Margot Martindale Talks Painful Costumes, Getting Acclimated with the World’s Mythology, and More on the Set of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES

     November 8, 2012


If you’re a fan of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures, then you already know that Aunt Deb plays a vital role in that teen-centric supernatural romance.  In Warner Bros. and Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures adaptation (opening February 2013, the day before Valentine’s Day), Aunt Deb is played by the infamously awesome Margo Martindale, who many readers will recognize from her Emmy Award-winning work on FX’s Justified, where she plays Mags Bennett.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Baton Rouge set of Hollywood’s latest supernatural-romance-based-on-a-YA-novel, where me and a few other online journalists got the chance to sit down with many of the film’s cast and crew.  Of all the interviews we conducted that day, Martindale’s was easily the most entertaining.  Find out what she had to say after the jump.

beautiful-creatures-posterIf I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times:  “If you’re gonna write a teen-supernatural-romance, you’re gonna need a slightly-older female who can see the past, present, and future all at once” (it’s science, people).  In Richard LaGravenese’s Beautiful Creatures—which Warner Bros. will open in theaters nationwide on February 13th, 2013—that role is filled by legendary character actress Margo Martindale, who’s probably best-known to the audience as her character on FX’s Justified, Mags Bennett.

Martindale has a helluva presence, both onscreen and off, and the time we spent interviewing her on the Baton Rouge set of LaGravenese’s film was easily the highlight of our visit to that set:  warm, funny, quick-witted, and genuinely invested in the character she’s playing (Aunt Del), she had much to say about the film and her character within it.  We’ll get to the interview in just a second, but first—the highlights from our chat:

  • Martindale says that her elaborate costumes are both “painful” and “absolutely beautiful”, and that the character itself is “a whole different world” for her but “really fun”.
  • Martindale says that she read all of Garcia and Stohl’s books prior to filming, and that she finds the idea of a character that can see time from all angles—past, present, and future—to be “interesting”.
  • Asked what made her take the role, Martindale offers an answer that typifies what makes her so charming:  “What drew me was they offered it to me. And I love Richard so that’s a huge plus. It’s fantastic. It’s fantasy. It’s a fabulous story with wonderful actors. Why wouldn’t you?”
  • On the day we arrived, Martindale had only been on-set for a day, but had the following to say when asked what it had been like working with Jeremy Irons:  “My answer is that he as handsome as I thought he’d be or more handsome.”

Question: Your costume is spectacular.

Margo Martindale: It’s more painful.

Are all of your costumes painful?

margot-martindale-beautiful-creaturesMartindale:  Yes, very painful. (Laughing) …And absolutely beautiful.

Does that help with your characterization?

Martindale:  I think that is the characterization. I don’t have to do anything. It helps tremendously because it’s a whole different world for me, so it’s fun. Really fun.

Tell us a little about who you play.

Martindale:  I’m playing Aunt Del. We’re a family of casters. Our family … casters is an easier name that we prefer (rather than) witches. I see all things at the same time. I think I am called a hallumpalus…a plumpus… something like that. I’ve looked at that word maybe fifty times and still don’t know.

You see the past, present and future?

Martindale:  Yes, isn’t that interesting? The past, present, future and all things going on at the same time.

With every person you come into contact with?

Martindale:  With every being in this world is what I think. It’s not in the script. I have to infuse things with that, seeing past, present and future. I used to have a dream about that from reading a book. It was about the past, present and future. It’s kind of the opposite… it oddly rings true to me.

How difficult was it to get acclimated to all the mythology of this world?

Martindale:  I’ve read the books. I’ve read the script several times and that’s about all I’ve done. I understand witchcraft.

Can you delve into this scene in particular? It seems Nina is trying to figure out which side she’s going to.

alden-ehrenreich-alice-englert-beautiful-creaturesMartindale:  She’s trying to decide. This is the night, the 21st day of December in the 12th month of the 21st century. I say we must get on with this because the moon is about to appear. When the moon is about to appear, whatever her true nature will be will define the new age to come. The old age will be ended and the new age will begin. It’s a big night.

It seems like it’s much bigger than just her… It’s the entire race.

Martindale:  It’s a big night. In this age the light and dark will merge. (Margot is singing) And all the world will be as one.

Are you leaning for her to go to the light?

Martindale:  Oh yeah, I’m light.

