Everyone knows that you can’t have a teen-centric supernatural romance without two things: teens in love, and magical powers (and longing stares)(oh, and dudes without shirts)(and, yeah, OK, mysterious secrets: so maybe there’s more than two things every teen-centric supernatural romance needs, but you get the idea). In the upcoming Warner Bros. film Beautiful Creatures, the “teens in love” portion of that formula is covered by newcomers Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert, who play Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes, respectively. The “magical powers” part is covered by Englert, whose Lena may or may not be a powerful witch.
Earlier this year, I traveled to the Beautiful Creatures set (outside of Baton Rouge, LA) with a few other members of the online press to chat with the cast of Richard LaGravenese’s new film. Find out what Alice Englert had to say about her character, the supernatural-romance genre, and more after the jump.
Admittedly, I knew very little about Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures prior to visiting the set of Warner Bros.’ bid-budget adaptation of that book. Lucky for me, I was joined by a number of other online journalists who were happy to give me the basics of the story prior to our arrival on-set, so that—by the time we arrived—I had a basic understanding of what Richard LaGravenese’s film (opening the day before Valentine’s Day in early 2013) was all about: the “new girl in town”, Lena Duchannes, has a family with a history of witchcraft, and Ethan Wate—a local boy who meets and falls in love with Lena as the story begins—gets mixed up in a struggle surrounding Lena’s struggle with that family history.
We were given the chance to speak to most of the film’s lead actors while on-set, but getting Englert alone for several minutes proved to be somewhat difficult: every time we were able to corner the young actress and start firing off questions, she got called away to film another shot (on the day we arrived, the production was filming an epic, massively impressive outdoor party sequence involving dozens of elaborately-costumed extras). Eventually, we were able to get her to ourselves for more than a moment, but we still ended up with a somewhat abbreviated interview. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first—the highlights:
- The party sequence we saw being filmed turned out to be the “Claiming Party” for Englert’s character, we she describes as “a caster (read: witch) bar mitzvah”.
- Englert tells us the Claiming Party is one of two major set pieces in the film, the other being a Civil War re-enactment (!!!) that was shot at a location known as “Honey Hill”.
- How do the “Casters” (or witches) view humanity? Says Englert: “They believe the humans to be messy, because they’re complicated and they have all these problems, they can’t figure it out.”
- Englert tells us that—in real life—when she feels attracted to someone, she “finds them in (her) dreams”, but clarifies that this involves “conversation, nothing more”.
Let’s get on with the show, folks. What follows is the full transcription of the limited chat we were able to have with one of the two big stars of Beautiful Creatures, Alice Englert:
Are all of your costumes this extravagant and amazing?
Alice Englert: No. They wanted to show off with this one.
So this dress is for your claiming party then?
Englert: Yes, it is. It’s sort of like a caster bar mitzvah thing.
That’s the big scene you’re shooting right now?
Englert: Yes, it is.
Can you give us a little background to tell us about it?
Englert: Well, it’s the scene that the whole movie is, to a degree, leading up to, this and the next sequence, our big ending sequence. We’ve already shot some of that, at Honey Hill, where they’re having a reenactment for the Civil War. It gets overtaken by this flashback, where it merges into the actual battle, so you have the reenactment, and then you have the actual soldiers dying. It’s quite epic.
Your character is going through this struggle, where she finds out if she’s going to the light side or the dark side. Is there a side that your character is leaning towards?
Englert: Well, I think everyone believes that they can be good, and I think everyone is afraid that they’re going to be dark. That’s really the complication, isn’t it? We all feel a little dark sometimes, so you never know how much of that is in you, or how true that is.
Are the two options sort of indistinguishable, in the sense that the dark side is presented as an equally compelling thing? Or is it more of an intuitive, good versus evil kind of thing?
Englert: Well, I would say what’s so interesting about this story and the casters versus the humans, or in parallel to them, is the casters are presented as a highly evolved kind of species, in a way, and they believe themselves to be so. They believe the humans to be messy, because they’re complicated and they have all these problems, they can’t figure it out. But the casters have a very primitive idea, that you can only be good or bad, and that’s just who you are. What Lena has to learn through the story, and what she learns through Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), is humanity, and the fact that it is complicated and that we do have both within us, which is why at the end of the claiming, she has that strength. They’re just as primitive, in their own way, and I think the idea of good and evil is really just these rules they’ve given themselves, and they’re never really examined. They’ve been living this way up until this moment.
Do you think there’s something immediately relatable to adolescence and defining one’s expectations? Is that something you’ve discussed in any way?
Englert: Oh, of course. We’ve discussed everything. This film, for a supernatural film, I think it’s so much about people, humans. We’ve spoken about everything from first love to bodily functions, and where that’s represented in this story. I think that every child grows up with the ideas that what we our given, is our society. Your education, and your mother and father, they tell you this is how it is, but then you hit adolescence and you think, ‘Is it? Why? Why is it like that?’ Sometimes that questioning leads to something more. Sometimes it doesn’t, and we just continue these cycles.
Alden was talking before about how the casters are very secretive, and the town doesn’t know exactly who they are until you come into play. Can you talk a bit about the casters and their relationship to the town?
Englert: I think this is another thing that people do, things they don’t understand, they’re afraid of. They don’t understand what the casters are. They don’t actually find out what I am. The town is under the impression that we’re satanists, rich, plantation-owning satanists, the sort of stuff you hear ghost stories about. It’s only Ethan who discovers that, he’s the only human that becomes aware of it. There have been spots of it, where people understand and become a part of that world, but Gatlin is a very backwards town, and I think it intends to stay that way, for at least this movie, anyway.
Can you talk about Lena’s relationship with Ethan? You two meet and fall in love, and he doesn’t know you’re a caster in the beginning?
Englert: Yes, I can talk about it. There’s a sense of premonition, which is kind of what’s so interesting about love, that thing where you just know them. For them, it’s kind of literal, it’s being in the dreams. What’s interesting is, for myself, when I become really attracted to somebody, I find them in my dreams… conversations, nothing more (Laughter). It’s true, I have conversations with these people and, fuck, they’re in my head now. It starts with this strange familiarity, but they don’t know what it is. They’re still in this normal world at that time. When they realize that they love each other, you start to see the magic, that Ethan becomes aware of it and he’s welcomed into that world. It blossoms… blossoms, God that’s a wanky word. It comes forth in that way, and from there, the complexities of the magic, the highs and the lows, come forth at the same time. Ethan is trying to find something else, and Lena is something else. What I think is great about their love story is it’s not about, ‘Oh, you need a girlfriend. Oh, you need a boyfriend.’ It’s actually about love, and sacrifice, loving someone and having to let them go for different reasons.
Englert was enormously friendly in person, and seemed genuinely bummed that she didn’t have more time to speak with us. It’ll be interesting to see how audiences react to her first big role on-film. Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures opens on February 13th—the day before Valentine’s Day, don’tcha know—next year.
For more on our Beautiful Creatures set visit:
- 15 Things to Know About Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures from Our Set Visit
- Alden Ehrenreich Talks Twilight Comparisons, Landing the Part, and Working with Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson on the Set of Beautiful Creatures
- Emmy Rossum Talks Playing the Evil Witch, Her Character’s Many Looks, and Oral Fixation on the Set of Beautiful Creatures
- Margot Martindale Talks Painful Costumes, Getting Acclimated with the World’s Mythology, and More on the Set of Beautiful Creatures