Every year, there seems to be a new ‘It” girl in Hollywood. This year that honor goes to Alice Englert, an Aussie beauty who stars in the fantasy drama “Beautiful Creatures,” based on the Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl bestseller. She also stars in the upcoming coming-of-age Sally Potter directed drama “Ginger & Rosa,” opposite Elle Fanning.
The 18-year-old didn’t just pop out of nowhere. She is the only child of acclaimed filmmakers Jane Campion and Colin David Englert, so she pretty much grew up in the movie business.
The brunette beauty recently spoke about her acting and how she almost turned down the lead role in “Beautiful Creatures.”
Q: Your director, Richard LaGravanese, said it took some effort to convince you to take the role of Lena in “Beautiful Creatures.” Why were you so reluctant to sign on?
Englert: I got emails three times and I didn’t read any of them. I thought that for one, they wouldn’t end up casting me. I’m nobody. It’s a big film. They’ll need a name. But after three emails over the course of about a month, I got an email from Erwin Stoff, the producer, and he said, “Hello, I’m Erwin Stoff and I’ve made big movie, big movie, big movie, and please come in and have a talk with us about ‘Beautiful Creatures’” which is basically saying, “Alice you’re being a silly girl, just come in and stop being silly.” So I thought, alright, they’ve done this far and maybe they’re a little mad and if they’re a little mad then they’re my type of people, so I went in and I just loved Richard, I loved him. I told him what sort of film I thought he should be making, which is really inappropriate, and he said that was the film he’s making, so it worked in that strange way. It was great. From that moment, I was completely swayed. I auditioned the next day. I did one audition and loved the script. How great that you can have something that exists within the mainstream genre that isn’t bound by the genre. It’s still got its originality and isn’t bound by cliché. It moves in and outside of the genre and the mainstream, and just has fun. I just connected with that.
Q: What was the relationship between you and your co-star Alden Ehrenreich while making this movie?
Englert: We had a lot of freedom making this movie to be able to work on our characters, change things and evolve. Richard was very open to that and I think that that’s very impressive because it’s hard for someone that might want to do some things differently and understand the distinction between taking it as a personal thing, feeling personally offended, or maybe it’s different. It’s just an intimate thing that Richard gets perfectly.
Q: Do you think your character changes over the course of the movie?
Englert: I think that Lena’s strength comes out of insecurity in the beginning, in false foundations, and her strength at the end is from self-assurance, trust, faith, her decisions and acceptance of herself and what is both light and dark in her. That’s where the new and powerful strength in her.
Q: Is this a good date movie for teenage couples?
Englert: Yes. A lot of the times in movies, the story revolves around how (the protagonist couple) love each other and can’t be together. In this one, it has that same theme but they are together as well. You see them together, you see them not together so it’s not, they do go through and go forth in their relationship and they do have hiccups and fights and they’re not even together at the end. I think it’s very romantic, much more romantic than other teenage love stories.
Q: How did you like speaking with an American southern accent? Was it difficult?
Englert: We had a great dialect coach called Rick Lipton. It was shot in New Orleans (substituting for fictional Gatlin, South Carolina), and the accent is so specific that we were trying to do something that was a little way out of Charleston. My character, because she moves around so much, we wanted something that was a little bit harder to place.
Q: Alden stepped in to co-star with you after Jack O’Connell had to drop out owing to a scheduling conflict. How did that work out for you?
Englert: Alden’s work ethic is incredible. He’s the number one on the call sheet and we are the supporting cast to (Alden’s) Ethan Wate. I always forget that he was cast just a week before filming began because he was just so present and so there for all of us.
Q: When did you start acting and why?
Englert: I decided that I thought I could maybe act when I was 14. I grew up on film sets, but more around the process of making films. Not so much on the sets, there were only two (of Campion’s) that I remember being on, “In the Cut.” It was too sexy. I had to be at the craft table. And “Bright Star,” which was a fantastic set to be on. For me, I also saw a lot of the editing process and the writing process, which takes years, and that was what really effected me growing up, that side of it. That’s what I relate to when I think about making films and what being part of this world is. This (acting) is alien to me. This is very different, this is very strange, this isn’t how I imagined it in my head.
Q: This movie has a very timeless quality to it. Did you have that feeling when you were making it?
Englert: Yeah, but I’ve been hoping someone would say that because I feel like … I can’t just tell people, “Yeah, it’s got that timeless energy,” because I’m just 18.
Q: How do you feel about becoming a celebrity?
Englert: People ask you what you feel about it, and it’s like, I don’t know.
Q: Do you hope this film will help you land other roles or at least get considered for other films?
Englert: Yeah. I hope this leads to being on that list of who they look at first.
Q: Are you still in school?
Englert: I dropped out of school and I never took acting classes, maybe a couple when I was a kid. I basically just abuse my mother’s knowledge.
Q: What’s your favorite tech accessory?
Englert: Those tiny little speakers, they’re great.