BEAUTIFUL CREATURES directed by Richard LaGravenese, screenplay by LaGravenese based on the novel by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, with Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson. A Warner Bros. release. 123 minutes. Opens today (February 14). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
Emmy Rossum has played a lot of good girls - Sean Penn's doomed daughter in Mystic River, plucky young heroines facing disaster in The Day After Tomorrow and Poseidon, the ingenue Christine in Joel Schumacher's ill-fated adaptation of The Phantom Of The Opera and currently the perpetually enabling daughter of William H. Macy's drunken lout on the TMN series Shameless.
This makes her casting in Beautiful Creatures as Ridley Duchannes, an evil "caster" bent on bringing her cousin Lena (Alice Englert) over to the dark side, something of a surprise. But as it happens, Rossum was more than ready to go bad.
"I think I'm the one [member] of the cast who'd read all of the books," Rossum says from snow-socked Manhattan. "So I had a kind of cheat sheet to figure out her backstory, what was gonna happen to her in the future, and stuff like that. I felt like I had an in with her."
The contrast between Ridley and Shameless's Fiona isn't lost on Rossum.
"I thought of two sides of a coin," she says. "Selfless and completely selfish. So it was fun for me in that respect. I was definitely looking to do something different after doing Shameless for a while, so this was the perfect role to take."
Rossum sees Beautiful Creatures as more interested in a squabbling family than a big supernatural battle between light and dark forces.
"That's the fuel I use to make the character not just completely evil," Rossum says. "I mean, if you take the supernatural element out of this family, they're really just a kind of dysfunctional, quirky family, and my character's biggest scene is a fight around the Thanksgiving dinner table.
"It's kind of like any epic battle that happens in any family Thanksgiving - there's a big argument and people are throwing food at each other. You always fight with your family with whatever ammunition you have - emotions or food or in our case supernatural powers."
Given the strong notices she received for Phantom, you'd think Rossum would be courting new musical offers now that Les Misérables has made the form marketable again. But she's cautious.
"I think it's been long enough that I could probably do another one," she says, "but I would want it to be really different in tone from the one I did."
In the meantime, she's definitely maintaining her singing voice.
"I just made a record called Sentimental Journey," she says. "It's kind of my return to music. It's a collection of standards from the 20s to the 60s. I made it with my own money, and just love it, so I'm really proud of that."