Ability over Appearance: Sissy Spacek was widely thought to be too pretty for the title role, the character in the book being described as chunky, mousy-haired and covered in pimples with Spacek being a tall thin redhead with clear skin. But Spacek's Oscar nomination speaks for itself. The character was then rewritten slightly, saying that she would be pretty if she made an effort to tidy herself up a bit.
Similarly Chris is olive skinned and black haired in the book but in the '76 and '02 movies is played by blonde actresses - Nancy Allen and Emilie de Ravin - who absolutely nail the bitchy attitude.
Creator Backlash: Before he finished writing, Stephen King threw the entire manuscript in the trash, disappointed with how it was turning out. His wife Tabitha read it, loved it, and pushed for him to continue writing. The rest is history. He still regards the book as one of his weaker efforts, without the polish of his later novels, comparing it to "a cookie baked by a first grader — tasty enough, but kind of lumpy and burned on the bottom."
According to his own account, he had originally been challenged to write something with which women could identify. He wrote the shower scene, didn't like it and threw it out; his wife, who had trouble with her periods, rescued it. The shower scene was what amazed every woman at Doubleday. Harlan Ellison said:
"…that opening sequence in which the telekinetic, Carrie White, gets her first menstrual experience before the eyes of a covey of teenage shrikes, and more than the light bulb in the locker room exploded. Xeroxes of the manuscript were run off; they were disseminated widely in-house; women editors passed them on to female secretaries, who took them home and gave them to their friends. That first scene bit hard…It was Jungian archetype goosed with ten million volts of emotional power. It was the commonly-shared horrible memory of half the population, reinterpreted."
(He also used the word "trope" in this essay, which you'll find in his book Harlan Ellison's Watching.)
Dawson Casting: 26-year-old Spacek in the '76 version, 29-year-old Bettis in the '02 version.
Inverted with 15-year-old Moretz in the 2013 version, is a year younger than Carrie in the book and three years younger than the 2013 Carrie (age 18). Played straight with the other teenage characters which makes Carrie look even younger, smaller, and more vulnerable in comparison.
Dyeing for Your Art: Portia Doubleday, a natural blonde, became brunette to play Chris in the 2013 film.
Sissy Spacek did not fraternize with the rest of the cast during filming, so as to make the sense of isolation that Carrie felt more authentic.
Sue Snell's mother was played by Amy Irving's real life mother, Priscilla Pointer, which caused some real-life emotions to spill into the scene where she comforts Sue following her nightmare at the end of the film. If you listen carefully, she even slips up and calls Amy by her real name at one point.
During filming of the scene where Miss Collins is chewing out the girls in gym, Brian DePalma was standing behind Amy Irving just off screen and whispering horrible cruel and hurtful things into her ears in order to make Sue's look of misery and guilt on camera look genuine.
In the prom attack scene, they used an actual fire hose on P. J. Soles (who played Norma). Her screaming and collapsing onto a table and then passing out was real. She ruptured her ear drum doing that sequence, lost consciousness, and was deaf in that ear for six months after filming.
Also, Betty Buckley says the terrified look on her face right before she gets killed is real, since they hadn't been able to test the falling backboard to make sure it would stop where it was supposed to before hitting her and no one knew for certain whether it would work.
The 2002 version, having been shot in Vancouver, was so jam-packed with "Hollywood North" Canadians-playing-Americans that it would be simpler to list the actors who weren'tCanucks: the Americans Angela Bettis, Patricia Clarkson, Rena Sofer, and David Keith, and the Australian Emilie de Ravin.
The 2013 version has English actress Gabriella Wilde as Sue, Australian actor Alex Russell as Billy, and like the '02 version, tons of Canadian actors (it was shot in Toronto this time). The only Americans in the cast are Chloe Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, and Portia Doubleday.
Heel Realization: Nancy Allen and John Travolta didn't realize just how villainous Chris and Billy really were until they saw the final version. They thought they were more of the comic relief while filming.
