Emmy Rossum Talks Playing the Evil Witch, Her Character’s Many Looks, and Oral Fixation on the Set of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES

     November 8, 2012

emmy rossum beautiful creatures

Every teen-supernatural-romance needs a “bad girl”, and in Warner Bros. and Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures (based on the novel of the same name from Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl), that role is filled by the character of Ridley, a witch with a penchant for lollipops and male domination. The role’s played by Emmy Rossum, a talented young actress many Collider.com readers will probably recognize most from her work in Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River and Showtime’s critically-acclaimed dramedy, Shameless.

Earlier this year, I had the chance to travel with a few other members of the online press to the Baton Rouge set of Beautiful Creatures, where we had the opportunity to speak with the bulk of the film’s cast. What did Emmy Rossum have to say about how she landed this potentially iconic role, playing the bad girl, and manipulating dudes via witchcraft? Find out after the jump, folks.

beautiful-creatures-posterWarner Bros. won’t release Richard Gravenese’s Beautiful Creatures—a supernatural romance based on the novel of the same name from Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl—until February 13th of 2013, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start getting educated about the flick now! And besides, when your film’s based on a YA novel with a complex, involved mythology that stretches across a number of centuries, it can never hurt to get a head start.

My head start began earlier this year, when I was invited (along with several other members of the online press) to spend a day on the Baton Rouge set of LaGravenese’s film. While we were there, we were given the opportunity to interview the majority of the film’s major cast members. The bad news was, that lineup did not include Jeremy Irons (though we did get to meet him briefly on-set). The good news was, that lineup did include the kinda luminous Emmy Rossum, who plays Ridley in the film.

If you’re a fan of Showtime’s Shameless, then Rossum certainly needs no introduction. To everyone else, she might look familiar from her roles in The Day After Tomorrow, Phantom of The Opera, and Mystic River. Here, she’s playing a villainess—something she doesn’t often get to do—and is apparently relishing the opportunity to take the role as far as the film’s PG-13 rating will allow. We’ll get to the interview in just a moment, but first—let’s look at some highlights from our chat with Ms. Rossum:

  • On her character, Ridley: “I’m a bit of a shape shifter. Or not actually a shape shifter but I…I’m kind of like a bad girl evil witch. With a tiny little heart underneath. And my power is the ability to manipulate people to see or think anything about me. Kind of just, ultimate man control.”
  • Rossum tells us that her character changes looks in the film almost as often as she has scenes, appearing as a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead over the course of the film.
  • Apparently, Ridley favored a lollipop in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s version of the story. Asked if the lollipop will appear in the film, Rossum tells us: “Sometimes, yeah. Well we’ve kind of expanded it to be more of just a general oral fixation. So there’s lots of fruit, candy, juicy plums. The lollipop will appear, though.”
  • emmy-rossum-beautiful-creaturesAsked to describe working on the film’s Baton Rouge set—outdoors in the dead heat of summer—Rossum says, “The heat. The monsoons that happen at 4pm. The incredible amount of sweat that just drips down under my wigs. But in a very attractive way, of course. But it’s really great, I mean the food’s great, people are great, everything’s – I’m super positive about the whole experience. My mom was actually born just three miles west of here. So that’s kinda cool.”

OK, without any further ado, let’s get to that interview. Here we are speaking to Emmy Rossum on the set of Beautiful Creatures, where Rossum was wearing what appeared to be some sort of Jackie Onassis-inspired outfit…

Question: So tell us about your character.

Rossum: Well I’m Ridley. And today I’m blonde. Other days I look different. If you stick around later today I’ll look really different. I’m a bit of a shape shifter. Or not actually a shape shifter but I…I’m kind of like a bad girl evil witch. With a tiny little heart underneath. And my power is the ability to manipulate people to see or think anything about me. Kind of just, ultimate man control.

Can you manipulate them to think something about anyone, or just you?

Rossum: Me. In that moment. To think that I’m somebody that I’m not, to think that I look different, to think that I am different, to think I’m kind.

How fun is that to do, as an actress?

Rossum: It’s fun, especially because I don’t usually get cast as a bad girl. So it’s fun, really fun.

Do you consistently have this kind of Jackie O look?

emmy rossum beautiful creaturesRossum: Not at all. No, I actually dress very very provocatively. But because everyone else is kind of – I usually look more like that. I always like to stand out. And this is all due respect to my cousin, it’s her big moment, her coming out, she’s going to become a woman tonight. So I thought I’d be a little throwback Doris Day.

How many different looks do you have in the film?

Rossum: About six. About as many times as I have scenes.

Your character in the book uses a lollipop as part of her spell-casting on unsuspecting people – do you have the lollipop in your scenes?

