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How Old The Cast Of Carrie Actually Was During Filming

It's pretty common for a large gap to exist between actors' actual ages and that of the characters they play in a teen-centric movie. There are plenty of benefits to this casting approach: Child labor laws can be sidestepped, and no one has to schedule around the educational and familial needs of minors. Film production is already a time-consuming and costly venture — adding kids or teens into the mix just makes it harder. It doesn't tend to hurt the film, either: 1976's Carrie, for example, has attained iconic status on just a $1.8 million budget and a cast of over-18s.

Carrie follows a shy, bullied teenager with a strict religious mother as she discovers her telekinetic powers and takes revenge on those who humiliated and ostracized her. The film began production in May 1976, filming through July and premiering in November of the same year. About half the main cast had birthdays during filming, and they sure weren't the ones their characters were celebrating. These are the real ages of the Carrie cast.

Sissy Spacek as Carrie White

Carrie White is a shy and naïve 16-year-old girl. Sissy Spacek's fair hair, pale skin, and slight frame served Carrie well: She looks like she's very nearly on the edge of disappearing. Few would guess Spacek was actually 26 years old — a full decade older than the fictional Carrie White.

A casting director might choose a significantly older actor to play a teen role for many reasons, but one of the foremost is for the emotional maturity and acting experience that increases proportionally with age. Older players can look back at adolescence with the perspective of an adult, and understand how emotional, familial, and social forces conspire to form a young adult's identity. In the case of Carrie, this happens to include telekinetic powers and homicidal tendencies, but hey, it holds.

Funnily enough, Sissy Spacek brought something unique to the film in terms of such perspective: The actress, who was born on Christmas Day, 1949, was actually named homecoming queen in high school. Thus, she understood what it means to be popular, and perhaps by extension, the dynamics at play in the clique-y self-esteem minefield of an American high school.

Piper Laurie as Margaret White

Piper Laurie, who at age 44 played Carrie's fanatically religious mother Margaret White, was much closer in age to her cinematic counterpart. Despite this, however, she referred to the role as an opportunity to act with "childlike freedom." Something about playing the evil witch trope to the max must have awakened an exhilarating sense of abandon.

In fact, she at first misinterpreted the script as a dark comedy. Even though director Brian De Palma quickly corrected this assumption, the film certainly explores the primal kinship between humor and terror. Some theorists actually speculate that humor exists at least partly as a mechanism of relieving tension. Tension is the name of the game for Carrie's mother, who locks her daughter in a prayer closet to pray for forgiveness after she begins menstruating. Diving uninhibitedly into the deep horror of Carrie's subject matter and the mentally unhinged role of Margaret White is, ironically, a kind of release. Laurie's over-the-top depiction of religious neuroticism may not be overtly comedic, but it taps into base drives of fear and freedom that underscore horror and comedy. Now that's a juicy role.

Stefan Gierasch as Principal Morton

At 50 years old, Stefan Gierasch was a wonderful casting choice for Principal Morton, who would likely be around the same age. Morton is one of a few characters who perish in the movie despite surviving the prom in the novel. His role in the film adaptation is a small but significant one: He appears first through a window, discussing Carrie with Miss Collins in his office while the frazzled student waits outside. This conversation serves as exposition, during which the principal comments on how a girl Carrie's age should know enough about puberty not to be terrified by the arrival of her first period, and Miss Collins replies that she's not surprised, considering "that mother of hers." Morton fires back that they can't interfere with someone's religious beliefs. This scene sets up the tangled and traumatic relationship between Carrie and her fanatical mother, a dynamic that is largely to blame for the gruesome climax of the film.

John Travolta as Billy Nolan

This film was young John Travolta's first major role, introducing him to the spotlight in much the same way Carrie did for Stephen King, as the author's first novel. Travolta would go on to play iconic roles, but Billy, his character in Carrie, is more of a follower and a pretty boy than a leading man. Principally, he's Chris Hargensen's boyfriend, the girl who torments Carrie throughout the film and ends up crafting, with Billy's help, the infamous pig's blood prank. Chris and Billy sneak out before Carrie exacts her violent revenge on the prom-goers, and later attempt to run her over in Billy's car as she walks home, dazed from the carnage. Carrie senses them and throws their car off the road, setting it on fire and killing them.

