LOS ANGELES – “And I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I’m in a Woody Allen film,” Alden Ehrenreich says with a sly grin, looking at his “Beautiful Creatures” co-star Alice Englert.
They both start laughing, because, of course, he has mentioned it, but it’s part of the easygoing, teasing rapport that the two young stars have, which includes their affection for books, art, film, Allen and Peter Falk — yes, Columbo himself.
A love for books almost seems to be typecasting because their “Beautiful Creatures” characters — Ethan and Lena — are readers. The movie, which opened Thursday, is based on the successful young-adult novel of the same name by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. While literature is part of the book, director Richard LaGravenese makes sure you see Ethan and Lena reading the likes of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and the work of Los Angeles poet Charles Bukowski.
At an interview, Englert, 18, was carrying a copy Ehrenreich gave her of “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” a 1968 collection of essays by Joan Didion about her experiences in 1960s California.
Ehrenreich, 23, said he is currently reading another Didion essay collection, “The White Album.”
Both say they like to dip into different books at the same time. “I’m reading a lot of the Russians at the moment. I love Chekhov. I love Dostoevsky,” says Englert, the daughter of director and screenwriter Jane Campion (“The Piano”).
Ehrenreich — who at 14 was discovered at a friend’s bat mitzvah reception by Steven Spielberg — is also reading the great magic-realism novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Márquez as well as a biography of the late Peter Falk. His enthusiasm for the actor began when he saw him in the John Cassavetes films “Husbands” and “A Woman Under the Influence.”
“We love Peter Falk. That’s where we created any chemistry,” says Englert, who will be seen in Sally Potter’s film “Ginger & Rosa” next month.
“We’ve been watching a lot of ‘Columbo.’ He’s inspiration,” says Ehrenreich, who will be seen next in “Stoker” with Nicole Kidman, then later this year in Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.”
“An inspiration for life,” adds Englert. “I’m not kidding. Do what you’re gonna do, but make sure you can justify it in your heart because you never know when Columbo is gonna be on your case. Reality prevails. Truth prevails.”
Then they both start giggling about their obsession.
When Englert and Ehrenreich were first pitched “Beautiful Creatures” as “ ‘Romeo and Juliet’ meets ‘Twilight,’ ” they both turned down the project. LaGravenese — screenwriter of “The Horse Whisperer,” “Water for Elephants” and an upcoming HBO biopic on Liberace — convinced them he wanted to make something more than a “Twilight” rip-off.
Ehrenreich says he’s “illiterate” when it comes to young-adult books, but what he has noticed about the genre is that, “You see guys that are very cold and indifferent in the way they treat girls. … We wanted to show the guy could be literate, could be courteous and sweet and treat you well. For younger girls, that’s probably a better role model than the mean guy.”