This trip was sponsored by Disney. All opinions are my own.
So far we have shared our interviews with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, Luke Evans and Josh Gad and our Beauty and the Beast experience at Williams Sonoma. Be sure to read all of them because they are a lot of fun to get to know more about the characters and the people who play them. Beauty and the Beast comes to theaters tomorrow! I have already seen it twice and I am still excited. It is an incredible movie that brings so much of the old together with a richer, deeper story that you will fall in love with all over again!
Why did you want to be a part of this film?
Gugu: Well, for me I was obsessed with the original Disney film. It came out when I was eight years old, I had the cassette tape, made my mom play in the car on the way to ballet and tap and modern, every day. I knew all the words to all the songs and you know, it is still my favorite Disney movie so I had a very personal connection to it. When my agent called and said they wanted me to play a part in this I squealed on the phone, so loudly. I think it was probably the biggest reaction to getting a job that I’ve ever had. I think that little eight-year-old inside of me was just so excited and it sort of connects you back to growing up with Disney movies. And then this cast is just phenomenal.
Audra: When I got the call I’d known that the movie was being made and I was excited about it and my agent called and he said, ‘so, Beauty and the Beast,’ he’s like, ‘yeah, they’re turning into this, isn’t that great?’ he’s like, ‘yeah, so they want you to be in it.’ I was like, ‘excuse me? That doesn’t make sense. I was like, ‘wh–, what? Why? I mean–.’ But, if Disney calls, like I said, I would sell churros at the park for them, you know what I mean? It’s just Disney. You want to be a part of it, so yes, it’s just an automatic yes.
Audra, Every time you sang it lit up the screen. What did you do as a child to learn to sing?
Audra: A lot of it had to do with my parents and my mom. I was a really hyperactive child, struggling actually, and my parents were struggling with trying to figure out how to help me. I was an overdramatic child and having a hard time in school and whatnot. They went to the local dinner theater one night and saw a little junior troop that performed before the main musical and it was a group of kids. I loved to sing at home and all that stuff and I had all this extra energy and drama inside of me. And they said, ‘maybe this is gonna help her.’ And so, I auditioned for that when I was nine years old and that set me on my path and so I really have my parents to thank for looking for something that would be right for me to express who I was and find a way to channel that energy. And so that’s what started me on my path.
How as it different preparing for your role for the animated parts versus the regular parts?
Gugu: Well, for me it was just so liberating. I mean, I’ve never been offered a role like this before obviously you know, I had to come from doing some quite intense dramatic roles and the idea of playing a feather duster, I sort of thought was so whimsical and fun. But, also you know, it’s a lot of vocal work in the recording studio and finding not just the singing but finding the voice of the character, working on the French accent with the dialect coach and also just really going back to that childhood thing of ‘let’s pretend.’ You’re not limited by your face and your body.
Audra: You have so much more freedom I think. It’s just play really, when you get this huge team who are creating these CGI characters. I just found it incredibly liberating. Bill Condon, such an incredible leader, and an amazing director. And you feel very safe with him, so when you’re doing the vocal work for the characters, it’s just you, the recording engineers and Bill. Bill’s in there with you and he’s saying, ‘okay, now try one like this.’ He’s in there playing, you know, with you in a way. And it’s truly just make believe. For the wardrobe, it was like, ‘okay, she’s kind of trying to get to the staircase at this point so, grunt a little bit.’ ‘grunt like this, okay now snore this way, snore this way, snore and sing a high note.’ I mean so we had the time and the freedom to explore and then they take that, they go and work with the CGI folks and then the CGI folks bring back something. And then you can then put on top of that, so it’s a real collaborative effort. It takes a village, it takes a massive village for this one.
What was it like with your costumes and make-up?
Gugu: Jacqueline is an incredible costume designer. On my first costume fitting, she said, ‘okay, would you like to meet your object?’ In the room, they had the feather duster on a stand and I was kind of taken aback because Plumette is quite different to the feather duster Fifi, who’s more sort of mopped like, in the original. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that they made her into this sort of flying dove like, peacock like, very dainty creation.
So, in the costume fitting, you know, we played around with the bird theme and I had a big tail feather on one of my costumes, a huge bustle which also worked with the period. And feathers, I had feathers in my hair. We played around with this sort of Marilyn Monroe style wig so it was kind of fun for me to be blonde which is just so outrageous and audacious. We had feathers in my hair and so it was really just channeling a mixture of that playful, flirty Marilyn thing with feathers.
