In the new film “Beautiful Creatures,” actors Alden Ehrenreich (“Tetro”) and Alice Englert (“Ginger & Rosa”) play Ethan and Lena, the main couple at the center of the supernatural love story where dark secrets are uncovered in a small Southern town. During an interview with me, Ehrenreich, 23, and Englert, 18, shared their thoughts about why they think the fantasy genre is so popular these days and whether or not the past is an important part of their lives.
Alden, what did you like about your character Ethan Wate?
Alden Ehrenreich: I like the strength of his convictions. He really sticks to what he believed in. He was a really aspiring character. He wanted things. He wanted to see things. He wanted more out of life. That’s what I appreciated and admired in him.
Alice, what resonated with you about your character Lena Duchannes? Are there any similarities between you and her?
Alice Englert: What I loved about Lena was actually the company she kept in this film. I related to her in a sense that she seems to have all the passion of youth and all the fears of it. What I found in her was wisdom – an ability to understand what was right and not just what was easy. I really loved that.
There are three more books scheduled to come out in this young-adult fantasy series. Can you see this franchise really taking off like “The Twilight Saga” and is that the ultimate goal?
Alden: I hope so. I really hope people like the movie and connect strongly to it. If the movie does well, we’ll make more.
What do you think it is about this fantasy genre that teenagers find so interesting today?
Alden: I think, especially for teenagers, the emotions you go through feel so big. Let’s say you live in a small, suburban town, they might even feel bigger than the town. That’s definitely what Ethan is going through. When we see these stories take place in these epic proportions, it sort of matches the size of the emotions we feel inside. That’s how I feel about all fantasy stories. We all have stories inside of us that are bigger than our environment. We need to see these stories blown out into epic proportions to feel like somebody gets it.
Alice: What else I really liked about this movie is that it doesn’t project that a getting a boyfriend is the most important thing in your life. I think what is so great about [Lena and Ethan’s] relationship is that they’re not this one entity. They are two very different people with very different strengths. Not being together doesn’t lessen the impression and experience of the love. First love is always going to be first love.
I think that is an interesting point because that is something I had a big problem with in “The Twilight Saga.” The character of Bella could barely function if she wasn’t with Edward.
Yeah, I don’t agree with that on a personal level. I think the most important relationship you can have with someone is yourself. That’s the person you’re going to be stuck with forever no matter what.
A lot of the story in “Beautiful Creatures” is about uncovering the dark pasts of certain characters. Are you the type of person that likes to dig deep into the past or would you rather just live in the moment?
Alden: I think a little bit of both. I don’t believe in regretting things that I’ve done, so I don’t worry about the past. But it’s good to have a sense of continuity about where you come from. I like to find out about my family history.
Alice: I think the past is very interesting. It’s amazing how much it repeats itself. It’s really important to be aware of that so you know how not to repeat it.
What was it like sharing scenes with actors as highly regarded as Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and Emma Thompson?
Alden: I am so fortunate because I have scenes one-on-one with all of them. Doing those scenes just brings you to another level. Alice and I would go watch them in scenes even when we weren’t in them. It was like getting free acting classes! Just seeing them do their thing was really enlightening. To see them not only perform, but also see their process was really an incredible experience.
Was the chemistry between you and Alice something that was natural or did it take some time to find as the film went on?
Alden: We got along pretty immediately because we had a similar viewpoint about what we wanted to the story to be. We wanted it to be something that felt very real. She, I, and [director] Richard [LaGravenese] had the same kind of mission statement about what we wanted. Because of that, we got along really well and had a mutual respect for one another that carried throughout the whole film.
Alice, you have someone to look up to when it comes to iconic love stories. Your mom is director Jane Campion (“The Piano,” “The Portrait of a Lady”). Did she give you any advice about how to confront this type of narrative and character?
Alice: Definitely. She’s my mom. She always wants to give advice. (Laughs) She is a huge influence in my life and I really do look up to her.