Those in search of the next "Twilight"/"Hunger Games"-style young adult novel phenomenon need look no further than "Beautiful Creatures," the new film –and potential franchise- from screenwriter/director Richard LaGravenese, based on the first book in the "Caster Chronicles" series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
A wild panel, with much hooting and hollering from the amped crowd at New York Comic-Con, showed that this YA success is being brought to life with an eye to channeling the teen angst of "Twilight," the southern gothic of "True Blood," and supernatural sexiness of "The Witches of Eastwick."
Alice Englert, who was not present at the panel due to a conflicting film premiere in London, stars as Lena Duchannes, a young girl coming of age, if by that you mean the age of witchcraft. No, she's not some emo girl who turned Wiccan to piss off her parents, she's the real deal, with elemental powers of earth, wind, fire, water, etc.
Thing is when she turns sweet sixteen Lena will experience the transformation known as Claiming, when the body chooses whether you possess powers of light or dark as she's transformed into a full-fledged Caster (i.e. witch). This process is further complicated when she starts a hot teen romance with Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich), and their forbidden love along with her desire to choose her own fate puts Lena at odds with her dark, aristocratic family.
We were treated to a sizzle reel that showed cast and crew hard at work creating what they hope we'll be at least a four or five-part saga that's basically "Romeo & Juliet" with magic and some southern spice, mixed in with some Civil War battle scenes and colorful costumes that would look at home in a body paint fetish club.
Without a doubt the biggest reaction came when Emily Rossum was introduced as Ridley Duchannes, Lena's older cousin who was long ago claimed to the dark side.
"She's kind of like the bad girl type," said Rossum with relish, "and she's coming back to her home town to claim Lena for the dark."
Rossum had to perform a 15-page scene for her audition, and worked with LaGravenese to develop what he called her character's "oral fixation," which referred to all the cookies and fruit she likes to put in her mouth onscreen in enticing ways.
Ridley's claiming scene was definitely the highlight of the sizzle reel, where she reluctantly succumbs to the dark and immediately lures a young man onto some train tracks with her sexual wiles and hypnotic eyes, and of course the hopeless sap gets hit by a train. Clearly her siren powers can make people do or think whatever she puts in their mind, especially men.
Another highlight was a scene in which members of the Duchannes family, including Rossum, Englert, Jeremy Irons, and Emma Thompson have what LaGravenese referred to as "the most epic cousin fight at a family gathering you've ever seen on film, with spinning tables, rocking rooms, all done practically."
As for Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's take on the adaptation, they had nothing but praise for the work of LaGravenese, whose other notable screenwriting works include "The Fisher King," "The Bridges of Madison County," and "Water for Elephants."
"It was actually really easy," said Garcia. "The books are our thing, and the movie is his. I always say I'm not going to do open-heart surgery tomorrow. I don't know anything about screenwriting or directing, and he's the best. We just felt like it was in good hands from the beginning. We actually had Richard before we came into stores."
Perhaps if this is successful we'll be seeing the other titles "Beautiful Darkness," "Beautiful Chaos," and "Beautiful Redemption" cast a spell on audiences around the globe.