When I meet with Chloë Moretz at Maple Pictures’ room in Toronto's Park Hyatt, she immediately jumps on the bed and performs a back-flip. When I start my tape recorder she throws down some human beat-box into the microphone. When I ask her about what sort of training she did to prepare for her role as the murderous, foul-mouthed, 11-year-old costumed vigilante Mindy Macready, alias Hit-Girl, in the movie Kick-Ass, she launches into a mechanically detailed explanation of the differences between real guns and movie guns—Chloë Moretz knows more about guns than anyone I’ve ever met. She recently turned 13, is a girl of multiple talents and abundant energy, and has already assmebled a resume that includes supporting roles on the shows Desperate Housewives and Dirty Sexy Money, and in movies such as (500) Days of Summer and the remake of The Amityville Horror. She recently wrapped a remake of Let the Right One In, the title compressed for the attention-impaired to Let Me In, in which she plays the androgynous pubescent vampire.
JB: What initially got you excited about Kick-Ass?
Chloë Moretz: When I first read Kick-Ass it was, like, I had to be Hit-Girl. It was a role that was challenging, unique and breathtaking.
JB: The role has you doing some pretty horrific things to other people. Did that ever make you uncomfortable?
CM: I wouldn’t be doing the movie if it made uncomfortable. I wouldn’t even participate in it.
JB: There was never a moment when you suddenly thought, “Whoa, I’m playing a sadistic psychopath”?
CM: I definitely wouldn’t call her a psychopath. She’s an innocent girl that got brainwashed. It’s something she can’t really control. She thinks she’s in a John Woo movie.
JB: Speaking of John Woo, how cool was it to have Nicolas Cage be your dad?
CM: Working with an amazing, excellent, very trained professional ups your game. It makes you a better actor to be able to feed off someone else’s emotions. It’s much like interviews, where if I have a very hyper person who’s happy I’ll be more energetic, where I have someone more laid-back who just wants the facts, I’ll still be energetic but not over-the-top.
JB: You minimize the back-flips.
CM: Exactly. You feed off other people’s emotions and people don’t even realize it!
JB: Could you describe your first meeting with Cage?
CM: It was in some country villa outside London. Matthew, the director, was looking at a bunch of different guns and knives and stuff to figure out what Hit-Girl should use. Then Matthew asked, “Chloë, what do you want?” I picked one I thought was dainty, but not heavy metal. It was this Glock, a Special Ops gun. It helped me figure out that my character’s the kind of girl that knows what she wants, and gets what she wants. Then I met Nicolas Cage and talked about the role.
JB: Did Cage suggest anything that might have changed your approach?
CM: I told him who I wanted Hit-Girl to be and he thought it was very interesting. We talked about his character and he told me he was going to do an Adam West-type thing. He already knew all the lines in his head, and I knew all my lines, so we started to do a scene. He did it in his Big Daddy voice, and from then on I knew it was going to be a fantastic movie.
JB: For an 11-year-old, Mindy comes with a lot of heavy emotional baggage. Her dad’s an ex-con. Her mother died giving birth to her. Did you feel like you had to imbue your character with all this?
CM: In the end scene, when I have my guns up beside my face, if you look in my eyes you can see that I’m terrified and guilty. I’m like, “I’ve got to do this, because I’m finishing what my dad started.” I’m praying that Kick-Ass will come for me, because if Kick-Ass isn’t there, I don’t know what to do. But he saves me in the end and it all works out. So I tried to embrace the whole dad aspect and the mom dying.
JB: I understand you did a lot of training. Is it true you can assemble a rifle?
CM: I can take apart a gun and put it back together—but don’t test me on that.
JB: I actually don’t have any firearms on me.
CM: I had to be able to do it with my eyes closed. That’s how they train marines!
JB: Wow! Had you ever used or even seen guns before?
CM: I shot at the range with my dad when I was younger. He wanted me to know how it feels to shoot a gun, to not be afraid of it, but to know it’s a lethal weapon. To know that if anyone comes to the house and no one’s there, I need to know how to protect myself.
JB: That’s really interesting, because in a sense you’d already experienced with your real father some version of the father-daughter relationship Mindy has in Kick-Ass.
JB: You’ve been acting for a long time. Is it fun? Does it feel like work?
CM: The minute it becomes work is the minute I’m quitting. When I’m on set and I’m acting, it brings me joy.
JB: Do you imagine ever pursuing other interests?
CM: I still do ballet and gymnastics, and hang out with my friends all the time. If my acting career doesn’t work out I want to be a pilot. Even if my acting career does work out I still want to be a pilot, so I can fly airplanes and act at the same time. Maybe act while flying airplanes.