Sworn again – Chloë Grace Moretz on reusing the C-word – and reprising her kick-ass role as Hit Girl
As a sweary pre-teen heroine in ‘Kick-Ass’, Chloë Grace Moretz shocked – and stole the film. Now she’s back as Hit Girl in ‘Kick-Ass 2’, and upstaging her co-stars again. But, insists the 16-year-old, behind the potty mouth is a polite Southern Belle
When is a superhero not a superhero? When he’s still at school? Nope. See last year’s Spiderman. When he has no superpowers? No. that would be Batman. When he’s deconstructed? No. See, well, everything.
How about when he has been completely upstaged by a potty-mouthed little girl?
Enter Kick-Ass 2, a sequel to the 2010 vigilante fantasy. Fan buzz is loud and Formula-One waspy. Few of the franchise’s devotees, however, are all that concerned about what Aaron Johnson’s Kick-Ass or Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s Red Mist/Black Death might be up to nowadays. Instead, all eyes are firmly trained on Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hit Girl, last seen as a combat-ready pre-pubescent, butterfly knife to hand and C-word perennially on her lips.
The original shocked many cultural commentators, including the late Roger Ebert. Writing in 2010, he questioned the wisdom of arming a little tyke to the teeth. “In one scene,” he noted in his review, “she faces a hallway jammed with heavily armed gangsters and shoots, stabs and kicks them all to death, while flying through the air with such power, it’s enough to make Jackie Chan take out an AARP membership.”
As I catch up with Moretz in London, she’s just turned 16-and-a-quarter. And finally, she thinks she knows what all the kerfuffle was about.
“When I watch it now I understand the fuss about it a bit more. At the time I was wondering ‘Hey, why are people freaking out about this?’ I thought I was grown up back then. Now I see it and think ‘Oh, that’s why’. Now I get it. Now I’m thinking, ‘Whoa, what’s this girl doing?’”
Moretz spent months training with Jackie Chan’s stunt and choreography team for the first instalment. But this time around, having spent “two months in buckets of blood” on the incoming reboot of Carrie, she had to rely on muscle memory to do the work.
“I had no time for training,” she confesses. “I finished Carrie one week and started Kick-Ass the next. But I had done so much work for the first film it wasn’t too bad. It was a lot easier.”
The two projects, though very different in tone, forced the infinitely jolly Moretz to think like a loner.
“I had to think about where Hit Girl was at just as much as I did with Carrie,” she tells me. “On the first film she has her dad, but in this film she’s basically alone. Sure, she’s adopted by Marcus (Morris Chestnut) but he’s a cop. He’s the polar opposite of what a vigilante wants in a father figure because he’s the guy that wants to arrest you. That’s the big decision she has to make. She loves Marcus but he’s a threat to her way of life.”
Did Hit Girl pick up many injuries practising her ‘way of life’?
Kick Ass 2 trailer
“Oh sure. When you’re rolling around on top of a moving truck you’re always going to get bruises. But you get used to getting injured on a Kick-Ass set. You expect it.”
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, to a plastic surgeon and a nurse, Moretz is the youngest of five siblings and the only girl. Her placement and gender has, she says, made for an interestingly fragmented identity.
“When you grow up with four brothers you learn to play rough. You learn to play baseball and football unless you want to spend all of your time alone. I’m as much of a tomboy as I am a princess. I love dressing up. I love having fun with girlie things. But at the same time I’m not afraid to do stupider, tougher things.”
Girlie things include shopping (“In London I’m all about TK Maxx, TK Maxx, TK Maxx,”) and magazine shoots. To date Moretz has graced the covers of Elle, Vogue, Teen Vogue, Jalouse, Marie Claire, Interview, InStyle and Flaunt. She has, additionally, picked up various sponsorship deals and fashion awards.
“That’s the silly bit of my job,” she laughs. “It’s like taking a little break. I don’t have to worry about anything. It’s just dress-up. It’s the fun stuff. I take every role I do seriously. In my photo shoots I play different characters. I get to put crazy clothes that cost crazy amounts of money on my body. Then I go home and put on shorts and an old tee. Out there – on magazine covers – I get to play a Hollywood star. But at home, it’s like, you’re still a child.”
Don’t her four brothers rib her relentlessly over the girlie stuff?
“Oh yeah. They all beat me up about it. But we support everybody – that’s our way. Whether you’re a rower in college or starring in movies, we all stick together. My mom says that she gave me the middle name Grace because it was through God’s grace that she got me. And that has become a standing joke in my family. ‘I don’t know why your middle name is Grace, because you’re definitely not graceful.’ I’ve been the brunt of that joke my entire life. It’s like, ‘Why didn’t you call her Clumsy instead, Mom?’”
Her family are devoutly Christian, and Moretz describes herself as having a classic Southern Belle’s upbringing. “I’m definitely a southerner,” says Moretz, who currently lives mostly in LA. “We’re very much a southern family. I go back home to Georgia all the time to see my aunt and my uncle and my cousins and my second cousins. It’s not that I appreciate my roots more now that I’ve lived in different parts of the world. I always appreciated them.”
Does that mean she’s proper and polite?
“Oh yeah. My mom is big on being polite. In front of people – no matter what – you should always conduct yourself appropriately. You never cuss at someone or yell at someone. You conduct yourself like a lady. It really is an old school idea of a Southern Belle. But it’s a good idea.
It still works.”
At home she referred to the first Kick-Ass film as ‘Kick-Butt’. And yet, since her big screen debut in The Amityville Horror, Moretz has carved out a reputation as an actor who doesn’t shy away from adult themes. Does she recall much about her first movie?
“I was six when we made it. I’d been on TV sets before but that was my first time on a big movie set. And I can remember like it yesterday. I have a photographic memory so I can literally watch what I saw like they were frames in a movie.”
That’s just as well. She certainly couldn’t have watched the actual movie.
“I know. Legally, until recently, I couldn’t see hardly any of the movies I made. But I never took them that seriously. It was all just fun for me. That’s the big picture.”
And how is it that a Southern Belle ends up in such dark material? To date, between high profile turns in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Moretz has graced such age-inappropriate projects as Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, Let Me In, Texas Killing Fields and, now, Carrie.
“I purposely go for roles that are the absolute opposite of me. All these parts and movies are the opposite of what I’m like and what my life is like. I’m a happy-go-lucky kid. I’m easygoing with an easy life. I have a family that loves me. I take roles that aren’t that. Because that’s what acting is. It’s playing someone that you’re not. It’s about expressing emotions and dealing with things that you never would in your everyday life.”
Kick-Ass came along after Moretz, inspired by seeing Angelina Jolie in the poster for Wanted, decided that she wanted to play an action heroine. How did her folks feel about her demotic use of language in Kick-Ass?
“My mom brought me the script in the first place,” she says. “She has always been crazy supportive and she thinks that it doesn’t matter what religion you are – it shouldn’t stop you from doing your job well. You can’t be afraid of doing stronger material. As far as my mom and I are concerned it doesn’t matter if a character is a vigilante and says the C-word all the time. Just as long as I amn’t a vigilante who says the C-word all the time in real life.”
She laughs: “She’s going to know.”
Moretz is getting ready to partner up with Denzel Washington on The Equalizer and with Keira Knightley on the black comedy Laggies. Does the teen star ever get time to, you know, be a teen?
“Oh sure. I play video games and listen to music and all that stuff. And I keep in touch with my friends with social media and texting. That’s what those things are for and that’s where they are good. They’re not for catfishing and stuff like that. Or at least they shouldn’t be. Social media is for staying in touch with your friends and family from across the world no matter where you might be .”