Subverted by Sissy Spacek — while her most famous role is her Oscar-winning turn as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter, this is probably her second most famous (and it also got her an Oscar nomination).
Before she partnered up with RoboCop, Anne Lewis dumped a bucket of pig's blood on Carrie's head.
May God help all the supervillains in New York, because Hit-Girl now has real superpowers. (On top of her being a vampire.) The alternate opening (which was cut from the finished film) reveals that she used to be known as Kira Manning, meaning that the Dyad Institute has some explaining to do.
Matt Garrety has lost his superpowers and is now experiencing what it's like to be on the receiving end of them.
MaudeLebowski is a lot less open to kinkiness than she used to be. That, or Sarah Palin is even crazier than we thought.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The original musical adaptation had an extremely short run and for the longest time was never heard from again. Miraculously, a small handful of bootleg recordings of the production were made and managed to survive long enough to be put onto the internet. It wasn't until the recent revival in 2012 that an official soundtrack recording was made available.
In the 1976 version, Sissy Spacek deliberately isolated herself from her castmates during filming.
In the 2013 version, Chloe Moretz sewed dresses for herself (though they weren't used on-screen), and visited homeless shelters and spent hours on end locked in a closet in order to simulate what Carrie's mother put her through. She also insistednote At about 5:25 that she not be told when the pig blood would be dumped on her head, so that she'd be just as surprised by it as Carrie would be.
Nightmare Fetishist: Judging by accounts of what she was like on-set, Sissy Spacek was one of these. When trying to come up with a good fake blood, Sissy said she'd be willing to just use actual blood. (They chose to use red corn syrup instead.) Plus, when they were planning on having a stunt double perform the scene where Carrie reaches out of the ground to grab Sue's arm, Sissy insisted on doing the scene herself because she wanted to experience being Buried Alive.
Too Soon: The 2013 version was delayed from March 15 to October 18, just two months before its planned release date. The studio's explanation was that it was to take advantage of the lucrative Halloween market for horror films, but director Kimberly Peirce contends that the real reason was the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting making it uncomfortable to release a film with Carrie's subject matter just three months afterwards.
Viral Marketing: The 2013 version had a slew of this. The two main vehicles for it were the website You Will Know Her Name, containing images from the "White Commission Report" investigating Carrie's rampage, and a phone number, (207) 404-2604, with a recording of Carrie and Margaret on the other end.
The number is now 1-855-522-7713. In addition, there are some time-specific recordings (for example, Margaret berates the caller in February for being a "whore" by celebrating Valentine's Day).
The creators of the 2013 adaptation also ran a viral marketing campaign in the form of a candid camera prank. They used Practical Effects to make it look like a girl with telekinetic powers was going nuts in a coffee shop after having coffee spilled on her. The video got nearly forty-million views.
The production of the original film experienced a literal example of Special Effect Failure, detailed in the special features on the DVD. The finale was supposed to involve Carrie calling down a meteor shower on her house, destroying it. Indeed, the interior scenes, showing the rocks coming through the ceiling, had already been shot. However, when they shot the exterior of the house burning down, the rig that was supposed to drop the stones malfunctioned. The production didn't have enough money left to redo the shot, so they simply filmed it sans meteors.
Bernard Herrmann was the first choice to score the film but died during production. Pino Donaggio replaced him.
The 2002 remake was originally intended to be a pilot for a TV series that was never picked up. Some of the plot points that would have likely been in the TV show showed up in the movie, such as Carrie looking for others like her, and her lack of control of her powers and going in a trance-like state. The Shop, the fictional government organization from Stephen King's books (like Firestarter and The Tommyknockers) would likely have also been involved as the government agents hunting her. One could imagine that the show would have been something like Carriemeets the Incredible Hulk TV series, or (given Bryan Fuller's involvement) an earlier version of Heroes.