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, Collider spoke to co-stars Thomas Mann (who plays Ethan’s best friend and wingman, Link) and Zoey Deutch (who plays Emily, Ethan’s former girlfriend and head of the popular clique at school), in both a 2-on-1 and a roundtable interview, about auditioning without getting to read a script first, their reaction once they finally did get to read it, understanding where their characters were coming from, working with Emma Thompson, the bits about their characters that didn’t make it from the book to the film, and what’s next for them, as actors. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
THOMAS MANN: Well, they didn’t release the script before the audition, so I just Googled the title Beautiful Creatures and knew vaguely what the book was about. I went into the audition blind, not knowing much at all. I did a cold read, where they gave me a scene and I had 20 minutes to learn it before I went in to do the scene for casting. They put me on tape for the director, and it was about a month before I heard anything. And then, I found out I got the part.
ZOEY DEUTCH: I had the exact same experience, but I wasn’t intelligent enough to Google it to find out that it was a book series. That wasn’t in the breakdown, so I went into it literally knowing nothing. I knew that it was called Beautiful Creatures. And then, I got the call. I was in Mexico and didn’t want to pick up the phone call because I thought it was going to be too expensive, but I’m glad I picked it up.
Once you finally got the script, and got to read it and see exactly how it was going to be, what was your reaction to it?
MANN: I just thought it sounded like a really interesting story, and not really like anything I’d ready before or acted in before. I just thought it would be a fun challenge, and Link just seemed like a really lovable, fun character to play, who didn’t take things too seriously and had this rebellious quality about him that he shared with Ethan. They both see bigger things for themselves and they both want to kind of transcend the life that’s set out for them, in this small town. And the script was really smart. It’s got this maturity to it. It has a lot of social commentary.
DEUTCH: It has bigger ideas than I think some people would expect. And it’s done very classily. It’s hard to please everybody, but I think, in terms of trying to, it does a really good job. It appeals to a very wide range of an audience, and it’s an intelligently told, very funny story. I really don’t think people are expecting to go into the movie and laugh their head off, but I’m going to tell you right now, yes I’m biased, but I laughed harder in this movie than I have in a lot of genre categorized comedies. I think it’s a really funny and beautiful story, at the core of it being about true love, and about love without judgment and pining for each other.
Were you intimidated by the fact that this is such a popular young adult book series, especially with the success of previous ones, like Twilight and The Hunger Games?
MANN: You try not to think about it. You approach it like you would approach any other script, and just try to tell an honest story and portray the character in an interesting way. I’ve only recently become more aware of the following that the book has had.
DEUTCH: I just felt like my job was to understand the character and her purpose in the story, and do the best that I could.
MANN: But, it is really cool to have this built-in enthusiasm for the movie already. So, that’s really nice.
DEUTCH: I had to, otherwise it wouldn’t make any sense to me. I understand my position in the movie is to, in my opinion, show everything that Lena isn’t, show how Ethan’s previous relationship had gone, and show one of the reasons why he hates this small minded town so much. But at the same time, if I judge this character, or I judge the person that I have to be while I’m in New Orleans, it’s not going to feel honest to me and it’s not going to feel honest to the audience. It’s just going to be the stereotypical “mean girl” in high school, which is a really weak choice, in my opinion, because people aren’t mean without reason or cause. Bullies generally were bullied and are hurting inside much more than you could ever imagine. It gave me sympathy for the people that were mean to me, growing up.
It seems like her behavior comes from a place of fear and her not really knowing how to deal with things that she doesn’t understand or know.
DEUTCH: You see, every day, that the people who are seemingly so confident and seemingly so in love with themselves are the ones who are the most insecure and hurting the most inside. So, that’s how I feel about her. I doesn’t make it okay, how mean she is, but it was really fun. It was a great character to play. I’m very, very, very lucky to have gotten that part.
Your character has great clothes in the film, but could you imagine having to get dressed up like that for school, every day?
DEUTCH: It’s hilarious! It’s so funny! It can be kind of emotional to go into a fitting because you see a character one way, and then you’re afraid that someone else is going to just think it’s a completely different thing. But, Jeffrey Kurland, who was the costume designer, is so brilliant in his ideas. It was very collaborative. He had printed out a whole book of sorority girls in the South and how they dressed or whatever, and that was really fun. We worked on what kind of shoes she would wear and we worked on what kind of cross she would have.
MANN: Jeffrey Kurland kept pushing this hat on me during the fittings, and I didn’t want to wear it. Now, I’m like wearing it in almost every scene in the movie. I’m like, “I don’t want to be the hat guy,” but it’s this really random part of the character that I enjoy, so I’m glad he did it.
