While speaking at a book event in Fort Myers, Florida in 2010, Stephen King recalled that he was paid just $2,500 for the movie rights to Carrie (1976), which may seem like a pittance, but he has no regrets. "I was fortunate to have that happen to my first book," King said.
Nancy Allen claims she never realized her character was going to be so evil until she saw the finished film. She thought she and John Travolta were playing such self-centered, bickering morons that they were there for comic relief. Piper Laurie also thought the character of Margaret White was so over the top that the film had to be a comedy.
The dizzying camera shot during the prom scene was achieved by placing William Katt and Sissy Spacek on a platform that was spinning in one direction, while the camera was being dollied in the opposite direction.
When Sissy Spacek was preparing for her character, she isolated herself from the rest of the ensemble, decorated her dressing room with heavy religious iconography and studied Gustave Doré's illustrated Bible. She studied "the body language of people being stoned for their sins," starting or ending every scene in one of those positions.
According to Piper Laurie, she honestly thought her character was too over the top fanatical to be taken seriously. Brian De Palma had to take her to the side and personally tell her it was a horror film and not a "black comedy" as she thought it was. Even so, she would constantly burst out into laughter between takes because not only was her characterization and wardrobe laughable in her eyes, but the dialogue itself was humorous for her. To this day, she still refers to and maintains the movie as a black comedy.
Originally, Brian De Palma had used the split screen effect extensively during the prom scene. Disappointed with the results, he re-edited most of the scenes into full frame shots leaving only the few split screen moments that he felt worked.
Adding to the mother's psychotic character is the fact that none of the Bible passages in the film are real. For example, she quotes Genesis chapter 3 to say that sexuality is evil. That chapter is actually the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. The Bible doesn't say anything the mother says it does.
Sissy Spacek asked Brian De Palma how he wanted her to react when Carrie first realizes that she is bleeding in the showers at the start and De Palma told her "It's like you've been hit by a truck." Spacek talked to her husband Jack Fisk (art director), who as a child had been run over by a car when he was standing in the streets looking at Christmas lights a neighbor had put up, and used his description of the experience as a basis for the scene.
To become Carrie, Sissy Spacek would intentionally avoid socializing with the other actors on and off set. She would stay in her trailer or hide in the corner or behind the set. Also, before this happened, she warned the other actors that although she loved them, she would be avoiding them so she could stay in character. She told them they would have so much fun together after the movie was finished.
For her screen test, Sissy Spacek rubbed Vaseline into her hair and didn't bother to wash her face. She also wore a sailor dress (which her mother had made for her when she was in the seventh grade) with the hem cut off.
Sissy Spacek wasn't considered for the role of Carrie until her husband, art director Jack Fisk, convinced director Brian De Palma to allow her to audition. Until that, De Palma was wedded to the idea of Amy Irving playing Carrie; when Spacek got the part instead, De Palma gave Irving the smaller role of Sue.
Stephen King was reluctant to send Carrie to a publisher because it sounded (to him) the least marketable of all his manuscripts at the time. But horror was a hot commodity, with successes like The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary's Baby (1968), so the novel became a sleeper success. To this day, King doesn't know what would have happened to his marriage to Tabitha King and sanity if Carrie had been rejected.
In a 2010 interview with "The A.V. Club", P.J. Soles said that Steven Spielberg often came to the set at Brian De Palma's invitation because DePalma told him that there were "a lot of cute girls down here." Soles said that Spielberg asked out most of the women on the set, Soles included, and Amy Irving was the only one who accepted. Irving and Spielberg were married from 1985-1989 and had one son together.
Bernard Herrmann, who had been nominated for an Oscar for the music to De Palma's previous film Obsession (1976), was slated to compose this score but passed away the December before the film was completed. Hermann's four note violin theme from Psycho (1960) is used over and over in this film.
Piper Laurie had retired from the movie business after The Hustler (1961) when the script for Carrie (1976) came her way. She initially didn't understand the script at all, thinking it rather clichéd, until her husband pointed out that de Palma usually took a comedic approach to his work. When she reread the screenplay with that viewpoint, the part of Margaret White made a lot more sense to Laurie.
