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Interview: Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures)

30th January 2013 09:49:21

To celebrate the release of Beautiful Creatures, in cinemas 13th Febuary, TNS sat down with stars Alden Ehreneich and Alice Englert to discuss their first major roles, the film and Stewart/ Pattinson comparisons.

What attracted you guys to this film?

Alden: My character was the first thing.  I knew within a couple of pages  I wanted to do the film and when I read it I felt chemistry with the character.  I just admired him [Ethan] in certain ways, his outlook, idealism, determination and the humour.

Alice: What drew me to it was that it didn’t take itself too seriously, which is why I could take it seriously.  For a supernatural fantasy film it had a lot of humanity in it: it felt really real. Richard LaGravenese did a really lovely, charming, heartfelt job of making a coming of age love story that also has the fun playfulness of the fantasy world which I think is playful and I liked that.

What was it like working with Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson and Viola Davis?

Alice: Oh amazing! Emma Thompson is the funniest woman.

Alden: She is amazing.

Alice: Jeremy Irons is Jeremy Irons, he is beyond what you imagine him to be.  He is more himself than himself, it’s difficult to explain.  For example when I first met him I thought he was in costume because he has this great grand outfit.  It was like a army jumpsuit and aviators and he is just  like ‘Yeah.’

Alden: Me and my friend were trying to make up a slang word and be came up with ‘Brita’ (a filler that purifies water).  So it means if you say someone is ‘Brita’ it means they are pretty much what they are, and it’s like what you said about Jeremy, someone who is clearly themselves…..now that sounds stupid! [Laughs]

So was it fun on set?

Alice:  Yeah.  It was one of the most funniest and easiest shoots I’ve ever done.

Alden: For me, my character required a lot of energy (for the comedy scenes) to be playful and having a good time, and that just adds upto having a good day.  

Did they give any advice?

Alice: No. I mean good actors don’t give you tips and advice, I’ve never seen it work like that. They just do a good job [and you learn from that] and if they do give you good tips you don’t notice, but you do, you don’t realise they are telling you something so much.

Alden:  It’s not explicit like that.

Alice: Yeah and that’s what’s so mannered about the way you can learn from those people.  This isn’t high school it isn’t a tutorial, you’re working WITH them.  They don’t patronise even though we are small tiny beginners.

Alden:  The best thing they could do is treat us as colleauges.

Alice: Yeah, you want to earn that right.

Alden: Right, you step up your game when your preforming... you know it’s like they say when you’re playing tennis, which I’ve never played, when you play with someone who is much better than you, you makes you rise to another level.  So that was the effect they had in them scenes, your performance level was more focused. 

When watching the movie your relationship seemed to come off really well - did you find there was already chemistry already there?

Alden: Yeah it seemed easy. We got along really well from the time we met each other. I think because we both did the film for the same reasons so there was a mutual respect, we both had the same interest in the film having  some humanity and something a little more interesting and more off beat to it. Our scenes were easy as pie. It’s also the writing too.  

Alice: Yeah it’s like with a good script the easier the acting is.

Alden: Also Richard has such a good track record writing love stories that are so dynamic, so real and so idiosyncratic… it is also what drew me to the script.  

I read that the ‘Dining Room’ scene was done on a spinning set with you guys bolted to the chairs - what was it like filming that scene?

Alden: It was wild.

Alice: Yeah.  That room went up and down, the table spun, the floor spun and the chandelier went the same and it made a horrible sound

Was anyone sick?

Alice: No but we were scared Elieen [Atkins] was gunna die or something [laughs]. She just looked so pale.

Alden: She was sick that morning and she is over 70.

Alice: Not that we talk about age in this business. And then you have to spin and spin her around.

I imagine, Alden, it would have been harder for you to film that having to remain still the entire time?

Alden: No actually it was easy. I had to sit still, they had to act. It pretty funny actualy because Richard told act like this [tenses up] and when my friends saw it in the trailer they said "is that how you're acting?" [laughs]

Did you’s struggle with the southern accent?

Alden: I did but it was easier for me 'cause my LA accent is a lot closer to southern than her Australian [Alice laughs]. And also my accent goes like [fatigued LA Accent] when I get tired so I’m trying to work on that too.  So I’m struggling with my own accent too. I got the part a week before production so I had to really cram to get the accent and our dialetic coach was so good.  He taught us how to do the accent but also why the people talked like that culturally, what it is about their culture and values and their way of thinking that leads to that pattern and cadence and that was super informative. It is such a regional story that is so rooted in this specific world of southern tradition small town kinda world that learning the accent was so informative to me to understand the story.

