ALDEN EHRENREICH as Ethan Wate and ALICE ENGLERT as Lena Duchannes in Alcon Entertainment's supernatural love story BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by John Bramley.
- Eileen Atkins
- Margo Martindale
- Zoey Deutch
- Tiffany Boone
- Rachel Brosnahan
- Kyle Gallner
- Pruitt Taylor Vince
- Sam Gilroy
* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.Home/Social Media Links
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
Opened: 02/14/2013 Wide
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Trailer: Click for trailer
Rated: PG-13 for violence, scary images and some sexual material.
Dark Secrets Will Come To Light
Oscar® nominee Richard LaGravenese ("The Fisher King,""P.S. I Love You") directs the supernatural love story "Beautiful Creatures" from his adaptation of the first novel in the best-selling series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), 17, has had the same recurring dream for months. A mysterious young girl is waiting for him on a Civil War battlefield. Ethan desperately wants to be with her, but there is an unknown danger--and each time a lightning bolt cracks like a gunshot, killing Ethan before he ever reaches the girl.
The danger of this strange dream world, however, is preferable to Ethan's waking existence in Gatlin, South Carolina, a small, conservative Southern town that hasn't caught up to the 21st century, where nothing ever changes and nothing ever happens. Trapped at home with a father who has completely withdrawn since the sudden death of Ethan's mother, Ethan yearns for a life he can only read about in books.
But Ethan's mundane world is shaken up with the arrival of Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), the beautiful and enigmatic niece of Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), the reclusive owner of gothic Ravenwood Manor. Ethan finds himself immediately drawn to Lena, even though destruction seems to inexplicably follow her and it becomes apparent that she is a Caster, with powers beyond her control. The town, led by conservative Mrs. Lincoln (Emma Thompson), wants her banished. Even Gatlin's all-knowing librarian, Amma (Viola Davis), is afraid history may repeat itself--a history of family secrets and a curse that looms for Lena as she approaches her 16th birthday. It is that time when a Caster is chosen by the forces of either the Light or the Dark.
But Lena's fate may already be sealed by the curse that draws both her and Ethan into a tangled web of spells and peril from which there may be no escape.
The film stars Alden Ehrenreich ("Tetro"), Alice Englert ("Ginger & Rosa"), Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons ("Reversal of Fortune") Oscar® nominee Viola Davis ("The Help," "Doubt"), Emmy Rossum (TV's "Shameless"), Thomas Mann ("Project X") and Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson ("Howard's End," "Sense and Sensibility"). Rounding out the cast are Eileen Atkins, Margo Martindale, Zoey Deutch, Tiffany Boone, Rachel Brosnahan, Kyle Gallner, Pruitt Taylor Vince and Sam Gilroy.
The film was produced by Erwin Stoff ("Water for Elephants"), Academy Award® nominees Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson ("The Blind Side"), Molly Mickler Smith ("Something Borrowed") and Oscar® nominee David Valdes ("The Green Mile"). Yolanda T. Cochran served as executive producer, with Steven P. Wegner co-producing.
The behind-the-scenes team includes Academy Award®-winning director of photography Philippe Rousselot ("A River Runs Through It"), production designer Richard Sherman ("Gods and Monsters"), editor David Moritz ("Jerry Maguire") and Oscar®-nominated costume designer Jeffrey Kurland ("Bullets Over Broadway"). Music is by thenewno2.
Opening February 14, 2013, Alcon Entertainment presents a 3 Arts Entertainment/Belle Pictures Production, "Beautiful Creatures." The film has been rated PG-13 for violence, scary images and some sexual material. It will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.
About the Production
Gatlin, South Carolina might seem like a sleepy Southern town where nothing ever happens. But, beneath the surface, there are strange and magical forces, rooted in the past, that are about to re-emerge in ways the townspeople can't even begin to imagine.
Beautiful Creatures, a New York Times bestseller and first in the series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, has been popular all over the world. At the center of the tale is Ethan, a high school senior who wants to break free from his small town existence, and Lena, a Caster, who possesses supernatural powers. She longs to break free from a family curse as she turns 16 and faces The Claiming...and being chosen by the forces of either the Light or the Dark.
