‘Beautiful Creatures’ Interview: The New Star-Crossed Lovers and How They’re So Not Like ‘Twilight’
‘Beautiful Creatures‘ stars Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich in what some have called the “‘Twilight‘ replacement,” but as they’ve told us, the film is anything but. Based on the New York Times bestselling Young Adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, it follows the character of Ethan Wate, a Southern and scholarly teen aching to get out of his boring town until he falls for the new girl at school, Lena Duchannes, a witch with super-charged powers. See, it’s nothing like ‘Twilight’ at all.
I had a chance to sit down with these two upcoming stars during their press tour stop in New York. After quickly gabbing with Alden over studying at NYU (at which he’s got one semester left through his both budding and hectic film career), the three of us got to talking about ‘Beautiful Creatures,’ creating the pair’s on-screen chemistry, and that dreaded question — is ‘Beautiful Creatures’ the new ‘Twilight’? — all while Alden and Alice are simultaneously doodling on paper because they’ve been on this press tour for about eight weeks now and you’d probably be doing the same after weeks of interviews.
My first question is probably gonna be the most annoying one. People are calling [‘Beautiful Creatures’] the “’Twilight’ replacement.” What are both of your takes on that?
Alden Ehrenreich: I’m so tempted to go like, “You know what…!” [Laughs] No not to screw off, but to just give some random weird answer.
Alice Englert: Because there’s just not that much to say about it. I don’t feel very strongly about the comparisons in the press, and it’s not something that I personally think is hugely important to what the actual film is. Of course the media are talking about, “Is it a ‘Twilight’ replacement?” because ‘Twilight’ just finished, it took up a huge slot in the public awareness, and now they’re just like, “Is it?” So, of course they’re gonna ask.
Alden: And it was the first in this genre, kind of creating this genre as a commercially viable thing. It makes sense that [‘Beautiful Creatures’] is lumped together with that. I mean, I haven’t seen the ‘Twilight’ movies…
Alice: I would hate to have every young actor commenting on whether… I mean, from their position, I always just feel really icky having to constantly talk on the subject that I don’t have any authority on. You know? I mean, I don’t know much about it. I’ve seen the first ‘Twilight,’ but I don’t think about it that much, thus wouldn’t want someone going off all the time about me with no insight.
Right. Well, I mean I feel you guys are getting the brunt of this because ‘Beautiful Creatures’ is the next chapter in this huge upcoming Young Adult movie adaptation genre.
Alice: That it is.
Alden: And you know, to be honest, as soon as the movie comes out, that whole conversation will [makes farting noise] because once people see the movie, they’ll see what it is and there won’t be a question. It’s not a movie like any other movie.
Having been on this press tour and meeting some of the fans, do you think this first story in the Caster Chronicles has the steam to start the next big Young Adult movie franchise.
Alden: I think so.
Alden: The characters are there, and people seem to love these characters and love these stories. And I also really like these stories because there’s a lot of just good, wholesome, nice things that the stories say about being a person. The authors told me they wanted to do a story that was not where the guy wasn’t just some aloof… they looked at all these books in the genre and the guy was always this aloof, kind of indifferent bad boy. And they wanted to show that a guy can be sweet and courteous, and a nice guy really. I’m proud of what the movie says in a lot of ways for human beings, for people.
Is that what attracted you to this role?
Alden: Well, what attracted me was that it felt like a real person, and this relationship felt like a real relationship. It wasn’t too idealized – people fighting against external elements – it was two real people dealing with the complications, confusions and failures in their relationship and in their lives. When I met with Richard [LaGravenese] and I read the script, originally we [Alice and I] were reluctant to do the movie because of all the genre speculation and all this stuff. We didn’t read the script! We just heard, “Oh it’s this kind of thing,” and it felt like it was trying to remake what made money last year – in other words, that it wasn’t a personal film. But when I read the script it was very evident that it was a movie that had a lot of heart in it, and that Richard had brought a real personal touch. And I think that was from day one, that Richard was making this as a personal film, really invested in these characters. The parts for me that worked best in the film are all the character-driven stories, which is most of the film. And it really is a character-driven story, though, in trying to do that, he said, when I met him, “I want to make a movie in this genre but I want to elevate it with wit and humor and poignancy.” And as we were making it, from day one to seeing the final product, he allowed for idiosyncrasy and left-of-center quirky stuff that made it it’s own unique, character-driven story. And I just talked for I think three minutes…[Laughs]
I love it. I love how you are passionate about this. It’s really great.
