Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Young actress kills and cusses her way to stardom

Buzz surrounds Chloë Moretz for her R-rated portrayal of a violent vigilante superhero in 'Kick-Ass'

Chris Garcia
Chloë Grace Moretz plays the alter ego Hit-Girl, and at 13, she's wiping the floor with the older actors in the film.

On a Saturday morning in March, comic books fans and movie fans (pretty much the same geeky animal) gathered in a vast conference room at the Austin Convention Center to hear actors and filmmakers discuss the whats and whys, hows and how muches behind the action-comedy "Kick-Ass."

The movie had thrilled a full house the night before at the Paramount Theatre, making "Kick-Ass," by many accounts, the most successful opening night film in the 17-year history of the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival.

Still aglow, fans listened to those on the film panel — including director Matthew Vaughn, co-writer Mark Millar and co-stars Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chloë Grace Moretz — with a kind of open-mouthed bliss. They raised hands to ask questions, raised iPhones to snap pictures.

It became apparent that they were there mostly for Moretz, a tiny girl who turned 13 the month before. They wanted to see the pert youngster behind the year's most sassy action hero. They wanted to hear Moretz talk sassy and snarl with 'tude.

Moretz plays a superhero assassin who goes by the handle Hit-Girl. She blasts, slices, kicks and slashes, leaving heaps of bloodied bodies in her John Woo-ian wake. She drops cuss-bombs with salty panache, all the more shocking for her size, age and wholesome exterior. She's meant to shock, then collapse you in laughter. She succeeds. (Nicolas Cage plays her encouraging father, whose alter-ego is the Batmanesque Big Daddy.)

But Moretz is nothing like Hit-Girl, she insists during an interview after the panel. Nothing.

Though "Kick-Ass" should kick-start her career, the Atlanta-born Moretz has been a busy actress. She was seen in the 2005 remake of "The Amityville Horror," was Joseph Gordon-Levitt's precocious little sister in "(500) Days of Summer" and played Angie in the recent "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." This year she'll be seen as a vampire in "Let Me In," the remake of the Swedish horror hit "Let the Right One In."

The day after the film's SXSW premiere, Moretz still hadn't seen "Kick-Ass." She missed the big night because her entourage was told that driving from the Houston airport to Austin would only take an hour.

Instead of being at the Paramount, "I was on a three-hour drive watching ‘Mulan' and eating Jack-in-the-Box in a car going through the middle of Texas," Moretz sighs. "I would have loved to be there," she says, adding that she's "crazy excited" about the film and what's certain to be her breakout performance.

American-Statesman: You know your role as Hit-Girl is going to be huge for you.

Chloë Moretz: I hope so. I don't want to jinx myself. ... I think everyone in the movie did so well. They're all amazing.

A few years ago, a young Shia LaBeouf told me he wanted to model his career on that of Tom Hanks. Do you have any strong role models?

Natalie Portman, definitely. She's my number one. She's an absolutely amazing actress. She's made such great career choices. But she's also an actress who has helped the world. She cares about the world, she wants to make it better. And that's what I want to do. I want to get involved in politics. I'd like to do other stuff than being an actress. Very diverse.

What kind of politics?

What do you mean?

Which way do you lean?

Um, I'm not gonna say. Not gonna say. I don't want to start anything.

Any other actresses who inspire you?

Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, uh . . .

What did your parents say about the raunchy 'Kick-Ass' script?

They're completely behind me. It's a character that I've never done before. We knew it was something that would stretch my acting ability, and that's why I did it. I craved to do it. I wanted it so badly, and my parents were behind me 100 percent. They knew it was an amazing, breathtaking role that no one's ever done, except Natalie Portman in "Leon" or Jodie Foster in "Taxi Driver."

Do you think other parents might get in a stink about your killing and cussing?

Kids aren't supposed to see the movie. It's an R-rated movie. NO kids should see this movie. So for people to say, "My kid went out and saw it!" Well, I'm sorry; your kid shouldn't have seen it.

Was it liberating to have permission to swear and act mean?

No. I'm not into that. In real life I would never swear. I would never do anything to harm anyone. I've never sworn in my life besides in the movie.

Really?

Yeah. I would be grounded for years. My friends swear. But we're a very Christian family. We go to church every Sunday. VERY religious. We pray. So I'm very grounded.

Did you watch particular movies to prepare for 'Kick-Ass'?

I've seen "Kill Bill." And from "Interview with a Vampire," I took some Kirsten Dunst. And some Angelina Jolie in movies like "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "Wanted." Her take-charge roles.

Talk a little about your physical training for the role.

I did two months of basic training. I literally did about 1,000 crunches a night. I got a girl's six-pack, just tone and fit and strong. I was ready for anything. I'd do 50 pull-ups, ball exercises. It was really hard.

What about stunts, martial arts and weapons?

I learned a bunch of martial arts. It's a new form, I forget the name of it, but it's a form they use in movies. A little bit of combat and a little bit of martial arts. I had Jackie Chan's stunt crew. I can take apart a gun, clean it, put it back together. I can really do anything with a gun. I know how to flip a ballisong (aka, butterfly knife). I know how to throw the bow staff, which is so hard.

What about Nicolas Cage. Is he bonkers, just nuts?

No. He's amazing. He's literally the nicest guy I've ever worked with. He's like a dad to me. He's so sincere. He really cares about your well-being.