With her hair loose, minimal make-up and a floral blouse neatly tucked into fitted trousers, former Hollywood child star Chloë Grace Moretz is the picture of breezy professionalism. Her seemingly effortless poise is a likely consequence of being in the business since she was five, while her shrewdness makes it easy to forget that she’s still only 21.
Ensconced in a smart Soho hotel suite, Moretz is in London to promote The Miseducation of Cameron Post (in cinemas from Friday 7th September), a gorgeously subtle, sometimes wickedly funny coming-of-age story set in 1993, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. “It’s a John Hughes movie,” she says, alluding to the late director’s 80s hits The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “but with gay characters.”
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Based on Emily M Danforth’s novel, it takes place in a gay conversion therapy centre in Montana and features “a band of misfits”. She plays Cameron, an orphan sent by an aunt to the fictional God’s Promise camp after being caught in a backseat tryst with her female friend. Her fellow “misfits” are played by Sasha Lane, who was discovered as a student by British film-maker Andrea Arnold and given the lead in Cannes hit American Honey, and native American actor Forrest Goodluck.
The project is incredibly personal for Moretz. “I grew up in a Christian Baptist town – Cartersville, Georgia,” she tells me, although she retains little of the southern accent; her family moved to New York when she was five. “When you grow up with a community that’s very conservative regarding who you are and what sin is, it’s hard not to have those voices in your head come back when you’re faced with the question of your sexuality. I have two gay brothers and they told me recently that, prior to coming out, they tried to pray it away. This movie hits home with them very, very, very hard.”
Moretz first grabbed our attention in 2010 as an 11-year-old in the 18-rated comic-book caper Kick-Ass, playing a crime-fighter whose violent moves and strong language caused many to raise their eyebrows. She followed it up with the similarly adult Let Me In, playing a child vampire. Growing up in the public eye can’t have been easy. But, with one of her four older brothers, Trevor, as her producing partner, and another, Brandon, as her business manager, by keeping her family close, she’s weathered the challenges. “It gave me an insulation, to ask questions and figure out who I am in a safe space.”
After a string of high-profile projects – Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, the remake of Carrie, The Equalizer with Denzel Washington, Bad Neighbours 2 – Moretz took a hiatus in 2016, to “re-evaluate” her career. The break ended when Trevor brought her the Cameron Post script. “It felt different,” she says. “Important but not oppressive in its opinion. It was funny and sad. There were no stereotypes as to what gay is or what gay looks like.”
She was impressed by the approach of Iranian-American director Desiree Akhavan and her acclaimed debut Appropriate Behaviour (in which Akhavan also starred). “She allows the people she hires to do the jobs that she hired them to do,” Moretz says. “As much direction as she gave me, she also didn’t. She knew when to just let us be the characters.”
Having a woman at the helm was particularly welcome when it came to the sex scenes Moretz shared with her co-star Quinn Shephard.
“The representation of femininity and female pleasure is usually very clinical and objective when shot through a male gaze,” says Moretz. “Desiree hid herself and the crew away and just let it be Quinn and me and our female director of photography. That takes strength as a director.”
Working on such a female and LGBT-friendly set was clearly a revelation to an actress who has been vocal in support of the #MeToo movement. Does she feel Hollywood is changing for the better?
“We still have so much work to do,” she says. “It’s in the audience’s hands. Buying a movie ticket is casting a ballot as to the representation you want on screen. Stories from different perspectives need to be told. Those that are in power – the same eight people,” she jokes, “only work in terms of cash. If they don’t see the cash come in they’re not going to hire the people that deserve to be telling those different stories.”
Although she has the wise head of an old hand, it’s not that long ago that, as a child actor, Moretz was at the centre of a controversy, specifically the moral panic that surrounded Kick-Ass, where she was required to gleefully enunciate the C-word before beating up and killing a roomful of bad guys. Looking back on that time now, her feelings are mixed: “I remember what a massive deal it was and it’s funny because there’s such a lack of controversy now. There are countless young bad-ass characters and people don’t bat an eye.”
The overreaction from some quarters of the press did have its upside, she says: “It made my transition to being an adult actor a lot easier because I wasn’t seen as everyone’s little baby girl; it allowed me to learn what my voice is and how to get around questions in an eloquent manner and to stand up for myself and who I am. As polarising as it was, I wouldn’t change one moment of my career so far.”
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is in cinemas from Friday 7th September