Alden Ehrenreich and Zoey Deutch talk Beautiful Creatures

In theaters February 13, 2013

In February of next year, the film adaptation of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s best-selling novel, Beautiful Creatures, will hit theaters just in time for Valentine’s Day. It seems as though Hollywood just can’t get enough of young adult fantasy novel adaptations, i.e. Warm Bodies, City of Bones,  etc, so I suppose I’m excited to see what this one is all about.

In this fantasy film, Ethan Wate is a high-schooler in a small, conservative town called Gatlin in South Carolina, and he finds himself drawn to Lena, the mysterious new girl in town. When he finds out she’s a “caster” and that her family is involved in witchcraft and the supernatural, he and Lena must fight the dark side of her family and the intolerance of their small-town community.

Alden Ehrenreich plays Ethan, and Zoey Deutch plays his scorned ex-girlfriend, Emily. The two stars of the film spoke to The Reel Story about the novel and why they feel it is nothing like the fantastical films out in theaters lately.

Alden Ehrenreich: Ethan Wate in the film

AG: Can you tell the readers a little bit about your characters and whether there were any personal connections to these characters?
AE: I play Ethan Wate, and I’m this young guy in a small town whose mom died recently. I just can’t stand being in this town. I want to break out and live this life of adventure. Lena comes to town – she’s the new girl – and she kind of represents the sophistication and freedom I want to have in my own life. I pursue her and go after her, and then it turns out she’s a caster. We have to battle against the supernatural powers of her family and the prejudices of the town to stay together.
ZD: I play Emily Asher. My role in the story is really to show one of the aspects of why Ethan really despises his life so much and the people he’s surrounded by. I kind of represent the closed-minded, entitled, and selfish ideals of this small town. You see that when he breaks up with her, and she actually can’t fathom that it’s happening. It’s like she doesn’t even process it. She’s in denial. She’s so entitled, so she thinks, “Why would he want to break up with me?” It came from a deeper place, in my perspective, of being hurt and not understanding why she doesn’t have what he wants, liking him and him not liking her back and not having the right tools to deal with a broken heart. That’s where I could relate to her, because it’s painful when you get broken up with. You can’t really prepare for it, so I guess I could understand where she was coming from in that sense.
AE: I kind of really related to my character’s restlessness and ambitious sort of wanting more out of life than what had been given to him, wanting a more exciting life than what was laid out in front of him, and fighting for that life.

AG: Were either of you fans of the book beforehand, or did you read it after you got the script? What kind of preparation did you do for the film?
AE: I didn’t know about the book, but I started reading it once I got the part. I got the part a week before we started shooting, so I was really kind of cramming to get the accent down. It’s a very specific dialect in the film. I also had to figure out my character and how he felt about the other characters, and just really kind of saying, “What is this story about and how can my characterization of this person best tell that story?”
ZD: The audition process was kind of bizarre. It was very secretive. I didn’t get the script, and I didn’t get the scenes I had to audition with. I had to go in about 15 minutes before my audition and had to cold-read the scenes, which means you just read them as you see them. I got a call a couple of months later that Richard [LaGravenese] had seen my tape and that I was cast in the movie. At that point, of course, I read the script, and then I started doing research. I read the book, and I started breaking the character down, trying to understand her. In that sense, I wanted to understand her kind of religiously extreme ways, so I went to the specific house of worship that was written that she went to. I studied the accent, and I watched a lot of YouTube videos of people with South Carolinan accents.
AE: Logan Smith from Randall, South Carolina. That’s what I watched. He put his accent on YouTube, and I just watched him all the time.
ZD: I also wanted to change my look. It’s the first movie I’ve done, and it’s an amazing part, but she’s very mean. I didn’t want that to be people’s first impression of who I am, so I wanted to change my hair, I wanted to change my look, and I wanted to get fake nails, really look like this character and stay true to what was written in the book.

(L-R) Viola Davis, Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich

AG: This story revolves around witchcraft and the supernatural, something Hollywood has been kind of obsessed with as of late, so what makes this movie or this story different from what we’re seeing out there right now?
AE: I think it’s typical, because I totally understand that people want to compare it to those, because yes, it is a trilogy, it is a movie based on a book series, and yes, it has supernatural elements. I guess I just have to keep reiterating that it doesn’t really share any of the same qualities as those out right now. It’s not a love triangle. From a guy’s perspective, yes it does appeal to same audience as those kinds of franchises, but it also appeals to adults. There’s Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons. There’s also stuff for a younger audience. For guys, there are crazy explosions and fun things like that. There’s also romance for girls, and a sense of humor, too. Universally, I think there’s something for everybody.

AG: What do you think it is about the story that is so relatable that it created such a following that it was made into a movie?
AE: I think it’s because it’s a story that everyone can relate to, a certain kind of restlessness, of wanting to find that person who makes you feel comfortable in your own skin, and of wanting to better the scenario or circumstances you were put into, wanting to find something more out of life. Also, I think the reason it appeals to young people is that there is this constant interplay of this world outside that they don’t understand and how that world is affecting them but they don’t quite understand it yet. I think that, in a way, is metaphoric for young people entering into the real adult world and don’t fully understand that that world is affecting them before they can wrap their minds around it. The story is these two people trying to figure out what this world is so they can make it in that world. First, they have to understand what the rules of that world are.

Zoey Deutch: Emily Asher in the film

AG: What was your greatest motivation for taking part in this film?
AE: When I read the script, I knew within the first three pages that I wanted to do the movie. The character that I get to play was so beautifully written, and it was such a real person. That’s what I really love about this movie, that it’s got all these fantastical elements and all this crazy stuff going on, but all those things are rooted in real people, their emotions, and what they actually feel. Real people are flawed and imperfect. It’s not about an idealized love story. Two people in a relationship fight with each other and get scared and worried about things and get angry with each other and frustrated, so to me, that’s what was so beautiful about it. Also, when I met Richard, he said, “I want to do this movie with wit and with humor and that can laugh at itself.” I think that, especially in a genre movie like this, the thing that I think you miss out on a lot of times in a genre movie, is that they take the story that they’re telling too seriously, especially fantastical stories. So a little bit of this movie is able to laugh at itself and have humor and irony in it.

AG: All right, well if you all have any last words for the readers about the film, go right on ahead!
AE: I just think it’s a really moving, exhilarating film that takes you into another world and can teach you a little bit about your own.
ZD: I don’t really have anything else to say besides that. That was put beautifully!

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