The worldwide appeal of the story seems to lie not only in the question of whether love can conquer all between two star-crossed souls, but whether each soul has a choice in his or her own destiny.
That is precisely what drew Academy Award®-nominated writer Richard LaGravenese to not only adapt the book but also direct the film. He notes, "I love mythologies, and the mystical world hidden in this small town was very rich. But I was even more intrigued with the bigger idea in the book, this initiation story, which Kami and Margaret told so well. How a young girl who is going to be Claimed must find out who she is, and, at the same time, so must this young man who dares to stand up for her. I thought it was a great, universal idea to play with because all of us have to claim who we are, as individuals, apart from our inherited circumstances."
Producer Erwin Stoff adds, "The movie is really about a very universal experience in growing up: the ability for somebody at a young age to decide that they don't necessarily need to accept the role that's been predetermined for them, but have the opportunity and right to choose a path that suits them."
The film is being produced under the Alcon Entertainment banner. Producer Andrew A. Kosove states, "The book offered a great combination of romance and supernatural elements. We also really enjoy working with Richard LaGravenese."
"It's a Romeo and Juliet love story with a fresh take," says producer Molly Mickler Smith. "I liked being introduced to this world of the Casters through a Mortal's point of view, specifically Ethan. Because we are, in fact, Mortals, we can relate to his sense of awe and fear, even as he's falling for her."
That point of view interested Alden Ehrenreich, who stars in the role of Ethan Wate. "Ethan believes he can make his world what he wants it to be and win this new girl, who is clearly out of his realm. I think audiences will have fun going on the 'ride' with him and being inside his head as he tries."
It is Lena's individuality in a town of conformity that immediately strikes a chord with Ethan. Alice Englert, who plays the young Caster, shares, "What really drew me to the film was the idea of these huge supernatural struggles between good and evil told through the context of very human feelings."
That dance between the Caster and Mortal world is not only one of Light and Dark but of the past and present, all of which weaves an intricate adventure that impacts the future.
Producer David Valdes comments, "The whole concept of the juxtaposition of contemporary time with the history of generations of Casters that have lived in this little Southern town really grabbed me. I think Richard did an amazing job capturing this familiar yet otherworldly milieu."
"Richard had a very unique way of getting into the book, balancing the dark aspects of fantasy and humor, which fascinated us. We were also very grateful to have the authors' enthusiasm and support of his vision," adds producer Broderick Johnson.
Author Margaret Stohl says, "From the very beginning, Richard and the producers really got the characters and understood the universe we had established. We really trusted that their goals aligned with ours, which was very important to us."
"I was amazed with Richard's screenplay," Stohl's writing partner, Kami Garcia, shares. "It was overwhelming to see him take that much care and put so much detail into a world that existed only on paper and in the readers' minds."
LaGravenese notes, "At the start, Margaret and Kami told me as long as we got the spirit and the essence of the book, they'd be happy. Within the time constraints of a movie, we definitely had to streamline some elements and characters, so I was thrilled when they said we really captured what they were going for, mainly a love story."
MORTALS AND CASTERS
Strange occurrences have been happening in Gatlin ever since Lena Duchannes came to town. And it's no coincidence that, for a while now, Ethan Wate has been having dreams about a strange girl in a lightning storm seeking his help. Although the ultimate connection is a mystery, one thing is clear: the moment Ethan and Lena meet, their bond is immediate, and so strong it unleashes another kind of storm altogether--a disturbance between powerful Light and Dark forces that have held a fragile, dormant truce in this Southern town for generations.
Writer/director Richard LaGravenese threw a wide net to search for the right actors to portray the young lovers at the center of the tempest. He auditioned more than a thousand people, and found just what he was looking for in relative unknowns Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert. "There's something very special about Alden and Alice," he says. "Besides being incredibly smart, they're authentic old souls. They're completely uninterested in status or perception. They use their talents to create with great individuality and passion. They made Lena and Ethan honest."
Stoff agrees, "It wasn't our intention to cast unknowns, it just happens that the best actors for the roles are new faces and we're very fortunate to have them."