Edie McClurg (who played Helen) originally had no dialogue in any part of the film, so she decided to improvise instead. This resulted in everything that we see Helen say in the film being completely made up by the actress, with Brian De Palma's blessing, naturally.
George Lucas and Brian De Palma held a joint audition for Carrie and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). There is a long-standing rumor that originally, Sissy Spacek was cast as Princess Leia, and Carrie Fisher as Carrie, but when Fisher refused to appear in nude scenes and Spacek was willing to do them, they switched parts. However, Fisher refuted this story in a Premiere magazine article called "The Force Wasn't With Them," about actors who auditioned unsuccessfully for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). That article quoted Fisher as saying, "Not only do I love being nude, I would've been nude then... But anyway, it's total bullshit [that Fisher refused to play Carrie]."
Carrie is based on a composite of two girls Stephen King observed while attending grade school and high school.Of one of them, he recalled:"She was a very peculiar girl who came from a very peculiar family. Her mother wasn't a religious nut like the mother in Carrie; she was a game nut, a sweepstakes nut who subscribed to magazines for people who entered contests...the girl had one change of clothes for the entire school year, and all the other kids made fun of her."
The book Carrie reads in the library, "The Secret Science Behind Miracles", is in fact a real book, written by Max Freedom Long in 1948, with the ISBN being 0875160476. The telekinesis definition from the book that Carrie reads is actually in the real book.
According to the DVD extras, Betsy Slade was Brian De Palma's early choice for the role of Carrie White based on the strength of her appearance as a teenage girl seeking an abortion in the film Our Time (1974). Sissy Spacek's screen test was so persuasive, however, she ultimately won the role.
Linda Blair auditioned for the role of Carrie but turned it down fearing being typecast. Jill Clayburgh also auditioned for the title role, but was passed over. Farrah Fawcett also auditioned for the part, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts from Charlie's Angels (1976).
Sissy Spacek loved to watch audience's reactions to the ending. "When I was in New York, and Carrie came out, I would go to theaters just for the last five minutes of the film to watch everyone jump out of their chairs," Spacek recalled. "People are all relaxed. The music is really beautiful and relaxing, and all of a sudden that comes up, and people just go crazy."
During filming of the scene where Miss Collins is chewing out the girls in gym, Brian De Palma was standing behind Amy Irving just off screen and whispering cruel and hurtful things into her ears in order to make Sue's look of misery and guilt on camera look genuine.
The film's original trailer, now available on the DVD, shows an alternate take of Carrie in the shower stall from the beginning and the original voice of the little boy taunting Carrie from his bicycle (overdubbed by Betty Buckley in the finished film).
Sissy Spacek was widely thought to be too pretty for the title role, the character in the book being described as chunky, mousy-haired and covered in pimples with Spacek being a tall thin redhead with clear skin. The character was then rewritten slightly, saying that she would be pretty if she made an effort to tidy herself up a bit.
Brian De Palma wanted a screeching music cue for the mirror breaking. It was after making that decision when he realized Psycho (1960) had already used the exact music he was looking for, but he went with it anyways.
There was originally a scene where Carrie as a little girl is caught talking to a woman sunbathing in the backyard by her mother. Margaret drags Carrie inside and Carrie makes stones rain on the house which tied with the original ending of her burying the house in a shower of boulders. The scene was dropped because the stones didn't have the right effect.
For the 40th anniversary of the release of Carrie (1976), the film was screened in downtown Los Angeles at the Ace Hotel on October 14, 2016, as the highlight of a local fundraiser for weSPARK Cancer Center in which Nancy Allen, who played the vile blonde Chris, is its longtime executive director. The non-profit organization, created by Wendie Jo Sperber, who asked her friend Allen to take it over upon her death, offers free services to cancer patients and their families. A Q&A session immediately followed the screening that included Allen, Piper Laurie, P.J. Soles and editor Paul Hirsch. Allen commented, having not seen the movie in some time, that it was "creepy" to see the frequently abusive, (now) politically incorrect slapping done in the film. She confessed that John Travolta, who played her boyfriend, was very wary of slapping Nancy and claimed that those slaps were fake. The slaps she received from Betty Buckley, however, who played her high school phys ed teacher, were hard and real, prompted by director Brian De Palma so he could get the right reaction from Allen.
