Interview with EMMA WATSON

Bringing a much loved animated film to life is no easy process. People are always going to be critical on whether or not the movie looks or feels the same way that the original did. That kind of criticism and speculation was always going to be ten-fold for Disney with Beauty And The Beast. The 1991 Disney animated version of the classic tale has become a much loved family film for nearly two generations now. When Disney announced that director Bill Condon would be bringing the story life in a real life fantasy film the big question seemed to be not whether or not it would work but who would play the character of Belle… after all she is one of Disney’s most important Princesses.

When that answered was delivered in a statement declaring that Emma Watson would play the lead role it actually seemed to quell some of the online banter. After all Watson herself is loved by families right around the world thanks to endearing role of Hermoine Grainger in the Harry Potter series of films. Still for Watson this was an epic role to take on… and that was something that certainly wasn’t lost on her.

“Beauty & The Beast when you think about it is really like four movies in one,” explain Watson. “It’s an action movie, we’re making a live action film, there’s a huge amount of stunts – there’s wolf fighting and horse-riding and you know guns and sword fights and all of that going on. It’s also a comedy – the comic timing of characters like Cogsworth and Lumiere and Mrs. Potts, it’s just hysterical in my opinion. Then on the other hand it is a romance, it’s a romantic drama… and then it’s a musical… and then there’s music just really added onto the top with dance and theatre really. So you need somebody at the helm of a movie like this that can really do all of those things and it takes someone quite special I think to get that all working really well and I think Bill has done a really good job with that.”

Of course having the characters from the animation, especially Belle, being just carbon copies in teh new film would have made the film quite boring for audiences so what differences did Watson see in her character from the animation to this film. “We wanted to make sure that we… we know that she loves reading, we know that she loves travel… but we also wanted to give her this element of being quite industrious and quite practical and very inventive,” she says proudly. “So in the animation Maurice is the inventor but in this film it is actually Belle that is really forging forward and innovating and coming up with new ways of doing things which I thought was interesting and was an idea that I loved. Belle also does some teaching in this film, not only does she love reading for herself but she actually loves sharing her love for books and she loves sharing the things that she finds special and interesting. And I loved that too… that she wants to share. And she also has a new song… it’s only a small, baby song. It’s a reprise so it’s only really a verse and a little bit of a chorus but it’s very beautiful and we expand a little bit on her past and we see really what is the story of Belle’s life before she goes to the castle and meets Beast which I think is a really lovely extra detail which we didn’t get from the original.”

Aside from a brief moment in Harry Potter Emma Watson isn’t known for her dancing and singing so was that something new that she had to approach to do Beauty And The Beast? “So I started rehearing the film in January and we started filming in March-April kind of times. I had a few months learning things, especially the waltz which for me I realised… I said this to Anthony when we were filming… that dance is the story of them falling in love and so it had to have so much communicated through it, not just as a dance but how two people interact and how that perception of each other changes and it is all wrapped up in this two or three minute moment and we wanted to communicate so much so I realised that I couldn’t just be a dancer and just know the dance steps perfectly, actually what was going to make the dance special was if I did what I’m good at… hopefully… acting. That was what was really going to bring it to life and tell the story. So it was a really special experience for me. I love to dance, I have always loved to dance, so getting to learn this specially choreographed dance between Beast and Belle was definitely a highlight. I think I was so focussed on doing what I had to do to support him (her co-star Dan Stevens) during that dance it really helped me because I couldn’t focus on how nervous I was. Both of us were just trying to work out the logistics of how do you do a three minute… you know… strictly come-dancingesque waltz routine with a Beast. I mean he is three heads taller than me.

“It was really challenging and I think we were so focussed on the challenge at hand it really did help carry us through. It was a very bonding experience. I actually think that I’m going to suggest that on all of my movies my romantic co-star has to learn to do a dance with me because there is just no better way to bond with someone.”
Of course you can’t talk about Belle and Beauty And The Beast without mentioning her dress. From the animated movie we have seen countless women over the years try to replicate Belle’s look and her famous yellow dress so what do audiences have in store for them with this rendition of the movie.

“In the end what we decided was the most important thing for this dress to do was that it had to dance beautifully,” says Watson. “We wanted the dress to feel like it could float. Like it could fly. Like it was the third, like almost the third person in that dance. And we started with a much heavier and more intricate, probable more historically accurate dress but we realised that it wasn’t telling the story that we wanted it to tell so we went with something much lighter made of chiffon and it does… it’s just perfect for that moment. We were really pleased with it in the end.”

 

Written by Dave Griffiths