Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

American Horror Story: Fourteen Years after Boys Don't Cry, Director Kimberly Peirce Tells the Tale of Another Outcast, This Time with Telekinetic Powers

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

American Horror Story: Fourteen Years after Boys Don't Cry, Director Kimberly Peirce Tells the Tale of Another Outcast, This Time with Telekinetic Powers

Article excerpt

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 suffered 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."

The pressure is on with Carrie, though. Stephen King's original manuscript for Carrie was rejected 30 times before he gave up and canned it. His wife, Tabitha, saw such potential in the story of a bullied and sheltered teen with telekinetic powers that she fished it out of the trash, and eventually, in 1974, it became King's first published book.

Many agreed that the novel clearly reflected the struggle between feminists and antifeminists in the 1970s as well as the contemporary male concern with women's rising power at the time.

"[King] has all kinds of understanding about women," says Peirce, who discounts early feminist criticism that men couldn't write real women's stories. "When I read King again it was like, wow, it was the '70s. Women were just getting power. Women have always been sexual, but their sexuality was more accepted by the culture--and isn't this a story on some level about men's fear of women?"

She says, sure, a man can be sensitive to women's issues, but he's still a man, which means "culturally he lives in a world where women's power can be threatening. I thought that was really interesting lens to look at it and then to say, 'OK, what does this story mean now, 40 years later?' Because it's not the same. Women have had, certainly not enough, but women have had more power. Women's lib happened. Women's sexuality is out there. Some people might say it's a stretch to say it's a feminist text. But in a lot of ways it is. The central character is a woman, the central relationships are between women--between a mother and a daughter and between a girl and all these other girls."

It's the girls that root Carrie, which comes out March 15. Consummate actress Julianne Moore plays Carrie's Christian fundamentalist mother, Margaret, and Chloe Grace Moretz is the title character. …

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