“This is the adult-ish Chloë,” declares Chloë Grace Moretz, the former child star known for her role in the action-packed “Kick-Ass” and its sequel — but who is now a 21-year-old with serious ambitions.
Moretz was in Washington this week to promote her new movie “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” which is just the kind of film that the 2.0 version of Moretz wants to tackle — the story of a teen sent to a gay-conversion camp by a relative. It’s got everything she’s looking for: a socially relevant theme, a complicated female lead and a female director in Desiree Akhavan.
We sat down with her the morning before she screened the film for a D.C. audience to talk about sex scenes, whom she’ll campaign for in 2020 and what she learned about conversion therapy.
Do you have time to do anything in D.C.?
I’m skipping my lunch break to go and see a couple things. I’m going to go to the Lincoln Memorial. I would love, if I had time, to go to the Smithsonian. I also want to go to the Newseum. It sounds cool. Especially in this day and age. Very necessary.
You recently called out Hollywood in an interesting way for backing another movie about gay conversion. [In an interview with the L.A. Times, Moretz noted the “discrepancy” between the money behind “Cameron Post,” and “Boy Erased,” which stars Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. Moretz noted that the latter film was written and directed by a man — in other words, “shot through a straight male gaze."] What’s been the reaction?
It’s opened a conversation. The New York Times had a really interesting article the other day [about the small percentages of women in lead roles and in directors’ chairs]. The fact that the ratio hasn’t changed? I thought that was just . . . an interesting enlightenment.
When you watch movies right now, it’s really wonderful when you feel a difference in perspective, because it’s fresh and it’s a perspective we haven’t seen yet, and it’s really encouraging.
How does identity inform the work?
For so many years, we’ve only been hearing stories from one source. Look at the news — what if you just focus on CNN or Fox News? You can’t have one source. There is no one opinion. And in this industry, since the beginning of this industry, we’ve had one opinion. There’s been one opinion on screen. And all the marginalized groups, which is everyone except for the top dogs — we haven’t had a voice.
You mean white dudes. Is that changing?
It’s starting to happen in independent cinema. . . . I don’t think it goes for large-cinema studio movies. They’re saying they’re doing it, but I haven’t seen a real shift in perspective.
So how was it different being directed by a woman?
It was subjective instead of objective. Everything was. And specifically when I say that, I mean the sex scenes. In the movie, I would say particularly those scenes struck me as some of the most beautiful, because they progressed the character. Without them, you wouldn’t understand Cameron in the same way — and I don’t think that goes for all sex scenes in all movies.
The ways that female sex and female pleasure are depicted on-screen has never been naturalistic. It’s always and forever been in every way objectifying women. It’s never a beautiful, budding sexual experience. There’s a reason for sex in real life. We don’t just have sex to have sex. Even if it’s a very quick transaction, there’s always a reason for it, and you’re different after it than you were before it. And to see that finally depicted on-screen is a perfect depiction of not just a female lens, but a queer female lens.
What research did you do to prepare?
We only had 23 days to shoot the film, but it was incredibly pertinent to me to meet survivors. I knew I needed to hear from them what it was like to stand in front of the conversion-therapy center before you walk in for the first time and what that meant. So we partnered with GLAAD and the Trevor Project, and they introduced us to five different survivors. One is here today — Mathew Shurka. He helped us get into what was actually being said in those therapy sessions and what the psychotherapy actually looked like.
I wasn’t aware that this was such a modern issue. When we started preproduction of this film, we were still in the Obama era. It was a very different feeling in the country, especially for LGBT rights. For the last two years of Obama’s administration, they made leaps and bounds for the LBGT community.
It wasn’t until halfway through [filming] that the election went awry and Trump was elected president. And we woke up that day realizing that not only was this movie important to us, but this was one of the most societally impactful films that we could be making, and it was the highest form of activism: rebellion against the administration.
What do you hope people take away from this film?
