It felt like a fun movie but also a really incredible opportunity to talk about loneliness and what that looks like in people, and how that comes through, and how it’s so easy to take advantage of someone who feels that there is a hole in their heart. When I picked up the screenplay, I really couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it. It was that good.
Your character’s really suffering, isn’t she?
Frances is raw and vulnerable and she befriends Greta with the best intentions. And the harrowing realisation that this woman that she’s let in is nothing of what she thought she was, that betrayal is worse than death in a lot of ways. You’re not just losing someone; someone is choosing to go against you and to manipulate you, which is heart breaking.
Did this part change the way you think about stalkers?
It’s an interesting depiction of cyber stalking and it’s not what you expect. Usually it’s in relationships where this thing happens. The fact that you have Isabelle Huppert combing through my Facebook and sending fake photos of myself on vacation with my friends… it’s so totally psychotic. It’s exciting to see, but it’s also very real. Throw a stone and you’ll hit someone who’s been through some sort of situation like this. Obviously not as dire, but a stalking situation is something that is very real in modern society, and I think it’s very well depicted. I think that scene where she’s chasing Maika [Monroe] around New York is really terrifying.
Earlier you mentioned bridging the gap from child actor to adult. Was that a difficult thing to do?
For me, I always try to go against type. After the year-and-a-half break that I took, it was important for me to find that versatility and go against the idea of who people thought Chloë Grace Moretz was, or what they thought a Chloë Grace Moretz role was. I wanted to fit myself into characters where I felt like I had to find the anonymity within myself to achieve them. You look at Suspiria. I think I’m only in ten minutes of the movie. Most of which you can hardly really tell it’s me and I’m speaking German. In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, I’m fitting myself into the character of Cameron, which is nothing like what people think of me as, or see me as, and I found that versatility and anonymity within myself. It terrified me to take on all these different characters, but that was very important for me, especially because I’ve made a lot of studio films and have a large fan-base. People like to say what I am, and I want them to watch these movies and go, 'Well, I guess none of us really knew.' I want to keep them guessing and keep myself guessing.
What did you do on your break from acting?
I travelled. I went to Mexico alone for a while, and I read a lot of things. I listened to a lot of podcasts, and watched movies. I just took time to myself to sit and to become comfortable with my own quiet. I have a very big family, and I’m always used to noise, a cacophony of noise, and you become very safe in that zone. It’s important to find what it feels like to be alone and to have your own thoughts come through. When you spend enough time in quiet, you can’t help but face your own realities. And that was important for me, because I opened an inner dialogue with myself, which I haven’t done in the past, and I was able to question things. I think it’s very easy to formulate opinions when you’re moving very quickly, but it’s harder to deconstruct those opinions. When you really face the fact of a lot of things in your life, it’s wonderful to be able to go, ‘Well, maybe I was wrong.’ Or ‘Maybe I didn’t know the full story.’ Then I was able from there to be able to connect on a deeper level to people from my family by cross-referencing and going, ‘Hey, I remember this. Is that actually what happened?’ Because being in a large family, I think everyone has their own perspective. I was able to find the beauty of perspective.
Did you miss acting?
It was hard not to have that emotional outlet, but I think it was important to find how to overcome emotional turmoil in my life without just using acting. Acting was like my therapy always, but then when I didn’t have acting to go to, I had to figure out how to process those emotions within myself.
You’ve grown up in a tough business. Did you have to build walls to protect yourself?
It’s easy as a human in general to build walls, and to try and protect yourself to a point where you become emotionally unavailable. It’s been important for me to actively go against that. I never want to get to a place where I’m stuck in my own ways. I think that’s the worst thing you can do, because you stop listening. It’s important for me to sit back and listen first and foremost, and not be the loudest person in the room. I think most things we go through in life, we could wall ourselves off very quickly, but then we would also be totally psychotic and sociopaths, and none of us want to be a sociopath. So I try to keep myself as open as possible and not allow myself to become jaded, because I think that’s the time for you to step back and try a different career path.
There’s this idea that New York can eat you alive. Is that something you agree with?
I don’t know. I used to love New York, when I was younger. Now, I hate running around in it. I have a quiet life. I have dogs, I live with my brother, we cook food every night, and we go on walks around our neighborhood. I love that. I love not coming out of my front door and having buses and cars and cabs and people. That influx of human energy is way too much for me. I respect it. I really respect the city, I respect Manhattan, I respect the dreams that can be broken and built in it, but I like viewing it from afar, or travelling in for a weekend. I can’t take the city. There’s a lot. There’s a lot happening there. But I respect it.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
Greta releases in SA cinemas on Friday, 5 July.
(Photos supplied: Film Finity)