Chloë Grace Moretz and writer-director Desiree Akhavan talk to Yahoo Movies UK about teaming up for the LGBTQ teen drama, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, how they came together for the project and what the impact films like these make on Hollywood and the wider world.
From child star to teen icon, Chloë Grace Moretz’s acting career has been both extensive and eclectic, but in 2016 she needed a timeout.
The American actress had spent over a decade making her name in the film industry, becoming the go-teen for every genre under the Hollywood sign. From foul-mouthed assassin Mindy McCready (AKA Hit-Girl) in the Kick-Ass franchise, Chloë went on to land leading role after leading role in films like Carrie, The 5th Wave, If I Stay, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and even for a time, was set to play the Little Mermaid in Universal’s live-action version of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.
In 2014, she was even named by Time magazine as one of the 25 Most Influential Teens in the world, but two years later, she had quit all her of her film projects, shocking both the industry and her fans alike. Now, aged 21, Chloë explains what prompted that decision.
“I pulled out of a bunch of stuff I was attached to, to reconfigure who I was and reconnect with the projects that I will be choosing in the future,” the actress tells Yahoo Movies UK. “To sit back and listen, and read, and feel, and listen to myself and my heart.”
Moretz was still reading scripts though, and when Desiree Akhavan and Cecilia Frugiuele’s adaptation of Emily M. Danforth’s novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post came through she knew this was the type of movie she wanted to be making.
“This was the first script that I read that really hit me in a way, in a perspective I hadn’t seen before,” the actress says. “When I read it, I felt like I was reading something that was new and fresh and it felt inherently comfortable to sit in, but it also educated me and changed my perspective and made me feel a certain way.
“The nostalgia was hit but it also felt fresh and that was something that I had never really come across before,” Moretz continues, “after talking to Desi it became very apparent that this was Desi’s lens, and this is who she is and that was just an opportunity, to make a movie with her and to depict this story, that I wasn’t going to pass up on.”
It was also an opportunity to work with a female director, as the actress feels far more comfortable working with them, as well as female producers, than their male counterparts.
“I guess it’s just the idea that none of us needed to fight to be heard,” she says, “None of us had to fight to prove our worth on set. It was just: show up, do your job, do it well and that’s all.”
Chloë plays the titular character in the indie film, set in 1993, who is a lesbian teen sent to a gay conversion therapy centre by her Christian family after being caught having sex with her female best friend. Once there, she bonds with residents Jane Fonda and Adam Red Eagle, played by American Honey’s Sasha Lane and The Revenant’s Forrest Goodluck, respectively, while having to deal with the questionable methods of “conversion” laid out by the centre’s founder Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle).
One might have expected a backlash from the Christian community because of the film’s subject matter but both Moretz and Ahkavan say that that there has been “none that they’ve heard of,” in fact, it’s been positive.
“Actually I’ve had a lot of Christians come to us and say that it’s really beautiful that we don’t bash religion,” Moretz says before Akhavan adds, “and that they’re not the butt of a joke in the film. That it’s a real, sensitive portrayal of Christianity and done with love.”
The film isn’t the only one this year to deal with the controversial subject; Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased looks at gay conversion therapy from the point of view of a male teen, played by Lucas Hedges. There also seems to be a steady increase in the amount of LGBTQ stories being told, especially since Moonlight took home the Best Picture Oscar in 2017, or at least there has been more awareness and coverage of these films – but could this just a moment or a progressive sign for filmmaking to come?
“Good stories, do good business, the end,” Akhavan says, “If you make a film and it’s a good film and a good story that should be told, and one I haven’t seen before, then it will do good business.
“It has nothing to do with gay, straight, white, black. It is about time, but I also think that’s because [the] trust was never put into these queer stories and Hollywood didn’t want to take a risk.”
Queer stories seem to continually find their home in independent production rather than in big studios. For Akhavan, she has always operated outside the studio system and like her debut feature, Appropriate Behaviour, made it on a low budget with an indie production company.
“We were proving ourselves to be deserving of our seat at the table,” the Iranian-American filmmaker explains, “I did pitch it to some studios but I never really thought that would happen.
“Everything I’ve done in my life has been outside the norm and I like that about my weird life…Even coming out of the closet I had never met a gay Iranian let alone a female one, one who wanted to make movies, [so] every step of the way it was weird and hard, and outside the norm so why should this be any different?”
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is out this Friday