The romantic drama Beautiful Creatures tells the story of 17-year-old Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), whose world is shaken up with the arrival of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the niece of Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), the reclusive owner of gothic Ravenwood Manor. Immediately drawn to each other, it becomes apparent that Lena is a Caster with powers beyond her control, and the two are faced with a curse that will claim her for either the Light or the Dark on her 16th birthday.
At the film’s press day, actress Alice Englert, daughter of acclaimed filmmaker Jane Campion, talked about what ultimately convinced her to take the role, working with such a talented cast, how important the Southern setting was to this story, getting the accent right, not being worried about the Twilight comparisons, growing up on her mom’s film sets, and why she was compelled to be an actor. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Question: Is it true that you didn’t want to do this film and that it took director Richard LaGravenese to convince you otherwise?
ALICE ENGLERT: Yeah. He didn’t want to make the film that we had been pitched, so the fact that we didn’t want to do the film that we had been pitched meant that we all wanted to do the same thing when we came together. Richard brought together a team of people who didn’t want to just make some generic rip-off. What I love about the movie and the script that Richard wrote is that, while it sits in a mainstream genre, it just leans a little left of center, in my opinion. It enjoys and plays with every cliché, but isn’t owned by cliché.
Since he was cast so late, was it difficult to have Alden Ehrenreich show up so last-minute?
ENGLERT: You didn’t feel it. He was #1 on the callsheet, which could have been terrible. We needed something that we could support, and he was that. It was so bizarre. He worked so hard. He’s got such a great work ethic. It’s really annoying and frustrating.
What was it like to work with this amazing cast?
ENGLERT: Viola Davis was the first person cast in this film, and I think I was the second or third. That, alone, said something to me. I really love her. She’s someone who I love because she shows you how you can really just relax and be honest. Honesty is fantastic. Viola showed me how to not need to perform for people and know how to take your own time. Some of us don’t have the energy to be as incredible and riotous and fantastic as Emma Thompson. You’re constantly just lapping up her incredible hilariousness. And I’ve had a crush on Jeremy Irons since I was a child. I love him!
What surprised you most about how inventive this story is, in telling something familiar, but in a way that hasn’t been seen before?
ENGLERT: That was what really sold me on the script. What we were able to do was have a film that could just fall left of center of every cliché that we dealt with, or laugh at them, or just completely embody them and love them. That was great! We couldn’t have done this film without having a sense of humor. And we had such a great cast and crew for that.
What was it like to live and film in Louisiana?
ENGLERT: Being in Louisiana was penultimate to the way we made this film. The location and the whole setting of the South and Gatlin is a character in the story, which is necessary for the way you understand the magic, the society, the humans and the supernatural. There is something about the South that accepts the supernatural. If you don’t accept it and you’re having a conversation with someone who does, it’s just one of those polite things where you don’t question their belief in ghosts. You just go, “Oh, yeah, okay.” It amazing to be able to have conversations like that.
Did you try to keep up the accent off set, when you were hanging out in New Orleans?
ENGLERT: Yeah, we would try to do it, and then we’d be like, “Hey, you’re not doing it!” Because I am an Australian, I don’t even have an American accent. You’re constantly afraid that you’ll be trying out the accent and that the person who has it will be looking at you like, “You fucker!” You’re terrified that you’re going to offend somebody by just sounding like an imitation. I can’t do an accent unless I’m on the set. I forget how to do it until I’m on the set.
What do you think you could accomplish, if you were a Caster, in real life?
ENGLERT: I don’t think I would accomplish anything, if I had Lena’s powers. That was difficult, especially being a young person. Feeling the responsibility of all the women going, “It’s raining again? My hair!” I think that’s a lot of responsibility. I don’t know how I would handle it.
Were you able to wrap your head around the whole Civil War reenactment obsession aspect of this film?
ENGLERT: I don’t really know how to comment about that. The Civil War reenactors in the film were Civil War reenactors, and they would camp out on Honey Hill while we were shooting. It’s intense, but it is interesting.
Are you worried about the comparisons to Twilight, at all?
ENGLERT: No, I’m not worried. It was pitched to us as Romeo & Juliet meets Twilight, but then I read the script. I think “the new Twilight” really is a media phrase. Even The Hunger Games, which isn’t a Twilight story and has nothing to do with Twilight was called “the next Twilight.”
Have you always felt like an old soul?
ENGLERT: I could have been popular, if I’d had nice hair. I just fucked it up. I remember this girl who befriended me. She was new. And then, she said, “You know, I really thought you were going to be a bitch.” I was like, “Sorry!” That was very weird to me. No, it’s true. I was raised with adults. I skipped knowing how to interact as a normal teenage person.
Were you on your mom’s film sets a lot, growing up?
ENGLERT: Yeah. I was a baby when they were doing The Portrait of a Lady, but I was on that. And I was on Bright Star. In the Cut was too sexy ‘cause I was eight. I would see an exterior, and then go to the craft table.
Was acting just a natural career choice for you?
ENGLERT: I don’t know if I would say it was natural. I don’t find there to be much that’s natural about this job. But, I do feel as if I was compelled to be in this industry, in some capacity, no matter what. I just didn’t naturally know anything else. I can’t understand how to do anything else, and I don’t know what I would do with myself, if I wasn’t attempting to do the best job I can, telling stories.
Beautiful Creatures opens in theaters on February 14th.