Did you read the book before or after the script?

Martindale:  I read the script and then I read the book and then I came back and read the script.

What drew you to the character when you read the script?

beautiful creatures emmy rossumMartindale:  What drew me was they offered it to me. And I love Richard so that’s a huge plus. It’s fantastic. It’s fantasy. It’s a fabulous story with wonderful actors. Why wouldn’t you?

In the book, Del is described as being out of it because she’s seeing all these things all the time. Is that what you and Richard talked about doing for the character, did you bring something into it as well?

Martindale:  That’s what I will bring. We just started. I’ve been other people recently. I’m trying to get …. I want to feel like that, kind of like seeing through a prism. Ohhh how do I get … I need to stop spinning. I don’t know if there will be a place like that in here but there will be a place.

If you could have that gift of seeing the past, present, future in real life, would you want to take it?

Martindale:  No. No, no, no. I am way too fearful.

How difficult is it to give a believable performance and merging it with a Satan universe of the world. Has it been tough to play into?

Martindale:  Like I just said, I really just started so that will be to come. I think it won’t be difficult. I think it will be fun to come from reality. It’s sort of theatrical and that’s where I come from, the stage. As do most of these people so it’s fun.

Jeremy Irons seems like a fantastic presence. What was it like when you found out you were working with him? Did your expectations meet the reality? Is he a little less intense than we suspect him to be? What’s it been like?

beautiful-creatures-viola-davis-alice-englert-alden-ehrenreichMartindale:  I just started today (everyone laughs).

Do you want to make up an answer?

Martindale:  My answer is that he as handsome as I thought he’d be or more handsome.

I might slip him my phone number.

Martindale:  And he seems so cool. He seems full of laughs so I hope we get to that.

How do you compare the book to the script?

Martindale:  It’s hard because … I love the script. I think there are things about the book that I had questions about that are answered in the script.

Your power to see all the things at the same time, is the power visualized in the movie?

Martindale:  I don’t know. I think in this movie… I don’t know if there’s a place for it in this movie. I don’t know what he has it in his mind visually.

It’s an intriguing power to have. I was wondering how to spell it out. If you could look at someone and see their past.

Martindale:  Wouldn’t that be fun? The Aunt Del version of the story.

How are we going to tell the good casters from the bad ones?

margot-martindale-beautiful-creaturesMartindale:  Just look at them.

Emmy’s in green and she looks sort of angelic today and you’re in dark clothing.

Martindale:  She’s my daughter you know. That’s what she’s trying to appear to be today. I think there will be times when you can’t tell. If you can always tell then we wouldn’t be good casters, you know. I think Emmy, Ridley, is extremely powerful.

What do you generally look for in a role?

Martindale:  If it’s fun. I look for insanity and drunken behavior, pill pushers, doped slings and cowboys. I like it all kind of twisted.

Particularly in recent years, it seems you have found more and more eclectic opportunities. Talk about this role being offered to you. Do you find that happening more now?

Martindale:  Yep, yep.

How is that shaping the choices you make?

Martindale:  I think it’s the first time that I’ve actually had to be careful. A little more careful than I would have been before because I don’t want to hit upon the same subject over and over. This movie I think I am going to go to, it will be wonderful. It will be a small movie. It’s all fun and then if it’s too small, it’s never too small if it’s good. If it’s good it’s never too small.

Emmy plays your daughter in the movie but she’s on the dark side and you’re on the light side. How did that happen?

emmy rossum beautiful creaturesMartindale:  That happened because when her day came, I don’t think she wanted to go dark but that’s what came out. It’s not what I wanted for her. (I was) Very disappointed. I think most of them like us had not thought we had a choice. I think that maybe Alice, who plays Lena, who is the first to be the first liberated woman of the casters.

What is your relationship with Emmy then since you’re on two different sides?

Martindale:  She’s not really in my world much anymore. She’s really gone down her own path. She comes to visit and it’s, “Oh dear! What kind of trouble is she going to bring?” She’s like a child that went down the wrong path. 

As you can probably tell from the above, Martindale was an awesome interview, and a lot of fun to be around.  A legend of stage and screen, it’s likely that her performance as Aunt Del will make her familiar to a whole new generation of film geeks and supernatural-romance enthusiasts.  We’re really looking forward to seeing more of her once the film wraps.   Speaking of:  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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