ARTICLE KYLE BUCHANAN
PHOTOGRAPHY CARLOS SERRAO
STYLIST MARYAM MALAKPOUR
CAN ALDEN EHRENREICH BREAK HOLLYWOOD'S SPELL AND BREATHE LIFE INTO A NEW GENERATION OF AMERICAN ACTORS?
“I Am Comforted is just yams,” laughs Alden Ehrenreich. Gibberish? To a casual observer, sure, but at L.A.’s Cafe Gratitude, the restaurant where we’re lunching, that sentence makes a certain amount of New Agey sense: each item on the menu, from yams to bruschetta, is named with an esteem-boosting spiritual koan. And though Ehrenreich is a young actor—and acting often demands your commitment to saying ridiculous things out loud—well, every man has his limits.
“I Am Magical? I cannot believe this,” he laughs, scanning the menu. “Can you imagine being here on a first date and going, ‘I Am Succulent, please?’ It’s insane. It’s almost like a spoof of an L.A. restaurant. I mean, the fact that I would order I Am Bonita...” He dissolves into laughter.
“I can’t read this. I’m just getting a Caesar salad. I’m defaulting.”
The 23-year-old Ehrenreich doesn’t have his own publicist yet, but he’s just come off several months of early promotion for his new film, Beautiful Creatures, a Southern-set fantasy based on a young adult book series. The film is a big leap forward for Ehrenreich, who until now was best known for his feature debut three years ago as the lead in Francis Ford Coppola’s lush, black-and-white Tetro. It was an auspicious career-starter, but Tetro isn’t the kind of movie that plays at the mall multiplex. Beautiful Creatures, on the other hand, has star-crossed teen lovers, supernatural trappings, and an ardent fan base—all the ingredients that made Twilight such a hit. And that’s exactly why Ehrenreich didn’t want to be in it.
“I originally turned down this movie,” he admits. “I didn’t read the script, and it was pitched to me as kind of a rip-off of Twilight, and so I said, ‘It’s the kind of thing I’m not interested in.’” Eventually, though, the film’s original lead had to drop out over scheduling issues, and when Ehrenreich was reapproached and convinced to crack open the script, he fell in love by page three—little wonder, since the film was written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, the Oscar-nominated scripter of The Fisher King.
Ehrenreich recently saw a big swath of the film while redubbing some of his dialogue, and he’s giddy about how it’s turning out: “Richard left in all the weirdest takes, and that’s just great,” he says, a big grin on his face. “What I’m really grateful for with Beautiful Creatures is that I got to do a movie that has a foundation to it, and I get all the benefits of that without having to sell out. From an acting standpoint, the stuff I get to do in this movie is as exciting as in any movie I’ve ever been up for.”
And he’s been up for a lot. Just a few days after our lunch, it’s reported that Ehrenreich is on a short list of actors being considered to join the next Spider-Man film. “I’ve lost parts to people that were…well, I don’t even want to go into that,” he laughs. If Beautiful Creatures does bring him Twilight-level fame, Ehrenreich knows exactly how he’ll use it: “There have probably been 10 to 15 movies that I was cast in that haven’t gotten financed, so it’s exciting, the prospect that I would have more power to get something made.”
Not that he minds the constant auditions. “I really love it!” he says. “I love acting. That’s what sucks about being an actor: if you’re a writer, you write every day, and if you’re a painter, you paint every day, but if you’re an actor, it’s a lot more difficult to create and to act by yourself. Days where I get to audition are days where I get to act.”
He acknowledges, though, that it’s a difficult time to be a young actor in Hollywood. The distaff is stacked—you’ve got a long roster of powerhouse actresses in their early 20s, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kristen Stewart, and Emma Stone—but Hollywood has had trouble growing new matinee idols to replace the Damons, DiCaprios, and Gyllenhaals that used to be commonplace.
“I think there’s probably a broader conversation about the roles that are being written for males,” suggests Ehrenreich. “What I like about Beautiful Creatures is that it’s a leading-man part even though he’s a teenager. A lot of the roles you go up for when you’re in your 20s are in the archetype of The Graduate, these lost, confused, timid people. In The Graduate it works, but it doesn’t always make for the best protagonists.” Ehrenreich’s experience in Hollywood may serve as an empirical anomaly with respect to the thesis that young American men aren’t aspiring to movie stardom anymore. Is it still considered to be a manly pursuit when some of the most famous American actors in their 20s are Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera? Ehrenreich shakes his head at the thought, mystified, and mentions that he fell in love with movies early on in his childhood, when his mother used to throw mock film festivals at their house. It didn’t take long before he began idolizing screen stars like Paul Newman. “I saw these iconic actors that I loved, and to me, that’s what being a man was,” he says. “These were the coolest people I had ever seen in my life.” And so, as Ehrenreich finishes a salad named I Am Dazzling, he ponders his future. In addition to his part in Beautiful Creatures, he has a supporting role in this spring’s Nicole Kidman thriller Stoker, directed by Park-Chan-wook, and he just finished a role in Woody Allen’s next movie. “Yesterday, I was thinking about all the people I’ve gotten to work with or have been involved with in my career, and it’s insane to me,” he says. But no matter what happens next, Ehrenreich is determined to stay unaffected. “The main thing is just having your own fire burning, having your own life separate, your happiness unhitched from whether or not you get a part,” he says, adding with a laugh, “but I do buy myself a present whenever I don’t get a part I really wanted.” As we leave Cafe Gratitude, Ehrenreich is forced to acknowledge something about his meal, despite its dorky name: “That was actually pretty good,” he says. He picks at his teeth with a toothpick, heartened, then looks up at the horizon on this clear, cloudless day, spotting something familiar on the hill. “The Hollywood sign,” he sighs. “My heart swells.”
Grooming Barbara Guillaume (exclusive artists) Digital Technician Damon Loble/150kilos Photo Assistants Ron Loepp, Monica May, Sally Peterson Stylist Assistant Catlin Myers Retouching portus imaging Location Smashbox Studios los angeles