Rossum: Sometimes, yeah. Well we’ve kind of expanded it to be more of just a general oral fixation. So there’s lots of fruit, candy, juicy plums. The lollipop will appear, though.

Had you read the book before you signed on to do the movie?

Rossum: Yes, I knew of the book because one of my best friends is really into YA and so when I told her I was going in to audition for it she had actually read the first two books, so I didn’t read them before I auditioned because I didn’t want to invest unless I got the part. But when I did I read the three that are out and really liked them.

As an evil witch, or caster, what are some of the things you get to do?

beautiful-creatures-emmy-rossumRossum: Kill men. Yeah it’s mostly just manipulating men to get what I want.

You said you don’t normally get cast as a bad girl – is there anything you did to convince them that you could play the part?

Rossum: Just auditioned. In short shorts.

Your first film was Phantom of the Opera – a very stylized movie. How would you compare this role and environment to that one? What kind of a stylistic environment is this for you, in order to prepare?

Rossum: For me, it’s all about the essence of the character and what that brings out in me, and it’s so different than that character. So it’s really a different experience for me. But the time in hair and makeup is the same. And equally annoying.

Does this film function in our world – the real world – or is the entire universe a sort of heightened style?

Rossum: No, it’s saying that there are casters among our society and that this is like a real world, this isn’t a fantasy land. There are just people who have unique abilities among us.

When you play a villainous character do you look at her as being sort of misunderstood?

beautiful creatures emmy rossumRossum: No, I look at her as being in the right. She’s in the right, everyone else just isn’t having enough fun. I think you always have to believe in the integrity of your character.

So you say your character manipulates men to get what she wants – what is it that she wants from these men?

Rossum: They’re a means to an end. The end is to get my cousin over to my side. I mean, on her 16th birthday it’ll be decided whether she’s good or evil and I’m working with (the rest of this answer involved a major spoiler, so we’re gonna have to leave that out; sorry, folks!)

So you want her on the darker side with you?

Rossum: Yes, and I know she has that in her. I mean, we grew up together. So in this scene I’m basically coming to tell her that everyone’s kind of put the fear of God into her about what’s going to happen to her if she goes dark, and I’m telling her not to be scared. That it’s going to be great and we’re going to be together again.

So is that what’s going on with today’s scene?

Rossum: Well I’m not supposed to be at this party. These are all people who are pro-her, and I’m the one family member on the dark side who’s like, “Hehe, but you know you’re coming over here!”

What are some of your other looks? You said more provocative – how so?

beautiful creatures emmy rossumRossum; Um well there’s the character from, uh, there’s the relationship that’s the same as in the book, with the Link character. Who is a high school boy. Um, and he’s kind of, I’m kind of like a cougar to him. He’s best friends with Alden’s character. And when I’m around him I dress like, like a high school boy’s fantasy. So, lingerie and see-through clothes. But it’s all very couture. Like a high school boy’s fantasy of a girl wearing Alexander McQueen.

And you said you’re not blonde throughout the entire film, so will we see you as a redhead? Brunette?

Rossum: All of the above.

You mention that you and Lena were best friends at one point before you went evil on your 16th birthday – do we get to see any flashbacks in the film of Ridley when she was still good?

Rossum: Yes.

In these flashbacks, for example, is the character always the same – essentially – for you, or is there a kind of schizophrenia?

Rossum: No, for me I mean she is in essence who she is and she was a different person before she was claimed, and we’ll see kind of the moments leading up to when she’s claimed and the moment that she’s claimed and the first evil act that she does right after she’s claimed. In a flashback. And then after that I believe she is who she is, although I think she has settled on the fact that she is dark in essence. I think that she’s not dark and evil and snarly, she’s quite bubblegum and happy about it.

Is playing a villain what made you want to audition for this role?

emmy rossum beautiful creaturesRossum: I think Richard’s a wonderful writer, it was a great cast, and I really liked how kind of balls to the wall the character was. She was always inappropriate, she was always attention-seeking, she was always the loudest person in the room. And I just thought somehow she’s still likable. She’s so horrible, but she’s also still likable. And she’s the one character you love to hate and just hate that you love. So I kind of like that.

You mentioned being attracted to the role because of this great cast, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons – have they given you any interesting advice? Any funny stories?

Rossum: Eileen Atkins, I was just saying, found a four-leaf clover this morning. And she said that she finds them quite easily. And I said, “Well what are you gonna do with it?” And she said, “I’m going to hold it all day and it’s going to make me brilliant.” And I thought, “Mmm – I’d like that.” I’d like that four-leaf clover, I need a little bit of that. No, everyone’s been really nice – down to earth. And it’s such like a fun, wacky vision that Richard has, so it’s okay to be a little larger than life.

What are some of the challenges of shooting here in Louisiana?