Alden Ehrenreich plays the central character of Ethan Wate, who, having lost his mother, is saddled with adult responsibilities before his time. He also longs to escape Gatlin's stagnant existence. Ehrenreich relates, "You hope that when you read a script, you feel it and see it, and I really saw it. The clarity of the character's voice hooked me within the first few pages. Almost everybody else is content with the small-town high school social life, but Ethan envisions something more. I really admire that hopeful optimism in spite of all he's been through. I also liked that even though he's been through a lot he still is full of humor and wit."
"Alden is the real thing," LaGravenese states. "His intelligence and talent are at his fingertips and reflected in his choices on screen. He loves to work, he loves what he does. He asks all the right questions--my favorite quality in an actor, because those questions make the script better. He and Alice were true partners, collaborators. Alden is as skilled as many seasoned actors I've worked with."
Director and star bonded off-screen as well. The two self-proclaimed film geeks competed on set daily in spontaneous film factoids contests.
Ethan isn't the only one carrying a burden beyond his years. So is Lena, who wants to be a normal teen and live a normal life, despite being anything but. At the urging of his casting director, Margery Simkin, LaGravenese flew to London to audition Australian-born Alice Englert, the daughter of Oscar®-winning writer/director Jane Campion, for the role.
"We met, and I was completely intimidated by this 17-year-old girl who was so self-possessed and clear about her own aesthetics and values," LaGravenese says. "She had a quality no one else had. Alice is the embodiment of Lena and brought strength, toughness, dry humor, intelligence and danger to her. She's pure instinct, pure talent. A wonderful spirit."
When the filmmakers put Alice in a room with Alden, everything clicked. Valdes remarks, "Once in a while, you get lightning in a jar, and this was a double bolt."
That chemistry was integral to the story of two young people clinging together in the midst of a supernatural war.
Englert offers, "Casters are raised with this idea that you simply must go with the fate that is chosen for you. But Ethan's humanity stirs Lena's, and the power of that humanity--and whether choice is possible in the equation of her destiny--piqued my interest."
Lena's own burgeoning power is something she also cannot deny, or often control. A Caster specifically connected to the elements, a Natural, Lena can command wind, fire, water, and air. That makes life complicated for a hormonal teenager who, instead of slamming doors when she's angry, can whip up rain...or worse.
Lena's willpower is tested by her new classmates, who delight in tormenting the "new girl," whose family reputation precedes her. They may not know her, and although she is a descendent of the Duchannes family and the once grand Greenbriar estate, the fact that she is related to the infamous Ravenwood clan is enough to make her a target of everyone...except Ethan.
Ehrenreich attests, "From the minute they meet there's a spark. Lena's different from anyone Ethan has ever met, which is what everybody else is really adverse to, and exactly what he is attracted to."
While he tries to impress the stranger from out of town, Lena is "aloof and cautious for reasons he doesn't know and, in her mind, could never understand," says Englert. "But Ethan's brash enthusiasm completely disarms her. She wants to let down her guard but she's afraid for him."
"One thing the three of us collaborated on was maturing Lena and Ethan's relationship," LaGravenese relates. "It's not starry-eyed; there's also jealousy, frustration, and anger, because sometimes you have to fight with, and for, the people you love.
"Lena refuses to defer to the Southern niceties," the director continues. "She challenges Ethan. She's not a girl that needs to be saved. She's a girl who has an increasingly strong amount of power, so she is the one who has to do the saving."
She will definitely have to save Ethan from her family. And what a family it is.
Lena may be new in Gatlin, but the town was founded by the Ravenwoods, and her Uncle Macon still owns much of the land on which it's built. However, over the years, Macon's reclusive existence has inspired frightening stories and theories amongst the townspeople.
Jeremy Irons, who stars as Macon, describes his character as "an enigma. He has a style, a wit and a bit of mystery. I found all of those things very interesting to play. Talking to Richard, I thought it would be fun to come to New Orleans and tell this story."
Interestingly, the authors had visualized Irons as Macon and even had a photo of him taped to their computers during the course of writing the book.