Alice: You should do films that you like. [Laughs]
Alden: If this was a piece of shit, I would literally be on the floor right now. I could not travel the world promoting a movie that I thought was a piece of shit. I don’t know how anybody does it. I guess if you’re really excited about the money they’re paying you, or something? I have no idea. I couldn’t imagine being in that situation.
Alice, I heard that you turned down the role originally?
Alice: No, I wasn’t offered it. Three times they asked me to audition, and I said no three times. And then I got an e-mail from the producer and I finally met Richard and I finally read the script and…
[Alden sucks loudly on the last of his Starbucks iced tea]
Alden: Sorry, I needed more straw.
Alice: [Laughs] And I loved it, I really loved it. But what I loved about Richard was that he knew to pursue us, and by having such a fantastic supporting cast, he could pursue the random people he just decided were gonna be the characters.
Alden: It’s a kind of cool way to do casting because that’s the only way that unknown people get a shot at great parts — if you kind of bolster the movie with these big names in the supporting cast.
Alice: And what helps is that Richard writes great characters all around. He takes care and gives detail to everybody.
Alden: And that’s what got those actors to be in this movie. They’re just characters that have so much rich dialogue and great scenes, that all those actors were just excited to play them.
You two seem to have an interesting chemistry going on, like right now and definitely on the screen. And I wanna know how you got comfortable, especially with those more romantic scenes – how did you light that fire?
Alden: I just feel like an old married couple.
Alice: Massaging each other, right? Just general, I don’t know… kidding!
Alden: We light candles and we play some Barry White.
Alice: [Laughs] I love Barry White.
Alden: I put on my kimono. [Laughs]
Alice: And I put on my matching kimono.
Alden: She can’t resist my kimono and I can’t resist hers. [Laughs]
Now can I quote you on that?
Alice: [Laughs] Yeah, why not?
Alden: I would love for that to be what people thought.
Alice: [Mimicking a news anchor] Can’t Resist Each Other’s Kimonos…
Alden: No, you know, again that’s the testament to Richard’s vision because he brought people together who are on the same page about things. And so when Alice and I met, we had a mutual respect for each other…
Alice: We were like, “Woah, we’re wearing the same kimono.” [Laughs]
Alden: And we didn’t speak to each other for a long time, because of the whole upstaging each other with the kimonos… but we had a mutual respect that allowed us to just get relaxed because we felt like we were fighting for the same thing with the film as well as with Richard, which was to make this movie all the things we wanted it to be – more unique and left-of-center and all that. So that, to me, was what allowed us to relax with each other and be playful and have that relaxed environment.
Do you think that’s sort of the same reasoning behind getting comfortable around, say, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons? What was it like working with them?
Alice: They’re really good at their work. They’re really kind and generous… They just have wonderful skill in their acting and in their treatment of us, and it was inspiring.
Was there an initial shock of working with those names? Or were you kind of over that.
Alden: When we first met with them, we had a big meeting with Viola, Jeremy, Emma and Richard, and then me and Alice left and were like…
Alice: “How many Oscars were in that room?”
Alden: And Alice was like busy going [in a British accent] “I think it should be this way.” And everyone was like, “okay.” It’s a credit to her.
Alice: Shut up!
Alden: It’s good! That’s what I liked about Alice too when I met her that she enters into a room ready to talk about ideas and to talk about things of substance, not petty gossipy whatever bullshit. So, anyway, so working with them – once you’re actually on set with them, they kind of cradle you with their talent. They support you and you are taken to another level in your performance because of how good they are. And it was just wonderful to get to watch these great actors and how they arrived at these performances – see the backstage pass to what their process is. It’s like going in and getting to see somebody, how they write the song, not just hearing the song at the end.
Even if ‘Beautiful Creatures’ the franchise kicks off with other films, would you still want to branch out and do other films? What’s the next step for both of you?
Alden: I never know until I see it.
Alden: I always know, but I don’t know until I read it or know about the project. What’s important to me is working with people I can learn from, playing parts that I think are real characters, and telling stories that are good for human beings to tell. I don’t believe in telling stories that just have no relationship to human-being life.
Alice: It’s really simple – I just don’t want to do something I can’t talk about passionately and honestly. If you can’t talk about it with people and really want to spend like eight weeks doing this kind of thing…
Alden: Yeah, how long have we been doing this? [‘Beautiful Creatures’ press tour]
Alice: A long time I think because long-lede as well.
Alice: If you think about long-lede press, as well.
Alden: What’s long-lede?
Alice: Like, magazines.
PR rep: The glossy magazines.
Alden: Oh yeah. [Laughs]
‘Beautiful Creatures’ hits theaters nationwide this Thursday, February 14th.