Playing the lead in “If I Stay,” the new movie based on the best-selling young adult novel about a girl who must reassess everything she knows after a devastating car crash, 17-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz speaks with knowledge gained from experience.
“If you go into this purgatory, there are no rules. We really wanted to capture something that was ethereal and angelic. But we wanted to understand how far we could go into the cheese of it, and how far we could make it realistic,” says Moretz, describing how her character Mia goes into a coma, then appears in spirit form, watching over her earthly body in the hospital, trying to find her family, and observing visitors coming and going. In her spirit form, Mia isn’t wearing shoes, and she cannot open doors or pass through walls.
“We didn’t want any moments where I was putting my hands through things. We needed to make the audience figure it out a little on their own. Instead of being, like, ‘I can’t open a door!’ We just showed it,” says Moretz, who was just 11 when she gave her breakout performance as Hit-Girl in “Kick-Ass.” Major roles in “Let Me In,” “Hugo,” “Dark Shadows,” and the lead in “Carrie” — in addition to some 30 other TV shows, movies and voice work in cartoons — followed.
The bare feet also were not an easy choice. For one thing, the hospital was actually a converted old insane asylum, and the floor was very cold. Fortunately, there were several shots in which Mia runs, allowing Moretz to keep warm, but also leading to another problem.
“I’m a fast runner, and there’s this camera guy who has this 200-pound camera on his body and he’s trying to run. I wanted to capture what it would be like if you were running to find your brother. And they would be like, ‘We can’t. None of us can run that fast.’ We smashed the camera into a wall, several times.”
As for the movie’s themes of life and death and a possible afterlife, Moretz prefers to keep those things a mystery.
She smiles: “What I like about this movie is that it doesn’t really ask that question.”
IF YOU GO
If I Stay
Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Jamie Blackley, Stacy Keach
Written by Shauna Cross
Directed by R.J. Cutler
Running time 1 hour, 46 minutes