LaGravenese states, "Jeremy brings to Macon something that I hadn't even thought of--his Macon is more human. There's a frustration and vulnerability there. In the book, he's a Noel Coward kind of sophisticate, but there is much more to him than that, and Jeremy mined all of those fields. We both had a great time exploring his powers."
Though Macon had been Claimed by the Dark in his youth, he has been trying to suppress his true nature for the sake of Lena. And he will draw on whatever powers, Light or Dark, to protect her. Irons observes, "As Lena's 16th birthday approaches, Macon is trying to keep any influence away from her that could possibly allow her to be Claimed by the Dark. And one of those influences, he has reason to believe, is love for a Mortal."
One of the few people that understands Macon's reservations about Ethan and Lena is Amma, played by Viola Davis. Amma had been Ethan's mother's best friend and had promised to watch out for Ethan when his mother passed away. While not a Caster, Amma is a Seer and has her own fears about a union between these two young people.
LaGravenese had just one person in mind for the screen role of Amma, the town librarian who has her own mysterious connection to the spirit world, and Davis was the first person he cast for the film. He confirms, "In the book, Amma and the librarian are two different characters. I combined them because I wanted to make one faceted and interesting role for a great actress like Viola Davis, who was my first and only choice. I saw her on stage in 'Fences' with Denzel Washington a few years ago, and, of course, 'Doubt' and 'The Help.' She knocks me out. Since then, I'd always wanted to work with her. She's an extraordinary actress with incredible power, fierceness and compassion."
"Amma is the matriarch of the series, and has such a great back story that unfolds in the film. We felt lucky to have Viola in this role," Mickler Smith adds.
For her role, Davis researched the history of African Americans during the Civil War era, and farther back, to Nigeria. The entire cast also worked with dialect coach Rick Lipton to navigate the Southern dialect.
Davis offers, "The intriguing thing about Amma is she's not what she appears to be. As Ethan begins to fall in love with Lena, and Amma comes to understand that anyone who comes in Lena's path could possibly be destroyed, her role as protector intensifies. Her layers start to peel away and the reason she is the keeper of the secrets, and her relationship to the past, comes out."
The Duchannes' past involves a curse surrounding the Claiming and it turns out Amma and Macon know more about how the curse came to be than they are divulging. However, that history refuses to remain buried, surfacing when Ethan finds a Civil War-era locket unearthed near the remains of Greenbriar, the Duchannes plantation, which burned in what the locals call "the War of Northern Aggression." Once he and Lena touch it, the past--and long-held family secrets--are revealed.
LaGravenese explains, "The locket opens the door to the past and to the origin of the curse on Lena's family."
"It brings Lena and Ethan's relationship into the context of the past and what that could potentially mean for the future," adds Englert. That past comes to ghostly life whenever Lena and Ethan touch the locket simultaneously, revealing in bits and pieces what really happened at The Battle of Honey Hill and the Greenbriar ruins in the 1800s.
Ehrenreich elaborates, "The visions are disturbing and violent but they are clues to what Lena is up against falling in love with a Mortal, and the risks for Ethan to be with a Caster."
Macon and Amma are not the only two who have secrets or want to keep Lena and Ethan apart. Mrs. Lincoln, who spreads many of the ominous stories about Macon, wants Lena out of school--and out of town. Emma Thompson plays the conservative town crier who is also the mother of Ethan's best friend, Link. At the other end of the spectrum, Thompson, performing double duty, plays the role of Sarafine, a Dark Caster who is trying her best to stir up the nefarious forces in Gatlin.
LaGravenese reveals, "I've been in love with Emma Thompson for years. She's extraordinary. I would have done anything to work with her."
Thompson remarks, "It's great to be given even one role where you could really turn around and destroy the Earth. So, having two rather heightened characters to play in tandem made me say, 'yes, please, how delicious.'"
To say that Mrs. Lincoln is a Bible thumper would be an understatement. She has already driven her husband to drink himself into the grave and she's well on her way to doing the same to her son. By contrast, the dangerous, destructive Sarafine follows no rules. Comparing the contradictory roles, Thompson relates, "Sarafine thinks Mortals are inferior and have messed everything up. She is both humorous and evil. Ironically, she's the fun one you'd want to hang around with, while Mrs. Lincoln is so full of rage at everything outside her comfort zone, her body, even her accent, is tense. She uses perkiness to cover up that she's dying inside."
