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'Beautiful Creatures' Promises Bewitching Teen Romance

THR visits the set of the forthcoming YA adaptation by writer-director Richard LaGravenese, who enlists heavyweight acting talent to give his film gravitas.

Beautiful Creatures Film Still - H 2012

There’s nothing quite like an urban (or in the case of Louisiana, rural) legend to spice up a visit to the set of a film.

Strapped into a van headed to the Louisiana plantation where Beautiful Creatures is shooting, our driver insists there’s another antebellum location on the outskirts of Baton Rouge that people visit in order to experience odd visions, creepy sounds, and even a ghost or two. Meanwhile, Richard LaGravenese’s adaptation of the best-selling novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl promises a different sort of supernatural phenomena – witchcraft – albeit the sort that’s enhanced by movie magic.

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LaGravenese is best known as the screenwriter of such films as The Fisher King and The Bridges of Madison County, but he made his directorial debut with the 1998 film Living Out Loud, and has since carved a niche for himself as a reliable purveyor of sensitive, women-centered stories. Although it’s yet unclear if the filmmaker will shift the source material’s focus to its female protagonist, Duchaness, LaGravenese has enlisted a talented ensemble to bring the story to life, which focuses on the burgeoning relationship between the mysterious Lena Duchaness, who is a newcomer to the fictional Southern town of Gatlin, South Carolina, and a restless local teenager named Ethan Wate.

Alice Englert plays Duchaness and Alden Ehrenreich Wate, while Emmy Rossum, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and Margo Martindale play key roles as elders who have a vested interest in seeing how young Lena comes of age. Playing a bit like a gender-reversed version of Twilight, or a True Blood for the teenage set, the film features forbidden romance, fantastical scenarios, and of course, plenty of sociocultural subtext.

While such an assembly of talent both in front of and behind the camera would otherwise be enchanting enough, the set itself – a gorgeous, moss-drenched plantation that’s been carefully aged by the production team – creates a fantastical landscape that combines actual locations with expert set design. Meanwhile, a phalanx of grips and technicians descend upon an adjacent maze of odd-shaped hedges, which conceal the site of a future grand ball where LaGravenese is talking with his cast.

How much the film will follow in the footsteps of successful Young Adult franchises like Twilight and The Hunger Games remains to be seen, but its heavyweight cast and crew suggests that the material will be taken seriously -- no matter how outlandish the topiaries look.