Chloë Grace Moretz sounds more than a little tired. It’s not because she spent 2015 lining up big projects and adding to a resume that already includes standout performances in two Kick-Ass movies, the Carrie remake, and even 30 Rock. No, at this moment, 2 p.m. on a Friday, Moretz is (understandably) fatigued because she’s just waking up after a shoot for Neighbors 2 that went until 4:30 a.m. Aside from a few extra pebbles in her signature gravelly voice though, Moretz isn’t showing any signs of exhaustion. “It’s not that bad. It’s different, but it’s fun,” she says. When you’ve spent 13 years—or, more than two-thirds of your life—making movies, these sort of things don’t get to you
Hollywood is rife with young actresses right now. The YA movie franchise boom is keeping the Shailene Woodleys and Lily Collinses of the world fed and giving unknowns the opportunity to come up. But Moretz has consistently found ways to rise above the usual teen fare. While many up-and-coming actresses get their feet wet in Disney’s pools, she’s worked with Scorsese in Hugo, played a teenage prostitute alongside Denzel Washington in Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer, and most famously made every mother in Middle America furious by dropping a C-U-Next-Tuesday as an 11-year-old assassin in Kick-Ass. She’s taken her innate vulnerability—thanks to her cute, baby-faced beauty—and subverted it at every turn, going dark and gritty when everything about her appearance screams straight-A student. “She looks like a sweet little girl but she has this incredibly mature, slightly devious mind,” says Jeff Wadlow, director of Kick-Ass 2. “Her performance in [Kick-Ass] was jaw-droppingly unique. You’ve never seen this cute little girl talk that way or dispense bad guys with such violence. It was a game-changer.”
Now with 2016 just around the corner, Moretz isn’t exactly changing anything up—the roles are still challenging and unexpected (see: Neighbors 2)—but she’s making sure you know her name. “I never really try and plan too far in advance. When you plan too far in advance that’s when you tend to fail. It can get you on the wrong path,” says Moretz, in the middle of a conversation in which I have to remind myself that she turns 19 in February. “For me it’s not doing things just to do them. I try to keep my options open and vary my degrees of acting. Not just play one, but every character.”
In terms of the near future, that means playing the heroine in a sci-fi action movie (The Fifth Wave), the love interest in an edgy romantic drama alongside Ansel Elgort (November Criminals), a sorority girl in the aforementioned Neighbors 2, and a young woman thrown into the grips of a rare, sanity-compromising autoimmune disorder (Brain on Fire). All are different, with one unifying trait that Moretz considers essential when choosing her roles: They have to be meaty, female characters with layers and agency. They should be challenging—no layups.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. The track record for actors who have been cashing paychecks since their sixth birthday isn’t very encouraging. From Danny Bonaduce in the ‘70s to Macaulay Culkin in the ‘90s to Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes more recently, the story of young actors hitting it big often includes sordid footnotes about descents into drugs and alcohol or exploitation by the stars’ own families. Too much comes to these actors too soon, and many times they don’t have a strong enough support system in place to handle it all.
There’s a good reason why Moretz sounds so wise and level though. Moretz’s family relocated from Atlanta, where she was born, to New York City when the actress was just 5. (She only has a few memories of her brief Southern upbringing, like the cookies from Agan’s Bakery in Cartersville.) Her older brother, Trevor, had been studying acting at New York’s Professional Children’s School, when 5-year-old Chloë, after reciting monologues with Trevor, outed herself as the true pro in the family. He’s been her acting coach ever since, and her entire family—her mother, father, and four older brothers—has made her career a priority.
“It’s always been a group effort for all of us,” Moretz says. “Everyone rallied around me. My mom gave up her entire life to be my manager. I feel very lucky and blessed to have a family to court me like that—usually you don’t get that at a young age.” Wadlow echoes the importance of Moretz’s family, namely Trevor and her mother, Teri, who act as her managers: “Every great artist has a support system in place and Trevor and Teri Moretz are that for Chloë,” he says, while being sure to add that the teen’s levelheadedness is part of her character. “It’s just who she is—some people are seduced by the glitz, but she’s not into the nonsense and BS.”
With part of the family in NYC full-time, Moretz’s auditions quickly turned into actual parts—a two-episode stint on CBS’s The Guardian, a small role in Big Momma’s House 2, and a part in the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror that earned her a nomination at the Young Artist Awards. In no time, Moretz was calling the bad guys “cunts” in Kick-Ass. She had truly arrived.
