10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Making Of Carrie (1976)
Carrie is one of the most iconic horror movies ever made, and here are 10 interesting behind the scenes facts about the film.
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Brian De Palma’s Carrie is all but unanimously praised as one of the scariest horror movies of all time. Based on Stephen King’s first published novel, the story centers on Carrie (Sissy Spacek), a timid teenage girl who is bullied in school by popular girls and tormented at home by her fanatically religious mother (Piper Laurie). Like the novel, the movie became a smash hit, turning a $1.8 million investment into a $33.8 million moneymaker.
As a result, Carrie spawned a sequel, a made for TV remake, a 2013 reboot, and two musical adaptations. With the original film version celebrating its 44th anniversary this year, here are 10-Behind-The-Scenes Facts about the making of Carrie (1976).
While Carrie Fisher, Glenn Close, Linda Blair, and others auditioned for the title role in Carrie, director Brian De Palma was set on casting Amy Irving in the role. But when famed production designer Jack Fisk suggested his wife Sisssy Spacek audition, everything changed.
Spacek wore a sailor dress made for her as a child and smeared Vaseline in her hair prior to the audition, which she hit out of the park. When De Palma gave Spacek the role, he cast Amy Irving as Sue Snell instead. However, Nancy Allen was already promised the role of Sue Snell, so De Palma cast her as Chris Hargensen instead.
9 Sissy Spacek’s Preparation
To prepare for her role as Carrie, Sissy Spacek deliberately isolated herself from the rest of her cast members while on set. She would hole up in her trailer, which was adorned with a slew of religious regalia including Gustave Dore’s illustrated Bible.
Spacek also examined the body language of those stoned to death for their sins. Following her performance, Spacek was nominated for Best Leading Actress at the 1977 Academy Awards.
8 Piper Laurie’s Performance
Piper Laurie also scored an Oscar nod for her performance as Margaret White, Carrie’s abusive and religiously fanatical mother. The role marked the first time Laurie acted in a film since The Hustler in 1961.
Upon landing the part, Laurie genuinely thought her character was so histrionic and over-the-top that the movie had to be a dark comedy. De Palma had to constantly remind her on set they were making a horror movie instead. Still, Laurie would often erupt with laughter during takes as she found the character so ridiculous.
7 Norma’s Death
The character of Norma (P.J. Soles) in Carrie dies via fire hose. While filming the scene, Soles became severely injured when the intense water pressure from the hose popped her eardrums.
When Norma falls to the floor writhing in pain, the reaction is 100% authentic. De Palma opted to keep the shot in the film, even though Soles was so badly hurt that she could not hear out of one ear for the following six months before the eardrum eventually mended.
6 Psycho Connection
Brian De Palma has forged a reputation as a director who often pays homage to his cinematic idol, Alfred Hitchcock. In Carrie, De Palma makes at least three connections to Hitchcock’s iconic horror movie Psycho.
The high-school in the film is named Bates High after Norman Bates in Psycho. So too is the Bates Packing meat-plant seen later in the film. The music composer for Psycho, Bernard Herrmann, scored two of De Palma’s prior movies, Sisters and Obsession. He would have scored Carrie as well but passed away in 1975. Pino Donaggio filled the role, composing a four-note string arrangement that is nearly identical to an overage in Herrmann’s Psycho score.
5 Dizzying Camera Shot
One of the most memorable shots in the film occurs during the prom scene, in which Carrie’s vertiginous mental state is depicted with a piece of dizzying camerawork.
The shot was achieved by setting the two actors, Spacek and William Katt, on a platform that rotated in one direction, while the camera tracks in the opposition direction. The shot was achieved with the help of cinematographer Mario Tosi, who replaced original DP Isidore Mankofsky early in production over creative differences with De Palma.
4 Prom Scene
The iconic prom scene in Carrie took two weeks and roughly 35 takes to create. Corn syrup was used for the gallons of pig’s blood the bullying teens dump on Carrie during the climax of the movie.
To remain in the character’s tormented headspace, Spacek returned to her trailer after three full days of filming and would sleep in her gore-sodden wardrobe. This measure was also taken to maintain visual continuity in the film, as the fake blood would often dry under the hot filming lights and stick to Spacek’s body.
3 No Stunt Double
Sissy Spacek was so dedicated to the authenticity of her performance that she refused the use of a stunt double during the graveyard finale, in which only her hand appears bursting out of the soil.
The decision came as a shock to De Palma, who kept insisting on the use of a body double. When Spacek declined, De Palma handed responsibilities to her husband, production designer Jack Fisk. In the end, Spacek was placed inside a box at the bottom of a hole in the ground, where she waited for the camera to be set up to film the scene.
2 Reverse Shot
In the penultimate scene in Carrie, De Palma opted to create an eerie visual effect by filming a shot in reverse. The shot takes place as Sue Snell places flowers on Carrie’s grave.
To create a surreal effect, the shot was filmed backward. When it came to printing the image, the shot was reversed and run in slow-motion to make it appear slightly off-kilter. However, viewers can spot the optical illusion when a car in the background drives down the street backward.
1 Original Ending
Rather than engulfing the White abode in flames, for which a miniature model was used, the original ending of Carrie was meant to be much different.
In the original script, a hail of rocks and boulders rain down on the White’s house and crush the structure to rubble. The sequence was filmed, but the effect of the rocks did not result in De Palma’s liking, so the ending was changed. However, the rocks can still be seen in the final shots of the film, aligning the White house in the place of charred ashes. The original ending was restored in the 2013 remake.