Some of the team and cast behind the live-action adaption of “Beauty and the Beast” gathered in Los Angeles to discuss what it took to make such an iconic animated feature into live-action. The film opens in theaters nationwide on March 17th. The panel included the director Bill Condon, famed composer and Disney Legend Alan Menken, and stars: Dan Stevens (Beast), Emma Watson (Belle), Josh Gad (LeFou), Luke Evans (Gaston), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe), and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette).
The director and cast talked about how they approached bringing the film and their characters to life.
After the initial “terror” of bringing the animated film to live action settled in Bill explained how you start to look at what needs to change because of the medium and dealing with real actors on set. The more exaggerated animated actions need to be brought into the realm of what can be done. Then you can start to think “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.”
Discussing the role the film and musical had on her growing up – “it’s really remarkable to play someone that I’m almost sure had an influence on the woman that I have become. 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. 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… 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.”
Dan discussed the physical challenges of playing the beast. “just to support that muscle suit on stilts was a challenge that I’d never really encountered before.” He went on to discuss how the backstory for the prince and his love of dancing required additional preparations for him “I trained myself like a dancer and learned, three quite different dances for this movie.” Dan commented on how getting to know his costar on the dance floor first helped him in the film and how he wants to translate that to future projects “ I’m going to try and do with every movie I do now, whether there’s a waltz in the movie or not.”
Luke discussed his thoughts on playing a villain. “I just think a villain shouldn’t start out as the bad guy. A villain should end up being the bad guy”. Gaston fit this bill starting off as a hero to the village. Then throughout the course of the film evolves into the villain as jealousy takes root. “Gaston as opposed to other Disney villains, he has no book of spells, he has no magic powers. He’s a human being, and he uses his status within that village to rouse a crowd and he does it all from just being himself.” This culminates “when he finally fights the Beast on the rooftops. You see this man out for blood, and 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.”