Chloë Moretz on "The 5th Wave", the importance of badass female roles, and the need for more female directors
She came to BuzzFeed UK to discuss everything from fighting an alien apocalypse, to learning how to not be quite so badass.
We’ve known the name Chloë Moretz for almost a decade, which is quite a feat given she’s only 18 years old. She’s already carved out a successful career playing numerous badass parts, namely as an 11-year-old Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass. And her latest film, The 5th Wave, shows her taking on yet another strong role.
In it she plays the lead character, a regular teenager called Cassie who fights to survive following an alien apocalypse. It’s based on the YA novel of the same name by Rick Yancey. And rather than use her previous experience of action films, she actually had to train to be more “normal” and forget how to use guns. We invited Chloë into BuzzFeed UK’s London office to open up about the role. We discussed everything from how the “Wavers” will react to the film adaptation, to the pressure of bringing a much-loved book to life, to the importance of female roles in movies and the lack of female directors being used in the industry. Here’s what went down…
What was it about this film that first appealed to you?
Chloë Moretz: For me, it was when I first read the book. And what I liked about it is that she, Cassie Sullivan, the character that I play, she didn't feel incredibly masculine, she didn't feel incredibly feminine, it felt very much like a realistic depiction of the generation that we're living in. You know there's this "millennial generation" – it felt like a very adequate depiction of young women and me right now.
The book and movie is aimed at these millennials. Do you think a lot of girls and even boys the same age will see themselves in this movie?
CM: Definitely. I think that's the interesting thing about it is it kind of breaks the stereotypical, you know, being played to one specific gender and age range. I went to the movie and saw it with my whole family – which is four older brothers, my oldest brother is 34; my mom is in her fifties – and all of us, for completely separate reasons, enjoyed the movie. And I thought that was really interesting, that kind of tells you a lot about the project in the sense that it is a much broader spectrum than this incredibly concentrated, tiny focused group that it's supposed to be based for, but it's not.
It's based on the books. Is it weird being part of this kind of movie compared to your others because there's already such a huge fan base out there already?
CM: People have loved this book for much longer than when we decided to make it into a movie. I think it gives you a sense of good nerves. It's good nerves that you feel pushed to do it justice. You know the feeling – every fan knows the feeling of being a huge fan of a book series or a book and going to the theatre and sitting down and being so heavily disappointed. I think because I was a fan of the book predominantly, I put on my own pressure, my own fan-based pressure on myself to do Cassie justice. So I think that you can really see that in the film with all the characters and with the film as a whole.
There seems to be a big surge at the moment to turn YA books into movies. Do you think this one has the potential to be as big as The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner et al?
CM: I mean, I think the world is kind of changing and there's so many ways for things to go. I think we have seen a lot of projects that this movie looks like but the thing is that this movie isn't all that it seems. It's modern, it's real, it's really a great character-based story for young adults to be able to kind of fall in love with. And also it's sci-fi, there's fun thriller sci-fi wild elements to it and it's incredibly fearful – in a lot of moments you're left on the edge of your seat. So it's very different from the other films and I think it's hard for people to differentiate their brains from what we've seen over the past eight years – but if they did I think they could see the movie for more than what they think it is.
It was yet again quite an action-packed film for you. What was the most challenging thing?
CM: You know, it was funny, it was kind of an adverse amount of challenging for me because I had to, instead of being reminded to be more coordinated, more skilful, the whole time I was having to be reminded that I've never picked up a gun before, I've never been in combat. So kind of to be more uncoordinated and to fall more and to fumble more and to not really know where the trigger is, and so that was kind of funny. It was different to what I'm used to... It was pretty simple with the training, they actually didn't really tell me about the fight scenes until the day of because they wanted to keep me that natural. Because they knew if I had a week to train on it I'd be way too "on it".
So the training was actually to go backwards in a way?
CM: Exactly! Forget everything you know and then we're good.
You said before that you felt Cassie wasn't too masculine or feminine, but the female portrayals seem quite important in this film because they go against the stereotypes. Two of the main females are quite badass. Do you think that's quite important to have those portrayals?
CM: I think it's important that we make movies that we can look up to in a sense, at least that's the way I look at it. I want to be able to make a movie that I can go to the theatre and go, "That's a cool character, that's a character that I can relate to, that my brothers can relate to, that we can all relate to," in a sense. And I don't want to get too concentrated on the fact that it's just a female role for females, because I think that's what's happening right now.
It's now shifting from really great roles for women to just "oh great, we have one female lead, now it's a feminist's tale," but it's not. So I think instead of just saying it's a feminist story and it's a story about a young woman, it truly is a story about a young person, who against all odds perseveres. And it's a human story and it happens to be a young woman at the lead of it. I think it's more interesting right now to see young women and women in general in these lead roles because for the past 50 years we've seen the masculine stereotype, which is a stereotype in itself. But what we want to see and I think what is more interesting to the eye and to our brain, because it's different to what we've seen in the past, is these young women in leads. These strong, realistically depicted, within-our-actual-society roles.
There's also a lot more empowering roles around for younger people as well. Do you think it's also good that films are now having this voice for your generation?
CM: Definitely. I think that they're not just Young Adult stories for young adults, it's not concentrated on that. They are adult stories that just happen to take place with younger people. Which I think is interesting and it's fun to see that because at that age you do deal with a lot of things that are very adult, it's just not depicted on screen normally. And if it is depicted on screen then it's in a very small, independent film. So I think it's nice to see on a broad spectrum a film that can be seen by millions, something that is realistic and something you can grasp and go, "Oh, I'm going through that too." It might not be the alien apocalypse but it might feel like that!
You've obviously done sequels before, but does it feel different being part of a potential trilogy? (The 5th Wave is the first of three books in the series).
CM: I just hope that people go and see this one and enjoy it because I'd love to make a second one, I think it would be a great idea. I loved the second book and I would love to show where Cassie goes and where the team goes but, you know, it's up to fans. It really is.
Aside from The 5th Wave, you've got another busy year coming up. You've got other projects like filming the live-action The Little Mermaid, which is getting a lot of attention at the moment. It's with female director Rebecca Thomas – do you think there's been a shift in the industry with more females leading projects like that?
CM: Definitely. Our director for Little Mermaid is Rebecca Thomas, who is a woman, and it's really exciting to be able to go on this big journey with this huge female lead of a story that we've known for so long. And also depicting this story in a modern-day world, as modern-day women we're depicting a story that is a very, very, very, very old story and making it modern for women so that we can look at it and go, "Oh cool, she's still a badass, she's still owning her own life and choosing her own path."
And going through it with someone like Rebecca Thomas is exciting because I think we, as women, we kind of, we're able to see things in a different light sometimes because of the adversities that we've seen – and I'm saying that as a white, blonde young woman who hasn't seen any adversity compared to [others], but we're going to go on a journey together to create our perfect mermaid in a sense and our modern-day mermaid. Which is exciting, it's female-driven. I think more projects need to be with female directors because there's a plethora of brilliant female directors out there and they aren't used. And it's sad.
And finally, what's your message for the 5th Wavers who are looking forward to watching this movie?
CM: I hope they fall in love with the movie as much as they fell in love with the book. I fell in love with the book and now I love the movie as much, and I hope that they enjoy it enough to go and see it the second and third time. And you know, it's up to them whether or not we make a second one. So go buy tickets, bring all your friends, go take all your family members and you'll see more.