The malice of Alice

Alice Lewis and her parents, Kelly and James Lewis, on the set of “Those Who Deserve to Die.” Contributed by Bret Wood
Caption
Alice Lewis and her parents, Kelly and James Lewis, on the set of “Those Who Deserve to Die.” Contributed by Bret Wood

Teen cosplay model makes movie debut in local horror flick.

It isn't your typical 11-year-old girl who can portray a blood-thirsty killer with a bone-chilling gaze, but Alice Lewis is no typical child actor. Now a petite and poised 14-year-old, she began filming three years ago on "Those Who Deserve to Die," a gory psychological thriller by Atlanta filmmaker Bret Wood that premieres June 18, at Landmark's Midtown Art Cinema, and she dominates every scene she's in.

Although it's her first acting role of note, Alice was already a pro in front of the camera when she began filming and an internet cosplay sensation since some of her photographs went viral five years ago.

Striking images of Alice dressed up as Eleven from "Stranger Things," Jon Snow from "Game of Throne," Ziggy Stardust, Wonder Woman, Marie Antoinette and Furiosa from "Mad Max: Fury Road" fill her website (maliceofalice.com) and Instagram page (themaliceofalice), all shot and designed by her mother, Kelly Lewis, a professional photographer who teaches portraiture at Creative Circus portfolio school in Atlanta.

Dreaming up characters to portray, rummaging through thrift stores for supplies, sewing costumes and scoping out sets for their shoots might seem like an unusual mother-daughter hobby, but it has proven invaluable to Lewis and Alice’s bonding experience, which got a late start in life.

Caption
Alice Lewis is a local model and actress who makes her big screen debut in “Those Who Deserve to Die,” a movie by Atlanta filmmaker Bret Wood. Contributed by Iris Ray

Alice Lewis is a local model and actress who makes her big screen debut in “Those Who Deserve to Die,” a movie by Atlanta filmmaker Bret Wood. Contributed by Iris Ray
Caption
Alice Lewis is a local model and actress who makes her big screen debut in “Those Who Deserve to Die,” a movie by Atlanta filmmaker Bret Wood. Contributed by Iris Ray

Alice was a newborn baby just two weeks old when she first entered the foster care system. Over the next several years, she transitioned back and forth between her birth family and foster families until she came to live with Kelly and James, a pastor at Community Bible Church in Stockbridge, at age 7.

“I was her seventh mom,” Lewis said.

The first thing Alice remembers about Lewis was her scent. “I loved the way she smelled,” she said.

But Alice had developed a deep distrust of adults. Nothing Kelly and James did could convince Alice this was her forever home.

“She didn’t believe anything we said,” Lewis said.

It wasn’t until the family took a vacation to Disney World that Alice truly believed she was home to stay. Other families had promised her trips to the Magic Kingdom that never materialized.

“We didn’t tell her where we were going until we started seeing the billboards,” said Lewis. And even then, Alice demanded to see the tickets before she would believe it.

Six months after she arrived in the home, Alice was adopted.

RELATED: Watch the trailer for “Those Who Deserve to Die”

The cosplay photo shoots evolved organically, said Lewis. “It was never our intention when we adopted her. She was already playing make-believe and dressing up. One day we were roaming around Target looking at dresses, and I said, ‘This one looks like the Dorothy dress,’” referring to “The Wizard of Oz.”

Caption
In her first cosplay portrait, Alice Lewis dressed as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.” Contributed by Kelly Lewis / Kelly Is Nice Photography

In her first cosplay portrait, Alice Lewis dressed as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.” Contributed by Kelly Lewis / Kelly Is Nice Photography
Caption
In her first cosplay portrait, Alice Lewis dressed as Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz.” Contributed by Kelly Lewis / Kelly Is Nice Photography

Back at home, Alice donned the pale blue dress with a pair of red Converse Chuck Taylors, and Lewis thought she looked so cute, she got out her camera to take pictures.

“She just started doing little princess poses and acting like Dorothy,” said Lewis. “I didn’t have to coach her.”

Next came Alice from “Alice in Wonderland,” Margot from “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and “Carrie.”

Lewis started incorporating educational elements into their photo shoots. For Joan of Arc, they read a book about the saint, watched movies and made the armor together.

“We were complete strangers at first, so it gave us something to bond over,” Lewis said.

It was clear Alice was a natural. She started taking acting classes and studying privately with actor Neko Parham, and she signed up with an acting agency, landing gigs with The Home Depot and Zoo Atlanta.

When it came to finding a child to play the role of Berenice, the bad seed in “Those Who Deserve to Die,” director and screenwriter Bret Wood said he wasn’t exactly sure what he was looking for.

“I didn’t want it to be a typical horror movie with a spooky little girl, like ‘The Shining’ or something like that,” said Wood. “I wanted her to have a voice, to have a personality. To not just be this cute, scary girl.”

Caption
Alice Lewis plays a murderous child in “Those Who Deserve to Die,” premiering June 18 at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema. Contributed by Kino Lorber Inc.

Alice Lewis plays a murderous child in “Those Who Deserve to Die,” premiering June 18 at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema. Contributed by Kino Lorber Inc.
Caption
Alice Lewis plays a murderous child in “Those Who Deserve to Die,” premiering June 18 at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema. Contributed by Kino Lorber Inc.

Wood started the casting process by perusing headshots on local acting websites. All the child actors he saw were smiling and cheerful looking. Then he saw Alice.

“I think in her headshot she had blue hair, a leather jacket and an angry scowl on her face, and immediately I went, ‘Who’s this?’”

The more he learned about Alice, the more he realized she was right for the role.

“I thought, here’s someone who is going to bring something of her own experience to the role rather than me have to dictate what she was going to act like, what she was going to look like, what she was going to sound like.”

Lewis wasn’t concerned about the gory nature of the movie and Alice’s exposure to its violence. She had already been exposed to horror films at an early age.

“When she came to us, she had seen every horror movie with her birth family,” said Lewis. “She loved it. That’s her favorite genre. For her, it had a little bit of nostalgia because it was something she did with her birth family.”

On set, “she was not fazed by it,” said Lewis, who designed the film’s costumes. “She was so fascinated with the behind-the-scenes stuff and the special effects. Getting to see how all that stuff comes to life in film made it even more magical.”

Caption
Alice Lewis as Jon Snow in “Game of Thrones.” Contributed by Kelly Lewis / Kelly Is Nice Photography

Alice Lewis as Jon Snow in “Game of Thrones.” Contributed by Kelly Lewis / Kelly Is Nice Photography
Caption
Alice Lewis as Jon Snow in “Game of Thrones.” Contributed by Kelly Lewis / Kelly Is Nice Photography

Alice doesn’t have any other acting gigs lined up at the moment. Like most teens her age, she’s just enjoying the summer and preparing to start high school in the fall. The only difference is, she’s also looking forward to her big screen debut.

EVENT PREVIEW

"Those Who Deserve to Die."Screening followed by Q&A with principal cast and crew. 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 18. $10. Landmark's Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive, Atlanta. 404- 879-0160, landmarktheatres.com.

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks