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Video/Q&A: 'Beautiful Creatures' stars Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich on teen angst and Southern accents

Loner newcomer captivates resident misfit. Their chemistry crackles, but there’s something a little ... different ... about one of them. Put away your silver daggers--you haven’t caught the rebirth of the “Twilight” series.

In the highly anticipated big-screen adaptation of teen romance-thriller novel “Beautiful Creatures” (opening Thursday), relative unknowns Alden Ehrenreich (“Tetro”) and Alice Englert (the upcoming “Ginger and Rosa”) star as star-crossed lovers Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes. He’s a Gatlin, South Carolina boy with a penchant for Kurt Vonnegut and Bob Dylan; she’s the new girl in town who just happens to be—gasp—a “caster,” a nicer term for witch.

At the Trump International Hotel, L.A. native Ehrenreich, 23, and 19-year-old Australian Englert talked about the “basic survival” of high school, their worst adolescent flaws and how they prepared their Southern accents.

Ethan falls in love pretty quickly with Lena, and it’s clearly been hard for him to find this sort of thing. Do you think that her being a caster was part of what made him fall for her, or was it just her being different?
Alden Ehrenreich: Well, he doesn’t know that, but I think there’s a sense of something exotic and something otherworldly and something more sophisticated, and something he’s never--his whole thing is wanting to experience something he’s never known because he’s had this monotony in his life in this small town, and so I think that it’s just who she is.

Do you think she maybe cast a little of the spell on him too, not knowing it?
Alice Englert: You know, actually, that used to be my favorite song, “I Put A Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. You know it? It’s a great video, very gothic and crazy. No, I think she likes to do it the real way. “Actually like me, please.”

One of the central struggles is that Lena will be claimed by either the dark or the light when she turns 16. It seems like a lot of high school girls are similar--either really nice or kind of dark. Why do you think that happens to girls at that age?
Alice: Actually, I don’t think that they’re kind of nice or they’re dark. I think that all girls of that age, I mean, I’m probably wrong, but I think there’s such a huge level of insecurity and I think that we have so many different conflicting feelings and ideas in our nature … I think that that time is just basic survival. And it’s not about who you are, you just wanna keep being stable enough to get to know who you are. It’s just a very compromising time, and I think hormones really do it. I remember when I was that age I didn’t want to admit that ... [I thought], ”My problems are really important!”... And they were, they were really important to me. But it’s really good to be able to have perspective. To know that that stuff … you get through it because the world is a lot bigger than that.

Both of your characters struggle a little, or a lot, with high school, not necessarily fitting in much. What’s something that you thought was different or awkward about you in high school?
Alice: My hips being like up here [indicates] during puberty, probably. I mean, come on, the whole of high school is pretty awkward, isn’t it?
It is. I think middle school’s probably worse.
Alice: Oh right, you guys have a different ...
Alden: The ages are different.
Alice: What’s middle school?
Alden: Middle school is sixth grade to eighth grade. You’re like 12 to 14.
Alice: Oh yeah, that’s middle school. High school is different.
Alden: I had a lot of acne.
Alice: I kind of left.

That’s a good call.
Alice: So, let that speak for itself.

And what about you, Alden, the acne probably?
Alden: I think the acne was bad, yeah. No one remembers it; none of my friends remember me having it, but I had really bad acne for like years.

That’s something that never leaves you.
Alden: Yeah, well... [touches his face]
Alice: [Laughs.]

On the inside, I mean … Ethan drives around singing Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and doesn’t necessarily know all the words. When you’re driving around, is that a song that you like to sing?
Alden: I mean, I still really am a big Bob Dylan fan, yeah. I listen to a lot of stuff ... I listen to some really bad country.

In high school, I definitely would drive around singing terrible pop-punk, and I had the worst voice for that kind of stuff.
Alden: Really? That’s my favorite memories of high school, driving around singing songs in the car ... with my mom ...
Alice: [Laughs]

Did she let you drive, or...?
Alden: No, me in the backseat, no one in the front seat, and her driving, singing ... what’s the David Cassidy [song]?

“I Think I Love You?”
Alden: Yeah. No, I’m just kidding, this isn’t true; I’m just making that up.

I don’t know, it seems pretty realistic. So, obviously neither one of you has a Southern accent. What did you do to learn that? Did you have a coach?
Alden: Yeah, we had a dialect coach named Rick Lipton who was amazing, and not only taught us about kinda like how to do the accent but why people talk like that in the South and really taught us about Southern culture, which is such an important part of the story. And for me it was amazing because I had a week to prepare for the part, so having him there, really, it was kinda like he did a bunch of research that I didn’t have time to do, and that was incredibly informative.
Alice: I think the whole film [and] the whole story was so affected by that Southern culture that it was really great and so important to have someone who went into that much detail about it. And into detail that really could have been potentially looked over in a sense. It was really interesting for me because a lot of that stuff about religion, just about manners in the South, the politeness--
Alden: To me, my whole character portrayal is very influenced by what I got from him about--there’s almost like a send-up of kind of the customs of the south, the politeness and the Southern gentleman that to me the story is kind of a comment on [that].

Is there a particular part of the accent that you struggled with, like words that didn’t come naturally to you?
Both: Yeah!
Alden: “Innie.” … “Any” is “innie.” I used to sing a Willie Nelson song before takes.
Alice: What was the song?
Alden: “Pancho and Lefty.” Before takes to kind of get [ready].

Want to sing a little bit for us?
Alden: No, no. I don’t know it anymore.

Oh, that’s too bad. How about for you, Alice?
Alice: The struggle always goes into one big blob for me. Being an Australian, learning accents is very important. You just have to do it for every job.
Alden: That’s crazy. It’s crazy how many Australian actors are constantly--I mean, like, Nicole Kidman, constantly doing American accents in movies. I mean, I couldn’t imagine.
Alice: Yeah, it’s really, um, mad. So for me, yeah, it really is just one big struggle struggle struggle struggle pain pain pain ughghghghg and then, OK.
Alden: When’s the OK?
Alice: Generally after the second take of the first day.
Alden: Oh, OK.
Alice: Yeah, like, I don’t ever feel fine until we’re doing the scene generally.
Alden: I just can’t imagine having to do an accent all the time, like in your whole career.
Alice: I would say lines as I was falling asleep. I would say my lines and try to do the accent, like, falling asleep.
Alden: Well. The scary thing is trying not to memorize intonation ‘cause you don’t want to--if your line is like “pass the milk,” you don’t want to be like, “paaass the milk, paaass the milk,” and then you show up and you’re like, “paaass the milk,” and everyone’s like, “Why are you doing that?”

damoran@tribune.com | @redeyedana

 

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