Chloë Grace Moretz is fast becoming one of the biggest young movie stars on the planet. From her instantly iconic role as Hit Girl in Kick Ass (based on Mark Millar’s comic book) in 2010 to Martin Scorsese’s innovative Oscar-winner Hugo, Moretz has already been famous for a long time. Now, at 21, she’s learning how to use her platform to tell urgent stories.
The Miseducation Of Cameron Post is the finest indie film of the year so far, already attracting Oscar buzz for its star Moretz and writer-director Desiree Akhavan. The adaptation of Emily M Danforth’s young adult novel highlights the insidious prevalence of gay conversion therapy.
And it turns out that the idea of “praying the gay away” is not, as we might imagine, a historical anomaly. As if to confirm this, Pope Francis recently spoke to journalists and advised parents to pray and seek psychiatric help for their children should they “appear to be gay”.
A movie like this is your highest form of rebellion against the [Trump] administration. And it is something they can’t silence
In the film, teenager Cameron Post (Moretz) is sent to the God’s Promise camp after being caught with her secret girlfriend outside the school prom. At the camp, alongside a ragtag group of gay and gender fluid misfits, she is ‘treated’ by psychologist and fundamentalist Christian Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother Rick. According to Moretz, making, starring in, or even buying a ticket to watch this film is an act of defiance.
“Now more than ever, melding your activism with your art is very important, and you should have some sort of societal stance and progressive platform in filmmaking,” she says, when we meet in Central London.
“I want to tell stories that will have some sort of impact. A movie like this is your highest form of rebellion against the [Trump] administration. And it is something they can’t silence. It is a queer story, by queer people, for queer people. But also for the masses.
“Now all the towns and cities that really need to see this movie to change perspectives will actually get that chance,” says Moretz. “That is why buying a ticket to see this movie is casting a ballot. It is voting for representation in film.
I have always been an outspoken woman – since I was 12 years old
“This film educated me in how prevalent [gay conversion therapy] still is internationally, but especially in America right now. And I am a very loud advocate of the LGBT community. So if I was unaware of it, I felt this was a story we really should tell.”
If the style of the film evokes the Slacker films of the early 1990s (when the film is set), the tone harks back to the 1980s Bratpack films, with the John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club an influence. There is humour alongside heartbreak as Moretz’s character finds her people at the camp and realises she’s not alone. One scene, a raucous singalong of Four Non-Blondes hit What’s Up? (the pop-culture references are exquisite) proved to be a major release of tension for both the characters and the actors.
“We filmed it on the day we woke up and found out that Donald Trump was our president,” explains Moretz. “So that fell on a really, really wild day. We were all so incredibly sad. But art begets life sometimes. It was a moment of trying to find and project all the sadness we were feeling that day through that scene.”
But even more crucial than the humour is that the film does not preach. Instead, it is more effective for the compassion it shows towards characters to whom the filmmakers are politically diametrically opposed.
“What I like about the film is that it doesn’t give opinions but it does ask questions,” says Moretz. “I learnt through the research for the role that the people trying to condition these kids to hate themselves don’t see it like that. The people running these centres are doing what they think is a good thing, lending a hand to people who are in a bad place. To show empathy on the other side of that aisle is a smart choice.
“There is a weaponisation of religion to get across fear-based ideals. The people who are running these centres, it is all fear based and sometimes self-hate.”
Despite her youth, Moretz is already a veteran when it comes to speaking out and being a strong ally to LGBTQ+ communities. She has, she says, never considered being anything other than forthright and opinionated – despite pressures from the star system in the US not to rock the boat by entering the political fray.
“I have always been an outspoken woman, like forever. Since I was 12 years old,” she says. “So to have the chance to formulate my opinion and promote that on a platform and give a microphone to the marginalised groups that might not be able to have their stories told? That is a chance that I take on.
“When I first started speaking out, it wasn’t cool. It is cool to be political now. But when I started on that journey and that trajectory, there was a lot of: ‘Oh, are you sure you want to be that girl?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know what that means, but yeah, I guess I do’.”
The majority of homeless teens in America are gay
And what does Moretz want this film to say, specifically?
“I hope people take away the idea of your chosen family. Because that is the mantra of the community and any marginalised group – there will be people who will try to get you down, but you can find people who will see you as the person that you are, and will listen to who you are,” she says.
“To be a gay person and to meet your first gay people and realise you are not alone, and that you are not as isolated as you thought you were, that is super important.”
This message, as Moretz knows, is one that needs to be shared.
“There are so many teens that are gay and come out as being gay and are pushed out of their family and their lives,” she says. “The majority of homeless teens in America are gay. The idea that they would rather be homeless and with people who they feel see them as who they are compared to being in a home where they are ostracised and told they are born imperfect speaks volumes.
“During filming, Desi and I would say that this is like a prequel to a story of gay homeless teens. Because that is where they are headed.”
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is out now in cinemas