In keeping with their dynamic throughout the movie, it is Chris at the wheel in those final, fatal moments. Billy isn't a great guy, but without Chris' influence, he might have survived past the ripe young age of 22-portrayed-as-18. That's right — Travolta was only four years off his character.

Betty Buckley as Miss Collins

Miss Collins is genuinely kind to Carrie, trying earnestly to help the sheltered girl navigate the complexities of becoming a woman. She serves as something of a maternal figure to Carrie, both due to her position as a teacher at the school and her kindness toward the beleaguered protagonist. It might be surprising to learn, then, that Betty Buckley, who played Miss Collins, was only three years older than the actress who played Carrie! While she turned 29 during filming, Buckley is clearly meant to portray someone much closer to her own age than Spacek is. Her hairstyle and wardrobe are more consistent with someone in their 20s than with a high school student, and she wears makeup that gives her a more mature look. Still, it's pretty funny to imagine what it might have been like if the difference in age between these two characters had been the same as the one between these two actors. Miss Collins would be only 19 years old — not exactly a font of authority.

Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen

Chris Hargensen is an imposing figure, towering over Carrie in social status as well as in the locker room shower when she and her bullying cohorts spitefully hurl tampons at the confused girl. In reality, Chris' actress, Nancy Allen, was almost exactly six months younger than Sissy Spacek: She turned 26 during production, on June 24th, 1976.

By the time you turn 26, inconveniences like a stay in detention lose their sting. But Allen still impeccably played the part of the girl who douses Carrie in pig's blood, as revenge for getting detention. Chris, undoubtedly one of cinema's most memorable bullies, believes her victim is the reason she herself is facing discipline for her own awful actions. She could have taken a week of after-school detention and been done with it, but in choosing to walk out, she knowingly accepts the escalated punishment of a three-day suspension and being banned from the upcoming prom -– which then becomes the crux of her revenge plan.

In real life, Nancy Allen actually owes Carrie a debt of gratitude: The film introduced her to her future first husband, director Brian de Palma.

William Katt as Tommy Ross

Margaret White insists that Tommy Ross is using Carrie, but in reality, Tommy is used for plot more than just about anyone in this film. The good-natured, relatively innocuous high school student is played by then-25-year-old William Katt. While he runs with the athletic crowd and is notably handsome and popular, like his girlfriend Sue Snell, Tommy seems to have a good heart and even a poetic nature.

Without Tommy's good nature, however, the massacre at the high school may never have happened. Sue, remorseful after witnessing Carrie's torment, convinces Tommy to ask Carrie to the prom, thinking that might make her feel better. Carrie is confused and scared at first, not believing that Tommy is genuine due to the pranks and teasing she has received almost unilaterally from her classmates in the past. His persistence leads her to finally accompany him to the prom, where he ultimately meets his demise. Thankfully, real-life William Katt went on to star in numerous films and television shows, most notably The Greatest American Hero from 1981 to 1983.

P.J. Soles as Norma Watson

The only thing more memorable than having your birthday during production on a major motion picture is probably having your eardrum burst with a fire hose while playing your part. Like her on-screen BFF and fellow social tyrant, Norma Watson was played by an actress, P.J. Soles, who turned 26 during the film's production. In fact, Carrie, Chris, and Norma are the only three main characters who all shared the same age during filming. Perhaps this in some way informed the depiction of the antagonistic triangle of their relationship — or hey, maybe it's just a minor piece of trivia. Either way, Soles' birthday was undoubtedly more fun than incurring the aforementioned injury. Luckily, she made a full recovery.

Soles went on to meet her second demise in 1978's Halloween, after which she found roles in a series of comedy films, like Rock 'n Roll High School and Stripes. She returned to the horror scene in 2005's The Devil's Rejects. Her success in both the horror and comedy genres is unsurprising when considered alongside the fact that several of her co-stars, like Nancy Allen and Piper Laurie, initially suspected a humorous element in Carrie. In fact, Soles' crucial ability (in both horror and humor) to go along with her impulses, like when Soles hits Carrie with her red baseball cap in the volleyball scene, is what convinced Brian De Palma to keep the actress around far longer than he'd initially signed her for.

