It’s a tale as old as time. The Beauty and the Beast title may be the same, but there are new storytellers behind the lens and new actors to play the characters, led by Emma Watson who plays Belle and Dan Stevens who plays the prince aka The Beast. Alan Menken returns as the film’s music composer, arranging our favorite songs as old as rhyme plus adding new music to make our hearts sing.
While the film bears a striking resemblance to its animated counterpart, the new additional material gives a backstory to our title characters and the addition of a gay subplot makes the film more contemporary. But behind the scenes, director Bill Condon talks about how he shaped the classic film into live-action for a modern-day audience. Plus the cast talk about their characters and less than memorable experiences riding a horse.
1- Belle Inspired Emma Watson To Be The Fierce Advocate She Is Today
The film may be set in 18th century France, but Beauty and the Beast has a lot of contemporary themes. That does not take away from Belle being a strong and intelligent woman who is perfectly capable of making her own decisions. That trait clearly resonated with Emma Watson who plays as Belle. Watson is an advocate for feminism and women’s rights. She was appointed the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014 and continues to empower women around the world.
A lot of that carries over in the film, and the actress channeled that same fierce spirit into the character. “I think the first time I saw Paige O’Hara sing Belle (Reprise), you know, it’s kind of the I want song of all I want songs,” said Watson. ” I was so young I didn’t even know what I was tapping into but there was something about that spirit, there was something about that energy that I just knew she was my champion.” The character clearly resonated with her throughout the years and well into her career, so when she got the role to play Belle, she immediately knew that she had to do justice to the character “I wanted to make sure that I was championing that same spirit, those same values, that same young woman that made me a part of who I am today,” said Watson.
Though the animated and live-action character are both outsiders in their village, the one thing that separates the two is that the live-action one is more vocal about being an empowered woman. “In our film, she’s actually an activist within her own community,” said Watson. “She’s teaching other young girls who are part of the village to read. It’s moments like that where you could see her expanding beyond just her own little world and trying to kind of grow it, I loved that.”
Both the character and Watson share a love of books. The actress has recently dropped off a selection of her favorite books in major metropolitan areas, hoping those who pick it up will read it. She sees Belle as a symbol that books can be can be “rebellious, incredibly empowering, and liberating.” She adds, They are a means to travel to – you can travel to places in the world that you would never be able to, you know, under other circumstances.”
2 – How Emma Watson Made It Easy For Other Cast Members To Say Yes
When Disney makes an offer for anyone to be a part of these successful live-action remakes, it’s hard to say no. I said yes the minute that Disney called because you say yes when Disney calls,” laughed Audra McDonald, who cited the company’s theme park churros as one reason you say yes. But one particular thing that the actress liked about what this film has to say to kids was what Belle represent. And she couldn’t be more confident being a part of the film knowing that Emma Watson would be playing Belle.
“My daughter is someone who now asks for people to donate money to charities for her birthday gifts instead of presents,” said McDonald. She credits Watson for shaping her child to be that way. She knew full well that Watson would make Belle “somebody who was independent, who was strong, who was educated, who was sticking up for girls and women, and who does all the rescuing in the film.” She added, “That’s why I knew it was going to be important for me to be a part of and for my kids to see.”
3 – Dan Steven’s Dancing Gets Stilted
Being human is one thing, but to play a giant hideous beast is a completely different animal. For Dan Stevens, it was quite a challenge to play The Beast. Not only did he have to wear a muscle-bound motion capture suit, but he had to do that while on stilts. “I think just to support that muscle suit on stilts was a challenge that I’d never really encountered before, said Stevens. “I’ve definitely been taking a more physical approach to my roles in the last few years and just training myself in different ways.”
After much discussion and learning more about the Beast’s backstory, Stevens trained himself to be a dancer, learning a few different styles of dancing in order for himself to get deeper into the role. This would help him get to know Watson a lot better, which in the end helped build better chemistry between the two. “Getting to know Emma, first and foremost, on the dance floor was probably, I think is a great way to get to know your costar, laughed Stevens.” He joked “I’m going to try and do with every movie I do now, whether there’s a waltz in the movie or not.”
