When newcomer Alden Ehrenreich was approached for the role of the love struck Ethan Wate, his manager warned him not to bother with “one of those teen flicks.” Alice Englert, daughter of The Piano director Jane Champion, turned down the audition, according to LaGravenese. "I was attracted to both of them because neither of them wanted to do it, which interested me,” he said at a recent press release in Los Angeles. I was worried about the whole 'Twilight' thing too and they had no interest in that. In that celebrity. In that world. They want to do interesting work."
While not knocking the Twilight movies of which he’s only seen two, he says any artists doesn’t want to merely rehash or “chase the phenomenon.“ He saw BEAUTIFUL CREATURES as an original piece and thought he could have fun with the themes and ideas.
He gravitated towards the actors looking to do an original piece as well. LaGravenese flew to London to convince Alice to take the part as the young witch Lena Duchannes. He assured her he was not interested in a Twilight rip off either and presented her his ideas for the young adult adaptation. “By the end of the day, she said ‘great.’”
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Alice Englert felt a bit silly about first refusing to read the script after speaking with her future director. “You know how you're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but you completely do… it was kind of that.” Soon she was fearing she might not be cast in the film.
Alden, on the other hand, was approached once again after the actor originally slated to play Ethan dropped out. At the last minute and one audition, Alden agreed to do the film after also talking to LaGravenese and gaining “perspective” of the director’s intentions to create ”it’s own identity, and “own DNA.”
The BEAUTIFUL CREATURES helmer admits that it was a long and scary process finding young actors with a strong chemistry. He was looking for “romantic and “sensuous” but age appropriate. “There are some actors that are that age, where you say, no. I don't want to see that. It's a delicate balance to find romance for teenagers." Luckily for him, both Alden and Alice have great on-screen chemistry, but the two never tested together due to Alden coming onboard late in the game once production was on its way in New Orleans.
Richard LaGravenese trusted his instincts about the leads and only time will tell if the gamble pays off at the box office.