LaGravenese recalls, "It was amazing to watch Emma create two completely polar characters, sometimes in the same scene, just by virtue of shifting her body and tone. How she can modulate her voice between humor and a sinister quality is amazing. She's brilliant and so funny."
The event that will help Sarafine stir things up the most is Lena's upcoming birthday. This significant event marks when Lena will be Claimed by either Light or Dark forces, as all Casters before her have been. Sarafine is betting on the Dark, because of the curse that has plagued the women of the family for generations.
Crashing the party is the Dark Caster Ridley, a Siren who can get others to do her bidding. LaGravenese cast Emmy Rossum in the role. "Emmy is a thoroughbred. She's just a fearless, multi-talented actress. The nature of Ridley's character--embodying different stylized looks and intention often without dialogue--could easily be daunting. But Emmy can go from fierce to warm to humorous to scary to vulnerable," he says.
Ever since Ridley was Claimed for the Dark when she was 16, she has been travelling the world and up to no good. "She's so bad even the Casters have cast her out," Rossum laughs. "She thinks Mortals are terribly boring and enjoys being deliciously evil. She revels in manipulating people to get what she wants, so it was great fun to explore the undercurrents: Is she all evil? Does she have goodness inside? When is she being real and when is she playing people?"
Like Sarafine, Ridley wants to stir up trouble. And she starts with Ethan's best friend, Link, who would also like nothing more than to escape Gatlin...until Ridley crooks her finger at him.
LaGravenese cast Thomas Mann in the role, noting, "He has this innate sense of humor and is a fantastic improviser. He just becomes what he's doing and it flows out naturally. You can't ask for better. He's a very talented young man."
Although Ethan is on the Varsity team and one of the popular kids, and Link is more of an outcast, they share the bond of having lost a parent. Link is Ethan's wingman on the journey with this remarkable girl. Mann says, "They've been best friends since they were little kids and have gone through a lot, they share the same mentality. It was such a fun character to play because he's great comic relief from some of the darker elements of the story. And I play Emma Thompson's character's son, which is pretty cool, right off."
Kosove remarks, "We were incredibly blessed with our cast. To have Jeremy, Viola and Emma is pinch-me time. I think that's a credit to the material, and to Richard. And our younger troupe is exciting."
The younger cast also includes Zoey Deutch in the role of Emily Asher, Ethan's former girlfriend and head of the popular clique at school, and Tiffany Boone as Savannah Snow, who helps Emily make Lena's life difficult.
Rounding out the ensemble of Casters are Eileen Atkins as Lena's Gramma; Margo Martindale in the role of Aunt Del; and Kyle Gallner as Lena's cousin Larkin.
Pruitt Taylor Vince plays high school teacher Mr. Lee, who lives for the annual reenactment of the Civil War Battle of Honey Hill, but is unprepared when the reenactment becomes all too real, pitting the past against the present. Rachel Brosnahan and Sam Gilroy appear as Civil War-era lovers whose fates are tied to that of Lena and Ethan.
Time and place will also prove to play a major role in the impending battle between Mortals and Casters.
PAST AND PRESENT
"Beautiful Creatures" was filmed on location in Louisiana with the majority of production taking place in and around New Orleans. An abandoned factory across the bridge from the city was converted to soundstages that housed most of the sets, except for Lena's room, which was constructed on a stage in Baton Rouge.
LaGravenese collaborated with director of photography Philippe Rousselot, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, and production designer Richard Sherman. The four worked together closely to create a grounded world with a supernatural presence.
From the outset, LaGravenese approached the material differently from his previous adaptations. "After reading the book, I decided to get a feel for locations before writing, which is a first," he recalls. "I flew to South Carolina, and took photographs in a small town outside of Charleston, called McClellanville. Then I started writing. Being in that place, for me, a kid from Brooklyn, was like being in a foreign country. I was fascinated by it."
Given the direction to find unique places that had not been shot before, Sherman began discovering "small areas that felt hidden from the world."
