'Beautiful Creatures' actresses discuss eco-interests
Viola Davis and Emmy Rossum do their part.
Fri, Feb 15 2013 at 12:38 PM
Photos: John Bramley
"Beautiful Creatures," opening Feb. 14 and based on the first of four books in the popular series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, is a supernatural teen romance about a mortal boy (Alden Ehrenreich) and a "caster," a young witch on the verge of discovering whether her powers will be designated for good or evil (Alice Englert). The cast recently reconvened for the first time since shooting the movie in Louisiana to talk about it and what's new in their lives — green and otherwise.
"We're going to do the solar panels when we get around to it," said Viola Davis, who uses fluorescent lighting and has an Energy Star washer and dryer at home. "It's important to me. I'm getting there," assured Davis, whose character, Amma, is a composite of two in the novel. After "The Help," she explained, "I didn't want to be a maid again. I wanted this African-American woman to be woven into the life of this family and this community without being in servitude to it."
A big fan of sci-fi who grew up on H. G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, "Lost in Space" and "Land of the Lost" and has read "all the 'Twilight' and 'Harry Potter' books twice" as "a way of connecting with my nieces and nephews," Davis was drawn to the movie's magical world, "And the fact that she channels spirits. That's what's great about an alternate universe. You get to play act, you get to use your imagination. It shakes you up."
Davis has several more films awaiting release including "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," with Jessica Chastain as a mother who has lost her child and Davis as the professor who befriends her, and "Prisoners," in which she and Terrence Howard and Maria Bello and Hugh Jackman play couples who've lost their daughters. Jackman's character takes justice into his own hands. "It really explores the mindset of the vigilante."
Reflecting on the hoopla surrounding "The Help" and her Oscar nomination last year, "I was under so much stress," Davis confided. "But it was so important because I felt like I found myself. I'm so shy. I spent so many years in insecurity. But for some reason, because maybe that movie was so controversial, I had to find my voice in order to defend my choices. And then it culminated with me actually taking my wig off, and within all of that I kind of found who I was and stopped apologizing for it. It was a huge emotional growth for me."
It also gave her perspective. "I think that people get so caught up in that gold statue that they forget that it can mean everything and nothing. You've got to go back to work, because the day after is brutal, because you have to go back to your life, taking out the trash," she said. "And it doesn't necessarily mean all of the sudden you can walk away and start commanding twenty million dollars when your quote was ten thousand dollars a picture. You've got to focus on who you were before it and after it, and that's really hard to do."
When it comes to green living, Emmy Rossum drives a Lexus SUV hybrid, conserves water by brushing her teeth in the shower, and owns a rescue cat. "Even though it's such a small part of fixing the problem, just doing it and raising awareness about it [helps]," said the actress, who plays the evil caster Ridley in "Beautiful Creatures," a part she relished from the moment she read it. "She was so fun and dynamic and such an attention hog."
Rossum had "found a lot of comfort in the safety zone of playing good girls" in movies like "Mystic River," "Phantom of the Opera" and "The Day After Tomorrow" before "Shameless," her-envelope pushing Showtime series, "made people see me a little differently." She didn't feel like she had to be likeable at all times. "That was a big breakthrough for me."
Wearing different wigs and dramatic, over the top costumes in "Creatures" "put me in a different head space, kind of changed my way of thinking and moving," said Rossum, who is excited about the prospect of making the sequels. "I love [Ridley's] journey. In the second one she loses all of her powers, so she's really pissed. Who are you if you don't have the most defining factor of yourself? So she takes Lena on a trip to the underworld. It's very 'Thelma and Louise.'"
Rossum isn't a goody-goody in the film she just finished, either. In "You're Not You," she plays live-in caretaker to Hilary Swank's ALS patient, and has "a pretty big drinking problem and sleeps around with married people. I'm definitely pushing the limits."
A trained soprano, Rossum was a singer first, but got into acting at 12 when she grew too tall for the opera children's chorus costumes. She just released her second album, "Sentimental Journey," a collection of standards from the '20s, '30s, and '40s. Tracks include "Autumn Leaves," "Summer Wind," the title song, and "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time," the kind of music her mother loved, played and sang to her in her childhood.