Writer-director Richard LaGravenese has adapted books for the big screen before, including giving us those sweepingly romantic P.S. I Love You quotes and the gorgeous The Horse Whisperer. But there was something special about Beautiful Creatures and he couldn't wait to get to work.
"I loved the idea surrounding this Romeo and Juliet story, about a girl… or anyone, that at 16 when you don’t know who you are and your identity is not formed yet, you’re filled with all these feelings and passions and uncontrollable urges," LaGravenese said in our exclusive interview.
"In the book she’s heading towards this 'Claiming' where she will be claimed for good or evil. We all go through that where you reach a point in your life where you have to say to our parents, 'This is who I am. I’m not you. I’m not carrying your baggage anymore.' It's where we stop the inheritance of what came before us. Yet, how much of that is part of us anyway? The thing where how much is free will and how much is destiny. I love that idea."
That theme struck close to home for the helmer. "There was something universal about that wrapped in this story. Also, this boy Ethan was very much like me. I was born and raised in Brooklyn and my only goal was to get to New York City," LaGravenese said.
What he identified most with Ethan was much more cerebral -- their shared passion for the written page.
"I remember that summer of eating any Kurt Vonnegut books that I could get my hands on. When you’re at that age and you read something and you’re like, 'Where have you been?' you’re searching for reflections of the goals and the dreams that you have. I wanted to capture that in Beautiful Creatures."
What also is appealing is the thing that has turned young adult books into a full-on frenzy: Using the supernatural as a vehicle for telling a basically human story... shown here in a Beautiful Creatures clip.
"You get to fulfill the fantasy of having supernatural powers. I was a big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and Joss Whedon started this great thing of using the supernatural medium as a metaphor of telling a story about human life. It’s not on the nose. It’s a great vehicle to entertain as you’re exploring these issues," LaGravenese said.
What he learned, as beautifully teased in this Beautiful Creatures trailer, is these stories are about the strength of being human. "We don’t have supernatural superpowers and realizing that you have the strength without the supernatural, is much more powerful."
But LaGravenese stresses that not every book belongs on the big screen. Some are better just left alone. "There are a lot of things I haven’t adapted, and they’re beautiful books that I love. I just don’t want to touch them. I don’t want them to be in another medium," he added.
"Sometimes great books should stay great books. But, when I read a book and get excited about it being a movie, then the fun of the translation becomes the process of doing that. As I’m reading a book, if I’m getting ideas of my own that I can put in there, it needs a translation."
When he took on the challenge of mounting a film based on a book beloved by millions, he left all expectations behind when he arrived on the set. "I didn’t read blogs, didn’t know what fans were saying," LaGravenese said. The book's authors, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl were immensely encouraging of his vision. "They were so supporting and never gave me a hint of doubt."
Whether the film works or not lies heavily on the shoulders of the film's leads, Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert. We wondered when did the director first see the spark that is electric?
"In rehearsal… and then I showed them a scene from My Girl Friday because we were working on the scene in the road in the rain, and they both got so excited by it, I thought, 'I’m in good hands.' I cast them separately without putting them together and yet they shared the same collective intelligence."
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