However, Stevens said Watson put a lot of trust in him not to step on her toes because the iconic waltz on the ballroom floor had to be perfect. “That sort of crucial part of the title really, the ‘and the’ bit, you know, and that’s sort of the essence of a waltz being two people in this whirlwind,” said Stevens. The actor said that it was much more than a dance, it was storytelling and a “very crucial part of the story in that big turning point.”
4 – Josh Gad Doesn’t Like To Horse Around
Watching Beauty and the Beast, one can’t help but think that director Bill Condon put a perfect cast together. Everyone has such great chemistry with each other. However, that cannot be said for Josh Gad, who plays LeFou, and his horse. Apparently, the two do not work well together, so much so that the actor believes he should file a lawsuit against it. Of course, this is just all a joke, but the actor recalls a time on set when he and his horse did not see eye-to-eye.
“I learned a couple of great lessons on this movie, one of which is that Jews don’t belong on horses. Specifically, overweight Jews,” joked Gad. He claimed that his horse was an anti-Semite and that it was found in the wilds of England. But during one of the takes, Gad says that the horse would not follow the simplest of commands, which consisted of just walking side-by-side fellow co-star Luke Evans’ horse. simple. “The two of them worked on The Hobbit together,” joked Gad. “We share a trailer,” chimed Evans. But instead of walking side-by-side, Gad says his horse would moonwalk. “He walked backward. Then, he ran through multiple extras in the village, ran around, and through pillars,” said Gad. After cut was called, the actor said the trainer told him that the horse has never done this before.
5 – How A Villain Unleashes His Inner Beast
We all know Gaston can be quite the looker. “He is the hero. He’s a bit of a stud, you know. He’s got the hair, he’s got the looks, he’s always impeccably dressed, not a bad singing voice,” says Luke Evans. But he isn’t the brightest bulb in the room. As hard as he tries, he cannot win over Belle’s affection. Still, the actor believes Gaston should not start out as the villain, but instead he should earn that title. “I just think a villain shouldn’t start out as the bad guy,” said Evans. “A villain should end up being the bad guy.” Because Gaston has a garnered a reputation in the village he believes it should be enough to win Belle’s heart. But it doesn’t work. Still, that doesn’t mean the audience should dislike him from the start.
Again, he believes that the villainy should be earned. “I just thought, let’s make them like him a little bit first,” said Evans. All of this is done very subtlety. We start to see that Gaston is not used to being rejected, from a direct “no” to a door slam in the face, he believes that Belle will change her mind. So a hint of jealousy starts to creep in when he first hears how Belle speaks of the Beast, and because he has no book of spells or magic powers, “he uses his status within that village to rouse a crowd and he does it all from just being himself,” said Evans. “Which is quite terrifying in a way.” The actor said, “it’s a scary moment to see the arc of somebody who was the loveable buffoon of the village to become the Beast almost, the monster.”
6 – Making The Most Elegant Inanimate Objects Feel Lovely And Alive
As tough as it was for Dan Stevens to play the Beast, it was a more interesting challenge for Gugu Mbatha-Raw to play the elegant feather duster Plumette. Like Watson, she was a fan of the original as a child, so when she was offered a role in the film, she was really excited. “to be able to embrace the feather duster Plumette and to also be able to really not be limited by you own face and your own body that you can really, as I say, just play, was so joyful,” said Mbatha-Raw. While she and Ewan McGregor worked on their French accent with a dialect coach, she said Bill encouraged them to “embrace that sort of inner child and that real sort of let’s pretend kind of freedom.”
8 – New Stories For A Tale As Old As Tim
Though the story of Beauty and the Beast ages well, adapting it for a new audience means that there’s likely to be new stories to tell. The additional backstories for Belle and Beast give us a slight idea of why these characters are the way they are, but its LeFou being gay that is causing the most outrage. Still, Condon doesn’t seem to be phased by it. “I talked before about how we translate this into a live act – that means filling out the characters,” said Condon. “It’s also a translation to 2017, you know? And what is this movie about? What has this story always been about?”
He said that the movie is about discovering your identity and coming to terms with it, and the director says they did that in a very Disney way by including everybody. “I think this movie is for everybody, and on the screen you’ll see everybody, and that was important to me,” said Condon.
Media were treated to a performance by the legendary Alan Menken who performed songs from the film. He was later joined by Beauty and the Beast actors Josh Gad and Luke Evans on the song Gaston.
Beauty and the Beast opens in theaters on March 17, 2017.