Covington, Louisiana doubled as the town of Gatlin. It also houses the church in which Mrs. Lincoln and Macon first lock horns. Although the town is picturesque, Sherman searched for something less bucolic than beautiful porches, ultimately finding buildings that had been collapsed and blown out, corrugated tin warehouses, lean-tos and rubble.
Sherman also succeeded in finding practical exteriors for the main sets, including Ravenwood Manor, where Ethan first meets Lena's formidable Uncle Macon. They discovered an antebellum rectangular exterior in Morganza, two-and-a-half hours north of New Orleans, to which they added hanging moss. The interior, however, was more complicated.
At first, Sherman and his team followed a traditional design based on a real plantation, but LaGravenese envisioned something more unusual. The director says, "I wanted more of a surprise, so I said, 'a sophisticated Caster who's been all over the world is stuck in this house and he's bored. What's he going to do?' Richard ran with that and came back with an extraordinary design that was just fantastic."
Sherman notes, "Macon lives on a whim. In whatever frame of mind he wakes up that day, then that's how the house looks. There's also no cohesiveness from room to room, they're all very different. I decided it would be awesome to come up to this angular house, which is creepy and overgrown, and into this amazing round room with a free form staircase swirling up through the middle."
The massive staircase and the mezzanine above were all cantilevered and counter-weighted. Structural engineers came in to make sure it was safe, because it not only had to look majestic, it had to support cast, crew and equipment. A light track framed the whole perimeter of the room so the walls glowed above the gray floors.
The near absence of furnishings was also part of the concept. The pieces in the mansion were designed by Sherman's friend Rick Owens, a successful fashion designer with a line of furniture in Europe. "It's basically sold as art," Sherman says. "I told him I needed some unusual pieces and he flew them over from Paris."
Just as the house is fluid, reacting to Macon's preference, it also changes color for whatever mood Lena is experiencing. "It reflects Lena's inner life, so when she's angry, it grows more menacing," LaGravenese explains.
Englert notes, "What I loved about the story was how the places were as much characters as the people were, especially Ravenwood Manor, which has this fabulously absurd contradictory interior and exterior that changes and morphs with the moods and feelings of the people inside it. "
To underscore Lena's darkening mood as she approaches the Claiming, Sherman's team removed everything and painted the entire interior black, except for the window frames and the staircase. Sherman explains, "It's very theatrical. All you see is windows, a staircase, and a fireplace. There's nothing else; it's like you've entered a void."
The challenge for the adjacent dining room was building a space that would physically move, jump and turn in a seminal scene in which Lena and Ridley engage in a showdown of Caster powers. The entire room was built on a gimbal and donuts, so it could shake and spin. The table could rotate and the floor underneath the table was on a separate donut, which made it spin in the opposite direction. "On a speed scale of one to ten, the actors are spinning at eight," LaGravenese smiles.
"I wanted as little green screen as possible," LaGravenese remarks. "We shot on film. I wanted to create as realistic an environment for the actors as possible. Richard and his team did an extraordinary job giving the cast real moving targets to play with."
Ehrenreich recalls, "It was like being stuck at an awkward family holiday dinner, except when the fighting starts, it gets way more out of hand. We had a lot of fun."
LaGravenese did not originally plan to have the entire cast on the contraption. However, he recalls, Jeremy Irons thought it would be more dynamic if the elder Casters were involved, so everyone joined in. "I had to take a Dramamine every day just watching it," he laughs.
The scene took three days to shoot and LaGravenese admits it was one of the most demanding sequences. Director of photography Rousselot captured the cosmic battle using four cameras. LaGravenese says, "Philippe creates beautiful images, and he understands storytelling. He's very creative in how he moves the camera and you are immersed in this wonderful atmosphere. He's a master."
Although the family wants them apart, Ethan and Lena scale the wall between Ravenwood and Greenbriar to meet. Sherman's crew had to actually build a wall that was used at the Ravenwood set then moved to the Greenbrier set in Fulsom, Louisiana.
The Civil War battle sequences took three weeks to shoot and were accomplished with four cameras, over 400 extras, and many munitions for battleground explosions. David Valdes found a local group to hire. "They take their re-enactment skills very seriously, they have battles scheduled for six months at a time," he relates.
