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

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones