'Carrie' Had The Power, But Mom Had The Scary Going On Stephen King's novel Carrie gets a big-screen update, complete with prom pranks, buckets of blood and a mother you might not want to take anybody home to meet. NPR's Elizabeth Blair takes a look at a character she remembers being terrified by when Piper Laurie played her in the 1976 film.

'Carrie' Had The Power, But Mom Had The Scary Going On

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When author Stephen King was on the program, he said he wants to grab you by the lapels and transfix you so you don't want to cook dinner - or do anything else, but read. In time for Halloween, there's a new movie version of King's novel "Carrie," about a shy, misfit teenager. NPR's Elizabeth Blair says she could never take her attention off Carrie's mom.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Carrie scared the bejesus out of me when I was a teenager. But it was her mother, Margaret White, who made my heart stop.


BLAIR: It still gives me shivers. To understand Margaret White, let's dissect this one scene. Carrie is getting ready to go to the prom. She's dressed in a low-cut gown. Her mother's reaction? Utter disgust.


BLAIR: What about dirty pillows?

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Oh, it's such a great line, isn't it?

BLAIR: Kimberly Peirce is the director of the new movie version of "Carrie."

PEIRCE: They're all gonna see your dirty pillows. Everyone will.

BLAIR: For Margaret White, breasts are on the bodily path to what she says is the first sin.

PEIRCE: She's terrified of sex, and terrified of sin, and yet she took great pleasure in having sex, at some point.

BLAIR: And since her daughter is the result, Carrie is condemned to eternal punishment.


BLAIR: This is why I never got confirmed. In the 1976 movie, actor Piper Laurie played Margaret White. When she first read the script for "Carrie," she thought it was a send-up.

: I laughed so much during the whole making of this movie - I can't tell you - at how preposterous I was.

BLAIR: Yeah. Well, it still scares me, watching that lamb-like Carrie plead with her mother to let her go to the prom.


BLAIR: Piper Laurie says today she sees that original film as a lyrical black comedy. In the novel "Carrie," Stephen King describes Margaret White as wearing her hair pulled back in a bun. But Julianne Moore, who plays her in the new movie, wears her hair long, as Piper Laurie did in the original. Kimberly Peirce.

PEIRCE: Julianne called me up very early on and she said, I just want to let you know, I'm gonna go gray. She thought that that was what Margaret would do. She didn't want it to be over-sexual. She didn't want it to be showy for the world, but that that was what she would do with her hair because Julianne didn't think she would spend any time on her hair.

BLAIR: No vanity.

PEIRCE: No vanity.


BLAIR: Carrie's mother is a wild, over-the-top fictional invention, but director Kimberly Peirce still thinks there's a grain of truth to her.

PEIRCE: I think all parents and all children - they're not going to fight to the death with knives. But I do think that there is the child being unrecognizable to the parent, at times. I think the parent desperately wanting to protect the child and love the child, and that struggle for the child to individuate and grow up - and I think that's what, you know, Carrie and Margaret struggle with.


PEIRCE: And Margaret's right. That's the other thing - as I go through the movie over and over. Everything she says is right. She's like, they're gonna laugh at you. She's right. She's like, you shouldn't go to prom. You have superpowers. She's right.

BLAIR: Spoiler alert: It doesn't end well. Obviously, Stephen King's "Mommie Dearest" - with a Bible and a butcher knife - isn't right about everything.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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