While in L.A. for the Be Our Guest Event our group of bloggers had the chance to sit down for an exclusive chat with Emma Watson (“Belle”) & Dan Stevens (“The Beast / Prince Adam”), stars of Disney’s Live Action adaptation of Beauty And The Beast (in theaters 3/17/17).
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a live-action re-telling of the studio’s animated classic which refashions the classic characters from the tale as old as time for a contemporary audience, staying true to the original music while updating the score with several new songs. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince within.
Having already seen the movie, it was nice to see that these two actors have the same great chemistry and respect for each other in-person as they do on screen. They both seemed truly excited to talk about their characters, and their experience of filming Beauty and The Beast.
Below are a few highlights of our interview.
Q: What was the process for auditioning for the parts?
EW: It was about wanting to explore whether or not I could sing. I think, really, that was the major question mark, so I scouted out an audition tape, and I went away and then kind of did that classic thing of waiting on tentative hooks to get the call, and to hear whether or not it was up to standard, and thankfully it was, so I got offered the role which was just very, very exciting, really.
DS: For me, I put a song on tape for Bill Condon, the Beast song from the Broadway musical which we ended up not using in the movie, because the Beast doesn’t sing in the animated film, of course. Fortunately he liked.
Q: What was it like seeing yourselves in full costume the first time?
EW: It was kind of amazing. I think because it’s a fairytale; I play kind of an archetype, really. She’s more of a symbol, kind of the way that I got into character and I sort of started to feel like I was understanding her really well, through her costume. It was like working on putting together the boots that she wore and she had kind of these slightly scruffy socks, she had the bloomers underneath her skirt which meant that she could swing her leg over a horse. And creating the kind of tool belt that she has on for when she’s inventing things, and it will carry her books and, all these little details. She actually has a ring on this finger which I wear from my mom, and all these tiny things. I really felt like I was starting to get to know her, so her costume was really important for me, actually. It was, like, the way in.
DS: You look stunning.
DS: I didn’t really have a costume. Well, I did have a costume. The made costumes for the Beast. They were really giant coats that he wore, and this massive shredded cloak, but I never actually got to put it on. I spent the whole time, as the Beast, in a forty pound muscle suit on stilts covered in gray lycra. So I looked pretty odd, but nothing like the Beast that you see in the movie.
Q: In which ways were you able to shape the character of Belle to help continue the empowerment of future generations that will be seeing this film, both young and impressionable?
EW: That’s a really good question. There was talk of a wedding perhaps at the end, and that had not been in the original, and I was sort of like, oh, sorry, can I just point out that this isn’t in the original. We need to stay faithful to the original, and I felt strongly about that. I felt very strongly that she needed to have a vocation to fill her time with, and this is very important to me. So we kind of co-opted what was originally kind of crazy ole Maurice’s identity, and I was like, well, that’s not the direction that Kevin’s taking the role in. Could I co-opt that for Bell, and we had her design this washing machine that allows her to have more time to read and to teach. That was super important to me. I think also, and people ask me a lot, what’s it like being a Disney princess? And I go, well, actually, Belle isn’t a princess. She’s actually one of the few Disney young women who actually isn’t a princess. She’s an ordinary girl from an ordinary village, that’s very important about her. She has no aspirations to be a princess. She has no aspirations to marry a prince. So there was a line in the movie, originally, about Audra, the chest of drawers says to me, oh you know, we’ll make you a gown fit for a princess, and I asked Bill, could I say, I’m not a princess? And he was like, yeah, sure. And so things like that, I felt like I was protecting and defending Belle’s sort of original DNA and just making sure that we stay truthful and faithful to this very independent young woman.
And I thank you for that as a mother.
Q: Your dance scenes were amazing. How long did it take you to prepare for that?
DS: Wow, it was about three months… We did the Beast Waltz. I have three dances in the film, two, unless you’re counting the walk through the village. It was a lot, a lot of dance training for this, and particularly for that iconic waltz.
EW: But it’s kind of a four-step process, so we learned, we learned to pass.
DS: Yes, with different partners.
EW: We learned it together. That ballroom is so huge that actually, kind of filling the space was a kind of challenge in itself.
DS: It’s quite a, quite a process.
DS: Yeah, waltzing on stilts. Not something I thought I would ever be able to say.
Q: How much of it was CGI and how much was actually you? Also, Emma, did you have in-put into Bell’s custom?
