There Will Be Blood
By Shana Naomi Krochmal
Peirce also has a strong eye for casting emerging stars, both men and women. In addition to Swank, who had previously been best known from the original Beverly Hills, 90210 series, Boys Don’t Cry elevated Chloë Sevigny (then an obscure art-house darling seen in Kids and The Last Days of Disco) and Peter Sarsgaard (as one of Brandon Teena’s murderers).
For Stop-Loss, her 2008 drama about a young soldier who is called back to service, she fought to cast Channing Tatum, whose biggest credits at the time were Step Up and Step Up 2, both glorified dance-offs. “All these [actors] who are coming in are boys,” she told producers. “Channing came in and I was like, ‘That’s a man.’ ”
If Peirce’s faculty with a dark, flawed, unconventional protagonist was an obvious plus when looking to relaunch Carrie, it’s hard not to wonder if her major studio minders realize just how straightforward Peirce is when talking about her characters’ queer subtext.
“Carrie’s desire to be different is similar to my desire to be different,” she says. “She’s certainly not front and center—the most popular, the most beautiful, the most perfect. The relationship between all the girls is incredibly queer. The way the girls are screwing their boyfriends to get them to either hurt or help Carrie—that’s a complete triangle of desire. My actresses would be holding hands and hugging and kissing, and I’m like, ‘Guys, you’re making this queerer than I ever made it.’ And they’re totally straight.”
Add Moore to the mix and the dysfunctional family portrait also gets a little bent. “I think Margaret and Carrie’s relationship is very queer,” Peirce says — but it’s also about power, more Michel Foucault than Inside the Actor’s Studio.
“Carrie is topped by the mother for the first half of the film,” Peirce says, “beaten down, dominated. The mother won’t even let her get a word in edgewise. After Carrie has reached her zenith of power [at the school dance], she comes home and she wants to turn back into the child, wants to go back to, ‘Mother, I will pray.’ Of course the mother lets her. But then the mother tries to kill her and the powers protect Carrie. So you have this phenomenal arc of the bottom becoming the top, wanting to be the bottom again — but it’s too late.”
As for that frequently asked question about whether Carrie will be better solely because a woman is running the show, Peirce is characteristically thoughtful in her answer. “The minute we say [it is better], we’re buying into the argument that only a man can do this, and only a straight person can do that,” she says. “So let’s not buy into that.”
WATCH a Behind the Scenes trailer of Carrie below: