Jane Campion's daughter is making her own name in movies. She talks to Des Sampson

As the daughter of acclaimed New Zealand director Jane Campion, Alice Englert is accustomed to her mum being in the spotlight.

But after a succession of film roles in Ginger & Rosa, In Fear and Singularity, 18-year-old Englert is staking her own claim to fame as lead character Lena Duchennes in Beautiful Creatures, the book-to-film adaptation of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's best-selling witch saga.

With its supernatural elements, its struggle between good and evil and a blossoming romance between Englert's mysterious character, Lena, and local teenager Ethan Wate, played by newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, Beautiful Creatures is being hailed as a successor to the hit Twilight franchise.

"I've heard that mentioned, but I'm in complete denial about it," insists Englert.


"I'm trying not to think too much about stuff like that or get carried away because, for me, acting is a job and I do it because I like making films," she says. "What everyone else thinks about it - or me - is immaterial."

However, despite her best intentions, Beautiful Creatures could well propel Englert into the front ranks.

"To be honest, I'm not really interested in that side of things because there are far too many downsides to fame and celebrity, so I really hope that doesn't happen," she says, firmly.

"Unfortunately that outcome is sometimes out of your control, but my aim is to try and just remain as unaffected and as normal as possible."

But life so far for Englert has been anything but normal.

Born and raised in Sydney, her parents divorced when she was seven. She hung out on set during her mother's film shoots and appeared in her first film, Listen, at eight and Campion's short film, The Water Diary, at 12, before dropping out of school - "it was a weird place and I didn't enjoy it" - to pursue acting.

"You know, when I was growing up, I was so unaware that there was anything unusual about my life," Englert insists, animatedly. "For example I had no idea how influential my mother was because, for a very long time, I didn't realise that it was weird for women to make films.

"I just knew she was a director - that's what she did, that was her job - but I didn't realise until much later that, at that stage, no woman had ever won the Oscar for Best Director. And my mother was the only woman to have won the Palme d'Or at Cannes," she adds. "When I finally realised that, it was such a shock to me."


In fact, it was only when Englert was a teenager and sat down to watch The Piano in its entirety that she fully understood how inspired a film-maker her mother was. Until then she remained blissfully unaware of Campion's success, acclaim and fame.

"I wanted to watch The Piano when I was about 6 but my mother wasn't very keen for me to see it," recalls Englert. "Eventually, she did let me watch it but - this is funny - we didn't have a copy, so we had to go down to the video store and rent one. That was a little embarrassing.

"When we sat down to watch it, my mum fast-forwarded through practically the whole thing though, because she thought it was too grown-up for me. All I saw were glimpses of ferns, hills and beaches and thought, 'Oh, it's a very nice looking film', but not much more. "It wasn't until I was 14 that I actually saw the film properly, all the way through. That's when I finally realised how amazing it - and my mum - was."

Despite being largely oblivious to what her mum and dad did - her father, Colin Englert, is also a film-maker and producer - Englert concedes their work influenced her decision to take up acting.

"I don't think it was a given that I'd end up in films, but it was probably inevitable," she says. "But what I do know is that if my parents weren't film-makers I'd have grown up a completely different person because their work really shaped who I am - so much so that even if I hadn't got into acting, I think I would have still ended up as a storyteller in some way, because that's what I like doing."

It's also why, she admits, she carefully chooses character-driven films to appear in. The Sally Potter-directed Ginger & Rosa, in which she plays Rosa to Elle Fanning's Ginger in a 1960s London setting, and Beautiful Creatures might be very different sorts of films but they are both essentially coming-of-age tales.


"That's exactly what they are and why I liked them," enthuses Englert.

"Even though one's about a supernatural witch and the other a teenager in the 60s, they're both about young women experimenting with their emotions, new feelings and trying to puzzle out who the hell they are.

"That's why I loved spending my time as them - especially as I can relate to a lot of the stuff they go through, like teenage love, angst and feeling like you're an outsider."

Englert also says getting to play a witch with supernatural powers in Beautiful Creatures was a lot of fun, even if she doesn't posses any superhuman abilities or athletic prowess herself.

"You know what? I'll probably never play an action hero because I can't even run properly," admits Englert, laughing. "It's true! It's excruciatingly embarrassing when I run. I know I've probably closed a lot of doors by admitting that, but that's the reality. Luckily, for me, my powers in Beautiful Creatures are fuelled by emotions and not my martial arts skills - otherwise I'd have been stuffed."

Who: Alice Englert
What: Beautiful Creatures
When: February 21


- TimeOut