But before they could shoot the Battle of Honey Hill, they had to find an actual hill.
LaGravenese says, "Louisiana, as it turns out, is flat. I was only a few weeks out from shooting and I did not have a hill. Our incredible location manager, Ed Lipscomb, finally found the perfect spot." It was actually more of a little valley with a lone tree in St. Francisville, about two hours outside of New Orleans. All of the incarnations of Honey Hill, past, present, and dream sequences were shot there.
One of the most pivotal sets that bridged past and present and Mortal and Caster worlds is the Caster library. It houses all the histories and secrets of the Caster world and its existence beneath the Gatlin library is unknown to most Mortals. This set was another large undertaking for Sherman's team to design and build.
LaGravenese allows, "The Caster library needed to represent many civilizations, all fashions of life, and all sorts of cultures because these tunnels spread out over the world.
"In researching, Sherman embarked on a rigorous process with art director Lori Fleming and supervising art director Troy Sizemore. "We went through book after book, thousands of images and pictures, looking at architecture from the first century all the way through the present. The resulting look is one of rooms that move and bleed into each other," Sherman details.
The team incorporated twisted branches and designed fictional hieroglyphics for the walls, as well as faces and serpents that react to any Mortal presence.
Other New Orleans locations included houses near the Garden district, which served as Mrs. Lincoln's and Ethan's homes and the Prytania movie theatre, where Lena and Ethan's first date takes place.
The color palette was widespread, according to Sherman. "We were all over the place geographically and time-wise, so it's like stew: there are oranges and browns and okras and white and green, and it goes from one color combination to another, depending on the mood, and what time period we're in."
CURSES AND CORSETS
Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland's challenge mirrored that of the production design team: creating different looks for the many sequences in the past and present. Designing different looks for Mortals and Casters within those varying time periods was another one.
Kurland relates, "It was complicated, meshing the two worlds to get the exaggerated feeling of the Caster world, while inter-mingling it with the world of reality. And then, on top of that, we have the past and present also convening."
Sherman notes, "Jeffrey and I and Matthew Ferguson, the set decorator, worked hand in hand, discussing what people would be wearing, in what rooms. So when you see Macon on the porch in the weird robe, with sunglasses and an eclectic magazine, it all works, you immediately get the eccentricity of him juxtaposed with the reality of the rest of the world."
Kurland took the Light and Dark theme into consideration for everyone, citing, "To a certain extent we showed that with color, but more so in silhouette, and shade, and angularity, than just color itself. There's a lot of shadow and shade that goes into it. It's a subtle thing, but helps to define who the characters are."
Kurland had around 80 outfits custom built, including Jeremy Irons' entire wardrobe. Macon's struggle to inhabit both the Light and Dark world was "an interesting dichotomy to tackle," Kurland conveys. "The Darkness, which is always still there, will somehow seep through. Macon can do and wear whatever he likes. That freedom was a nice thing to have. You see a little reference to the '20s, '30s, and so on because he's been around a long time."
He also found it interesting to explore Ridley's look, which is as unpredictable as her character. "Ridley is quite the fashionista," he explains. Since LaGravenese wanted to have more fun with the magic, Kurland incorporated an iconic film look for each of Ridley's ensembles, including Rita Hayworth in "Gilda" and Marilyn Monroe in "River of No Return."
LaGravenese says, "Jeffrey is brilliant. We've been friends since he did my first directing project, 'Living Out Loud.' We're both movie geeks, so he went to town with all of that." Rossum's favorite was a long lace cut-out in which Ridley makes her memorable entrance into Gatlin. She also wears a black lace dress with corset and turtleneck for the Caster Ball.
Kurland also had to design an antebellum dress for Emma Thompson, who describes the ensemble which her Caster character, Sarafine, appears in at the Ball as "a gigantic hooped dress with red ruched petticoats, and dark purple with black over the top, which pushes up her bust."
