CARRIED AWAY: Moretz (left) and Julianne Moore star in the remake of the 1976 horror film, based on a Stephen King novel.
Michael Gibson/Sony Pictures

Carrie is another supernatural story, of course, but for once, Moretz is playing a naïve character rather than one wise beyond her years. Bullied at home by her religiously obsessive mother, played by Julianne Moore, and at school by classmates, Carrie eventually unleashes terrible psychic powers that she is only dimly aware she possesses. Directed by Peirce, whose previous films include Boys Don’t Cry and Stop-Loss, the new movie updates the story to the present day and promises to be closer to the grander scale of Stephen King’s novel than Brian De Palma’s iconic 1976 movie.

Even so, that film inevitably looms large. “It’s a cult classic,” Moretz acknowledges. “People love the first movie. What I kept thinking was, ‘Don’t try to be better than the first one. Try and be new, try and give it a flavor that no one expects to see.’ ”

Though the story is about female sociability at its most destructive, the set was the opposite. “What’s so special about Carrie is it’s a female making a female-driven movie about women,” Moretz says. “Working with Julianne and Kim, there was a beautiful maternal aspect from the two of them. I felt very sheltered and very safe, and this is a character that I really needed that on.”

The feeling is mutual. “Everyone said, ‘You’ll fall in love with her,’ ” Peirce says. “And I did, as a friend and an amazing young actor. As a director, I was aware of her talent and her experience and I was drawing on both. She’s a pro.”

Peirce also was impressed by Moretz’s ability to develop. Typically possessing a strong presence both in person and on-screen, Moretz had to learn to pull that natural tendency back to play the timid Carrie character. “I told her, ‘Being as insanely precocious as you are — you walk the red carpet, you have the firmest handshake of anyone I know — you have to transform,’ ” Peirce remembers. “And there was a moment, four weeks in, when, for the first time, I didn’t recognize her. It was almost like watching a foal emerge.”