I was fortunate enough to be invited to the set of Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures earlier this year, but—admittedly—I knew very little about the series of novels the film is based on prior to making the trip. A supernatural teen-romance in the vein of Twilight (though it was evident that all involved in the production were wary of that comparison), Beautiful Creatures tells the story of Ethan Wate, a teen who gets drawn into a world of witchcraft and other gothic-tinged shenanigans after falling for “the new girl” in town, Lena Dunchannes (played here by newcomer Alice Englert). We had a chance to speak with almost all of the film’s big stars, but our chat with Ehrenreich was easily the most thoughtful and entertaining. We’ll get to that interview in a just a moment, but first—here are some highlights from that chat.
- Asked if the supernatural elements of the story serve as metaphors for teen sexuality—as some claim elements in the Twilight saga do—Ehrenreich says, “It’s all sort of symbolic for those feelings–those first experiences and I guess puberty in this way and also like emotional puberty…when you see the movie and have an eye towards that, there’s a lot of material that is sort of double entendres things and sexuality, menstruation and all sorts of stuff.”
- Ehrenreich had precious little time to read the books prior to filming: “I read the script first. I got the part a week before we started shooting. I got the part in the morning and then was on a flight that night to New Orleans to start rehearsals and was rehearsing until we started.”
- The film’s “aspect of kind of living in your imagination and creating a more romantic vision of the world than the reality that you’re given” is something Ehrenreich feels he can relate to.
- Asked how he felt about working with such Hollywood heavyweights as Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, Ehrenreich says it was “…great, really great. It’s great to work with him and Emma [Thompson], Viola [Davis] are fine actors in that way. They are very experienced and just great actors. It’s great to be around people who are working on that level and trying to learn from them.”
Here’s some of the questions that were asked:
Not to draw a parallel to this film and “Twilight,” but the dynamic of the relationship in “Twilight” can be seen as a metaphor for adolescent feelings like sexuality. Is there that sort of dynamic in this?
Ehrenreich: Yeah. We talk a lot about the parallels between what is going on. It’s all sort of symbolic for those feelings–those first experiences and I guess puberty in this way and also like emotional puberty. That’s a gross phrase actually. But to me, it’s all wrapped up in these very ancient myths. I’ve never seen a “Twilight” movie so I don’t know how alike they are, but it’s definitley that in a lot of ways. I think the claiming–when you see the movie and have an eye towards that, there’s a lot of material that is sort of double entendres things and sexuality, menstruation and all sorts of stuff.
Did you read the first or the script?
Ehrenreich: I read the script first. I got the part a week before we started shooting. I got the part in the morning and then was on a flight that night to New Orleans to start rehearsals and was rehearsing until we started so I was really working with the script as my main–because that’s really what we’re working from. I did start reading the books, but I didn’t have that much time to read the books. I’ve started reading them. It’s in my backpack.
What did you like about the script when you read it?
Ehrenreich: My character. I think that within the first five pages I wanted to do the movie and it was because of my character. It was really because of the opening monologue. There’s like narration and Richard [LaGravenese] has a really great understanding and knowledge of film in general and I felt a lot of the older films that I’ve grown up with, I felt that Ethan was a character out of some of those older films. I liked this kind of Jimmy Stewart like get out of here and fight for it. That’s the kind of element to it and that’s definitely why I wanted to do it. I just had that thing where you feel good and you just get it–you get who the guy is.
Talk about the advantage or disadvantage of coming onto the film a week before shooting started.
Ehrenreich: The disadvantage is (unintelligible) and just kind of dizziness. The advantages and especially because I felt very alike to this part, there wasn’t time to over think things. You just go with your instincts and have to because you don’t have this kind of rumination period of a month before you start shooting. So that was good to kind of just jump in.
How well do you know Richard LaGravenese’s films and do you see any aesthetic or even narrative similarities? It seems like there’s a magic realism that might be like “The Fisher King” of “The Bridges of Madison County.”
Ehrenreich: I haven’t seen many of his films. I’ve seen some, but I don’t know them well enough to draw parallels because I don’t know his work all that much. That’s another thing, had I gotten the part a month before I probably would have watched all his movies. Like when you do a play, you try to understand the author’s whole body of work, but I didn’t have time to do that.
When your character first meets Lena you don’t know she’s a caster, but does she know? Is she hiding it from you?
Ehrenreich: Yes, she knows she’s a caster. It’s what they are and how they’re brought up. She knows about her claiming which is when she’s 16. She’s either going to be claimed for the dark or the light depending on her nature. She’s about to kind of confront all of these things, which is when we meet.
Do they bring in the plot from the book where you guys can talk internally?
Ehrenreich: The jury is still out on that.
I was just wondering how that was going to work?
Ehrenreich: Yeah, it’s still in discussion about it.
Lena has to be a caster, but…
Ehrenreich: I’ve tried to convince her that she has free will and that these dogmas of she’s going to be one way or another and that’s it’s all predetermined–I’m basically coming in and saying nothing is written and we can do whatever we want. I believe in this very first love way that nothing that we’re experiencing could possibly turn dark. So I’m kind of the hopeful and idealistic in a sense.
Ehrenreich: She wants to believe that, but she’s being told by her family that she has to stay away from me. She’s being told that she has to be very reverent of this claiming and live in this sort of fearful way and cut herself off from things which might push her to one side or the other. They see me as a threat to that so she’s being told by her parents these things and her family, but also her boyfriend is telling her another thing.
Does your character have any big confrontation scenes with her family?
Can you talk about that?
What’s it like to work with Jeremy Irons?