By contrast, Thompson says that Mrs. Lincoln's character "is the champion of the dowdy housecoat and some really terrible suits and twin sets. Her underwear alone is a whole story: a pointy bra, girdle and nylon underwear. It's like a nylon hell. She always wears a crucifix and has a tight hairdo like a helmet. It's tragic." Thompson also wears a large, unwieldy hat at a town meeting. "I had such fun with Jeffrey. He had this fabulous opportunity to put me in some of the ugliest things he ever made," she smiles.
Kurland's design for Lena's ball gown incorporated both the formality demanded by an iconic Caster event and a representation of Lena's true personality. "I decided that layers of tulle, silk gazarre and net would be lightweight and work beautifully for the movement and physicality involved," Kurland describes. "The bodice needed structure, but I designed the top of the gown as a man's shirt might look, open and loose, which I felt was more her style. The vintage silk peau de soie and many well placed seams helped to give it the grace and elegance that it required."
Although Kurland created many new costume concepts, there are specific iconic traits in the book that he took care to carry over to the screen, including Lena's necklace. Kurland designed it and says, "It's little pieces of what she's gathered together from the places she's been, a little trinket, a little charm, a piece of a doll, and the bottle cap is also there."
Englert states, "It was really great working with Jeffrey and beginning to understand Lena and the way she dresses. It was fun getting into those details."
Kurland adds, "It's a very individual style. It can't be like the girls who ridicule her, but it can't be so outlandish that you're put off by it, which was a very interesting line to walk." Part of that unique style is a tattoo number that changes as Lena counts down to her Claiming.
Amma also has a very special tattoo, going back to her ancestral African roots and a practice called scarification, denoting tribal identity and rites of passage. "There's a certain kind of spirituality and elegance to Amma," says Kurland. Her wardrobe is tailored but very avant-garde--colorful and patterned. It stands alone."
As Lena faces the Claiming, she and all Casters attend a ball to celebrate her transformation. At the same time, the Mortals are celebrating the Civil War re-enactment of the Battle of Honey Hill. Both required many costumes.
Kurland illustrates, "First, there's the real 1864 battle. Then there's the modern day reenactment. There is a difference between what people in 2012 think 1864 is like as opposed to what it actually was like."
Shooting the Caster Ball took place over the course of several days at the Ravenwood exterior. The director discussed the scene, originally the Claiming ritual in the book, with Rousselot and decided that, for the film, a visual cornucopia of eccentric-looking Casters attending a coming out party would be cinematic. LaGravenese recalls telling his costume designer he wanted the "Ascot Gavotte-meets-Alexander McQueen," noting, "Jeffrey created 25 of the most original costumes with no time in the schedule because I got the idea during prep. He's amazing."
In a film where magic transforms everything from a plantation to a library and weaves past and present together, the filmmakers hired special effects supervisor Matt Kutcher and his team, and visual effects supervisor Joe Harkins to facilitate the wizardry of special and visual effects.
LaGravenese relates, "It was exciting to use visual effects to go from a dreamlike quality in certain places to a very organic, realistic quality in others. I think incorporating visual effects to accent the reality is good storytelling, because you allow an audience to fill in things with their imagination and participate in that storytelling."
In addition to enhancing brick and mortar, the teams also created lightning storms, rain, snow, and an earthquake to sustain the supernatural weather theme running throughout the film and Lena's life. Fittingly, life imitated art when a real tornado was spotted near the set and filming had to temporarily shut down.
The unearthly storm raging between Casters and Mortals in Gatlin--and ensnaring two young lovers' destiny--would appear to be stacked in otherworldly favor. But appearances can be deceiving.
Having supernatural powers, Casters can generate fantastic phenomenon, while Mortals are tethered to the forces of nature, unable to make the elements heed their bidding. But although Mortals may not be able to make it rain or cause an earthquake or decide where lightning strikes, they possess something valuable that Casters do not understand: humanity. And that potent, innate trait empowers them to rise to any challenge.
Richard LaGravenese concludes, "With all our flaws, fears, confusions and weaknesses, mortals also have great powers. Faith. Choice. Compassion. Sacrifice. Love. In telling a story about Supernaturals, the hope is we're telling a story about the magic of our own humanity that makes ordinary beings extraordinary, beautiful creatures."