Some time ago, a select group of online journalists had the pleasure of being flown down to New Orleans, Louisiana by the Warner Brothers to visit the film set of highly anticipated supernatural love story, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.
Slated for release on February 13, 2013, the film is based on the first novel of the best-selling young adult trilogy written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Oscar nominee Richard LaGravenese directs his adaptation of the first part about a boy named Ethan who longs to escape his small town and tries to help a mysterious new girl with magic powers named Lena. Together, the star-crossed lovers uncover dark secrets about their history, families and shady town. This intriguing and popular fictional tale, which everyone is buzzing about has a huge following and is rumored to possibly become as big as the Twilight trilogy with a sprinkle of black magic.
I was thrilled to be part of the first group of onliners to be flown to the beautiful set of Beautiful Creatures in the charming city of NOLA. I arrived to my extravagant hotel located in the popular French quarter bustling with tourists. Just steps away from the sweet sounds of jazz tunes playing in the streets, I was sincerely overwhelmed with joy. I dropped off my bags, toured of the city, sampled their delish southern dishes, got a whiff of stale liquor while walking past sleepless Bourbon Street and finally turned in for a good night’s rest.
Our sweet WB publicist greeted our intimate group of journalists bright and early in our hotel lobby, to head over to the film set and watch our first scene of the day. We were super excited to be the first to get a sneak peak of scenes from part of this fantasy trilogy. We arrived in a quaint little neighborhood very reminiscent of the small North Carolina town, where the story takes place. We each grabbed a director’s chair and listened on to what was happening in the scene.
We watched a few takes and then sat down to interview some of the wonderful cast members, who were part of the scene, including Emmy Rossum and Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro). Both actors were so gracious and wonderful to speak with, offering us great insight into the film. Shortly after, we joined the entire cast and crew for a grand gourmet lunch buffet consisting of everything yummy and irresistible under the sun. We woofed down our food and interviewed Thomas Mann (Project X) who was eating among us. Interjecting, Emmy Rossum, who plays Ridley in the film, was absolutely funny and charming as she served us fruit drinks, which she insisted we had to try!
We rapped up at lunch prepared to observe our last scene for the day, which took place in the small town church during Christmas time. The entire cast congregated to listen intently to their priest giving his weekly Sunday sermon after signing O’Night Divine. The priest spoke about sacrifice and love, and how it “wins the battle against bitterness and brings to light all that is true in our lives.” We observed several takes of what I thought was one of the most moving and impressive sermons I had ever heard. Immediately after the scene, we chatted with talented Academy Award winner Emma Thompson and Zoey Deutch, who were both delightful. All in all, it was one of the most fulfilling days I had had on set in a long time.
Our day wrapped up with a wonderful intimate group dinner organized by Alicia, who made sure we feasted at one of the top restaurants in town. We tried some delicious southern creole/Cajun cooking and tried walking off our over-stuffed bellies by walking the streets and taking in the sounds of blues and jazz coming out of every bar in town. Alas, food coma got the best of us and we all crashed. Admittedly so, my first visit to NOLA was everything I had imagined it would be and more.
Check out our fun in-depth interviews with cast members of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES below, and be sure to see this intoxicating drama when it’s released this coming February.
Have you read the books?
Ehrenreich: I’ve been reading the first one, I got the part really recently, so I’ve been kind of cramming and mostly working from the script. But I’ve been reading it at the same time, so I’m halfway through the first one right now.
Are you noticing differences as you go back and forth?
Ehrenreich: There are some. I mean, there are a few things, but mainly all the characters have the same feel to them and the story is the same story and the spirit and tone of it all feels really similar, so the book is kind of like the longer version with more information, especially background information.
Would you say there’s a scene that you’ve read in the book that you wish were in the script?
Ehrenreich: Well, let me think. No. Not yet. I love the scenes.
For someone who has not read the books, what should people expect from this film?
Ehrenreich: It’s a supernatural love story about a young guy in a small town who is very ambitious and dreams of getting out of this town and all he wants to do is get out of the town. And then this girl comes into town and is an outsider, and they fall in love, and she has this past and this family…this curse basically that means that complicates their love affair, so that compromises him leaving town and it becomes about them taking on these forces.
Can you tell us anything about the narrative style, because your character’s internal monologue sort of drags the story. Is there any voice over aspect, how is your character pushing the story in the actual movie?
Ehrenreich: Well I think I’m in a lot of every scene, or in almost every scene. It sort of feels like that. I got here, I didn’t have a day off…it’s been a lot of shooting, which feels great, because you get into a real rhythm with it. So I think that I’m the protagonist in the sense that you see the story through my eyes. From a story structure point of view there’s actually a lot of characters who progress the story, who do things in the climax, other people who have important actions. So it’s not just the hero where Rambo comes in and solves all the problems. There’s a lot of people overcoming a lot of different things, so that’s kind of the point of view.
