Emmy Rossum dives into 'deliciously evil' role for 'Beautiful Creatures'
Mann, Deutch also star in new supernatural romance thriller
In the new supernatural romance thriller "Beautiful Creatures," acclaimed actress Emmy Rossum plays the pivotal role of Ridley Duchannes -- a seductress Caster (aka witch) who upon her 16th birthday was claimed by the Dark (evil) over the Light (good). It's a destiny that all Casters face, but to the females in group, which direction they go is something they don't have a say in.
Thankfully, in real life, Rossum, 26, has had a say about her career moves. And after her enchanting role as Christine Daae in the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" and subsequent roles on the wholesome side, Rossum has decided to mix things up with more provocative characters, including the ones she plays in the Showtime series "Shameless" and "Beautiful Creatures."
In short, Rossum says she likes playing the bad girl for a change.
"My career is about where the more interesting roles are right now," Rossum told me in a recent interview. "I fell in love with Fiona (in 'Shameless') and the challenge to play the duality of a girl and a woman at the same time, and I suppose there's some of that in my character in 'Beautiful Creatures,' because in the flashbacks, we see the innocent, scared girl that she was before her claiming, and now she's gone over to the dark side and embraced this deliciously evil way of living."
Opening in theaters on Valentine's Day, "Beautiful Creatures" stars Alice Englert as Lena Duchannes, a mysterious member of the Ravenwood family who comes to live with her uncle, Macon (Jeremy Irons) in the sleepy southern town of Gatin, S.C.
A couple of months shy of her 16th birthday, Lena, like her cousin, Ridley, will soon be claimed by the Dark or the Light -- and if it's the Dark, the world will face a force like it's never known before. The quandary is a lot for Lena to digest, and it's complicated by the fact that she's fallen for a mortal, Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), the only human who doesn't judge her for who she is.
Directed and adapted for the screen by Richard LaGravenese, the film also stars Emma Thompson in the dual roles of religious zealot Mrs. Lincoln and Dark Caster Sarafine; Viola Davis as the town's librarian, Amma, who is also a Seer; Thomas Mann as Link, Ethan's best friend and son of Mrs. Lincoln; and Zoey Deutch as Emily and Tiffany Boone as Savannah -- a pair of high school mean girls who try to make Lena's life hell.
While Ridley is also a mean girl, in a sense, Rossum said she's not entirely about making people miserable.
"She's not your typical villain," Rossum explained. "She has a real spring in her step about being so bad. She's always eating sweets and is this incredibly fun girl to be around, even though she does these horrible things."
One of the horrible things Ridley does is seduce Link with her witchy wiles to help set up a much larger plan. In a separate interview, Mann was so flabbergasted talking about his hot-and-heavy make-out scenes with Rossum that Deutch had to step in to say, "He's at a loss for words because Emmy's so hot."
Gaining his composure, Mann respectfully added, "Emmy is one of the most giving actresses and is just so easy to work with. She has such confidence and you really have to hold your own against her."
Rossum said working on "Beautiful Creatures" was especially fun because, while the film is supernatural in nature and required special effects, LaGravenese didn't always rely on computer-generated imagery to bring places like family's estate -- namely, the creepy, Gothic Ravenwood Mansion -- to life.
"Richard created set pieces that would actually function with little to no CG help, so actually only 10 percent of what you see in the movie is actually enhanced by CG," Rossum said. "In the scene with the room spinning, that room was actually spinning. It's shaking, and the wind is actually there, so it wasn't something we had to fake on a green screen."
While Rossum said the scene was "incredibly fun" to film, the constant spinning also posed some physical challenges.
"With enough Dramamine, my stomach was fine, but my eyelids were drooping," Rossum quipped.
Since "Beautiful Creatures" is based on the first in a series of books, dubbed the "Caster Chronicles," by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, it presented the cast members a set of built-it fan expectations with their roles.
Neither Mann, 21, nor Deutch, 18, were familiar with the books prior to casting -- but they learned to respect the fan base really fast.
"The books are such a huge deal and have such a large following, that you have to educate yourself in that world," Mann said. "I hope fans of the books can accept the film as its own entity, but I also hope they appreciate it as sort of a companion to the book."
"The film does stay true to the core of the story," Deutch added. "It's not like it's a completely different version. It's a story, and just another person's interpretation of it. Nothing is very far from the book at all ... We know that you can't please everybody, but we hope people see it's a good piece of art and it makes them feel things. That's what you hope to accomplish and I think that Richard has done exactly that."
Of course, "Beautiful Creatures" comes at a time where another hugely successful book-turned-film series wrapped up in "The Twilight Saga." And while both book series involve the supernatural and teen romance, Deutch and Mann say that's really where the similarities end.
"I know our movie is different for its political commentary and social commentary," Mann observed. "And it's also about hypocritical people and exposing them."
Deutch said she loves the material in "Beautiful Creatures" because it spans many genres apart from the supernatural and romantic aspects.
"It's also has comedy, drama and it's its own piece. It does its own thing," Deutch said. "And, since there's a lot of political and social commentary in the movie, and I'm really interested to see how that will be perceived in reviews and by adults that see it. It's not even hidden. It's very honest and open. It has a lot of interesting things to say."
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