Rossum: The heat. The monsoons that happen at 4pm. The incredible amount of sweat that just drips down under my wigs. But in a very attractive way, of course. But it’s really great, I mean the food’s great, people are great, everything’s – I’m super positive about the whole experience. My mom was actually born just three miles west of here. So that’s kinda cool.

How long are you going to be filming down here?

emmy-rossum-beautiful-creaturesRossum: Until the end of June.

Can you talk about working with Richard, and what he brings to a project like this?

Rossum: Collaboration, really. Like – if you have an idea, he’ll run with it. Take it and run with it. A lot of my ideas were kind of about, I mean, Ridley’s not always such a verbal character, so about how to express that – the lollipop thing, too. About how to make it so we don’t always see her with a lollipop – because in the book, the reference kind of feels very Lolita, in that Ridley wears sunglasses and sucks on a lollipop. I think both Richard and I talked about that just being a little bit too – when you saw it visually, it might be a little too derivative. Whereas it completely worked in the book. So we kind of thought about fruit options. It’s more like Witches of Eastwick with the cherries.

Young Adult properties have become a really hot commodity in Hollywood – are a lot of these scripts floating around? Do you have to be extra selective about your roles?

Rossum: Yes, there are a lot of supernatural love stories, but at the same time I think that this one is special because – and I’m sure everyone’s going to say that about their project – but ours really is because Richard has a visual vision. [whispers] Visual vision? I’m just going to go with that. And with Philippe Rousselot, I mean they’ve really created a world that looks different than any other world that’s out there. It doesn’t look like Twilight, it doesn’t look like Hunger Games, it doesn’t look like any of that stuff. It’s very much based in this Southern gothic world, but it has this sense of magic and also kind of a nod of the head to high couture fashion and also a nod of the head to old paintings and things that he’s pulling on in that way. So I think there’s really a sophistication and a way that he’s adapted the material that’s going to make it quite visually different. And film’s a visual medium, so I think it’ll be good.

Is there a different kind of creative challenge or even professional opportunity in doing a movie like this as opposed to say the TV show that you’re doing or other roles you’ve had in the past?

beautiful creatures emmy rossumRossum: I really like to have fun. This seemed like it would be really fun. My show is really fun. When something feels like the alarm goes off – which it did this morning at 4:20 – and I had to get up and get in the van and drive here, I wasn’t miserable. So if I really look forward to something it doesn’t feel like work. So I really don’t think about it in terms of, “Oh wow that’ll really open that door” or in terms of career trajectory, I really think of like, “What am I going to enjoy?” Am I going to enjoy the summer in the south with a whole bunch of amazing British actors doing southern accents? Yeah, I’m going to enjoy that.

A lot of people are comparing this franchise to Twilight – how do you feel about that?

I mean, I see that it’s a supernatural love story. Um, kind of like a supernatural Romeo and Juliet. But aside from that, the worlds couldn’t be any more different. Visually, as well.

Is there anybody in your personal life that you modeled your character after?

Rossum: No, I model her after a Norse goddess that I read about.

Did Richard screen any particular movies beforehand?

Rossum: He did for the kids – he screened some scary movies for them, but I wasn’t around for that.

He didn’t recommend that you watch anything?

Rossum: No.

Do you know what he screened for the others?

Rossum: I don’t, but you didn’t talk to Alice yet? She will know.

Is there a certain intensity level to being provocative in this movie, a responsibility?

shameless emmy rossumRossum: Well there’s a little more more pressure, only because I don’t really feel like I have to look good on my show. I feel like I have to look – like my job is to look good in this, and to have a certain effect. So I just feel a little bit more pressure about that than I did on my show, where I can just be a kind of trashy Chicagoan in cut-off jeans and no bra and everyone’s like, “Yeah, she looks okay!” So now I feel like, what do I have to be – this woman is perfect, that’s everything about her – she needs to be the perfect woman. The most desirable, the most everything. So then like I get home in like my sweatpants at the Best Western at night and I’m like, “Oh, I feel so far from that.” I just ate like eight brownies and a pizza! So thank God for movie magic. Two hours in the hair and make-up room and I resemble something that could be that.

Is this being shot with the intention of it being PG-13?

Rossum: Not if you look at my scenes! [laughs] Yes. Yes, it is. It has every intent to be that. I’m not playing it like that! But I’m maybe making a different movie!

Rossum was a lot of fun to speak with (and, let’s face it: pretty easy on the eyes), and clearly relishing the opportunity to take on a “bad girl”. Will audiences enjoy seeing Rossum in this sorta role? We’ll have to find out when Warner Bros. opens their flick early next year. Speaking of which, Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures opens on February 13th—the day before Valentine’s Day, don’tcha know—next year.

For more on our Beautiful Creatures set visit:

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