Well this is the kind of story that we’ve seen a number of times with female protagonists. What do you think it does to the story structure to have a male as the center of the story?
Ehrenreich: I don’t know, it’s interesting . I think it’s just like any story, really. It just has a different sensibility to it. I don’t know what the differences would be. I think it’s the same as it would be in any other film having a lead who’s a guy or lead who’s a girl.
Is it a sort of genre that plays to young female readers?
Ehrenreich: Yeah, totally. It’s a different twist on that, because you’re saying the other things in that genre, typically the girl identifies with the lead character and stuff like that.
You’re playing Bella here, for heaven’s sake!
Ehrenreich: I haven’t seen it. I don’t know the differences.
The book is written by two women and has a very feminine feeling, but here you’ve injected yourself with your own actual masculinity. The director and screenwriter is a dude, so do you feel that this experience is authentically “dude-ly”?
Ehrenreich: It’s a romantic story but it definitely feels dudely. There’s scripts that I’ve read where there’s guy characters, and the guys are in the images that a woman had, but the book doesn’t feel like that to me. What originally drew me in about the script, and why I knew I wanted to do it within the first four pages, was the character. These American movie characters that are these certain….It has a lot of the kind of Paul Newman-type American hero, but who’s more complex than that-elements of it. So I really like it and I don’t find myself squirming during the love scenes because we’re keeping them really real and keeping them true to things I’ve experienced, so it doesn’t feel like puff.
So you think as a result it’ll also appeal to a male audience, not just a female audience?
Ehrenreich: You know, if you separate this from the idea that this is a genre that is for female girls, I think the story and the script absolutely would [appeal to males]. I don’t know very much about that genre, and I’ve never been involved with that genre, so when I look at the script, it definitely would to me, and it definitely would be the kind of thing I would want to see. It’s the kind of story that I would definitely relate to.
You said you were cast late. Talk about finding the voice for the character, specifically the accent.
Ehrenreich: Cramming for the test basically. I got the part two and a half weeks ago, I think? So woke up in the morning, told me I got the part, came here that night and I’ve just been kind of working as hard as I can. And there’s something nice about that, because you go with your first instinct every time. We have a great dialect coach. I’ve been working with him like every day doing this stuff. Luckily I have less battles to overcome than people who have other accents. I have an American dialect, a base dialect. Hopefully not too much of a Los Angeles dialect, but that’s my base dialect, so I’m finding now I feel like I’ve settled into the accent.
What are we calling what you guys are doing?
Ehrenreich: A South Carolinan accent.
Were the writers also involved in the costume process?
Ehrenreich: I don’t know. I have no idea. I’m not sure, but they’ve sent me notes and stuff. And it turns out I grew up in the same town as one of the writers and nearby the other writer. So they’ve sent a note to me happy that it’s a guy who’s from the same town they thought of when they were writing the story.
I know that you’ve been obviously busy since hours after you were cast, but fansites have been really buzzing about your casting because you replaced somebody else. Do you read the fansites? Do you ever Google yourself?
Ehrenreich: No. No. I used to, when I did my first movie. I would look at myself online, and it’s just like asking to have the next existential crisis basically. It’s no good. So I’ve been trying to treat this like I’m telling this story, I’m involved in this movie, like any other movie. I can’t really see how that would help me in the work that I’m trying to do. So I haven’t read anything.
Have you a sense of the size of the fanbase that’s out there for this?
Ehrenreich: Vaguely. I don’t have a great sense of it. I know there’s a strong one, I know people really love the books, but no, I don’t know. That’ll be a whole other journey than making the movie. You know, making the movie and being the character and telling the story is one thing, going out and trying to tell the story on the scale in that way is different.
There’s a ridiculously strong cast around you. Who have you been most impressed by to work with?
Ehrenreich: They all have very different styles. Working with Viola is very different from working with Emma. I also think that’s the character. Me and Alice, who plays Lena, were talking about it. Viola’s been nominated for an Oscar multiple times, Emma has two Oscars for writing and for acting, Jeremy has an Oscar, Richard’s nominated for an Oscar, and it’s just unbelievable! We just sat on a bench, looking at this and screaming to each other.
Do any of them give you any advice?
