Last summer, I met the most charming guy. He was sweet, passionate about music and travel, and exuded southern charm. And then he fell in love with another girl... but oddly, I didn't mind. I was swept away by their love story -- they defied so many odds to be together and their relationship was, well, magical. Yes, I became obsessed with this couple: Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's book Beautiful Creatures.
So when I got an invite to visit the set of the movie in New Orleans, I was ecstatic! Now the Caster world that had come to life in my head was actually going to become a world I could actually step into!
Stepping into the Caster World
The sign that the driver held up for us in New Orleans!
Before I knew it, on a muggy Louisiana evening in June, a shuttle bus driver stood outside my hotel with a sign saying "Beautiful Creatures." Passersby chuckled and asked if they were "beautiful" enough to join our group, but just after the stroke of 7 p.m., only a select few were whisked about 15 minutes away from Downtown NoLa to a nondescript set of buildings that looked like a big factory loading dock.
The publicist on set (called a "unit publicist" in movie speak) guided us into what felt like a giant warehouse with super high ceilings. At first glance, with the concrete floor and lumber all around me, I felt like I was inside a Home Depot. It was dark and dank and eerily silent. But then we turned a corner and I felt like I stepped into Harry Potter's Hogwarts!
As we walked up the steps of the Caster Library, I marveled at the details of every column and every wall. As we looked upon the Book of Moons sitting on the lectern, it was like peering at the pages of an actual well-worn historical artifact.
After the quick tour, we were led into a gigantic tent where Oscar-nominated costume designer Jeffrey Kurland sat down to chat with us about the precise detail that goes into every wardrobe piece you see on screen. But I was shocked by what he told us right away. "The first thing the direction Richard LaGravenese said to me was, 'Don't read the books!'" Jeffrey told us. But after he described why, it totally made sense. Since a movie captures the plot and characters differently than the book, it was important that they focus on the movie's script.
The white tent we were sitting in basically served as the "cafeteria" for the crew. And as soon as the set broke for dinner, everyone filed in for a quick meal that felt like an extravagant Vegas buffet with everything from a salad bar and entrees to smoothies and the tastiest chocolate chip cookies!
Chatting with the Beautiful Cast
Here I am with Beautiful Creatures' star Alden Ehrenreich at Comic Con in New York City.
After the dinner, we hung out in the tent through the wee hours of the night as the cast stopped in one-by-one whenever they got a break. Oscar-winning Viola Davis, who plays Amma, started off raving about why she chose the movie. "I'm a sucker for a great love story," she told us. "I don't care if they're teenagers, I just love it!"
And when I asked her about the obvious comparisons Beautiful Creatures is getting with Twilight, she got honest. "I hate comparisons. It just dismisses the value of the pieces when you compare," she told me. "There are fabulous things about Beautiful Creatures. There's a depth to the storyline that I really love dealing with the Civil War. There's no vampires, but everyone has a special ability, which I love. And I'm not in Twilight, so this is better!" Ha! Good point there, Viola!
Next, we played the movie-making game of "hurry up and wait" while we hung out waiting for Beautiful Creatures' two lead stars to stop by. As the rest of the journalists chatted amongst each other and nibbled on snacks, no one noticed as a mellow guy wandered toward our table by himself. Everyone assumed that he was just part of the crew passing through, but then I gave him a good look and stuck out my hand and introduced myself... and sure enough, he introduced himself as Alden Ehrenreich, who plays the lovestruck Ethan Wate I had fallen in love with in the pages of the book.
And just like Ethan, Alden was the most down-to-earth charming guy ever. He sat down and flipped through the teen magazines, asking how old One Direction and Justin Bieber are. "Wow, there's so much color," he said of the magazines. Ha! I then noticed that his glasses were broken -- completely missing an arm! He laughed and said that they still worked! True! No movie star diva attitude here!
Then we got down to business as Alden told us how a twist of fate landed him in the role. "I had a secret meeting with a casting director where I didn't know what it was for," Alden told us. But when he did find out, there was no question he wanted the role. "I knew I wanted to do the movie within like three pages of reading the script. I just really loved the character."
Sadly, the role went to another actor... until a last minute scheduling change meant the role was now his! "I woke up at eight in the morning with messages that I had gotten the part and at 6:30 at night, I was on the plane to New Orleans." Alden says. "There was no time to prepare for this experience." But his whirlwind adventure meant he went with his instincts more than he normally would have, which makes Alden's Ethan completely authentic.
As it neared 2 a.m., Australian actress Alice Englert who plays Lena joined us and thanked us for waiting so late into the night. With her classy Aussie accent, she explained what makes the Beautiful Creatures story so different than others. "What I love about this story is that it's more than just a boyfriend-girlfriend story -- it's a real ensemble," she says. "That's why I think their love is so much better. They have to let go of each other. It's about sacrifice."
After the cast bid their farewells, we hopped back into the van and drove out of the world of the Casters and back into our reality. I felt like I had just discovered a secret world right in front of my own eyes, like Ethan had... a world of movie-making magic just beyond the movie studio set!
What do you think of Beautiful Creatures? What are you most interested in knowing about the movie-making process?
Can't wait to hear from you! Rachel Chang J-14 Editor-in-Chief
P.S. We're also loving Miss Literati's hilarious Beautiful Creatures memes -- check them out HERE!