Chloë Grace Moretz is a hugger. She may be a big movie star with memorable roles in Kick-Ass, Carrie, Hugo, and soon The 5th Wave, but she’s a Georgia girl first and foremost. So when we meet up at Bowlmor Lanes, a dimly lit, music-filled bowling alley in New York City’s Chelsea Piers, there’s no how-do-you-do handshake. Ready or not, she goes right on in for the bear hug. “I’m from the South—that’s what we do!” she says.
Dozens of teens have descended upon the alley’s lanes and arcade area. A few people are singing “Happy Birthday” to a little boy dressed as Batman. No one seems to notice the famous actress among them dressed in a black leather jacket, high-rise skinny jeans, and a gray T-shirt with the words "kind of like this but not like this" emblazoned across
The die-hard hockey fan confesses she has a tendency to get competitive over the silliest of things—including a friendly round of bowling. After trading in her black slip-on Vans for a red, white, and blue pair of bowling shoes, she quickly takes control and starts setting up our names on the scoreboard. She types in “Coco” for herself. I go with “Striker.” (Full disclosure: I’ve only bowled a handful of times in my life and the last time was a good 12 years ago.)
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Moretz is up first. She studies the bowling balls for a few seconds as if she’s waiting for one to call to her. She goes with a 10-pound orange ball that will become her go-to throughout the day. While her signature right-foot-out, left-leg-in-a-deep-lunge stance makes her look like a total pro, the pins are not impressed. Only three go down. Moretz gives a slow-motion turn and an exaggerated sad face, then goes again, knocking down four more pins. It’s not the spare she was hoping for, but she shrugs and motions that it’s my turn to show what I’ve got.
To my surprise there is no trash-talking from the super-competitive Moretz during our two games—only high-fives of support, self-deprecating humor after a gutter ball or two (“I’m the worst!”), and fits of dancing to songs by Jason Derulo, Bruno Mars, and Katy Perry. We’re neck and neck for both games, but I manage to beat her twice (maybe she let me win—she is that nice, in spite of her competitive streak), and then it’s time for some greasy bowling alley food and a chat.
Though most 18-year-olds are busy finishing up high school or figuring out their footing at college (which Moretz wants to do one day, too), the self-proclaimed goofball, who loves making a good prank call, has an air of confidence about her that only comes with experience. After all, her first big movie role was already 10 years ago, with Ryan Reynolds in The Amityville Horror reboot, and to date she’s worked with Hollywood’s greatest: From director Martin Scorsese (whom she fooled into thinking she was British while auditioning for Hugo) and Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore, who played her mom in Carrie, to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp in the campy big-screen take on Dark Shadows. “I was 14 when I was working with Johnny, so I was pretty obsessed,” she admits, twisting back and forth in her barstool. “He’s definitely the guy I fangirled over, because he’s the epitome of swagger.”
Next up is January’s alien attack drama The 5th Wave. “I play Cassie Sullivan, your average teenager till a spaceship shows up and her entire life is changed,” says Moretz. “The aliens that we call ‘The Others’ release five waves of an invasion. The first is an electromagnetic pulse that shuts down all of our electronics and causes everything to crash. Then there are earthquakes, which create tsunamis that cover our major cities in water. The third is an avian flu that kills off most of the population. It’s completely unstoppable unless you have a natural immunity to it, which my father, brother, and I have. The fourth wave: snipers that come down and pick us off one by one. The big question is: What’s the fifth wave?”
Don’t worry, plausibility police, Moretz’s character doesn’t suddenly turn from a mild-mannered teen to a badass warrior within minutes. “Cassie’s no gunslinger, but she has been pushed into a corner so that she’s completely primal and fights back by any means necessary to rescue her brother,” she says, her voice speeding up with excitement just talking about the movie. We pause long enough to order fried jalapeños and a chicken quesadilla—and I manage to hide my disappointment at her polite veto of classic bowling alley nachos: “too messy.”
