Interview: ‘Beautiful Creatures’ stars Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert talk Getting Cast, Bad Auditions and Vomit
The new film Beautiful Creatures, adapted from the best-selling novels of the same name, tells the story of Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich), a young man eager to leave his small southern town, and Lena (Alice Englert), the new girl who is filled with secrets.
Directed by Richard LaGravenese, it also stars Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson and Emmy Rossum and Ehrenreich and Englert more than hold their own acting with the top-notch cast. But, for them to even get there, they both had to be convinced to audition for their roles because both actors turned down their auditions when first asked. Crazy, right? When they were given the chance to read LaGravenese’s script, they quickly changed their minds. “Oh my God. I’m silly. I really wanna do this now,” Alice told me.
Alden and Alice are smart, charming and talented actors and for their sake, I really hope the film is a success. We need more young actors like them working today.
In this interview, we talk about how they got their parts, working with the cast, some of their worst auditions, advice to actors and vomit. Yeah, there’s some vomit talk happening. You guys are going to enjoy this.
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes
How did you guys get involved in the movie?
Alice Englert: I was cast second in the film. I was approached three times before. I got an email from the producer saying, “Would… please, please come in and talk to us. I’ve produced all of these films, these films,” very impressive films. So I was like, “Oh, alright. Ok.” But I wasn’t interested at first because I thought they, for one, wouldn’t be interested in me or the way I would want to play something like this and I hadn’t read the script, which is not a great idea when you say no to things. And, yeah, I went in and I talked to them and then I read the script and then I went, “Oh my God. I’m silly. I really wanna do this now.” And I did one audition and then I got a call at midnight that I had the role.
Wow. One audition. Nice.
Alden Ehrenreich: And then I got into it really late in the game and they hadn’t… there’s wasn’t somebody playing my part, like, really close to when we started shooting. And I went in and had a meeting and I came in and I had originally also passed on auditioning for it in the first round, because of, I think, similar reasons. We’d just… neither of us read the script and we thought of it… we just got, like, kind of the worst version pitch of what it was. And then went in and auditioned and got the part at 8 in the morning and then at 4 in the afternoon I was on a plane to Louisiana and a week later we started shooting, so I had a week to prep and learn the southern drawl.
When you went in that morning, had you already read the script or did you just get a bunch of sides?
Alden Ehrenreich: No, I read the script and then I said, “Oh my God, I really wanna…” in 3 pages I knew I wanted to do it because my character narrates the film and in the opening narration I just could feel what his point of view was, I could feel… I just had chemistry with that character. And, yeah, so then I read the script and then went in and worked on the sides.
The opening the film, within a couple of minutes with your narration and the way it opens up, you begin to get thrown into that world.
Alden Ehrenreich: Yeah, you get… yeah. And I think you really get, like, my character’s point of view from that narration. That’s one of Richard… actually, the narration is something we changed a million times. I recorded the opening narration I think 8 times.
Alice Englert: All of it was good though.
Alden Ehrenreich: Richard kept rewriting it and all this stuff and then the final narration was, like, the very last one and I worked that night on it and then went in.
Alice, for your role. It’s got a lot of mythology attached to it. How’d you prepare for that? Talking to Richard and the author?
Alice Englert: Yeah, me and Richard did a lot of back and forth. We emailed a lot. I like a lot of visual references for my characters. I love trolling through photos, finding atmospheres… actually, just trying to figure out what they might like, what they’re attracted to. And music, as well, was always really important. Because her powers are so influenced by her emotions and I wanted to find out what emotionally would trigger her, which would then, obviously, trigger the weather patterns. And so we went through a lot of that and came up with strange little anecdotes that, you know, no one will ever know about but that make huge differences to me as the way I play her and the way sort of the stigma that she has that she carries around with her from town to town in what is dangerous, what’s not dangerous, where she has to control herself, etcetera, etcetera.
This film is obviously being compared to Twilight. But I think one huge difference is that, no disrespect to them, but the amazingly talented cast you have.