Sydney Lassick as Mr. Fromm

Sydney Lassick turned 54 during filming. While we don't know how he celebrated, he serves as something of a birthday candle himself in the film: When Carrie electrocutes the poor teacher, the resulting flames spawn the fire that burns down the whole gymnasium. While Carrie may not have strictly intended to start the fire this way, her vengeance against Mr. Fromm is nothing short of targeted, since he humiliates her in class earlier in the film.

The antagonizing forces in this film are split along a fairly defined generational line, in the vein of the traditional high school film. There are the mean girls and boisterous jocks who populate the abused's own age group, and then there are the spiteful teachers and overbearing parents who frown down from above. Mr. Fromm's humiliation of Carrie seems to pale in comparison to the emotional torment of her mother and her classmates, but Carrie doesn't forget it.

Amy Irving as Sue Snell

Of the main gaggle of high school girls depicted in the film, Sue Snell is played by the youngest actress: Amy Irving was only 22 at the time she played the teenaged Sue. The experience was formative for both actor and character, as it turns out. Irving went on to reprise her role as Sue Snell in The Rage: Carrie 2, in which viewers learn that Sue spent some time in an institution after escaping the prom, and has become a school guidance counselor at a new high school. Sue is well-equipped for her job, due to her former popularity and the traumatizing incident she survived, which clearly occurred as a result of the cruelty of high school cliques and bullying. Just as the trauma from the events of Carrie leads Sue to her future career, the success of the film itself served as the catalyst for an impressive film, television, and stage career for Amy Irving.

Priscilla Pointer as Eleanor Snell

Priscilla Pointer, who played Sue Snell's mother Eleanor, got to celebrate her 52nd birthday on the second day of filming, with the added pleasure of being able to share both the milestone and the production experience with her daughter. Yep, Pointer is Amy Irving's actual mother, in addition to playing Amy Irving's character's mother! Considering this, it's safe to say that the age gap between Eleanor Snell and her mother is accurate.

While performing together can be a fascinating experience for a parent and child, there was a moment in which her daughter's performance so terrified Pointer that she almost disrupted the film. In the last scene, when Carrie's arm reaches up from the grave to grasp at Sue in the midst of a nightmare, Amy Irving's hysterics may have been a little too compelling: Pointer cried out her daughter's name instead of the character's as she rushed to comfort her. The dramatically swelling music at the end of the film, however, obscures the mistake.

Edie McClurg as Helen Shyres

The largest age gap between actor and character in this film comes from Edie McClurg's portrayal of Helen Shyres. Helen is supposed to be a high school student, but McClurg was about 15 years older than her onscreen counterpart, having turned 31 during filming.

Helen is a member of the popular clique led by Chris, and is actually the first of the group to die at Carrie's hand. But the character initially didn't have any lines — and so McClurg decided to improvise. Everything we hear from Helen in the film was "written" by the actress herself (and of course approved by director De Palma). These consist mainly of a couple of exclamations here and there, as when she expresses her shock at Miss Collins' idea to refuse the bullies' prom tickets as punishment for tormenting Carrie. Perhaps McClurg's greater maturity at the age of 31 merited the respect from her director and co-stars that allowed her to successfully take this initiative.

Michael Talbott as Freddy and Rory Stevens as Kenny

Though he doesn't have a major role, Michael Talbott is significant for being 21 years old at the time of filming, and thus probably the actor closest in age to the character he portrayed, the teenage Freddy. Interestingly, Freddy is based on a character who is surnamed Talbot in King's novel. Runner-up for the fictional prize of Youngest Actor Playing A High School Student in Carrie goes to Rory Stevens, who played Kenny, and was 21 for the majority of filming, turning 22 at the very end.

Freddy and Kenny, two of Billy's friends and, by extension, de facto minions of Chris, operate together to humiliate Carrie at the prom. Their job is to collect the ballots of the students so they can throw them away and replace them with the fake ballots, rigging the election in Carrie's favor. They are seen together often, and also die together, attempting to escape through the double doors of the gymnasium and being crushed in the process by Carrie's telekinetic powers.