Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich weren’t interested in doing a fantasy movie that would turn into a Twilight-like franchise. They were looking for films that told personal stories. Beautiful Creatures director Richard LaGravenese was attracted to their apprehension and persuaded them to say yes. However, after they read the script, they didn’t need much convincing. ScreenCrave recently chatted with the two young leads. They talked about the intelligence and comedy in Beautiful Creatures and their first impressions of each other.
At first, neither of you were interested in these parts, what changed your mind?
Alden Ehrenreich: Reading the script. The reason I didn’t want to be a part of it is the way it had been pitched to me. It didn’t sound like its own movie. It was like they were trying to capitalize on this genre and because of that it wouldn’t be something personal. When I read the script – and luckily it came around to me again, which I’m very thankful for – within two pages, I knew that wasn’t the case and the movie had its own DNA and out of all the scripts I was reading for big or small films, this had the best character, the best story, the best relationships and the most to do as an actor.
When I met with Richard, he explained to me that everyone involved was intent in making a movie like this but in a way that you hadn’t seen before. With more intelligence and humor that you usually see. That appealed to me. I was so grateful that I was still able to be a part of it.
When did you two meet, and what was that like?
Alice Englert: We met in the rehearsal room. To be honest, we were just lucky because we did like each other. We just seemed to be able to understand why we were both doing this. And Alden made a joke and I was like, ‘Oh that’s funny, that’s good, that’s fine. I can do this.’
Alden Ehrenreich: We both had mutual respect I think because of that skepticism we both had about the project. Richard liked that about us and we liked that about each other. There was lots of liking. Because of that we were able to relax around each other. It was easy.
Alice Englert: There weren’t any politics. Sometimes it can turn into that video village. But we all knew what film we were making.
Alden Ehrenreich: Working on a film like this, it is a studio film but we were really fortunate. I’ve done other movies where the studio is making phone calls from these rooms full of 10 people. This is Alcon, so Alcon has complete control, and Alcon is three people on set. And those three people are the only people you hear from, and even those three people are incredible. [They] give Richard complete creative control, and it’s his movie.
And so that was really pleasurable to be able to be in a huge movie but also where there was respect for the story and the director and not a bunch of people making very strange decisions about what color your underwear is because that literally is what happens. I had that experience. The studio called because you saw my boxers, and they wanted to call and talk about what color the boxers were… What you do is basically strip the film from its personal signature.
The humor offers a nice balance. Were some of those lines easier than others?
Alden Ehrenreich: Yeah, Richard started as a stand-up comedian, and he has such a great ear and hand for dialogue and for comedy. When I met with him, one of the things that really impressed me and made me want to do this movie was he said, ‘I want to do something that’s in this genre but has a lot of wit and humor to it,’ and you don’t really see that. You really don’t see that often. And so I loved that. To me it prevents the film from ever falling into cliché because it’s able to laugh at itself, and certainly my character’s like a source of comedy because all these crazy things are happening to him.
Alice Englert: Richard was able to move in and out of what is mainstream and what is cliché and always be playful and take you to places that are slightly left-of-center on a familiar mapping of this genre. And I love that. It meant that we could constantly be playing whilst making the movie and finding new things. It was great. It’s not often that you can do a big movie and not have your creative spirit bound to that formula. It was great.
Alice you’re sort of like your character Lena. You’re a singer-songwriter and poet right?
Alice Englert: I don’t know how this has come out. I do have a song in the movie but I scribble in a notebook. I’m just like a normal 18-year-old girl. This is embarrassing. I love poetry. I’m very passionate about it. I do write music and collaborated on this film. That is slightly different. I have collaborated on another film and would love to again.
How did it feel to have your song in this movie?
Alice Englert: It was amazing. It’s one of those things that you can’t really hope for. I recorded it in the bathroom of the apartment I was staying in, in the Warehouse District of New Orleans on GarageBand on the computer. Richard liked it and heard it and we recorded it, but he wanted to use my terrible bathroom version.
Alden are you also an artist?
Alden Ehrenreich: A little. I draw and paint.
Alice Englert: He does these great, ugly drawings of people, which are great.
Alden Ehrenreich: They are ugly.
Alice Englert: No one looks good in an Alden drawing.
Alden Ehrenreich: Nobody does.
What did you both learn from working with Jeremy Irons?
Alden Ehrenreich: I’d go watch Jeremy on the monitors when he was doing a scene with Viola (Davis) or Emma (Thompson) because it’s like free acting class to see these people work. He has the voice and the power. I do remember his first day, he was doing this scene, we were settling in, and we came back to it again because he felt something could be better in the whole scene. He came in with this resolve and determination. He decided that there was enough pussy-footing around on the first day jitters and just came in with this bravery about the scene, and strength of will that was really admirable.
You guys have done a few other things before this. Was this project different because it had a built-in fan base?
Alice Englert: We do forget about it but it is different.
Alden Ehrenreich: It’s different now, because the conversation is about a lot more than this movie. It’s about the context in which this happens. The context is a lot different. The expectation or the illusion of the expectation, which I don’t think is necessarily real, but there’s hype and stuff like that. But, while we were making the film, even the fan base, we were completely unaware of it. We felt that the best way to serve the people who love this book is to do our best. And doing our best means doing it in a first person mentality about what you’re doing and not thinking about pressures.
Alice Englert: Also, I believe that the fans have a right, obviously, to comment and have their opinions and hate us or love us, or whatever they want to do. But it’s their right to have their forum, and for us to get involved in it, there’s something wrong with that. It’s etiquette. It’s manners, they should be able do this. But they’re not expecting us to take to heart every single comment – that would be a huge pressure. I actually almost think of it as allowing them to be able to do this without the pressure of thinking we’re going to go, ‘Ahhhh!’ We should be grown up enough to not take things too personally.
Alden Ehrenreich: I also think the knee-jerk reaction to a movie, any movie, is not what its legacy is. It’s not what it ends up being. If you read reviews of movies from the past that are thought of as great movies, that doesn’t necessarily happen until it soaks into the lives of the people who saw it and it gestates for a little while.
In a movie like this, where you’re setting up this new world, there’s a lot of detail to get out there. How daunting is that?
Alden Ehrenreich: It was the main struggle for all of us.
Alice Englert: And also the editing process. Richard took a lot of the exposition out and people couldn’t understand what was going on. They liked things, but they couldn’t understand.
Alden Ehrenreich: It’s a fine balance. When there’s a normal amount of exposition, the thing that most people do is they cover it with humor or another dynamic or somebody doing something in a scene to entertain while you get the information across. But what we learned is that the exposition in this film was so much that we couldn’t do that. You literally have the scene where Alice goes ‘I’m a Caster’ and I go ‘What is that?’ and she goes ‘Here is what being a Caster is,’ then I ask ‘What’s wrong?’ She responds, ‘This is what’s wrong. I’m going through this. These are the rules.’
Alice Englert: We couldn’t escape exposition. You have to stop trying to act your way through it. People sometimes just do say things.
Beautiful Creatures hits theaters February 14.