Alden Ehrenreich: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and Emma Thomas. When you do your first scenes with them, are you intimidated, excited?
Alden Ehrenreich: I was pretty… I was nervous when I got… actually, the first person I worked with was Viola Davis and our first day working together we did two of our main scenes together. And I have scenes with all of the… with Emma and Viola.
Alice Englert: And on your own.
Alden Ehrenreich: And on my own, yeah. And that day I woke up with food poisoning. So I was in this 90 degree heat in a civil war wool uniform…
Which makes food poisoning even better.
Alden Ehrenreich: Right. And vomiting, running to the bathroom between all the takes. So I was… I was nervous. But, you know, that was one of my worst fears that that would happen, and you can’t really call in sick, so… unless you’re a big star probably. But I…
Alice Englert: It’s kinda good that your worst fear just happened.
Alden Ehrenreich: Exactly. Like, now I know I got through it. I got through it and didn’t screw up the movie.
Alice Englert: It’s so funny because I actually remember the night before, you and…
Alden Ehrenreich: Oh my God, I ate this fish thing.
Alice Englert: ….coming to sit in the warehouse courtyard where we were all staying and saying… Alden just going, “This is great. This is so good.”
Alden Ehrenreich: It’s a restaurant called The El Gato Negro. The Black Cat. And… don’t go there. Don’t eat at The Black Cat.
You sure it was fish, not cat?
Alden Ehrenreich: Oh, yeah. I don’t know. It was catfish actually.
I hate catfish.
Alden Ehrenreich: It was about 4 different kinds of fish in a sauce and it wasn’t pretty. Anyway, so working with them, you know, it’s… to me it’s exciting and luckily all 3 of them were so approachable and so supportive of us, just incredibly supportive of us, that working with them just felt like they were almost taking care of you with how talented they were. It kinda brought you to… it’s like playing tennis with somebody who is better than you. Not that I’ve ever played tennis, but it’s really… it was really great. And then we would go and watch their scenes even if we weren’t in them because it was like free acting class, you know, and you get to see how they come to those kind of amazing performances that they’ve all done in the past.
What was the hardest scene for you guys to shoot?
Alden Ehrenreich: I think the food poisoning one. Actually, when I would go to do it it wasn’t that bad. I’m trying to think of…
Alice Englert: I found the dining room scene pretty tedious.
That looked crazy.
Alice Englert: I loved, I mean, I loved it, but I hated doing the scene.
Alden Ehrenreich: That was easy for me, I didn’t have any…
Were you really spinning around the whole time?
Alden Ehrenreich: Yeah, they built the whole… well, Richard didn’t want to do CGI very much, so he really built this whole set with the spinning table and underneath the floor would go like this and the chandelier was going back and forth and so the table is moving this way and the floor is moving this way and everything is falling off the table.
Alice Englert: Yeah, actually, I was very intimidated by the acting weight in that scene. You know, Margo Martindale. You had Eileen Atkins and Jeremy. And then Emmy [Rossum] and me have to do this whole thing and then have to act while we’re strapped to poles while flying around the room. And it just felt stressful.
I would imagine, yeah.
Alice Englert: It was just stressful. Yeah. At the same time, it was really exciting because it was something that…
So was it really going fast?
Alice Englert: Yeah. There was… at one stage…
Alden Ehrenreich: People were taking nausea medicine.
Alice Englert: People were getting hit by stuff and then a fork got stuck in something.
Alden Ehrenreich: Oh, yeah. The fork. A fork flew off the table and lodged right in the… on the… like, in the wedge between where the turntable and everything went in like… on this fork. That was really crazy.
Speaking of vomit, if I had to do that, I would completely vomit.
Alden Ehrenreich: Let’s come back to vomit in every single question. Make this movie really appealing to people.
I’ll just create a separate page for vomit.
Alden Ehrenreich: Yeah. All the vomit references.
