1976’s Carrie is one of the most important and influential horror films of all time. Centred on a bullied teen who develops telekinetic powers with which she takes her revenge, the film shocked and amazed audiences at the time, and its impact has not diminished with age. Let’s look back at this iconic scary movie with some facts about it that you might not have known. (Caution: spoilers ahead.)
10. It was the first screen adaptation of Stephen King’s writing
Carrie was filmed and released in 1976, two years after the publication of Stephen King’s debut novel of the same name. This made it the first film based on the work of the best-selling horror author.
In the years since, the Stephen King adaptation has become more or less a film subgenre unto itself: upwards of a hundred more filmed adaptations of King’s novels and short stories have been made for cinema and television.
9. Carrie Fisher denied rumours she turned down the title role
Carrie director Brian De Palma was a friend of fellow filmmaker George Lucas, who was starting work on Star Wars at the same time things got underway on Carrie. Both films orchestrated their auditions back-to-back, and legend has it that Lucas and De Palma were considering swapping their leading ladies Sissy Spacek and Carrie Fisher.
The story goes that Fisher decided against playing Carrie White because she refused to do the required nudity. The late film legend dismissed this in a characteristically blunt fashion, telling Premiere magazine, “Not only do I love being nude, I would’ve been nude then. Maybe. But anyway, it’s total bulls***.”
8. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie were both Oscar-nominated for their performances
Traditionally, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences isn’t too keen on acknowledging horror or fantasy films, but Carrie proved to be one of the rare exceptions. Sissy Spacek landed a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance, whilst Piper Laurie earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
Sadly, both went home empty-handed: the 1977 ceremony saw Faye Dunaway win Best Actress and Beatrice Straight win Best Supporting Actress, both for Network.
7. Nancy Allen was on the brink of quitting acting when she was cast as Chris
Carrie proved to be a significant career turning point for most of its predominantly young cast, most notably Spacek and John Travolta. The film also had a major impact on Nancy Allen, as the future RoboCop actress was on the cusp of quitting the business altogether when she landed the part of Chris Hargensen.
As well as saving her career, working on Carrie also impacted Allen’s personal life. She went on to marry director Brian De Palma, and would appear in three more of his films.
6. Nancy Allen, John Travolta and Piper Laurie all thought they were making a comedy
Carrie presents an unrelentingly harsh portrayal of bullying, both in the cruelty inflicted on Carrie White by other students, and that which she suffers at the hands of her puritanical mother. Director Brian De Palma pushed his actors to take this to such extremes that many of them thought it couldn’t possibly be taken seriously.
Both Nancy Allen and John Travolta thought that their roles would be treated as comic relief because De Palma made them go so over the top. Similarly, Piper Laurie considered the film and her performance as Margaret White to be black comedy, despite her director’s protests to the contrary.
5. Miss Collins actress Betty Buckley was practically the same age as the girls playing her students
As was commonplace on high school-set films of the time, the bulk of the cast of Carrie were long since out of their teens. Sissy Spacek, Nancy Allen and PJ Soles were all 26, whilst Amy Irving was 23.
This meant that, in reality, there was very little age gap between them and their ‘teacher’, as Miss Collins actress Betty Buckley was 29 at the time.
4. Sissy Spacek wanted the pig’s blood to be real
Sissy Spacek went to great lengths to show her dedication to the role of Carrie White. To properly inhabit the mindset of an isolated loner, she wouldn’t speak to anyone between takes and locked herself away in her dressing room, which she had decked out in the same kind of religious artwork seen in Carrie’s home.
So great was her dedication, Spacek even asked for real blood to be dumped on her in the infamous prom scene, but her request was not granted. As anyone who’s seen Scream may remember, they actually used corn syrup with red food colouring.
3. PJ Soles went partially deaf from the fire hose scene
Norma actress PJ Soles (who went on to appear in another 70s horror classic, Halloween) meets an unpleasant end in Carrie, when she is incapacitated by the blast of a fire hose and then winds up one of the many left to burn to death as the gym bursts into flames.
The water being sprayed on Soles was genuinely full force, and the pressure was so intense the actress’s ear drum burst. As a result, Soles was left partially deaf for six months.
2. The iconic shock ending was an homage to Deliverance
The ending of Carrie famously features one of the most effective and widely imitated ‘jump scares’ in film history. In what turns out to be a dream sequence, Amy Irving’s Sue places flowers on Carrie White’s grave – only for a hand to burst up through the ground and grab her.
Brian De Palma added this as a nod to a more understated but similarly creepy nightmare scene from the end of 1972 classic Deliverance, in which a hand appears from beneath the water.
1. It spawned a sequel and two remakes
23 years after Carrie first shocked audiences, belated sequel The Rage: Carrie 2 arrived in 1999. With no returning figures from the original except Amy Irving, the film was generally considered a sequel in name only, and proved a box office bomb.
2002 saw the release of a Carrie remake, a TV movie originally intended as the pilot for a Carrie TV series, with Angela Bettis in the title role. Later there came 2013’s theatrically released Carrie remake starring Chloe Grace Moretz, which proved a modest hit.