DS: So to answer to your first question, it’s all me, kind of. It was motion capture puppeteering of the suit. I’m inside a giant muscle suit on stilts, so the Beast’s body was me moving inside there. The facial capture was done separately, and every two weeks I’d go into this booth, and ten thousand UV dots would be sprayed on my face, and twenty seven little cameras would capture everything I’ve been doing for the past two weeks just with my face. So it was my face driving that Beast’s face and, they turned that information digitally into the Beast’s face and made it onto the body that I’d been working on the set. So to answer to your question, lots of CGI and also, it is me driving it all and, it’s an amazing new technology that’s never been used this extensively before, and it’s very, very exciting.
EW: Yes, I was very heavily involved in the dress. Trying to get the dress right was really difficult because we needed to dress her to serve a number of different purposes and functions. So it needed to be of the period, originally we had started off with a very kind of like seventeenth century traditional dress, but then we realized that it didn’t do that really cute twirly thing that it does in the animation, when the dress, like, spins behind her?
We were like, damn. It has to do that, otherwise it’s not right. Back to the drawing board. It’s gotta twirl. It’s gotta be seventeenth century, but the bottom’s gotta be different, so let me try another version of it, which kind of did have that movement. It was lightness, so we made it out of chiffon, and then we were like, she’s also gotta ride a horse in it, and she’s gotta be able to go into the third part of the movie which is where she goes back to see her father. So it also needs to feel like an action hero dress which is why the front of the dress looks a bit like a coat of armor.
It has gold flecks in it, and it had that kind of warrior element to it, as well. So, yeah, we kind of created a warrior, modern seventeenth century twisty, twirly dress hybrid.
DS: There was a lot of chewing and throwing with that dress design, and during that extensive design period, Emma came over to my house in London for dinner, and we were talking about the dress… And what the dress was gonna look like, and my five year old daughter at the time overheard our conversation, and she scurried into the next room with a pen a paper and came back about a half an hour later with five different dress designs. And Emma was very sweet. She sat down with Willow and she looked through them all, and they chose which one they thought they should go with. Anyway, a few weeks later, Willow came on set and saw Emma in the finished dress, and she’s, yep, that’s the one. So in her mind, she designed that dress.
Q: What would you say to girls that feel different and odd in their own way?
EW: I think- what I remember being so torturous about school was that is your whole world. It’s like this microcosm; you don’t know, the people that are in your class, that’s your entire universe. That is your planet, and if you don’t fit with that, with those however many people are in your class, it’s miserable. I think what my mom really said to me was that, look, it might feel like the end of the world right now, that you don’t quite fit, but one day, you might be really grateful for that. And it’s very hard to see at the time but there’s a big, wide world out there with people who have diverse interests, and perspectives, and opinions. And you kind of have to just go out there and find your tribe; find your kindred spirits; find, find the people that resonate with you and, you feel at home with. I’m grateful that I didn’t because I don’t really particularly want to be like any of who were the cool girls in my class anymore, really. I’m glad that I was different. I’m glad that I was a bit odd and I didn’t really fit in. So, obviously, all of this is easy to say in retrospect, but I hope helpful.
Q: Which one book would you recommend to every young girl to read?
EW: That’s a really good question. I think that’s actually something I’ve been trying to explore more, recently. I mean, the Judy Bloom’s, Oh God, It’s Me, Margaret; fantastic. I think, for me, it had never occurred to me, which seems ridiculous now, it never occurred to me how few female authors there were on my English literature curriculum, and I’m an English literature major. I’m shocked by how few there were. And I guess I would say that part of it is the content, that’s important, that another part of it is making educators and children themselves aware of women’s voices, you know, in our curriculum. Are we celebrating female authors? Are we celebrating female artists? Is there any balance there? I think that’s also half of the battle.
What Emma thinks of Belle:
I think as a child, I had a very hard time working out sometime to why people weren’t kind to other people, and trying to understand, and I think what is so beautiful about Belle is that she’s so nonjudgmental. It’s her ability to see beyond the surface of things and to understand that everyone has a story, and you don’t always know what that story is, and to kind of look deeper into things before you make a judgement. And, so there’s a kind of compassion and empathy there which I think is kind of a relief because I don’t think anyone is inherently evil. I think there’s light and dark in everyone, and I think that she symbolizes that very well.
The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Oscar® winner Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s eccentric, but lovable father; Josh Gad as Lefou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Golden Globe® nominee Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, the candelabra; Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; six-time Tony Award® winner Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe, the wardrobe; Oscar nominee Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and two-time Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.
Beauty and The Beast opens in theaters everywhere on March 17th!
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FTC Disclaimer: I attended an expense paid trip by Disney to LA press events for Beauty and The Beast. I was not asked or influenced to write a positive blog post. All opinions shared are always honest and my own. This post contains no affiliate links.