Ehrenreich: Yeah. Emma has said some things that have been really insightful. More about a career than about doing scenes and acting, but I feel like I’m learning. It’s just like an athlete who works with someone who’s better than him. You have to rise to that level. I feel like working with all these people is a really great challenge because I’m really having to bring that much focus, that much concentration to the scenes, and it’s really really great. I mean, they’re all so sweet and wonderful and talented. So I’ve been taking notes. Yesterday I came in and watched Jeremy and Emma do a scene. I wasn’t in it. Just because I felt like I paid a lot of money for acting class, why wouldn’t I go and watch this, which is just like an acting master class?
Did you have any intimidation?
Ehrenreich: I was just excited to get in there with these people. I wasn’t too nervous about meeting them.
Was there any particular set/setpiece that you find especially mind blowing?
Ehrenreich: Ravenwood Manor is pretty—have you seen it? It’s pretty unreal. I mean, they have a lot more set dressing to do on it, but just the structure of it… the staircase is unbelievable, and the dining room set is really cool. I was pretty blown away by the classroom set, because the classroom set was really—I’ve been on sets where everything just feels a little big. The classroom set really felt like a real high school classroom, so I was really impressed by that.
How much does it help to feel the Southern ambiance and actually being here?
Ehrenreich: It helps a lot. It’s nice. I haven’t gotten to see that much. And especially with the accent—not that it’s the same accent—but hearing the voices is really great. The pace that people live their lives here is more culturally alike to the story. So that’s really helpful. And we got to drive through some small towns. New Orleans is not that small, but we got to drive through a couple small towns that felt like “Oh, I wonder if that could be like Gatlin.”
I have a totally randoon, non-related movie question for you. Is there a classic movie that you can’t believe you haven’t seen?
Ehrenreich: Oh that’s interesting. The closest thing I can think of is I haven’t seen 8 ½ or Shakespeare in Love.
Which actor or part do you aspire to portray or play?
Ehrenreich: Certainly Paul Newman is in more of my favorite movies than any other actor. I can’t say that his performances are something I’m trying to be like, but I mean, he’s great in all of those movies, and all of those movies are so great. And those kind of classic American stories really resonate with me. That’s why I appreciate this movie a lot, because it has this fantasy supernatural element. It’s also very culturally specific; a lot of what we talk about is the point of view and the mentality of the southern life, and that was really fascinating. So I’m really happy to be in a movie that is American in that way, in the American South.
This seems like the kind of character where you can just go as far as you want, that you can play it as big as you want. Is that lots of fun?
Rossum: Yeah, you know, within the realm of this slightly heightened, supernatural world, she’s definitely an attention hog, and definitely an exhibitionist, so it’s really, really fun to play that because I don’t normally play that.
Talk about getting involved with this cast, and the movie.
Rossum: I auditioned! I read the script, actually a while ago, 9 months ago. I liked it, and it was on my radar, and kept calling my agent, you know, “When can I audition? When can I audition?” I really like the whole concept and the idea and finally I got to. I got the part, and now I’m here. Yay.
It seems to me like this role is like the movie role version of the slutty Halloween costume. You can just totally become a bad girl. Was that part of the appeal to you?
Rossum: To me, the appeal was more…she just has a delicious sense of meddling and evil. She’s just like that… she was probably a kind of bratty, loud-mouthed young girl who wasn’t all that pretty, and then she grew up, became a dark witch, and all of sudden she’s all va-va-voom. She’s like okay, I’m going to be noisy and loud and have everyone pay attention to me. And that kind of bolsters her up in a way that makes her larger than life and very in your face, so it’s really fun.
Also, because of her particular powers, you’re playing a few different characters.
Rossum: Right, because she can make anyone see whatever she wants them to see. So I get to channel lots of different. There’s a lot of fruit actually, in the movie with my character. In the book, actually, I read the book and liked all the three books I read so far. She’s obviously very orally fixated with the lollipop, and we will showcase the lollipop at one point. But I thought seeing the lollipop over and over and over again when I talked to Richard might be a little bit Lolita. Although it works in the book because you can imagine it, it might be slightly repetitive. But still, we’re hoping fora little more earthy, a little more Garden of Eden , a little bit more fruit, hence plums, strawberries…
How would describe the fashion of your character?
Rossum: She’s much more sophisticated, kind of runway haute couture-meets-bad girl-meets-Dita von Teese.
Would you say that she is sincerely an evil person though?
Rossum: No. She definitely likes the dark side more, because let’s face it, it’s more fun. But I think that she does have a tiny small heart underneath. It’s very very small, but it’s under there for sure. She was definitely jaded by her family, and feels some sort of abandonment and her family’s obviously fighting for Lena to stay in the light, whereas they didn’t for Ridley.
How does Fiona Gallagher and all the things she has to go through in a given season, impact what you look for in a role?