Alden, you replaced Jack O’Connell a week before production began.  Did you struggle to get into the mind frame of Ethan in such short period of time?

Yeah defiantly, it felt like I was cramming for the test because I had such a short period of time.  It also forced me to work intuitively so I didn’t have time to create a character that was so different from myself, which perhaps I would have done maybe if I had more time, so I ended up being much more myself than I would have necessarily been. It’s like your first idea is your best idea, you just go with whatever comes because you don’t have time and you don’t wanna show up on set feeling incomplete cause the idea is you are relaxed and confident.

Are you worried that this film might be dubbed ‘just another Twilight’?

Both laugh

Alice: The best way someone said that to us today was "there’s a huge gaping hole" ...no wait what was it?

Alden:  There’s a big Twilight shaped hole in a lot of people’s lives.

Essentially it is Twilight but the roles are reversed - do you feel it will empower women?

Alice: Oh yeah I agree. It’s about a young woman making choices in her life and ‘claiming’ herself.

Alden: It’s really nice that they cast Alice because she’s not a little cupcake actress who’s just trying to be pretty, she has the same conviction of her character; she is the real version. She isn’t trying to be to be smouldering and sexy, she is much more intelligent and clear about her values and that makes the character real. 

Were you trying to be inspirational to viewers?

Alice: I think trying to make people think anything never works you can’t make people think things. but I think the moral issues in the film is something I appreciated and agreed with and it was just trying to portray that.

Alden:  Something the authors told me is they know this genre really well and in a lot of the books the guys are these steely aloof jerks to the girls and they wanted to romanticise a guy who is interested in things and contentious, polite and has ambitions and reads books. They wanted to have a good guy to be in these books for young girls because if you’re a young girl and you start to idealising mean guys it’s not going to work.   

Alice: Ethan is such a great character I think he is more attractive because you feel he’s real, he’s got all the weird quirks, I love his brashness. There are so many things actually that were in the script I think that without Alden they could have been played just pretty normal. It took someone like Alden to recognise where you could have that humour and not just be a good looking guy where girls can put up on their wall, which I’m sure they will.

Comparing Beautiful Creatures to Twilight again, do you ever think about becoming house-hold names like Kirsten Stewart and Robert Patterson?

Alden: I mean to me it’s not an ending of itself - I'm not interested in that.  What’s appealing to me about that is that  Kirsten Stewart, well they’ve been trying to make the film On The Road for 30 years, and she can say "Ok I wanna play this little part in it" and it gets made. So it gives you a creative power and you're able... people need you to finance their movies, you can get movies made, you can work with the highest level of people. And I don’t know that I’ve seen people get cast in parts because they were famous that I didn’t think were right for the parts, so that is the only thing that is exciting to me about the kind of potential. Hopefully people just like the movie first and foremost because that has to happen first for any of that other stuff to happen I can’t imagine it would happen on that same scale because that was really the first one.

Alice: It a phenomenal really. There is a big hole and the media are trying to find its replacement and I just don’t know who realistic it is. I agree with you I think that doing a Hollywood films or a blockbuster I don’t know what you call it - it’s sort of like meeting the parents. You know you start with people falling in love with film but to continue your relationship you have to meet the parents [laughs] and that can go either really well or not well and the best thing is to have a good relationship (Alden: with the parents) and try not to move in with the parents…

Alden:  Yeah and if the parents [pauses] I don’t really know [laughs]

Alice: You can take this so many different ways, I promise you it works with every single one, I’ve figured it out it works.

Alden: Anyway, we both feel this way.  It feels so great to be in a film that is commercial and can be popular but not having to feel like we comprised. I’m so glad that I’m not wearing tights in this film and im so glad it’s a movie where I get to a character who-

Alice: You would look great in tights Alden)

Alden: -is, thank you, I feel is real. I feel the dramatic components and there are a lot of superhero movies that also have great dramatic components. I’m not putting down superhero movies, but something that’s a story that I feel dramatically compelling as any of the small independent films I was reading at the same time ...this character is clearer than most of those characters I was reading in other scripts. So it’s great to be able to be in a movie and enjoy the benefits of that and not have to feel like "oh I sold out creatively because"…

Alden, you just said you read ‘indie’ scripts, so what kind of movies would you like to play?

Alden: I have no genre loyalty. I just want to do something that has a great part and I get to work with great people that I can learn from, and a movie about real people, and that’s what I feel this is. It not a movie where emotional stories are just kinda thrown in so we can get to the car chase; it’s a movie that’s driven. The magic in the movie to me is an expression of real human feeling and experience and the relationship is a real experience, we get in fights, all that kind of stuff so it’s a movie about people for people by people.

Follow Gerard on Twitter @GerardGillen

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