Moretz, who doesn’t think it’s too far-fetched to assume we’re not alone in the galaxy, relates deeply with her character’s unbreakable family ties. Her mom, a former nurse, is now her co-manager and producing partner along with Moretz’s brother Trevor, 29. Her other three brothers are also involved: Brandon, 33, is her business manager, while 26-year-old Colin is a writer she hopes to collaborate with on projects soon, and Ethan, 23, is in college studying to be a line producer, meaning he might one day help finance his sister’s movies. Their bond is strong partly because her parents divorced when she was very young and her dad, a plastic surgeon, is no longer in the picture. Instead, she says her older brothers are “like having four dads.”
In any real-life doomsday scenario, Moretz says she would turn to her mom and brothers. “We’re such a little pack,” she says. Adding to the clan are the family’s four dogs, plus the miniature pinscher named Pearl that Moretz recently adopted and affectionately refers to as her dog-ter. “I think if push came to shove, we could definitely be able to defend ourselves, and to actually thrive and succeed in being self-sustaining.” In between bites of fried jalapeños, she reveals her plan would be to go to “‘Nowhere, Georgia’ to raise crops.” Believe it or not, she has experience with that, too. “When I was a kid, we lived in Camarillo, California, which is farmland. I’ve got a bit of a green thumb,” she says with a smile. “I used to grow squash, figs, and bean sprouts. I’d like to do it again, but with the current drought in California I can’t use any extra water.”
Not that she’s been home to Los Angeles much lately anyway. The busy actress has been down in Atlanta filming the Seth Rogen and Zac Efron comedy Neighbors 2, in theaters this May. The details of her role are hush-hush, but what she can say is that sororities have now come to torture Rogen’s and Rose Byrne’s characters. “And we’re a lot scarier than the boys. A lot scarier,” she says emphatically. The set sounds like a total lovefest. “Selena [Gomez] and I have been friends for a year now, and she’s a total sweetheart, Seth is an amazing guy and a smart writer, and Zac is great.” The feelings are mutual. Her co-star Efron says he believes Moretz is in such high demand as an actress because she’s “smart, funny, dope, and a beautiful person.”
While some bro comedies are dissed for being misogynistic, Moretz says this one is decidedly feminist, thanks to Rogen and director Nicholas Stoller bringing in female writers and taking a very pro-female stance. “If any of the women ever feel there’s something inappropriate, we speak up, and they will never push the boundaries with us—they’ve been really respectful,” says Moretz, who proudly calls herself a feminist. “My mom was a single mom, so I’ve been a feminist since birth. I think feminism is about strong women being who they want to be and fighting for equality on all accounts. It’s not about men being demolished to bring women higher up in the world. I think that’s incredibly misconstrued.”
Just then, two guys approach us. One asks: “Can I get this shot?” He’s not offering to buy us a drink or even asking for a selfie. He’s just wondering if we could kindly scoot away from the pool table so he can hit the six ball into the corner pocket. Really, does no one here recognize her? Or are we just surrounded by play-it-cool New Yorkers?
Now that fame—everywhere else but here, apparently—has given Moretz a platform to share her views, she wants to stand up against racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. Her progressive mom led the way. “Back when my mom was in college, when things were more taboo, she had lots of gay and trans friends, people of all shapes, sizes, and colors,” says Moretz. “So we were a very open household.” Two of the actress’s brothers are gay, so she’s seen firsthand the judgment they’ve endured. “My mom tells us people asked her, ‘Why are you letting your son run around in a pink Power Ranger costume?’ Her answer was: ‘Because he wants to wear it, and it makes him smile. Why would I take that away from him?’”
Moretz was just a middle-schooler when her brothers Trevor and Colin came out, and their experiences affected her deeply. “At 11, you’re incredibly observant and realizing what society is, and who you are, and people are kissing boys or girls for the first time, and you’re really starting to understand what sexuality is. And to see my brothers struggle with the anxiety of having to come out was awful,” she says, visibly upset at the thought. “The problem is we live in a society where we have to say the words, ‘I’m coming out.’ No one should care what your sexual orientation is, what color your skin is, or if you’re a man or a woman. People would call them the F-word, and I would get so angry. It was really hard to see my brothers be hated on or bullied, so I stood up for them. We shouldn’t be using these terms to create more labels and segregate us further apart than we already are. At a young age, I was motivated to fight for gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights—all human rights.”
