This trip was sponsored by Disney. All opinions are my own.
The countdown is on! Only a few short days until you can go and see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the new live-action film starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. I can honestly say I was brought to tears several times through the movie because they intertwined so much of the original into this spectacular movie. I grew up with the animated version and I watch it with my kids all the time. They can’t wait to see this new movie. Get your tickets now– it comes out this weekend!
Last week on my trip to LA for the #BeOurGuestEvent we had the opportunity to sit down with some of the amazing talent from the movie Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It was a great experience and I loved every minute of it. Today we are sharing our interview with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Both of these talented people were so genuine and nice. It was truly enjoyable chatting with them about the movie and life.
When Emma and Dan came in they were so happy and full of energy and that continued throughout the interview. They even enjoyed seeing The Beast and Bell toy figures that I left on the table. My kids think it is so cool that we have a beast toy that Dan Stevens was holding. I need to get some pictures printed and put them on the wall by the toy in my office.
I loved hearing everything they had to share during the interview. I felt like I really got to know them better and to understand their roles in the movie better as well. You could see the respect and admiration they had for each other and that carried through in the movie. The on-screen chemistry was fantastic! I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!
What was the process for auditioning for the parts?
Emma: I think it was about wanting to explore whether or not I could sing. I think that was the major question mark, so I was scouted on audition tape, and I went away. Then did that classic thing of waiting on tentative hooks to get the call, and to hear to whether or not it was up to standard and it thankfully was, so I got offered the role which was just very, very exciting, really.
Dan: I put a song on tape for Bill Condon, and I sang the Beast song from the Broadway musical which we ended up not using in the movie, but there it was, because the Beast doesn’t sing in the animated film. Fortunately, he liked it.
What was it like seeing yourselves in full costume the first time?
Emma: It was kind of amazing, [LAUGHS]. I think because Belle, you know, it’s a fairytale. I play kind of an architype, really. She’s more of a symbol. The way that I got into character and sort of started to feel like I was understanding her really well, was through her costume. It was working on putting together the boots that she wore and she had kind of these slightly scruffy socks, and 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 (points to right hand) which is actually one that I wear which is one 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 the way in.
Dan: I didn’t really have a costume. Well, I did have a costume. They 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, anyway, 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.
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?
Emma: There was talk of a wedding perhaps at the end, and that had not been in the original, and I was sort of like can I just point out 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. Actually, people ask me a lot what’s it like being a Disney princess? And I go, well, actually, Belle isn’t a princess, [LAUGHS].
She’s actually one of the few in that line of young women who actually isn’t a princess. She’s an ordinary girl from an ordinary village and actually that’s very important about her, and she has no aspirations to be a princess. She has no aspirations to marry a prince. And 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, if I could say actually, I’m not a princess?
And he was like, yeah, sure. And so little things like that where I just 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.
Your dance scenes were amazing. How long did it take you to prepare for that?
Dan: Wow, it was about three months…
Emma: Mm, hmm.
Dan: Training for that. We did the Beast Waltz and I have three dances in the film. You have two, unless you’re counting your walk through the village, I guess, which is kind of a…
Emma: Kind of a dance…
Dan: Sort of choreographed.
Emma: Song and a dance.
Dan: But no, it was a lot of dance training for this, and particularly for that iconic waltz, and I first of all learned it on the ground.
Emma: But it is kind of a four-step process, so we learned, we learned to pass.
Dan: Yes, with different partners.
Emma: We learned it together.
Dan: Then I graduated to the stilts…
Emma: And then he graduated to the ballroom to- because that ballroom is so huge that actually kind of filling the space and really making it seem as if we were filling that room was a kind of challenge in itself.
Dan: It’s quite a process.
Emma: It’s quite a process, yeah.
Dan: Yeah, waltzing on stilts. Not something I thought I would ever be able to say.
Dan, how much of the beast was CGI and how much was actually you?
Dan: It’s all me, kind of, [LAUGHS]. So 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, and they turned that information digitally into the Beast’s face and mapped it onto the body that I’d been working on the set. So in answer to your question, lots of CGI and also, it is, it is me driving it all and, and it’s an amazing new technology that’s never been used this extensively before, and it’s very, very exciting.
Emma, how much input did you have into the dress of Belle and how her costume was?
Emma: 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, so originally she 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.
So we’re like, okay, back to the drawing board. It’s gotta twirl. All right, so 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 kind of go into the third part of the movie which is where she goes back to see her father. So it also kind of 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’s got gold flecks in it, and it had that kind of warrior element to it, as well. We kind of created a warrior, modern seventeenth century twisty, twirly dress hybrid. 🙂
Dan: 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 sort of 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, 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.
What would you say to girls that feel different and odd in their own way?
Emma: What I remember being so torturous, actually, about school was that that is your whole world. It’s like this microcosm; the people that are in your class, that’s your entire universe. That is your planet, and if you don’t fit with those, however many people are in your class, it’s miserable.
And I think what my mom really said to me was ‘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 like go out there and find your tribe; find your kindred spirits; find the people that resonate with you and that you feel at home with.
And it takes a bit of persistence, and it doesn’t necessarily come overnight and really easily, but actually when I look back on not feeling like I fitted at school, I’m really 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. 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. I hope that’s helpful.
Can you talk about your chemistry on and off camera?
Dan: [LAUGHS] I think I made you laugh just by being in this monstrous muscle suit on stilts.
Emma: That’s true. I think, honestly, the dance scenes are very bonding. When you’re this close away from somebody else’s face it’s kind of awkward and you’re trying- it feels very intimate, and you don’t really know that person. It kind of like forces you to break down a certain number of barriers that would be there without that.
I think also Dan is feminist in his own right. I actually found out on this tour, which I can’t believe he never told me, but he was one of the first people to review Caitlin Moran’s, How to be a Woman, which was one of the books I chose for my book club. He wrote a review of it for one of our English newspapers. You know, and coming into the project he was so excited by the speech I’d given at the UN, and he wanted to make sure that we were collaborators and exploring the masculine and the feminine energies that are in this movie. How to celebrate them both; how to serve them both; how to make sure that they interact in a way which is really dynamic and fun for people to watch.
So I think all of those shared interests- books; our conversations about feminism were just like he was a dream collaborator, really.
Dan: Thanks, Em.
What is important for both of you, for girls and boys, to take away from this movie?
Dan: I remember even for me, the animated film as being a Disney film that was immediately loved by boys and girls. I actually have a great friend of mine who’s now in his mid-thirties. He grew up in the west of England in the countryside, who for him, Belle was his greatest hero, and he used to go into the fields of Somerset and sing, ‘I want to venture in the great wide somewhere’. There’s something about the spirit of Belle that is to be championed in all of us. I think that curiosity, that imagination, that ability to see beneath the surface deep, but also to see beyond your immediate surroundings. And she has tremendous vision in all ways, and I think that’s something to be applauded.
Emma: I think as a child, I had a very hard time working out some time to why people weren’t kind to other people, and trying to understand. 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. You don’t always know what that story is and to look deeper into things before you make a judgment. 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.
It was an amazing interview! I loved seeing them interact and hearing them talk about everything. We were able to take a group photo with them. There was a lot of laughing but also some tears. Be sure to go and see the movie this weekend in theaters!
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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