Chloë Grace Moretz and Sasha Lane spent a lot of time together in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York during the production of Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post. So it’s pretty lucky that they happen to share, in their words, “the exact same mind.” They’re not exactly the most predictable BFFs — Moretz has been acting since she was a child, and Lane was plucked off the beach during spring break for her first role in Andrea Arnold’s 2016 film American Honey. But, as Moretz explained when I spoke to them after the Sundance premiere of Cameron Post, “we really inspire each other, and she’s just such a breath of fresh air.”
Akhavan’s film is an adaptation of Emily M. Danforth’s acclaimed book about a teenage girl who is sent to a conversion-therapy camp after her conservative aunt finds out she’s having a relationship with another girl. Moretz plays Cameron, and Lane plays “Jane Fonda” (“She might be lying about her name,” one character realizes), the camp rebel. Along with Forrest Goodluck’s Adam, the three find strength in each other even as their caretakers at the camp try to break them down. I spoke to Moretz and Lane (busy at her first Sundance with this and Hearts Beat Loud) about their newfound friendship, why this story is personal for both of them, and what was up with Jane’s “weed leg.”
During the post-film Q&A Chloë and Desiree spoke about the research you did with actual survivors of conversion therapy. What was the most eye-opening thing about that for you personally?
CGM: During preproduction, when we were in New York, Desiree and I really found it important to try and get as much information as we could, so that the group therapy scenes and the dialogue we were using would be as realistic as possible. So we sat and talked to three or four different people who had survived conversion-therapy camps. And it was interesting, because there were a lot of people from completely different backgrounds. One guy was raised in a Muslim family, one person was raised in a Christian family, some were middle income, some were upper class — it really ranged from all kinds of areas, and it [was reflected in] the cast of this movie and how diverse we wanted it to be. I think without those conversations we wouldn’t have the project that we have now.
It seems like the subject matter was very personal for you both.
SL: I definitely connected to it. [Chloë] has two gay brothers, and me being gay, it was something we wanted people to be aware of. Not many people know that there are still conversion-therapy camps out there.
Right — a lot of people think that stuff went away in the ’80s or ’90s.
SL: And even this film was set in ’93 — that’s not long ago at all.
The film has such a great ensemble — it’s easy to imagine a summer-camp vibe on set in the woods, though hopefully more fun than the camp in the movie.
SL: Yeah, we were at a camp that was … playing a camp.
CGM: Yeah, we had to move people out of their bedrooms [to shoot.] We’d be eating lunch and then we’d have to move the plates over —
SL: — and then they’d start shooting [in the dining room.]
So the crew stayed at the actual camp while shooting?
SL: It was a resort.
CGM: It was called Riedlbauer’s, in Saugerties, New York. And they rented out all the bedrooms, and lived there while filming the movie. So it was like a proper camp. It was very cute.
I thought it was so interesting to see Sasha kind of take the inverse role of her character in American Honey. This time you’re the old veteran, welcoming in an outsider to this strange little world.
CGM: Oh, that’s interesting, I didn’t think of that.
SL: Yeah, it was interesting to have that kind of leader-ish role. Jane was like, “I’ve been working this for a while, this is how we do it, this is how we hang.” Instead of being like, “I don’t know what’s happening…”
CGM: Instead of being the meat.
I hadn’t read Emily Danforth’s book, so I was pleasantly surprised that Cameron and Jane don’t get together. They’re supportive of each other, but their relationship doesn’t need to be sexual in order to be meaningful.
SL: It was beyond that. They needed support and a connection.
CGM: They’re soul mates, those three [including Goodluck’s Adam].
SL: They’re helping each other, building each other’s confidence.
CGM: They’re family.
SL: Nothing sexual needed to happen in order for them to be together.
CGM: Exactly. It was completely platonic. It was almost more influential — you know, I think friendships you have [at that age], those are more influential to you as a person, and we wanted to highlight that. And in real life, too — Sasha and Forrest and I became so close. And Sasha and I both live in L.A. now, and we’re always hanging out. And being able to have those close relationships — that’s finding your family, outside the family you’re born into.
Sasha, how has your first Sundance been treating you?
SL: I’m really enjoying it. I have two great films here that I appreciate very much. So it’s been really nice. It’s been hectic, but I love everyone that I’ve been working with, and I’m very passionate about both of the films, so it’s just been a great experience.
You’ve been here since the beginning of the festival — how are you staying sane?
SL: Just fucking smoking some weed and chilling out. [Laughs.] And then going right back into the next thing.
Speaking of, I wanted to ask about your character’s hollow leg — what was the story there, and what else were you keeping in there besides weed?
SL: Right? I mean, I just kept my weed, my lighter, all my good stuff. I mean, I’m not really sure — there was no real story to it.
CGM: I love that the film just glosses over that.
SL: Exactly. And it just plays with the fact that — like, Jane grew up on a hippie commune, she has one leg, and now she’s in a gay-conversion camp. Everything kind of keeps her in this box. And so when she does finally leave, what was going through my mind sitting in the back of that truck was that I am out here, free in this world, and I’m no longer in a confined space.
CGM: It’s not an impediment, it doesn’t hold her back, it’s not going to keep her from doing anything. And she doesn’t let it define her. And I think that’s so important — in this movie, nothing about these circumstances people are in define who they are.
So, I personally connected with the scene where Cameron sings 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up.” It was nice to see her let loose, especially with such a karaoke classic.
CGM: That was such a fun scene. I was cracking up.
SL: And your voice was so funny. I was crying laughing.
CGM: I think that is the one moment in the movie that is not Cameron, it’s fully Chloë being a total idiot.
SL: Oh my god, yes. Like, if people really knew who Chloë was —
CGM: It’s the Chloë that no one knows! [Laughs.]
SL: I was like, this is the Chloë I know. This is my girl.
Are you a big karaoke nerd?
CGM: I’m just a total dork at heart!
SL: And it’s fucking adorable.