A Talk With The Cast And Crew Of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

The cast and crew on updating the heroine and the challenges of a live-action fairy tale.

Beauty and the Beast comes out tomorrow! Get your tickets here!

Disney’s live-action version of Beauty and the Beast will hit theaters this weekend and we got a chance to chat with the cast and crew of film. The fairy tale about the young woman who falls in love with the Beast, leading him to find his humanity again has been around for around three centuries, but the 1991 Disney animated film was the vehicle for the story’s entrenchment in pop culture. The live-action film stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Audra McDonald, was directed by Bill Condon with music, including three new songs by Alan Menken.

Watson talked about playing a role that was already famous in the world of fairy tales as well as beloved in animated form. “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." "I want" songs are typical of Disney Princesses in the animation revival. Think “Let It Go” from Frozen. Watson continued, “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. And I think when I knew I was taking on this role, 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…I had my fists up, you know, I was ready to fight because she was so crucial for me..I love that in our version Belle 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.”

Condon spoke to us about Belle being a feminist hero. “Emma is an activist. She’s someone who wants to help other women learn how to read (which Belle does in the film). It’s great. It’s a great 21st century twist on that. I think more than anything it’s speaking directly to the issue that’s always been a thorny thing in this story, which is falling in love with your captor. Stockholm Syndrome. And we really were careful to make it clear that Belle is highly aware at every moment of what her position is, and fighting and scheming to get out of there. And playing to escape. But even at the point where they do bond over certain things, he says to her, ‘Could you ever be happy here?’ Her response is, ‘Can anyone be happy if they aren’t free?’”

He spoke about one thing that they didn’t port over from the original. “I would say one thing that was in the original animated film, the reissue of it ten years later, was a song called ‘Human Again’. And that we didn’t do because it’s bigger than ‘Be Our Guest’. You know what I mean? We were like, oh God, ‘Be Our Guest’ took two years. We won’t get this movie out until 2020 if we do that!”

Stevens spoke about the physical challenges of wearing a padded suit and stilts to play the role. “I think just to support that muscle suit on stilts was a challenge that I’d never really encountered before. I’ve definitely been taking a more physical approach to my roles in the last few years and just training myself in different ways. I think with the backstory 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…there was a lot of work dancing in stilts.”

Evans spoke about the vain Gaston and how he approached the role. He said, “A villain should end up being the bad guy, and I think with Gaston, outwardly, you know, to a lot of people in that village, 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. He’s got a great pal who makes everybody, you know, support him and sing about him. And I wanted the audience to – in a way, I just thought, let’s make them like him a little bit first, 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.”

Menken spoke about the new songs in the film. He told us, “One number is called, ‘How Does a Moment Last Forever?’ and Maurice (Kevin Kline) is an inventor and he always was before, but he’s working on a music box. He’s talking about how do you make a moment last forever and how to you hold on to something that you love. And it really is a reflection of the backstory he and Belle share. Celine Dion sings it over the end titles. There is another one called ‘Days in the Sun’ which is a lullaby really, which takes place when all of the objects in the castle, the Beast and Belle are turning in for the night and reflecting back on the days before the spell.” Then last is one for the Beast, when he lets Belle go. We had a song in the Broadway show called, ‘If I Can’t Love Her,’ which ended Act I. I loved that song so much. That was hard to not bring over, but the truth is, musicals have a two act structure and film has a three act structure. The analogous moment is not when the Beast drives Belle away, but when he lets her go out of love…so we wrote a new number and it’s called ‘Evermore,’ and it’s when the Beast lets Belle go because he loves her, even knowing that the spell won’t be broken.”

If you’ve been looking at the news at all, you know there have been protests over the fact that Gad’s character Le Fou is gay. (Some would argue that this has always been obvious.) Condon addressed the issue by saying, “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 in theaters on March 17, 2017. Are you excited for the film? Let us know in the comments.

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