MANN: Yeah, we actually did, when we were rehearsing and having our meetings. I remember my first rehearsal was just me and Alden, reading through all of our scenes. The rehearsals consisted of us talking about their history, and we even improved a little bit, just to build this familiarity between them. We decided that the thing that they bond over the most is their need or want to get out of this town, and just this rebellious feeling that there’s more out there for them. They don’t fit in here, so they can confide in each other, in that way. I think, while all this crazy supernatural stuff is happening, Link is this guy for Ethan to come back to. He’s just a loyal friend. And I just wanted to make him very simple, and not too sophisticated or too cool. I just wanted him to be a very simple, likable guy, who is naïve, which makes him easier to corrupt.
What was your reaction when you found out that Emma Thompson would be playing your mother?
MANN: It was just insane! I was just like, “Oh, wow, I have to hold my own in these scenes with all these people.” But, it turned out to be one of the most gratifying experiences ever because she is just the most nurturing, confident, hilarious woman that you’ll ever meet. I just learned so much from her.
MANN: She just has so much to say about the industry and how to stay grounded and forget about all the bullshit. One thing that I will always remember was when she said, “When I got into this business, I realized that they wanted me to do these campaigns to try and make more money. I’m not a businesswoman. I’ve never been a businesswoman. I’m not trying to appear to be one. I want to act. That’s all that I want to do. I want to create art and share things with people.”
DEUTCH: There is a certain sense of adaptability because it is true that social media, nowadays, is important, but I don’t understand everyone needing to know everything about an artist or an actor because it loses the intrigue and mystery. And then, when you’re watching them as a character, you can’t watching them as a character. You can only watch them as the public figure that they have presented themselves to be. I hate when people say, “Well, that’s what you signed up for. That’s how it is.” No its not. That’s not what you signed up for.
MANN: Yeah, it’s really not. People do say that, though. That’s the part that no one talks about. That’s why I don’t have a Twitter. I’m not saying that Twitter is terrible, but I don’t want to put myself out there for people to think that they understand me so much that they would not care to see me in a movie.
DEUTCH: I’m being hypocritical because I have a twitter, but I try to not talk about things like, “Oh, I had a grapefruit this morning and it was delicious,” because, who cares? But, I think it can serve as a platform for talking about things that matter to me, like the organizations that I work with. As pretentious as that sounds, it is true. You can really make a difference, if you can create a following and actually represent who you are, as opposed to how people want to portray you. But, I don’t know what the balance is.
Was there anything in the book that you were disappointed about it not making into the movie?
MANN: One of the big aspects that’s in the book, but not in the movie is that Link is in a band. He’s a musician. And it’s not to say that he’s not a musician or not interested in music in the movie, but they don’t explore that. You have to consolidate when you’re adapting a book into a movie, so there are things that you can’t really go into as much because you don’t have time for it. There were some cool little quirks in the book that we couldn’t bring to the movie, but there are also some new things that are a part of Link now, that weren’t in the book.
DEUTCH: Emily was a cheerleader, and that wasn’t really shown in the movie, but I don’t really think that matters. I don’t think that was necessarily something that explains who she is or her personality. It was definitely interesting in the book, but I was okay with it not being there. I thought (writer/director) Richard [LaGravenese] did an amazing job staying true to the story. I can’t imagine how overwhelming that must be. I’m not a writer. I’m not smart. I couldn’t possibly even write my own story. So, having to consolidate and configure a script from that long of a book, he did such a great job. It was a beautiful script. I remember reading it and being like, “It’s so pretty! The words are so nice!”
DEUTCH: I think being around the professionalism and the talent and the kindness of such great artists, including the actors, the crew, the director and everybody. Everybody just worked so hard. I think that was really inspiring.
MANN: Just being in New Orleans, you suck up the culture there. There’s nothing like that city. It just helps you to leave Los Angeles and go away to a place like that to shoot. It felt like this great big summer camp, of sorts. It was a really fun experience. I just fell in love with it.
Zoey, was your mother, Leah Thompson, okay with you wanting to be an actor?
DEUTCH: My parents are supportive of anything I want to do, as long as it’s not bad. She’s amazing! She’s lovely! I’m very, very lucky to have her as my best friend and mentor. I’m sure she wanted me to be a lawyer, but she never said it.
What’s next for you guys?
MANN: I’ve got some stuff where my fingers are crossed, but it’s nothing I can say for sure. But, I’m working on a short film right now, and that’s about it.
DEUTCH: I have a couple episodes of a show, called Switched at Birth, that will be on pretty soon. And then, I’m doing a music video for a friend. And there’s a couple other things that I can’t talk about yet either. (Since doing this interview, it was announced that she’ll be playing Rose in Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters, to be directed by Mark Waters.)
Beautiful Creatures opens in theaters on February 14th.