Why You Should Go See Carrie Tonight

Fourteen years after Boys Don’t Cry, director Kimberly Peirce tells the tale of another outcast, this time with telekinetic powers.


  UPDATED: October 18 2013 9:40 PM ET

It’s no secret that director Kimberly Peirce became an overnight sensation when her debut film, Boys Don’t Cry, about a murdered transgender man in Nebraska, became the most acclaimed film of 1999. In it she teased out an absolutely transformative performance from actress Hilary Swank, who had to channel a young closeted man on the cusp of becoming himself and then suffering the great horror of violence that ended his life.

Peirce, who is drawn not just to the authentic portrayal of violence but also the humanity behind that violence, managed to offer up a film in which everyone was complex and fleshy and shaped by their backgrounds and histories. Now she’s doing it again with an adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal horror novel Carrie. Her background, she says, has helped prepare her for the cruelty and brutality that lay ahead.

“I don’t think personal experience is the be-all, end-all of our interests,” Peirce says. “We were all raised straight, and look how queer we are. But I certainly think things do influence you, and I come from a very interesting background.”

When Peirce was born, her parents were 15 and 16, a lower-middle-class but beautiful couple from Harrisburg, Pa. “My dad was a builder and was taught to fight, to fuck, and to drink by his stepfather, and that has created a whole mythic life for him. But I think that violence is generational, sadly. So the psychological and physical violence that was inflicted upon him, he inflicted upon me.”

The auteur says she was “very lucky because I was an artist and because I had education. Rather, I sought out education. I learned to turn my violence, the violence that was inflicted upon me, into stories. But then I also have empathy. I’ve known a lot of women who have been raped. I’ve known a lot of people who have been on the other side of physical violence, and not only was there my own, but there was a great interest in humanity and who experienced that stuff, and of course that led to Boys, Stop-Loss… Same thing with Carrie. Maybe I haven’t lived Carrie’s exact experience, but you draw from the things that are similar in your own life that you are working out.”

Tags: film