Audra: We both got to be blonde. But with the wardrobe, the first time I sat in the chair and the dress being so large that I couldn’t walk in any regular door to get to set, I had walk sideways. Once they started putting the wig on I had to crunch. They put the first part on and I was like, ‘wow, that’s big, that’s tall’ and she said, ‘hold on.’ and, ‘the top part,’ ‘okay,’ then birds and stuff started going, I was like ‘oh my goodness what is going on?’ But, it makes perfect sense because once she’s transformed it to the wardrobe, the top of the wardrobe if you notice is her wig. And you couldn’t even see them but this is the detail that Disney pays attention too. The shoes that I wore were the feet of the wardrobe, so if you’d actually seen my shoes, they curled up into the exact sort of way that the legs of the wardrobe and all of that. I mean and even within the design of like our make-up and all of it is echoed in our objects that we were playing.
The wig was literally two feet off of my head and so heavy and the dress was so big. So, not only could I not sit down but I could not hold my head up for long periods of time. So, the set carpenters built me a lean-to. It was humungous, about three feet taller than that slab of wood that had a bicycle seat. So I could kind of just perch on that and lean back like that during, between takes, because it was also enormous.
Gugu: But, we do these things for Disney.
What are you hoping audiences take away from seeing this film?
Gugu: I hope that people will get swept up in the romance and the music is just so iconic. I love the message that beauty is found within. It’s an oldie but a goodie. But really for this film the idea to look a little deeper, see the human within each and every person, even if the exterior is something that intimidates you or you’re not familiar with. There’s always a human underneath it all. And I think to try to connect to somebody’s soul, is really important.
Audra: That love. There’s always the love conquers all, love wins and it’s not about just giving the love but loving yourself too. I think that’s what’s so important. Realizing that what you have inside of you is most important and the outside doesn’t necessarily matter. And I’m sure that’s what people are gonna take away from this
What was it like to actually see everything come together?
Gugu: It was breathtaking. I saw it for the first time just two nights ago at the Hollywood premiere and to see it with an audience and people are applauding after musical numbers at a screen it brought back all those memories of those songs. There’s a couple of new songs in this version, a song, Days in the Sun and also the Beast has his own solo. It was a really-
Audra: It was overwhelming. I saw it at the London premiere and I was so shocked at how moved I was. And I really felt that I was watching it as an innocent sort of general audience member. Not someone who had been a part of the film. And I hate watching myself on film or on screen at all and this I sort of felt completely removed from it. I didn’t really see myself up there, I was just in the world and I was weeping at the end and I was like, ‘I was there, I was in the scene. Why am I crying so much?’ You know, but it was just you get swept up, you get absolutely swept up.
What was your favorite scene or what made you connect with that movie and say, ‘oh it’s beautiful’ and that feeling of ‘oh I was there.’
Audra: I think it was just the way that the entire film came together. To the point where I couldn’t see the seams. And I knew where the seams were but I couldn’t see them. And in doing that I wasn’t able to sort of like critique this and critique that and listen to, I was just swept up in everything. I fell into Brigadoon along with everybody else.
Gugu: And I think it’s the power of the score as well. It transports you. There’s just something about that music that is so romantic and hits you on an emotional level that you can’t not be swept up in it.
Audra: Yeah, yeah.
Your love story and your connection with Ewan was lovely. Did you do any of the tapings together or if it was separate?
Gugu: No, unfortunately not, although we did first meet in a dance rehearsal and I think Dan was saying the same thing about learning to waltz with Emma. It’s a great way to get to know your co-star. We were learning the ballroom dance for the end scene and that was kind of really fun. And when you’re both learning something together and stumbling and Ewan is such a generous actor and got such a great sense of humor. So it was great working with him.
This interview was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed learning more about both of these beautiful talented women. Beauty and the Beast is in theaters everywhere tomorrow (but you can go to late night screenings tonight). Go see it and you will understand for yourself how incredible Disney’s Beauty and the Beast truly is!
Here is the trailer for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast:
The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told. “Beauty and theBeast” 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 of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.
Directed by Bill Condon based on the 1991 animated film, “Beauty and the Beast,” the screenplay is written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos and produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman, p.g.a. and Todd Lieberman, p.g.a. with Jeffrey Silver, Thomas Schumacher and Don Hahn serving as executive producers. Alan Menken, who won two Academy Awards® (Best Original Score and Best Song) for the animated film, provides the score, which includes new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Howard Ashman, as well as three new songs written by Menken and Tim Rice.
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