Can Kid Actors Do R-Rated Things in Movies?

Chloe Moretz is 12 and, in the new comic-book adaptation Kick-Ass, says and cusses and kills like a melon farmer. Here's how Hollywood does it

By Leslie Gornstein Jan 06, 2010 2:36 AMTags
Chloe Moretz, KICK-ASSLionsgate

Have you seen the red band trailer for Kick-Ass [very NSFW]? How can a movie get away with a child actor spewing such filthy language?
—Pocky, Los Angeles

You speak of Chloe Moretz, who catsuits up and plays a li'l purple-wigged assassin fond of the C-word, among other profanity bombs. She is a deadly vigilante who goes by the moniker Hit Girl, and her dad is played by Nic Cage. She filmed it at or around age 12, and this thing is very much rated R.

So will there be any last-minute injunctions or outraged, crusading lawyers trying to shut down the premiere on April 16? Well...

...for the record, I have no idea what Gloria Allred will be doing on the 16th of April, but in general, movies like this are plenty legal and not likely to raise much of a fuss. There is no law disallowing children to cuss in films.

As long as the child's guardians are A-OK with everything—and the underage Moretz doesn't try to sneak into a theater to see the actual film—the show goes on.

"When it comes to R-rated films and foul language, if the guardian approves—which the guardian must and sometimes sign waivers—then the child can be on the set," says Joann Perahia, whose teenage twin sons, Alexandre and Philippe Haussman, played Russian twins in the disaster film 2012. "It is all the parents."

That isn't to say that a kid can do anything on a movie set. Laws protect children from certain flavors of exploitation, particularly of a sexual nature.

According to Toni Casala of the social networking and advice site, a child cannot, for example, perform a sex scene, even if the sex is simulated. The sex must instead be more implied than explicit, or a body double must be used. That is, that is what child pornography law says; no telling what producers technically get away with on a set, especially if a desperate stage parent gives the A-OK and the on-set tutor doesn't bother to call an authority.

In the barely released movie Hounddog, a then-12-year-old Dakota Fanning performed in a rape scene without a body double. There is no nudity in the scene; the scene is very darkly lit and only Fanning's face and hand are shown.

Still, several Christian groups claimed the scene violated child pornography laws because it appeared to show a child in a sexually explicit situation. Prosecutors in North Carolina, where Hounddog was filmed, reportedly reviewed the movie, interviewed crew members, producers and Fanning. In the end, they found that while some people might find the film "disturbing and distasteful," there was no evidence that the scene constituted sexual activity under North Carolina law.

As for Moretz, early audiences are reportedly loving her and her character; we'll see whether the Christian groups agree.


See more nerdy flicks coming soon in our Movies From the Future! gallery.