In “Beautiful Creatures,” a teenager named Ethan (Alden Ehenreich) longs to escape his small, backward southern town. When a mysterious new girl named Lena (Alice Englert) arrives, she seems to have stepped right out of Alden’s dreams. As their relationship blossoms, they uncover dark secrets about both their families and their hometown.
As Alden’s love of Lena grows, he pulls away from both his trusty best friend Link (Thomas Mann) and Bible-thumping mean girl ex-girlfriend Emily (Zoey Deutch). I sat down with Mann and Deutch last month in Dallas after a screening of the film, where we discussed the challenge of taking on a character already established in the minds of readers, playing normal humans in a supernatural world, and why guys shouldn’t be afraid to see “Beautiful Creatures.”
The film is based on a young adult fantasy novel. Were either of you fans of the book before you were cast?
Thomas Mann: I had no prior knowledge of it, actually. When we got the audition the didn’t even let us read the script, so I just Googled what the books were [about].
Zoey Deutch: You’re smart. I should have done that.
TM: I just got a basic understanding of what it was.
ZD: I didn’t know. I didn’t know. And we weren’t even allowed to see the scenes to audition with or anything.
So it was that big of a secret?
ZD: Apparently they didn’t trust us.
It’s strange that you wouldn’t be able to read the script even though the book is out there.
TM: Its good to build buzz and sometimes they use it to get actors in the room, too, that [they] wouldn’t normally. But I’m not sure why they do it, really.
Is it intimidating as an actor to take on a character from a novel that so many people are super passionate about?
TM: Yeah, I mean, its always in the back of your head. Like at some point someone is going to be judging and making sure that I’m living up to whatever their idea of this character is. You know, when you read a book you kind of direct your own movie in your head so you hope, at least in some ways, it kind of lines up with what they want to see.
Is is difficult to play the straight man and straight woman to all the fantastical, supernatural characters in the film?
TM: Well, that’s what I love about Link. While all this supernatural crazy stuff is happening he’s really just this very normal, simple guy. I just see Link as a really lovable guy. He’s a good, loyal friend to Ethan. They’ve been friends since they were little kids. I think it [brings] a light, comedic balance to all the crazy, dramatic stuff that’s happening.
Zoey, your character isn’t quite as lovable.
ZD: (Laughs) No.
Is it difficult playing the…what’s would be a nice word for it?
ZD: Am I allowed to curse?
You can do whatever you want.
ZD: Is it hard? Its really fun. I don’t know, I think its…no, its not hard. I don’t know. It was interesting to play her. And its my reaction to playing her that’s also really interesting to me. I’ve become wildly defensive of her because—although I’m very aware of her role in the movie, to show the audience that [Ethan’s] past is everything he doesn’t want and Lena is everything that he does want, so I understand that role, that’s what she represents. But at the same time I’m so defensive of her because I feel like bullies aren’t bullies without reason. People aren’t mean without cause. Most of the time people who are bullies have been bullied. And it was fun. I got to be like, “Oh, so those people that were mean to me…I finally have an excuse to say they were in my life for a reason!”
So this is potentially the first installment of a series. It’s a four-part novel series.
ZD: “The Caster Chronicles.”
Are the two of you on board should this continue?
TM: Well I think a three-picture deal is standard [now], just in case. So hopefully people respond to it and we get to come back an make another one.
ZD: Because we had fun! (Zoey and Thomas high five)
Do you know what’s in store for your characters? Have you read ahead in the novels?
ZD: I have.
TM: Yeah, it’s some good stuff.
Can you tell us anything?
ZD: We don’t wanna ruin it. People should read it for themselves. Keep the mystery alive!
TM: The Link and Ridley [played in the film by Emmy Rossum] relationship gets a lot more in depth and you sort of start to see that Ridley does have actual, human feelings for Link, which is kind of sweet.
ZD: You get Emmy Rossum to fall in love with you? You’re so lucky.
That’s a pretty sweet deal, I’ve gotta say.
TM: Yeah, yeah. It’s all right.
The film opens opposite “A Good Day to Die Hard.”
ZD: The day after…
It’s very, very close.
TM: It’s close enough.
What would you tell the boyfriends of America that are going to have to skip out on an action movie–
ZD: Its Valentine’s Day! What is wrong with you?!? That’s what I’d say.
Would you try and convince them this is appealing to them too?
ZD: Its Valentine’s Day.
TM: Appease your ladies.
ZD: Your multiple ones? Okay.
TM: I’m talking to an audience of people.
ZD: I’m gonna say it again: what is wrong with you?
TM: You’re ladies. All of you are ladies.
Would you say this is a guy’s movie, too?
TM: Its from a male’s perspective. He’s not like the brooding, typical leading guy. He’s a really likeable, funny—Alden’s so funny.
ZD: So charming it’s, like, bananas.
TD: He doesn’t try to be too cool, and I think that’s what’s so great about all these characters: they’re really very human with real quirks. And no one’s perfect.
ZD: [Alden’s] brilliant, and I think people are going to appreciate—guys, girls, women, and men—are going to appreciate that it’s about the guy…not necessarily “chasing.” I’m using that word because it’s always [the case] in movies that the girl is chasing the guy. So that’s why I use that word, but its not like that. In this movie, he’s pursuing her, he knows he loves her and he knows that its worth it. And I appreciate that its about the guy doing that opposed to the girl.
You never see that perspective, right?
ZD: And it shows a vulnerability in men that movies don’t, for some reason.
So if you go see “Beautiful Creature” with your girlfriend, she’ll see you as a sensitive man?
ZD: Exactly. Yes.
And then afterward that weekend you can do whatever you want. You’ve got a free pass.
ZD: You can go see “Die Hard!” (Both laugh)