Forty years ago, Carrie White got revenge on her fellow classmates of Bates High School as they laughed at her for a final time when Brian De Palma’s seminal horror classic Carrie made its debut in movie houses back in 1976.
The mark the milestone, the cast and crew of the horror classic reunited at the Theater at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to pay homage to the film. Hosted by Bryan Fuller and spearheaded by Carrie bad girl Nancy Allen, the charity event supported the weSpark Cancer Support Center.
In addition to a Q&A with the original cast and crew, the event also hosted a spooky prom inspired by the film, complete with giant silver stars, chairs for the queen and king and soft rock hits to sway to.
On hand for the Q&A were Allen (Chris), PJ Soles (Norma), Piper Laurie (Margaret White), Doug Cox (The Beak), Noella North (Frieda) and editor Paul Hirsch. After the screening, the former residents of Chamberlin reminisced about working with De Palma and working on the movie. For a few, it had been quite a while since they had seen the pic.
“This is the first time I’ve seen the footage in 40 years. When you get to the end of a film, you’ve seen it so many times, you never want to see it again, which is a Faustian bargain editors make,” said Hirsch. “But watching it tonight I was struck by how interestingly every scene was shot. The angles, the lighting…nothing was done conventionally. Every choice was done with a point and an attitude.
“I thought the scenes between Nancy and John were so rich in chemistry, you can really feel the feelings between them. The dance of the eyes. And the scenes between Piper and Sissy were like operatic duets. They were just fabulous. I just had a great time watching the picture tonight.”
“Seeing it on the big screen, I picked up a lot of details I didn’t get before. Like the meteorites coming through the roof,” said Fuller, “In the novel, Carrie can summon meteorites from the sky, and the collapse of the house, you can see the meteorites. More specifically, I had read about them but I had never seen them before tonight.”
“The build up to the dumping of the blood, the whole prom, took weeks to shoot. And the slow motion sequence had over a hundred set-ups on each of the characters on what they are seeing and their reaction to what they are seeing,” explained Schafer. “The challenge to get all the pieces to fit in the right order in the right time is very satisfying to see today.”
Screen legend Laurie recalled that when she first read the screenplay, she took away a different meaning from the tale.
“I read the script and I thought it was a comedy. My husband said, ‘Well, Brian De Palma has a comedic approach to everything he does.’ I thought I misread the whole thing and thought it was a comedy,” recalled Laurie, “Months later, I was back in Los Angeles, rehearsing in his apartment, and I had worked out a few really funny bits to do. I went to do one scene with Sissy, and I did it, and he said, ‘Piper, you won’t be able to do that, you are going to get a laugh.’ I was stunned. It was then I realized it was supposed to be serious.”
During the Q&A, the cast chatted about their experiences on the pic and working together as young actors, many of whom had never worked in a featured film before.
“The first day of shooting was the volleyball scene. That was supposed to be my only scene. I actually screen tested for Chris’ part, which I studied with John (Travolta),” said Soles. “But then I got the part Norma, which I was told was only that one line: ‘Thanks a lot, Carrie.’
But after Brian saw the dailies, to which he invited all of us to, which was very unusual for the time for a director. ‘Come on! Let’s all go watch the dailies!’ ‘Really?’ Usually they don’t want us around. Because I wore the red baseball cap, which was Brian’s suggestion that I wear it, and my pin, which got stuck in (Sissy’s) hair, and I ripped it out. I felt so badly, but in the dailies it read so great and Brian just loved it, Brian said, ‘I’m calling your agent and we’re putting you on for the rest of the shoot and you’ll be Chris’ best friend.’ I was thrilled.”
“We all became good friends,” said Soles, “but I remember Sissy said she wasn’t going to hang around with us because she wanted to feel ostracized by us and have a look in our eyes that we really cared about her. That was a very wise decision.”
Every member took away something different from the movie. For one of them, it was a small case of permanent damage.
“The hose got very intimate with my ear,” laughed Soles. “It broke my eardrum, the force of the water. It was really painful. That last little wince was really pain. It think I just blacked out because of the pain.”
Aside from a few missteps and a ruptured eardrum here and there, the cast and crew agreed that the film was not only one an amazing project to work on, but an important one. Carrie holds a place in the hearts of cinephiles because it tackles issues many can relate to today.
“All the girls wanted to go along with the crowd. I made the decision that I felt really bad about it,” said North. “And I think maybe in real life some kids do too feel bad about it, but they want to belong so they go along with the crowd but that’s not who they are. It shows that bullying is still out there.”