Brian DePalma filmed a TV friendly version of the locker room scene which featured all of the actresses wearing very strategically covered towels; this was for network airings of Carrie. You can find the PG-13 TV version of the locker room scene on YouTube.
At the Academy Awards, Sissy Spacek was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category. Piper Laurie was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films nominated the film for a Golden Scroll in the category of Best Horror Film. The Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival gave the Grand Prize to Brian De Palma. A special mention was made out to Sissy Spacek for her acting. The Edgar Allan Poe Awards nominated "Carrie" for an Edgar for Best Motion Picture.
Although there has been three versions of "Carrie" and a sequel at this point, the 1976 version is the only version Stephen King likes. In fact when they were planning to remake this version in 2013 he openly asked "The question is why? When the original is so good." King even likes this version better than his own novel; he says it's "much better than the book."
Betty Buckley had originally auditioned for a part in 'Brian de Palma''s Phantom of the Paradise (1974). She didn't get the part but de Palma kept using her for looping purposes on that film and his subsequent movie, _Obsession_ , before ultimately beefing up the part of the gym teacher for her for Carrie (1976).
Sondra Locke claims Brian De Palma wanted her to play Carrie, but her agent advised her to turn it down. The 1944-born actress was actually three years older than Betty Buckley who De Palma cast as Carrie's teacher/mother figure.
Screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen went on to collaborate with composer Michael Gore and lyricist Dean Pitchford and create "Carrie: The Musical", which debuted with the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Terry Hands and choreographed by Debbie Allen in Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom in 1988. Later that same year, the production was transferred to Broadway, where Betty Buckley (Miss Collins from the film) replaced Barbara Cook as Margaret White. The Broadway run only lasted five performances, and it is considered by many to be the most spectacular flop in Broadway history. However, Linzi Hateley, who played the title role in her Broadway debut, won a Theatre World Award for her performance. The song "When There's No One" from the show is included on Buckley's Sterling records release "Children Will Listen". No official cast album exists, although several unofficial recordings have been made.
In the 1976 film version of Carrie (and most versions of Carrie) Carrie dies in her home after a brutal confrontation with her mother. In the book she stalks Billy and Chris who attempt to run her down in the road; she blows up the car; and then she collapses in a field by the road. Sue finds her there and confronts her, letting her know that she was not in on the prank to embarrass her; after which Carrie dies, in the field by the road.
Many critics have commented on how Carrie seems to appropriate Bernard Hermann's Psycho theme for the killing scenes in this movie. Hermann had composed both Obsession (1976) and Sisters(1973), both Brian DePalma movies which came out right before this, and probably would have composed Carrie as well but he died in 1975 before that could happen.
On an episode of "What's the Tea?" Hosted by Rupaul & Michelle Visage, Academy Award Nominee Carol Kane mentioned how she and Sissy Spacek shared a manager at that time and how she was up against Sissy for the role of Carrie.
The only adaptation not to feature Tina Blake as Chris's best friend and secondary antagonist, this role is instead filled in by Norma Watson, a minor character in the novel. Tina is in the film though she is only in the background during the gym class scenes, an ironic bait and switch scenario.
Similar thematically to Massacre at Central High which came out the same year, with its themes of murderous high school cliques and outcasts getting revenge. Also very similar to Heathers which came out ten years later.
The Trailer for the original 1976 movie spilled the beans about most of the major plot points. But people were still intrigued enough to see it anyway and it became a big hit; even though The Coming Attractions did spoil the ending.
The Initiation Of Sarah was a 1978 TV Movie much in the same vein as Carrie (most critics called it a ripoff). It starred Kay Lentz as an outcast with telekinetic powers at a college where a cruel sorority bullies her and plays pranks on her.
