Chloe Grace Moretz was mid-hiatus when she learned about The Miseducation Of Cameron Post.
The former child actor – who since her breakout role in 2010’s Kick-Ass, has starred in numerous high-profile, largely studio-based films – had effectively dropped out of all forthcoming projects to take an 18-month breather.
Her reasoning? To take some ‘Chloe time’ and make a change.
“I’d chosen to take some time off and basically reboot my career,” explains Moretz, 21. “I wanted to make movies that felt inspiring to me as a person, and relevant to the state of world.”
She continues: “I’d read so many stories that had passed my way and nothing lit a fire in me. Nothing clicked.
“The Miseducation Of Cameron Post was the first one that, when I read it, the fluidity of the script and the emotionality of the characters and the way that they talked... it was so naturalistic and so real,” she recalls.
From writer-director Desiree Akhavan and based on the celebrated 2012 novel by Emily M Danforth, the eponymous coming-of-age tale follows titular Nineties heroine Cameron (Moretz), who, after being caught with another girl in the back seat of a car on prom night, is quickly shipped off to a conversion therapy centre that treats those ‘struggling with same-sex attraction’.
At the facility, aptly named God’s Promise, the teenager is subjected to outlandish discipline, dubious ‘de-gaying’ methods, and earnest Christian rock songs. But this unusual setting also provides her with an unlikely gay community and, for the first time, she’s able to find her place among fellow ‘outcasts’.
So powerful is the story at large, that it won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival – a surefire marker of its impending success.
But that’s not to say the ‘gay re-education’ comedy-drama was easy to get off the ground. In fact, “people were terrified to release a movie like this”, Moretz insists.
While Boy Erased – another film about gay conversion therapy coming out this year, directed by Joel Edgerton and starring Lucas Hedges – had no problem landing a distributor, The Miseducation Of Cameron Post (directed by Akhavan, a bisexual woman, and written from the female gaze) allegedly struggled.
“Even though people want these movies to be told, they want these things to be said, they’re not backing it enough,” Moretz recently told the Los Angeles Times.
“They’re still backing first and foremost the straight white man who is going to be putting out the movie that’s the safer bet,” she argued.
“They want something that’s a pretty package, but that’s still tolerable and acceptable. And I think that’s unfair. Queer movies should be told through a queer lens and created by queer people.”
“It took a lot of investing in myself and leaps of faith and blind hope that if I took the steps forward and just believed it would happen, that it would,” admits Iranian-American film-maker Akhavan, who’s best known for her 2014 feature film debut Appropriate Behaviour.
“I read the book in 2012, when it first came out, and I loved it,” she remembers. “But I always thought it was too ambitious as a first film, so I made my first feature for an incredibly low budget, calling in mostly favours.
“After that my writing and producing partner, Cecilia Frugiuele, and I pitched this story and were rejected everywhere, so I moved to London, lived on her couch and wrote it on spec,” she explains.
Challenging industry heads isn’t the only motivation for Moretz’s involvement, however. She has long been an inherent advocate of gay rights and has consistently shared her public support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Raised by single mum Teri in a small town in north-west Georgia (“We grew up in an area where ‘praying the gay away’ is a very real thing,”) the influential star is the sole daughter among four brothers, two of whom, Trevor and Colin, are openly gay.
It was Trevor – her acting coach – who first encountered the screenplay and told her to take a look.
“I read it within an hour,” she recalls. “I called my brother and said, ‘First of all, this is one of the most beautifully written scripts I’ve ever read. And secondly, this is the path that I want to go on in my career’.”
She adds: “It was a chance to partner my activism with my art in an entertaining way that didn’t feel like taking your medication.
“That’s what so important,” she says, explaining: “In this day and age, to be able to have a movie like this, which is also the highest form of rebellion and the highest form of activism against the administration and the powers that be – well, that’s just an amazing added bonus of this beautiful, fun movie.”
With the film still in production when the 2016 presidential election took place, the like-minded duo agreeing making a picture such as this, in this climate, is even more pertinent.
So what do they hope cinemagoers will take from it?
“Desi and I wanted this to be, at its core, a positive movie,” affirms Moretz, who will next lend her voice to forthcoming productions The Addams Family and Red Shoes And The 7 Dwarfs. “We didn’t want to beat people over the head with a lesson,” she continues. “It was more about showing the viewer these beautiful interpersonal relationships among these teenage kids, who for the first time are coming into contact with other gay kids like themselves.”