"Beautiful Creatures" star Alden Ehrenreich is just 23 years old, not that his hair would agree.
"See?" Ehrenreich asked HuffPost Entertainment while climbing on top of, and then crawling across, a conference table at New York's Warner Bros. office on Tuesday. "Look at all my grey hairs!"
When asked if he was greying from the stress of filming and promoting "Beautiful Creatures," the fantasy film that is being both heralded and critiqued as the next "Twilight," Alice Englert, Ehrenreich's co-star, answered for him. "No, it's just because he's old," she joked. Englert is 19.
Ehrenreich and Englert have both have appeared in smaller films before, but "Beautiful Creatures" is a big break for the duo. Directed by Richard LaGravenese ("P.S. I Love You"), "Beautiful Creatures" is an adaptation of the popular young adult novel of the same name by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The story focuses on Lena Duchannes (Englert), a witch (or "caster" as they are called in the book and film), who falls in love with Ethan Wate (Ehrenreich) and must decide whether her life will be one of good or evil.
The chemistry between the two is palpable in the film, and perhaps even more so in person. ("Oh my god, I'm gonna hit you in the head really hard," Englert quipped at Ehrenreich after a bit of playful teasing.) After asking if it's okay to do so, both doodle pictures of each other throughout the interview, explaining "it makes the answers better."
Englert and Ehrenreich spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about choosing the film, their love for "Columbo," and those pesky "Twilight" comparisons.
Both of you said "no" to the film before later accepting. What made you change your minds?
Englert: Neither of us read the script when we said no. I said no three times just to auditioning -- it wasn't an offer. Then I got an email from the producer saying, "Please come and meet." It was a very nice, gracious email, and the subtext was basically, "Come on, you silly girl." So I went in and met with Richard and I adored him and read the script and I loved it. Just loved it. It was nothing like the shitty brief I had got. Just a sort of Romeo and Juliet fantasy thing. It just sounded like a flick really.
Ehrenreich: When you hear about movies, they're always doing these comparative summaries and typically when they do that, they are exactly what it sounds like. But this movie wasn't. This movie had its own identity that was sort of buried under the comparisons. While this is still a commercial movie, when I read the script it was very clear that both from the book, but also what Richard had brought to it, that it was a really personal point of view. His description of my character ... I started to understand what we were filming. Part of what he brought to my character was his own personality and life story. It was clear to me that it was a personal story and it had its own very unique atmosphere, and language, and culture to it, and was nothing like anything else I was reading. Of all the movies I was reading -- big, small, genre, indie, whatever -- this had the best characters and the best relationships and the best dynamics.
Englert: They were also subtle things which I really love about the movie that you wouldn't notice. For example, the pivotal action scene, the lead male isn't present for it and all the other dudes are dead or passed out. It's just women. That's not a normal thing for a big commercial film to have just a fully-female action climax.
You spoke of comparisons that were made. What comparisons were you given?
Ehrenreich: What comparisons do you think were given? "Twilight." It just was that it was this kind of, "They're trying to capitalize on 'Twilight.'" I didn't see the "Twilight" movies, I have no point of view on the "Twilight" movies, but it didn't sound like it. If they had said, "Oh, its a rip-off of 'Citizen Kane,'" you still don't want to do a rip-off of anything.
"Beautiful Creatures" is an adaption of a widely popular Young Adult novel. Did you guys read the book? How did it affect your portrayal of the character?
Ehrenreich: I got the part a week before we started shooting, so I was just scrambling to figure out the character and everything. Once we started shooting, I read the book mostly because it's narrated by my character in first person. So, because of that, it was like a source document for what my character was going through mentally, interally, emotionally. Throughout all these experiences, it supplemented a lot of the work that I didn't have time to do. It was nice to kind of wash yourself with the themes of the story.
So if it was a week before you were cast and they were planning on shooting, what was the game plan for your character if you didn't take it?
Ehrenreich: There wasn't one. When I showed up they were very happy that somebody was there. I think I could've been a giraffe and they would've been happy that somebody has the part.
Englert: I didn't read the books because I had done something with the character in the audition which Richard liked and I wanted to sort of progress from that. I was nervous about reading the books and getting too caught up in what the fans might think and whether or not we were being faithful enough. I didn't want that in the back of my head. I kept it to the script and obviously I had the book and certain references that I thought were important that I checked in on. I wanted to keep a very definite separation between the film and the books. I didn't want to try to take Lena from the readers. She should always be their Lena. She should always be the way they picture her in their heads. Really early on when I was Googling it, which now I don't do anymore, someone was saying, "Isn't Lena black? Alice won't look like her."
Ehrenreich: [Whispers] She was black. Ethan was Filipino. But everybody is gonna have a different point of view so you can never really pander to fans because all you'll do is dilute your own ability to do the best job, which is the best thing you can do for the fans. Although, for the second one, I think we should just pick one random fan and base the entire interpretation of the book off the way they see it.
So when is the second movie coming out?
Englert: Oh, we don't actually know.
Ehrenreich: I already shot it. She's not in it.
Would you rather it was a one-time thing or do you want to get into the franchise?
Ehrenreich: The thing that really sustains me both through the making of the film and the press, is that I love my character. I love playing that part. It's fun. It's fun to go to work and act like that. I was thinking actually, it might be cool because look at a TV show with the main actor -- you look at them and first season compared to the second or third season, you see them finding that character, that guy, and really settling into it. For instance, on our favorite show ...
Ehrenreich: ... that's the case. He's best in the third and fourth season. I just pissed off a million "Columbo" fans. I'm more concerned about the "Columbo" fans than I am about the movie. It would be cool to get another shot to play this part and see how much more you can do with it, how settled in you can get. You're also given this freedom because you're in something that already has a fan base and they're making another one, so you can experiment that much more. You don't have as much risk in a way. I find the idea of a second one very exciting.
Englert: I'd be really content either way. I love the world, I love the character, and I'd love to go back there. But, I also had such a great experience with this as a complete movie. And I think the film is complete. I like the way it ends, even if that was just "The End."
The film is set for a Valentine's Day release, what is special about Ethan and Lena's relationship?
Ehrenreich: I think it's a funny movie and we have a lot of humor in our relationship. I think it's a good thing for anyone who is looking into stories to try to understand how the world works; it's still love even if you fight. In this movie, it's not about an idealized couple fighting against these external circumstances that are bad. They're a real couple which means that those external circumstances put pressure on, they get frustrated with each other, they get pissy with each other, they yell at each other, they say mean things, and that's what we should be talking about. As opposed to telling somebody, "Oh it's all going to be like this," and that person grows up and it's not like that, and they think something's wrong with them. I really appreciated that from almost a moral standpoint, that Richard portrayed everybody in this film the way he did. I think especially for the young audience that it's targeted for, I feel good humanitarian-wise about the messages that are put forth in the film.