Disney’s animated version of “Beauty and the Beast” hit the big screen just over 25 yrs ago, and this week, Disney’s live-action version hits theatres everywhere. Getting from animation to live action is a journey in and of itself, one that Director Bill Condon, and stars Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Josh Gad (Le Fou), Audra McDonald (Garderobe), Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Sir Ian McKellen (Cogsworth) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette) took and created a gorgeous, fresh new look for a tale as old as time. Alan Menken returns to give us the amazing music that we all know and love, but also adding a couple new songs to round out the story a little more, including a new song for Celine Dion.
We got to hang with the cast (minus McGregor and McKellen) at a recent press conference for the upcoming release and found a few things everyone should know about the live-action “Beauty and the Beast”.
- Bill Condon needed to “get over the terror first” of making the live action version of a movie so beloved by many.
- But still, he knew he was creating something brand new. “Emma’s going to be playing a character on real locations who has to fall in love with the beast. So all the behavior which is, you know, let’s face it, an animated film is sort of, you know, a little more exaggerated, has to come into reality,” said Condon. “Once you start to investigate that, then you realize, wow, there are questions maybe you never asked before that you want to know about. How did Belle and Maurice wind up in this village where they’re outsiders, you know, and that leads to then new songs and suddenly you’re creating something new.”
- Alan Menken had meetings with Condon about what they would add. Menken stated, “Maurice and getting into the backstory of how Maurice and Belle came to the town and backstory for the Beast, how he became such a cold and callous young man, and also trying to root ourselves much more in the time and place, 18th Century France, and that really helped immensely.”
- Audra McDonald exclaimed she said yes immediately because it was Disney asking, and that “if they told me that, you know, you were gonna sell churros in the park, I’d be like, yeah, I’m there, I’ll do it!”
- Emma Watson is an inspiration to Audra’s daughter. “My daughter is someone who now asks for people to donate money to charities for her birthday gifts instead of presents,” said McDonald, “and that’s because of you, Emma.”
- McDonald also added that it was knowing that Emma would be Belle is why she felt it would be important for her kids to see. She said, “knowing full well that Emma was going to make sure that Belle was 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. That’s why I knew it was going to be important for me to be a part of and for my kids to see.”
- Emma on what Belle meant to her: “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. And I just immediately resonated with her. I mean, 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.”
- Emma said what she loved about her version of Belle was that she is “not only kind of awed and doesn’t fit in, and you know, you see her reading, and you see her not really a part of the community. In our film she’s actually an activist within her own community. She’s teaching other young girls who are part of the village to read, and you know, 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, and yeah, that was amazing to get to do.”
- The Beast, in the live-action version, was a dancer in his past. Says Stevens, “we decided that the prince before he was the Beast was a dancer, that he loved to dance, and so I trained myself like a dancer and learned, you know, three quite different dances for this movie.”
- He also joked that he would waltz with all his co-stars from now on, because it was “a great way to get to know your co-star.”
- Luke Evans wanted the audience to like Gaston, just to start and “so that when the cracks start to appear, which they do very subtly, even from the door slam, you know, there’s something inside of him that he’s like, I’m not used to this, this isn’t how it goes, you know…”
- Stevens stated that Gaston is “a human being, and he uses his status within that village to rouse a crowd and he does it all from just being himself, which is quite terrifying in a way. So I played on that, I played on the humanity of the character as much as he is larger than life.”
- Josh Gad has sung for Disney before, and is a Broadway star in his own right, so it wasn’t the song and dance he had to learn. It was horseback riding which he exclaimed jokingly, “I learned a couple of great lessons on this movie, one of which is that Jews don’t belong on horses. Specifically overweight Jews.”
- “Bill encouraging us to, you know, embrace that sort of inner child and that real sort of let’s pretend kind of freedom,” said Gugu Mbatha-Raw of playing the feather duster, Plumette. “And for me, you know, having done a few serious roles that year, you know, 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.”
- When asked about the revelation of Le Fou’s sexuality, Condon said, “You know, I talked before about how we translate this into a live act – that means filling out the characters. It’s also a translation to 2017, you know? And what is this movie about? What has this story always been about? For 300 years it’s about looking closer, going deeper, you know, accepting people for who they really are, and in a very Disney way we are including everybody. I think this movie is for everybody, and on the screen you’ll see everybody, and that was important to me, I think to all of us.”
Beauty and the Beast opens March 17th.