In that case, it should come as no big surprise that Moretz says if she wasn’t an actor, she’d be a politician—and she still might be. “I’m ready, guys, youngest female president ever!” she shouts. “I don’t know…maybe not president. I might just be a senator. We’ll see.” Keira Knightley, her co-star in the 2014 flim Laggies, thinks she could handle the top job: “She has such incredible stamina that 11 hours of the Benghazi hearing wouldn’t be a problem.” Until then, Hillary Clinton has Moretz’s vote in the 2016 presidential election—the first that she is old enough to vote in. “I read up on all of the candidates and Hillary is the best—male or female,” says Moretz, who has gotten to spend some face time with the candidate. “Hillary’s giving us real answers to real questions for once. And I think she’s one of the first candidates we’ve had in a long time that isn’t lying to us in that sense. I think she’s an amazing role model, and I like her ideas for education reform and college loans—higher education should be as accessible as a high school education. You shouldn’t have to pay 15 years of your life back to a bank to pay off a student loan.”
Moretz is so incredibly passionate when it comes to politics that she recently got mad at a friend who chose to go to a bar rather than watch the Democratic debate on TV. “I was like, ‘This is a monumental day for us,’” says Moretz, who was working on set the night of the debate but listened to it on talk radio in between takes. “These are the first debates that we can watch as voters of the next president of the United States. That’s a huge deal, and a right people take for granted. We’re the youth of America—we can make true change in the world.”
Her declaration may sound naive to some, but it’s also refreshing that Moretz isn’t apathetic and truly believes in the power of the people. That said, don’t get her started on #squadgoals, or she’ll just roll her eyes. Though the actress has been photographed with other Young Hollywood standouts like Hailee Steinfeld, Kiernan Shipka, and Emma Roberts, she will not be starting her own girl gang any time soon. “I agree with having a good core group of friends, but the issue I have with squads is it creates exclusivity,” she says. “I was never included in those things when I was a kid. I was the weird one that chose to do movies, so now I go out of my way to be nice to people and make them feel included.”
At her core, she says she’s “a nerd” who loves making people laugh with funny voices (Ansel Elgort—whose very first scene in a movie was with Moretz in Carrie—tells us his co-star is “really good at imitations” and Efron reveals “she’s obsessed with doing an Australian accent—and she’s actually really good at it!”). She would much rather stay home and watch Pocahontas and Mulan for the hundredth time, take pictures with her Leica M240 camera (a recent splurge she takes with her everywhere), or sing along to show tunes from Les Mis and Miss Saigon in her car than be out partying. She’s also a “social media queen,” says Knightley. “On Laggies, she was trying to explain to me the point of Vine, and I spent my entire time taking the piss out of her for it. She spent the entire time taking the piss out of me for being an old granny, which was totally appropriate.”
To quote Britney Spears, Moretz is “not a girl, not yet a woman”—and she’s fine with that. “I’m very much a work in progress,” she says, fanning her mouth after an especially spicy jalapeño.
Like many girls her age, she’s dealt with body issues over the years, and is still trying to overcome some nagging insecurities. “When I was younger, I’d look at ads that promoted a certain body type, and I’d always feel inadequate. I’m five-foot-five and broad-shouldered with a short waist—I’m never going to have that Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue look.” But it doesn’t stop Hollywood from trying to fit her into that mold. “I’ve had certain projects tell me I need to wear push-up bras because I’m an A-cup, or I’ve been told I don’t have a pronounced-enough jaw, that I have a moon face. When I was younger I really took it to heart.” But now she’s coming into her own. “I’ve started to realize that if I change all of these things that are my quote-unquote imperfections, like my little birthmarks and weird discolorations, my slightly lazy eye, or the gap in my teeth, then who am I? Am I a carbon copy of everyone else? Those things are what make me me.”
With tonight’s New York Islanders hockey game looming (she has plans to attend with her brother Trevor), that sentiment seems like the perfect note to end on—followed by a goodbye hug, of course.
Hair: Ted Gibson for tedgibson.com at Jed Root. Makeup: Mai Quynh using L’Occitane and Lancôme at Starworks Artists. Manicurist: Miss Pop using Chanel Le Vernis. Lighting director: Dean Dodos. Lighting assistant: Michael Fredricksen. Prop stylist: Devin Rutz. Stylist’s assistant: Anna-Katerina Kissling.