And that was over a decade ago. It’s gotta be somewhat weird to live most of your life in front of a camera. Moretz was acting before she can remember. “It’s mind-boggling,” she says. “Big Momma’s House 2 was on TV one night and I was like, ‘Oh my god.’” There’s also that matter of identity. Imagine spending most of your life—and all of your self-aware life—pretending to be other people. In that mess of going from embodying a murderous preteen hell-bent on revenge to a young prostitute, there’s not much time for any real self-discovery. More than memorizing lines or overcoming the anxiety of acting in front of Scorsese’s lens, that’s what tests Moretz the most: “It’s an ever-changing battle to figure out who you are in all of this, trying to put yourself in the characters.”
“i live like an adult, but i'm not a real one.”
—chloë grace moretz
If you peel away the layers of persona and separate Moretz from the roles that made her famous, she’s really a pretty normal 18-year-old. She lives with her mom and two of her brothers; she eats egg whites and avocados for breakfast (though she wishes she could forgo health and eat “French toast, scrambled eggs, and bacon dripping in maple syrup with sausage and ham”); she just got her first car, a Mercedes E550; she obsesses over music and goes to too many concert with her friends (most of whom are not famous), from indie darlings like Banks to hip-hop stadium stars like Nicki Minaj to hype-y newcomers like Vic Mensa. And yeah, she hangs out with guys her age while everyone around her whispers about it dramatically. It’s all very high school stuff, except for the fact that in this case, the guy in question was Brooklyn Beckham, son to David and Victoria. Dating rumors sprung up in 2014 when the two went skateboarding on Santa Monica Beach. From there, Moretz played coy—and actually pretty unaffected, a rare move for an actress—attending the 2014 Teen Choice Awards with Brooklyn and getting pretty blushy when Andy Cohen asked her about little Becks on Watch What Happens Live.
But still, even after Moretz’s rumored relationship has, according to gossip, ended, she maintains that everything was far more casual than it was made out to be. “We were never together. We’re just friends. It’s only that,” she says. It’s actually a pretty understandable thing to hear from her when you remind yourself that she’s still just 18 years old, that kids these days prefer “group hangs” over dates, and that whatever budding relationships she has are probably always going to be more casual than the media wants them to be. The mild frenzy around her relationship with Beckham was Moretz’s first big experience with the celebrity gossip news cycle though, and it sounds like she’s already had enough. “It’s funny that you can’t be friends with a person in the industry without someone flipping it. It’s another sexist thing that’s been happening for so many years. We’re seen as promiscuous. It’s shocking you can’t have male friends. It’s kind of sad.”
You’d think an 18-year-old girl with money and fame would be in a constant state of sprinting, of taking in everything all of the time, but there’s a firmly instilled sense of control and satisfaction in Moretz. And thus, the potential crash and burn that every child star is faced with is eliminated altogether. She doesn’t hunt for the next hurdle—she lets the game come to her, and then she takes only what she wants. “This year I was worried I wasn’t going to be doing any movies,” she tells me. But, just as it’s been for the past few years, things started lining up for her. “We got Ansel [Elgort] on November Criminals really quickly. In March we were making it. Then I thought I would have the summer off, and I was waiting around and Charlize Theron and her production company came to me and they were like, ‘Hey, we have this script Brain on Fire that we want you to do.’ I couldn’t turn it down. Three days after I wrapped on Brain on Fire I started Neighbors 2.” She makes it sound easy.
Similarly, Moretz is taking a pretty chill approach to her home life. “This isn’t a Kylie Jenner situation—she isn’t itching to get her own place just because she’s now old enough to be on her own. “I don’t really see the point,” says Moretz. “I live like an adult, but I’m not a real one. We’ll see what happens in the next few years and see where I am.”
In Kick-Ass 2, Moretz’s Mindy Macready (and her alter ego Hit Girl) goes from being a foul-mouthed kid to a complex teenager, full of the emotions that run through hormonal girls. The real climax of the movie comes not when Hit Girl and Kick-Ass defeat their nemesis, but when Mindy kisses Dave, thereby accepting the fact of growing up and shedding the cape and costume she wore as a kid. “People did not want her to kiss Dave,” Wadlow says. “I thought it Mindy didn’t grow up in this movie there was really no point in telling her story. Chloë felt the same way, so we had to lock our arms and hold our ground and say, “This is the story we’re telling.” The same goes for Chloë Moretz in real life. She’s growing up and becoming a woman, moving forward and past the roles from her childhood, regardless of whether or not anyone’s ready for that to happen. There’s no real plan in place—remember, set plans engender failure—but like Hit Girl, Moretz can’t be stopped.