A "Carrie" TV series was originally planned by NBC executives; which would be a spin-off of the 2002 TV movie that they aired; which would follow Carrie's adventures and struggles as she traveled from town to town incognito; much like the Fugitive; evading David Keith's investigator character and running from her past murders, also helping other bullying victims overcome their oppressors in the process. This was planned after the success of another Stephen King inspired TV series, "The Dead Zone", became a big hit. But they decided to scrap the idea when the critical response and the ratings for the 2002 film version of "Carrie" were poor.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
For when the fire hose kills P.J. Soles's character, the water pressure actually burst her eardrums. Soles is not actually unconscious when her head rolls to the side from the force of the fire hose, but she is in terrible pain and has lost her ability to maintain equilibrium (which is governed by the ear). Brian De Palma decided to keep the shot in. Soles had no hearing in that ear for about six months afterward, though the eardrum did eventually heal.
Ever the stickler for authenticity, Sissy Spacek insisted that she - not a double - be the one whose hand shoots up out of Carrie's grave during Sue Snell's nightmare sequence, so she was positioned under the rocks and gravel. De Palma stated, "Sissy, come on, I'll get a stunt person. What do you want? To be buried in the ground?!" However, Spacek declared, "Brian, I have to do this." De Palma explains that they "had to bury her. Bury her! We had to put her in a box and stick her underneath the ground. Well, I had her husband bury her because I certainly didn't want to bury her. I used to walk around and set up the shot and every once in a while we'd hear Sissy: 'Are we ready yet?' 'Yeah, Sissy, we're going to be ready real soon.'"
In the last scene of the film, Amy Irving's outburst so terrified her mother Priscilla Pointer, that she screamed out "Amy" instead of "Sue." She had never seen her daughter that hysterical and called out her real name in concern. However, the loud ending music covered the mistake.
While filming the bloody prom sequence, Sissy Spacek's trailer was parked behind the set. After being covered in fake blood, for continuity purposes, Spacek refused to wash the effect off. She elected instead to sleep in her bloody clothes for three days of filming.
In the second-to-last scene (where Amy Irving lays flowers on Carrie's grave) to make it more "eerie", the shot was filmed backwards - then run in reverse in slo-mo - to give it a surreal effect. This is evidenced by a background automobile traversing the perpendicular intersection backwards, which the viewer can clearly observe as driving in reverse.
When Carrie flips Billy's car, the interior shot shows them spinning along with it. This effect was not achieved by actually rotating the actors in a car but by simply spinning the film frame in post production.
The script called for a model of the White home to be crushed by a hail of boulders at the end, to tie in with a scene which was cut from the beginning of the movie showing pebbles showering down on the house after Carrie has a fight with her mother. The filmmakers spent an evening trying unsuccessfully to pull off the effect, and as dawn approached, they abandoned the boulders and decided to burn it down. They liked what they saw so it stayed in the film, although internal scenes remain showing rocks coming through the roof.
Betty Buckley's terrified look on the face right before she gets killed is real, since they hadn't been able to test the falling backboard to make sure it would stop where it was supposed to before hitting her and no one knew for certain whether it would work.
The filming of the prom scene took days and Sissy Spacek refused to wash off the fake blood so that the continuity of the movie was not harmed. She actually slept in the "bloody" clothes for three days of filming.
John Travolta said the phrase "Get her done" before Larry the Cable Guy started saying it. He says it in the scene where he tells his friend to "Get her done" (referring to killing the pig for the blood dump on Carrie at the prom).
When Carrie's mother meets her demise, she is stabbed multiple times. For this scene, the knives started off in Margaret's body before being pulled out by string. When editing the scene, they played the footage in reverse to achieve the look of the knives flying towards Margaret.
All four films in the "Carrie" series have had a death that involved water. Carrie sprays Norma Watson into a table with a water hose in this film. Rachel shuts the pool cover, causing Mark to drown in this films sequel. Carrie electrocutes most of the students by throwing a basketball scorekeeper into the water in the second film adaptation and Carrie uses electoral wires to do the same in the third adaption.
Body Count: 10 - Margaret White, Carrie White, Chris Hargensen, Billy Nolan, Tommy Ross, Norma Watson, Ms. Collins, Mr. Fromm, Principal Morton, and Helen Shyres, plus an unspecified number of miscellaneous victims of the prom massacre.