I hope it makes people Google “what is conversion therapy,” and it makes them realize that this is a countrywide epidemic. This is not just stuck in small towns. It’s here in D.C. It’s all over Manhattan, it’s in Los Angeles, it’s in very liberal blue states, and it’s rampant.
Tell me about your activism.
First of all, I have two gay brothers, so I’ve always been an activist for LGBT rights since I was a little girl. That was never a question; it was nonnegotiable. But as I grew up, that really became my platform of who I am and part of my identity. And when I helped stump for Hillary Clinton, a big part of what I wanted to do was be inclusive to the LGBT community.
Will you stump again in 2020?
Yeah, for sure.
Do you know who you want to be campaigning for?
I don’t. What I’m doing right now is just so fun ’cause I’m such a little political dork. I eat it up. I’m just reading so much . . . from [Kirsten] Gillibrand, from [Cory] Booker, from [Bernie] Sanders, from [Elizabeth] Warren, from Kamala Harris. I like to read and listen to the smaller rallies, because I find what they say at the smaller rallies can be a bit more off-book and you can hear a bit more about who they are outside of their speechwriters, which I always find important. But it’s funny because I know Gillibrand and Booker from stumping for Hillary.
These upcoming elections . . . this is our chance. Democrats especially need to put their money where their mouths are, and get out there and do our job, which is to vote. And actually change what we’re unhappy with instead of sitting there, complacent, which I think is a massive issue.
So voter turnout will be your big issue?
Most definitely. [I’ll be] trying to talk to the liberal kids, because a lot of them can be very complacent, and they are incredibly detrimental to the state of this country because they sit there and are unhappy about who’s running it, but they don’t actually end up doing anything to change that. There’s a large crop of 18-year-olds who we need, we need, at the ballot boxes.
You’ve been acting for most of your life — are there actresses whose careers you admire?
When I was younger especially, Natalie Portman was someone I really looked up to. She had a big platform with “Léon: The Professional” the same way I had with “Kick-Ass.” So I saw a lot of parallels there. But at the same time, she did some politically and societally shocking movies. And she was a really smart, eloquently spoken, educated young woman. She carried herself well as a teenager and then into her early 20s she made that eloquent shift. It was not dramatic. She didn’t do anything crazy. And I always connected to that.
Someone I looked up to more as a mentor was Julianne Moore, who I worked with on “Carrie.” She helped shape me, teaching me what it means to have a voice and use that voice. And to not back down from what you believe in, for your project and your character.
What’s your dream project?
There’s never one specific project. I think what’s important to me is choosing to work with people who haven’t had their voice out there yet. And being able to take the reins of a narrative that I think for so many years has been driven by other people, which is the female narrative. The next phase is going into filmmaking myself and directing.
Anything on the books?
Yes, my brother Trevor and I actually co-direct together. It’s a really beautiful, symbiotic relationship we have there. And my brother Colin wrote this short film that blew our minds, and we’re actually posing that as our first one.
You’re so close to your brothers — do you guys ever fight?
There’s bickering but never fighting. I think this is a testament to our mother — she really raised us as a brood together, and it was us against the world, always. So no matter what, my best friends in my entire life are my brothers.
You seem like a pretty serious person — what’s fun for you?
I love music, I love going to concerts. I’m definitely serious at a young age. One of the most fun things I do every morning is read my newspaper, which is like so ridiculous. I’m a total nerd. I find things exciting that most people would not find exciting. I love going to museums. I love listening to podcasts in my car.
There’s a lot of ’90s music in “Cameron Post.” Did you discover anything to add to your library?
One of the first things Desi [Akhavan] did for me when I signed on was send me these two playlists full of so much ’90s brilliance. I grew up with four older brothers, and the oldest brother is 15 years older than me. People my age usually don’t know a lot of music outside of the Cranberries, so I was lucky to grow up immersed in real, true ’90s content. So I connected with a lot of the music in the movie fairly well. I also loved Des’s choice of music in the movie. I love that she chose the Breeders, like that’s such a wonderful ’90s band but one that is not usually in the movies . . . and it’s nice. It breathes life into the time period.