Sunday February 17, 2013
Stories by MUMTAJ BEGUM
The two young stars of Beautiful Creatures wax philosophical on crucial life decisions, defining one’s own future, and headlining what some hope will be the next Twilight franchise.
EVERYTHING seems to be so ... apocalyptic with teens, doesn’t it? It’s all pivotal and life-changing and world-ending. But in the case of 17-year-old Ethan Wate and soon-to-be-16 Lena Duchannes, that may not be an exaggeration.
These youngsters are caught in a typical teen drama, only it’s compounded by mysticism, dark secrets and a mystery. They are caught in a battle between the forces of Dark and Light and a generations-old curse that threatens them in the present.
Then there is that little thing called love, which proves to be a challenge, too, because Lena is not your typical teenager – she is a Caster, which means she has magical powers like everyone else in her family. Naturally, the union between a Caster and a normal guy (a Mortal) meets with objections from their loved ones for a variety of reasons.
Welcome to the world of Beautiful Creatures, a film directed by Richard LaGravenese, who adapted it from the New York Times bestseller by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
Set in a seemingly unexciting town (Gatlin, South Carolina), the film first introduces us to Ethan, who is just waiting for the day when he can leave this dull place where everything stays the same, day in and day out. Ethan reads a lot and is constantly making exciting plans to visit new places and meet new people.
In a telephone interview from Los Angeles, Alden Ehrenreich, who plays Ethan, describes his character as someone who is restless, who “wants something more out of life than what’s given to him. He is a dreamer and has a really romantic vision of what he wants his life to be. He’s got this really strong drive and ambition to get out of town and see the world. And what happens is, Lena comes to town and she embodies all the feelings that he thought he could only have outside of the town.”
Ethan learns of Lena on the first day of school, which is naturally buzzing about the new girl because she is related to Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), the town recluse who is generally dismissed as a loon.
Lena refuses to conform to any sort of Southern rules and niceties, which in turn leads the mean girls and school jocks to label her an outsider. Ethan, on the other hand, is intrigued by this unusual girl and wants to get to know her despite warnings from, well, basically everyone. As he gets closer to Lena, he discovers things about the town and its people that he never knew before. It’s far from mundane, that’s for sure, with the mystical world playing a large role in Gatlin’s history.
These present-day teenagers, meanwhile, must find out if they are able to determine their own destiny. For as long as she can remember, Lena has dreaded turning 16 because she will be claimed by either Dark or Light on that day, and learn her true identity.
With that fateful day drawing near, the young girl is naturally upset that such a big decision has been taken out of her hands and left simply to a force that she doesn’t comprehend.
Ethan makes his own fate by choosing to stand by Lena, even though his decision leaves him facing an uncertain future that throws him off the path he had mapped out for himself.
Once you take the magical aspect out of the Beautiful Creatures equation, you would notice that the story is no different from anyone else’s experiences of growing up and making those all-important decisions about their future.
That similarity is what struck actress Alice Englert when she read the script.
The 18-year-old, who plays Lena in the film, describes it as “that internal struggle that we continue to try and resolve – the good and evil identity.”
In a telephone interview from New York, she continues: “I was excited to see what we could do. Richard wrote such a wonderful script with so much charm and warmth to it. It felt real to me within the fantastical element. Obviously I am not a 15-year-old witch but I am still a teenager; just the struggle of what you are, that’s really international and I just relate to that.”
Despite being unknowns in the industry, both Ehrenreich and Englert impressed the director and other more established actors (including Emma Thompson and Viola Davis) in the cast with their work ethic. Oscar winner Irons attests: “I admire what they did; they worked very well together. They are very interesting actors, both with different styles.
“You know, when you are acting with good actors, age really makes no difference.”
LaGravenese reportedly auditioned more than a thousand people before settling on the two relative newcomers. Ehrenreich knew he got the part a week before shooting began in New Orleans. Meanwhile, Englert was pursued by the director after he met her and was convinced that she was the embodiment of Lena, and could ably lend the character strength, intelligence and danger.
Interestingly enough, Englert – the daughter of The Piano director Jane Campion – wasn’t interested in the project at the start. It was only after she read the script that she had a complete change of heart and was eager to do it. “Thank God, I got it.”
Beautiful Creatures is already touted to be the next Twilight, with both Ehrenreich and Englert signed on to reprise their roles for two more movies if this one becomes a hit. When asked if she is ready for the “Twilight effect” that changed the lives of that franchise’s stars Kristen Stewart and Robet Pattinson, Englert laughs and says: “I am in denial about it. I don’t want get ahead of myself but I am not ready. I am in denial.”
Ehrenreich chooses to be more Zen about what could be. He says: “The first hurdle is for people to like and respond to the film. If that happens, we’d be happy with that. And if the other stuff happens, we can take it as it comes.”
He adds that he would be be delighted to reprise the role as he loves the character. “I was thinking the other day that on television, an actor really gets into his stride and finds the character in the second or third season. So it would actually be a cool opportunity to expand or deepen my understanding of this character.”
If the Twilight phenomenon is any indication, fans do tend to get a little too passionate about these characters. Here’s something to appease the fans of the book: Englert says the film does not pretend to be the book.
“This is our version of the story, the story we are making. We know that people will always have their own versions of Lena and Ethan, and they would always belong to them,” she explains.
Fans of the book would already know that LaGravenese has combined the characters of Amma (Ethan’s surrogate mother after his mother’s death) and Marian (a librarian and best friend to Ethan’s mother) into one person. She is now just Amma and is played by Davis.
Ultimately, the script was the reason why both Englert and Ehrenreich wanted to participate in the film.
“Alice and I got along really well from the minute we met because we both wanted to be in this film for the same reason,” says Ehrenreich. “We both wanted to do something that was intelligent, and had wit to it. We wanted to really live up to what Richard’s vision of the film was. He was doing something that was in the genre but at the same time, more intelligent and something unique.”
Beautiful Creatures opens nationwide on Feb 21.