Rossum: Just looking for something different. I mean, this obviously couldn’t be more different. It’s glam, it’s wigs, it’s make-up, it’s period costumes, it’s everything that goes with this supernatural world and what we’ve created Ridley to be. And by we I mean not me at all! I just do the acting, they do all the visuals, but it’s really fun to embody something different and that was a perk.
I think you can’t really make a supernatural story without people talking about its potential as the next big thing; will it be the next Harry Potter. Was that something that worked for or against the project when you were thinking about it?
Rossum: I know people are going to compare it to Hunger Games or Twilight or whatever, but those are just big franchises with heightened and/or supernatural themes. So we definitely fit in that realm, but I think even moreso than that. I mean the book was definitely different than those in that the core of it being a love story between star-crossed lovers, very Romeo and Juliet: one’s a witch, one’s not, and they can’t be together. But to me, when you’ve got Richard, who’s an amazing writer, adapt the book, because it’s really an adaptation, it’s not verbatim the book. A lot of things are changed, some plot points are changed, some things are explained further than they were in the book or changed. The world is completely, visually created by Philippe and Richard. Going with what we did with Ridley, a very haute couture, kind of fantastical, magical place, some of which references when you read the script directly from paintings that Richard loves. He’s going to visually recreate the world in that way. So I think, visually, we’re going to be very different from those films.
There are already a huge number of fansites for this particular franchise. Is that something you find daunting, exciting, or think about?
Rossum: I think it’s great. I didn’t think about it because the fan art that people started to send me on Twitter and Facebook right when I got the part was so different than what I look like in the film, so of course I want them to be happy. But it is also an adaptation. You know, film is a visual medium and we’re definitely changing some of the visuals described in the book, but I know Kami and Margaret—we’re twitter buddies—have read it and are super jazzed and know what everything looks like, and were happy.
Going back to you saying you read all three books, do you prefer book versions or scripts?
Rossum: They’re different. We’re closely connected to this, so I’d have to say this. I work with this, I live and breathe it, and this is my dialogue, and I don’t say those exact lines [from the book]. The characters are slightly different too.
What’d you find so appealing about the book that made you read all three?
Rossum: Well I’m a supporting character, even though I’m the noisiest character in the franchise. So I really wanted to get as much of her backstory and history, which is why I read all three. I wanted to get as much of it from the book as I could, and pick Kamy’s mind about what she thought Ridley was doing all those years before she came back to Gatlin.
A question I actually wanted to ask you is have you found the latter two books of the series helpful in creating your character for this one.
Rossum: Yeah, in terms of her relationship with John Breed, I don’t know if you know anything about that…Well, in terms of that, there she was in the underground world of clubs and partying and everything she was kind of doing and her appetite for life and men and travel and everything like that. She also doesn’t feel special without [her powers]. It’s like a really really beautiful person that’s then deformed or hit by a car and you see them become a good person… Ridley doesn’t. She gets really really angry and vengeful, and I think that’s really interesting, because clearly the way she looks and the way people view her is what she thinks she is and all she thinks she is. So if she doesn’t have that, then what does she have?
You’ve done a number of projects over the years where people have expectations for your characters. Is that a draw for you?
Rossum: No, I don’t like that pressure. But I kind of lucked into getting with good casts and on those kinds of projects, and that’s definitely not like “Oh wow, people know exactly what they want this to be, and I’m going to go create something different!” But at the same time I love Christine, I like Fiona, who was originally created by Emory Duff, and I like this character and thank god there’s been no other imagining of her.
What will you tell audiences to excite them about this film?
Rossum: It’s a really fantastical world, the way it looks. It’s a different take on casting and witches than we’ve seen. I love witch movies; my favorite is Witches of Eastwick, and I think there is that element of comedy and satire, but also an immense heart at its core. It’s a Romeo and Juliet story and I think that will really endear people to our main characters. I’m just a sexy bad girl, which is fun to be.
What is it that you were able to find to like about her?
Rossum: Well, I think it is her relationship with her mother that is important to me. Her father is kind of briefly mentioned in the book; he’s not really alluded to at all in the script. So for me, that sense of “where did her father go?” Also her relationship with her mother would’ve known that Ridley would’ve become dark, but she didn’t do anything or tell Ridley that that was going to happen or do anything to stop it. So there’s this great distrust of her own family, and I think her relationship with Macon is really interesting. For me, from a character perspective, this is a girl who is in on her own and turned into a vicious supermodel and is now coming back to show everyone “haha! Look at who I am now!” it’s kind of like coming back to your high school reunion and being like “damn, I look good.”
Tomorrow check out the site for the more interviews from the cast.