Alice Englert: Richard, the director, actually… I know we didn’t take nausea pills, but I know he took nausea pills for being in video village watching us.
What about your nightmare auditions?
Alden Ehrenreich: The worst audition that I went to, and it was with a huge director, with a huge writer, for a huge movie, and I went in and I was… I was nervous and the guy… I sat down and the… and I guess he directs like this, but he sat down and said, “Ok, so with this line…” and basically paraphrased things. But what he was paraphrasing it in the… under the auspices of explaining it, he was basically just doing line readings of how he wanted me to do it and went through the entire scene of exactly how he wanted it. And then at the end of it, went, “Ok, now do that.”
And I was like… it was just like everything I thought I was gonna do went out the window, which can be a good thing, but with this I was just, like, so in my head trying to live up to exactly what he had told me. And at the end of it then I started shaking and then that was awful and then I left and they were like, “Good job,” and I was like, “I know it wasn’t.” And I said that and then I left. And then, you know… and then I got the part. Just kidding. Just kidding. I didn’t get the part at all.
Alice Englert: The audition that sort of cracked me up the most was when I got sides for Eve in the Garden of Eden. She… with lots of references to the nudity and… it was just… and “the sensual way she bites the apple as the snake caresses her” and I just, like, was laughing so hard because it was just like… I was just wondering how am I gonna… how do you do that? Acting… playing Eve to the snake? Having someone sensuously biting the apple? Just like, man, whoever was, you know, reviewing those auditions must be having a ball. But, no I’m not doing that.
What’s your advice to actors?
Alden Ehrenreich: Act. If you wanna be an actor, the worst thing to do is just…
You do a lot of stuff on your own.
Alden Ehrenreich: Yeah. In terms of a lifestyle, the worst thing is that there’s… it’s hard. You know, writers can write every day, painters can paint every day, actors, you know, you get into this thing of, “Oh, well I can’t act right now because I don’t have a job. No one else hired me.” And you become a waiter actor. Not like a waiter, but like just waiting.
And if you aren’t acting, like, to me, the times where my career has gone best is where I was already doing it. It’s like that’s the people that you’re drawn to are the people who already have it going on, who aren’t just waiting for you to provide them with that opportunity. So, to me, these people, and they’re so… and I was one of them for a long time of, like, actors who aren’t getting jobs or aren’t getting auditions or whatever it is. I think the best way to make that energy start working for you is just to find ways where you can be acting. And whatever happens, the gods of acting just see that and something happens and you end up… other people start seeing you. But if you’re not doing it already, you’re not gonna… like, more leads to more and good leads to good.
I think that’s the most important thing is just don’t sit around waiting for a job. Rent a theatre or do a play in your backyard. Just invite friends over to read a play. Like, me and my friends do that a lot and it just… it promotes that energy and that energy only builds, but you have to get the… you have to start the engine. You know?
Alice Englert: I think the best advice I ever got was stop trying to do something, just be in the scene. Just say the lines. Start with just saying the lines. And I think that that’s very important. That and breathe. As soon as you start trying to make an impression on somebody, you stop being real and you stop doing a good job and you stop trying to manipulate people. People know when you’re manipulating them, they can feel it, and it’s not interesting. That’s why you can be watching somebody on a bus shelter, they’re probably not doing anything, they’re probably just sitting there, and it’s fascinating. You know? Because it’s real. And I think that is the most important thing in acting is don’t try and make drama because if it’s there, it will happen.
I saw Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt do a talk on Moneyball and they… someone was asking Jonah Hill how the transition from doing comedy to drama was and how he… his acting… how did he approach different roles. And he said, “I approach them the same way because if something is dramatic it’s dramatic, if it’s funny it’ll be funny.” So don’t try to do things, just find where it’s real. Find whatever… just find where something is real.
That’s why even when you’re playing a witch, find the real moment and somehow you believe it. It’s believability that counts there. Just keep to that and the rest happens somehow.