Behind The Scenes Saturday: Carrie (1976)

Welcome back to Behind The Scenes Saturday! For my first behind the scenes post of the new year, I chose Carrie (1976)! It was the novel and film adaptation that shot horror legend, Stephen King to stardom! I hope you enjoy!

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  • Nancy Allen (Chris Hargensen) never knew how evil her character was until she saw the final film. She initially believed Chris and Billy (John Travolta) were the selfish bickering couple and they were the comic relief.
  • There are a few references to Psycho (1960) throughout the film. Firstly, the high school that Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) attends is Bates High, which is an obvious nod to Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the main antagonist in Psycho. Also, the four-note violin theme from Psycho is used throughout Carrie.
  • Sissy Spacek was so dedicated to the role that she isolated herself from the rest of the cast, probably to increase the feeling of being an outcast. She also put heavy religious iconography in her dressing room. She studied people’s body language after they’ve been stoned for their sins, and she used that body language in her performance.
  • Piper Laurie (Margaret White) honestly thought the film was a black comedy instead of a horror film. She thought her character was so over the top, she couldn’t take it seriously. She kept breaking out in laughter between takes, and she thought her wardrobe and dialogue was laughable. The film’s director, Brian De Palma had to pull her aside at one point and reassure her that it was a horror film. It is said that she still considers it a black comedy.
  • The novel’s author, Stephen King was paid $2,500 for the film’s rights. Though the price was pretty low, Stephen didn’t regret taking the deal. He stated that he was very fortunate to have it happen to his first book.




  • The famous prom scene took 35 takes and over two weeks to shoot.
  • Sue Snell and her mother were portrayed by real life mother and daughter, Amy Irving and Priscilla Pointer.
  • The spinning camera shot during Carrie and Tommy’s (William Katt) dance scene was achieved with the couple spinning in one direction, and the camera dollied in the other direction.
  • P.J. Soles (Norma) was originally cast for only two weeks of filming. However, when she hit Carrie with her red baseball cap, Brian De Palma was impressed and he decided to keep her on longer.
  • Because he couldn’t get the right reaction from Nancy Allen when Chris got slapped by Miss Collins (Betty Buckley), Brian asked Betty to really slap Nancy. Nancy ended up getting slapped about 30 times to get the right reaction.



  • When Sissy asked Brian how Carrie’s reaction should be when she discovers her period for the first time, Brian told her that she should act like she’s been hit by a truck. Her husband, Jack Fisk has a child who was once hit by a car. Fisk told her about the experience to help her with the scene.
  • Betty Buckley was only two years older than Sissy Spacek, even though she played her high school coach. She was only three years older than Nancy Allen and P.J. Soles, who also played her students.
  • The religious statue that Carrie prayed to was actually St. Sebastian, and not Jesus Christ crucified.
  • A lot of the extras in the shower scene were initially unsure about appearing nude. To help them, Brian De Palma showed them the nude shots of Sissy Spacek, which helped them gain more confidence.
  • Helen (Edie McClurg) originally didn’t have any dialogue in the film. With Brian De Palma’s blessing, Edie ended up improvising ALL of her dialogue for the film.



  • Carrie was 17 years old in the novel, but Sissy Spacek was 25 when she played her.
  • To get a better chance of landing the role, Sissy showed up at her screen test with Vaseline in her unwashed hair, and a sailor dress her mother made her with the hem cut off.
  • In order to add to Margaret’s insanity, none of the Bible references she mentions are real. When she quotes Genesis Chapter 3, she declares how it says sexuality is evil. In reality, the quote is about Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit.
  • In order to keep her isolation intact, Sissy Spacek told the other cast members that, although she loves them, she had to avoid them in order to stay in character. To reassure them, she told them that they would all have fun together when filming was over.
  • Amy Irving was originally supposed to play Carrie. However, Jack Fisk convinced Brian De Palma to let Sissy audition. After giving Sissy the role, he gave Amy the role of Sue Snell.



