Brian De Palma’s Carrie turns 40 later this year, and the film is just as incredible as ever. I still physically get chills during the prom scene. There aren’t many movies that give me that feeling, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a testament to just how powerful this classic really is.
Carrie was the first Stephen King novel to be published, and incidentally, the film helped turn King into a well-known author. The film, grossing over $33 million, was a major box office hit.
Carrie has since been remade twice and spawned a sequel, but while I have yet to check out the latest remake (I’ve heard plenty), I think it’s safe to say that none of these have managed to come close to capturing the magic of De Palma’s masterpiece.
1. Brian De Palma and George Lucas held joint casting sessions for Carrie and Star Wars.
Pre-production for Carrie and the first Star Wars film were underway at the same time, and the two directors decided to hold joint casting sessions presumably to get a look at as much young talent as possible. As a result, some of the actors were auditioning for both films. William Katt, who plays Tommy Ross, auditioned for Luke Skywalker, for example.
Here’s a video of Katt reading for Star Wars (with none other than Kurt Russell):
2. Sissy Spacek was not originally going to be Carrie.
De Palma originally had his mind set on another young woman to play Carrie, but Sissy Spacek was so good they couldn’t not use her. That other woman was reportedly Amy Irving, who ended up playing Sue Snell. Irving also auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars.
Irving would go on to play another young woman with telekinetic powers in De Palma’s next film The Fury. She would also return as Sue Snell in The Rage: Carrie 2. Word is that she began dating Steven Spielberg (whom she would later marry and have a child with) after meeting him on the set of Carrie.
According to IMDb, PJ Soles said that Spielberg asked out most of the women on the set, including Soles herself, but that Amy Irving was the only one who accepted.
3. Melanie Griffith auditioned for the Carrie role.
Speaking strictly in terms of the novel, none of the Carrie films have really captured Stephen King’s physical description of the titular character, but Sissy Spacek nailed the role so well, she would become the definitive Carrie (as much as I love Angela Bettis). It’s hard to believe that De Palma wanted to cast Amy Irving as Carrie based on the novel’s description of the character, and it’s perhaps even harder to believe that Melanie Griffith would be considered for the role, though she did apparently audition. Griffith would go on to play a porn star in De Palma’s Body Double and also appear in his 1990 film The Bonfire of the Vanities.
4. The score was an homage to Psycho.
Many watching Carrie have no doubt thought about Psycho during certain parts of the the film’s score, but there are a lot of horror movies over the years that have ripped off the iconic violin sounds of the famous shower scene. The makers of Carrie have been very open about the score specifically paying homage to the Hitchcock classic.
5. The school’s name was also a reference to Psycho.
Those familiar with De Palma’s greater filmography know that he has never been shy about his homages to Hitchcock. For example, Dressed to Kill borrows a great deal from Psycho as does Body Double from Rear Window. In Carrie, the name of the high school is Bates High School, which has also been acknowledged like the score (in DVD extras) as being a direct tribute to the Hitchcock film. In the novel, it was called Ewen High School.
6. Early nudity was designed to put the viewer on edge.
The locker room and shower scene in Carrie is nearly as famous as the prom scene. It’s where Carrie first gets her period, which is the catalyst for pretty much everything else that happens in the story. While shower scenes are nearly as common in De Palma films as Hitchcock references, it’s explained in DVD extras that the use of an abundance of full frontal nudity during the title sequence of the film was to put viewers on edge early on. The thinking was that if the filmmaker was willing to load the film with graphic nudity so early on, the audience would get the sense that anything could happen in this film.
7. Carrie was written by the same guy who wrote IT (and I don’t mean Stephen King).
Obviously Stephen King wrote both novels, but did you know that both were also adapted for the screen by the same guy? That would be Lawrence D. Cohen. He wrote the screenplay for the De Palma film as well as the teleplay (along with Tommy Lee Wallace) for Wallace’s 1990 TV mini-series IT. In fact, he also penned the teleplays for 1993’s The Tommyknockers and 2006’s The End of the Whole Mess (part of Stephen King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes).
8. Nancy Allen Got Slapped Around A LOT During Filming
According to IMDb, De Palma wanted Betty Buckley, who played the gym teacher, to really slap Nancy Allen (Chris) in the film. Allen apparently had a hard time providing the reaction the director was looking for, and Buckley ended up slapping Allen as many as thirty times before it was all said and done. It’s unclear how many times Allen had to be slapped by John Travolta.
9. It took over 30 shots to get the bucket shot right.
Speaking of 30 takes, it took at least that many to get the long take involving the rope and the bucket at the prom to go right. If you watch the movie closely, you can see how it would be incredibly hard to pull the shot off.
10. Parts of Stephen King’s novel that were not in the movie were actually shot, but discarded.
Stephen King fans know that there are some key scenes from the novel that didn’t make it into the film – most notably, a scene involving rocks falling from the sky. They actually shot this, but the effect just didn’t look good (looking more like rain than rocks), so they decided not to use it.
If it’s been a while since you’ve seen the original Carrie film, I strongly suggest you go back and watch it in honor of its 40-year anniversary (which technically isn’t until November). It’s truly one of the greats.