Beautiful Creature: Alice Englert is set to soar as star of 'the new Twilight'

Her mother won an Oscar as a director. Now Alice Englert's career is set to take off with a leading role in the latest teen sensation. Gill Pringle meets her

On the cusp of receiving the same kind of instant fame that was thrust upon Kristen Stewart after Twilight, Alice Englert is naturally a little nervous today. Those nerves are one of the reasons why the unknown 18-year-old Australian actress rejected the lead role in Beautiful Creatures three times before agreeing to meet the director, Richard LaGravenese.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Beautiful Creatures will be the same lightning-in-a-bottle phenomenon as Twilight, but it is produced by the same studio and comes with a built-in audience – the many, many readers of the popular young adult series. A variation on Twilight's girl-meets-vampire-and-his-blood-sucking-relatives tale, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Creatures is a boy-meets-witch fantasy set in the South.

The film adaptation features Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis, among others. If it seems a little uppity to turn one's nose up at an offer to star with such a cast, Englert has her defence ready. “I said 'no' three times just because I hadn't read the script and I got a three-sentence brief that described it as being a Twilight re-make. I'd done nothing and I didn't want to audition for something I wasn't going to get anyway because it was a big studio thing. And then they asked again and I said 'no', and then they asked a third time and I thought that was funny but again said 'no'.

“But then I got an email from the producer asking me to please come in, so I went in, and I was precocious and out of my place and told Richard how I thought he should make his film, and so after I finally got around to reading the script and loved it, I said to myself: 'Oh my god. I'm such an idiot. I'm not going to get it now.' And then I did one audition and I did.”

Her pickiness may also be attributed to the fact that she knows the film business inside out. She is the daughter of the New Zealand director Jane Campion, best known for The Piano, for which Campion received the Best Screenplay Oscar in 1994, the same year that Englert was born. Her parents divorced when she was young, and Englert spent time with her father Colin Englert, also a director, as well as travelling the globe after her mother.

“Apparently I had lunch with Johnny Depp when I was three months old,” she says. “I spent time at schools in New York, London, New Zealand, Rome and Australia, a lot of quick moving around while I followed my mum, who was always on film sets. I went to Sibford boarding school in Oxfordshire for a while too. Apparently it's for dyslexic people although I don't think I'm actually dyslexic. Maybe I'm in denial?” she laughs in her deep, strangely mature voice.

Indeed, so self-possessed and worldly beyond her years is she that even director LaGravenese professes to being intimidated by her. “I deliberately went to boarding school. It was my choice. My mum was abroad and I wanted to wean myself off being dependent. It was a very important time for me to be able to create my own individual, independent life; just as a way of growing up,” she says. She ultimately dropped out before finishing school.

In Beautiful Creatures Englert plays the bookish outsider at her new school, a role which is not too dissimilar to her own experience: “For a lot of my own school time, I felt so disconnected and what really sustained me throughout was writing music and poetry and reading books,” she says, citing her favourites as Chekhov, William Blake and Dostoevsky. Nor was she the most popular girl in class.

“I almost managed it briefly because I had nice hair but then I was just too weird. What makes me sad about school is that the people who are unhappy are unhappy because they don't believe it will change. And I just want to say: 'It does! High school ends and it's over.' I will tell anyone that it's OK to be unhappy at school, make lots of mistakes and then it will be over. My problem but then my salvation was that I did travel and I did know that there was actually another world. But it did mean that it was hard for me to take the high-school world very seriously.”

Nevertheless shooting Beautiful Creatures' school scenes in New Orleans brought back painful memories: “I hate shooting high-school scenes. I swear, you put everyone in a classroom and it's just the same again. There's something about a classroom, everyone's just suddenly bad. There I was on set, and I'm a totally normal human being now, but when I'm in a classroom I go and find the darkest corner I can.” Her mother visited the set on the very same day Englert filmed a crucial scene in which her character destroys her mother (played by Emma Thompson).

“That was interesting. My mum thought it was brilliant.” She also relished working with Irons: “I've loved Jeremy and had an inappropriate crush on him since I was a little girl when I saw him in The Mission when I was 10. And working with Emma Thompson was marvellous too. She has a phenomenal career and does everything I would want to do,” says Englert who, curiously, speaks with a British accent. She now plans to set up home in London.

Unlike most other young actresses, she shows up for our interview unadorned – no make-up, no designer clothes and huddled in a huge trench-coat that looks like it might be a thrift-shop bargain. Long brown hair tumbles messily about her shoulders and her nails are unvarnished.

“It's for print though, right?” she shrugs, like an old pro. “I didn't think it mattered. Clothes are very interesting but in my own dress sense I like to have who I am lead the way as opposed to what I wear. I will only wear jewellery if it means something to me,” she asserts, while showing me three rings, one of which, she says, is an Italian mourning ring although she declines to say anything further than they are “private and special”.

She has no time for the usual teenage insecurities: “I'm not interested in changing anything about my body because I'm more interested in being happy and I think that the way you look doesn't ever make you just happy,” she declares.

“You can be beautiful and unhappy and you can be not attractive and unhappy. And I think that beauty is so subjective. Everybody I love is beautiful because that's how I feel about them.

Nor will she take any nonsense from immature men, happy that her love interest in Beautiful Creatures is written as loyal with a big heart.

“There are so many of these young-adult movies with these cold guys who act like jerks to girls but are hiding soft sentiments. But in the real world most guys who act like jerks are jerks. Generally they are. I spent a lot of high school thinking that horrible guys must be very sensitive and interesting and it's not true.”

Having got her acting chops on her mother's short films The Water Diary in 2006 and 8 in 2008, Beautiful Creatures marks her first major feature film. She filmed Roland Joffe's epic period drama Singularity some three years ago, but it is only now scheduled for release this year. She also stars with Elle Fanning and Annette Bening in Sally Potter's 1960s drama set in London, Ginger & Rosa, and in the low-budget horror film, In Fear.

“It's very scary without the gore,” she explains. “It's always exciting when you can freak people out.”

'Beautiful Creatures' is released in the UK on 13 February

This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of Radar magazine

Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game