Chloe Grace Moretz has been acting since she was an adolescent, and she’s got the poise and wiser-than-her-years disposition to prove it. When she’s waxing poetic about the “cacophony of scenes and macabre moments” in her latest film, a horror thriller called Greta, you almost forget how young Moretz is. Then, in the same breath, she’s gushing about Britney Spears — she’s got stickers of the pop star plastered to her phone — and she sounds like every other twentysomething who grew up with “...Baby One More Time.”
When Moretz calls Refinery29 from New York City in the midst of her latest press tour, she has just celebrated her 22nd birthday, a milestone she calls “thankless.” To offset the monotony, she threw herself a 2000s-themed party at “an old-school gay bar” called Oil Can Harry's in L.A.. Moretz dressed as Spears (“Duh!” she says, like there was clearly no other correct choice of costume) while her friends made up the rest of the early '00s motley crew: Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton circa The Simple Life, the Olsen twins, and, of course, Kevin Federline. The fact that Moretz chose the celebrate her birthday with a nod to the 2000s seems fitting, given that Greta also feels like an ode to thrillers of that era. It’s campy like Obsessed, a slow-burn like The Descent, and features dynamic female performances like Panic Room.
Moretz plays Frances, a wide-eyed waitress whose good deed of returning a purse she found on the subway to a lonely older woman (Greta, played by French cinema icon and Academy Award nominee Isabelle Huppert) turns into a Very Bad Decision. Terror ensues. Mortez and Huppert go toe-to-toe in a movie that hinges on their chemistry, which Moretz says stemmed from their real-life friendship.
Refinery29 Canada: You took a brief hiatus in 2016. You said you wanted to be more selective of the roles you were choosing. So, why this movie, and why now?
Chloe Grace Moretz: "I thought this movie was a really worthwhile opportunity for me to work with a French icon in the film industry like Isabelle Huppert. I think [the script] was really interesting because, like Get Out, it subverts the genre. You know, in an older version of this movie it would have been Isabelle as a man and my character as the young female."
In that older version, the relationship probably would have been about sex or romantic in some way, but in Greta, it starts as an intergenerational female friendship.
"That’s a big thing in this movie, [but] it is almost like a romance. That moment when [my character Frances] sees the other bags in the cupboard, it's not just her being like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm terrified, and this person is doing this to other people. It's also this moment of immense heartbreak. It's like realizing your partner is cheating on you. It’s realizing that you're not as special as you thought ... maybe everything you thought about that relationship is untrue. It makes you feel futile, it makes your entire soul feel cheap and taken advantage of. At its core, this is a movie about heartbreak and loss and loneliness, and what heartbreak, loss, and loneliness do to a person."
It is so interesting you brought up Get Out. It does seem like the horror genre is making a comeback with prestige films that are attracting big-name talent and critical acclaim again. Why do you think that is?
"[In horror], you're able to really push very massive archetypes and structures that we deal with in everyday life and real-life issues … under the guise of this wholly thrilling, exciting experience. [Audiences] don't feel like they are taking their medicine, but they are getting very real subject matter."
Isabelle Huppert is subtly terrifying in this role. Were there moments you were scared of her on set?
"Not really. [Laughs.] She became a really close confidant of mine, and she still is to this day. Even in our spookier moments, she was incredibly gentle and kind and caring. I think that really important for a movie like this, which is the same thing I went through with Julianne Moore on Carrie."
Both Julianne and Isabelle are veterans in this industry. You could say the same about you, but you come from very different worlds and you're obviously different ages. With Isabelle, what lessons did you learn from each other?
"What think I really learned most was her ability to always be a student. The amount of movies that she's made and the amount of acclaim that she has, she sat down and never preached to me. She asked me questions, and she asked my perspective. That was something I continued to want to learn from her — to never stop being a student and to ask as many questions as possible and continue to learn through every piece of work that you do."
She’s known as one of the most famous and respected actresses in French cinema, but what would people be surprised to learn about Isabelle?
"I think a lot of people are terrified of her because she is such a legend. I think they would be surprised to realize what a goof she is. She's really sweet and very silly, and she loves to dance."
Oh, her dancing scene in Greta is incredible.
"She and I would go out and have a few drinks and dance together on the weekend. We had some really huge nights together. She's a total riot....[She dances to] anything. We just listen to pop music in a very dark bar."
Is she an Ariana Grande stan?
"Yeah, fully. Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Britney. She will totally cut a rug with me. And I really appreciated it."
Greta is also about power of female friendship. You've always been open about representation in Hollywood and what needs to get better for women in Hollywood.
"I was thinking about this earlier today and someone asked me, 'What do you think, with all the change and all the progress that has happened, what do you think isn't happening yet?' My answer was that I don't think we're putting enough women in the driver's seat. We're not giving enough women the director roles, the producing roles, the prop master roles, the set design role, the editor, the sound mixer. We have so many roles in filmmaking that do not just pertain to a female lead, and I think it's a bit of a cop out lately to just cast a female lead and say that it’s changing the perspective, but it really isn't."
What are you doing to help change that perspective?
"For me, it's just trying to take as many meetings and reach out to as many female filmmakers and writers as possible and coming together. The communication is key. Trying to hold people accountable is the most important step that we can take."
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Greta is in UK cinemas from 19th April