  • Stephen King was the one who gave Amy Irving the ring that she wears throughout the film.
  • During filming, Brian De Palma invited Steven Spielberg on set. While visiting, Spielberg asked quite a few women out, including P.J. Soles and Amy Irving. Irving ended up marrying Spielberg and had a son with him before they divorced.
  • Amy Irving initially hated the script when she read it. When she saw the finished film, she described it as magic and she ended up loving it.
  • The character of Carrie was loosely based on two girls Stephen King knew in school. One of the girls was a peculiar person from a peculiar family. Instead of being a religious nut like Margaret, this girl’s mother was a game and sweepstakes nut. Stephen also recalled that the poor girl only had one change of clothes for the whole school year and she was constantly made fun of by the other kids.
  • While the film was played in theaters, Sissy Spacek loved to show up in the last five minutes to see the audience’s reactions to the final scare.



  • There was a rumor going around that Sissy Spacek was cast for Princess Leia in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and Carrie Fisher was up for the part of Carrie. The rumor claimed that Fisher refused to appear nude in Carrie so she and Sissy switched roles. Fisher later debunked this rumor, calling it “total bulls***”.
  • The look of Carrie was vastly different in the novel than the film. In the book, she’s chunky, mouse-haired, and covered in pimples. With Sissy Spacek fitting none of those descriptions, everyone was worried she was too pretty for the role. So, her character was changed to a girl who could be pretty if she put in the effort to tidy herself up.
  • When the little boy on his bike is taunting Carrie, it’s actually Betty Buckley’s voice shouting, “Creepy Carrie! Creepy Carrie!
  • There was a deleted scene that showed Carrie as a little girl talking to her next door neighbor, who was sunbathing in the backyard. Margaret catches her and drags Carrie back in the house. This causes Carrie to make stones fall from the sky onto the house. This would’ve tied in with the film’s ending. However, the scene was cut because the stones didn’t have the right effect.
  • Stephen King has admitted that he thought this film was better than the book. This is also the only version of Carrie he likes.



  • The film’s editor, Paul Hirsch’s name credit appeared right as Nancy Allen appeared in the locker room, fully nude. Hirsch recalled his friends asking him, “How come your name isn’t on the movie?”
  • During Norma’s death scene, the water pressure from the hose actually burst P.J.’s eardrums. The shot we see of P.J. rolling her head to the side was due to her losing her ability to maintain equilibrium. The shot looks like Norma was just unconscious, so Brian De Palma kept the shot in the film. Though her eardrum eventually healed, she couldn’t hear a thing in that ear for six months.
  • For the final jump-scare, Sissy insisted on being the one to grab Sue’s arm from underground, and not a stunt-double. Brian tried to tell her that they would have to actually bury her for the scene and he tried to convince her to just let him use a stunt double. However, Sissy kept pushing for it, saying, “Brian, I have to do this.”
  • During Sue’s outburst at the end of the film, Priscilla Pointer ended up calling Amy Irving by her real name instead of Sue. She was so concerned because she never saw her daughter so hysterical before. Fortunately, the loud music covered up that little slip.
  • The fake blood that Sissy had to wear kept drying under the hot lights and sticking to her. She had to be hosed down every time the blood got “gluey.”



  • For Miss Collins death scene, the backboard that crushes her wasn’t tested beforehand to make sure it didn’t actually hit Betty Buckley. For that reason, Betty’s terrified expression before she died was genuine.
  • To make Sue’s nightmare a more surreal and eerie effect, the beginning of it was actually shot backwards, then run in reverse and slow motion. This is evidenced by the car near Sue actually driving backwards.
  • To keep with the film’s continuity, Sissy would sometimes refuse to wash the fake blood off of her, and she would go so far as to sleep in her bloody clothes.
  • In the book, the gym teachers fate was a little different. She actually did laugh at Carrie after the pig’s blood is dropped on her. She survives the massacre, but her shame for laughing causes her to resign. In the movie, Miss Collins laughter is said to be all in Carrie’s mind, but she gets killed anyways.
  • Margaret’s death scene was another scene that was shot in reverse. To achieve the look of flying knives stabbing her, the knives started out attached to her and pulled out with strings, then they played the scene backwards to make it look like they were flying towards her.

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