Director Bill Condon Imbues More Realism to “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST”
The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic featuring an extraordinary ensemble cast, including: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Hattie Morahan and Nathan Mack with Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.
Directed by Bill Condon and based on the 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast, the screenplay is written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Alan Menken 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.
The studio felt an adaptation of the story of a kindhearted maiden and her beastly prince had the potential to enchant audiences once again, but when the studio pitched the idea to Bill Condon, his initial fear was remaking something that is flawless as is. “I consider the 1991 film to be a perfect movie,” Condon says. “When the film was released it was groundbreaking, in the way the story was told and with that incredible score from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, so I initially did not want to go near it.”
But the Oscar®-winning director, whose resume includes such diverse films as Dreamgirls and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts I and 2, soon realized the time was right for a live-action adaptation. A consummate storyteller, Condon could already visualize the story’s cinematic potential. “It is 25 years later and technology has caught up to the ideas that were introduced in the animated movie,” he explains. “Now it is possible, for the first time, to create a photo-real version of a talking teacup on a practical set in a completely realistic live action format.”
For the director, the allure of Beauty and the Beast was twofold: It was a chance to make a movie musical that is a tribute to the musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and an opportunity to revisit a story he connects with emotionally and to dig deeper into the characters to find out what makes them tick. The director has an encyclopedic knowledge of musicals and a clear understanding of how story and music converse with one another, and saw the film as a chance to bring back the musical genre.
He explains, “When I was growing up people would say theater was dying, and theater has been dying for centuries now. I think the same thing can be said about the movie musical, not for centuries, but it has sort of been dying for the last 50 years. I want audiences to embrace the form and understand that, at its best, music and movies and musical numbers in movies don’t distract, they don’t interrupt, they deepen and help create meaning. If you’re moved by something, you’re more moved when you hear some of those Alan Menken notes or hear some of those Howard Ashman lyrics.”
Working with co-screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos (The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Hercules) and Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Rent), Condon set out to expand upon the story’s timeless themes and add more depth and dimension to the familiar characters while still celebrating the animated film and its legacy. “There have been some recent movies that have been top to bottom reinventions or stories as seen from another character’s point of view or something,” he says. “This is not that. What we wanted to do was bring the story more into reality, not create a new story.”
He continues, “It is an honor to have a chance to create something that is both reverential of the original and somewhat of a modernization at the same time, but it is also intimidating. This is a story that has lived in many forms and in many languages, and to have an opportunity to work with state-of-the-art technology and an amazing cast is such a blessing. I hope that, because this movie is so loved, we’ll be able to answer questions that fans may not have even realized they had about Belle and about the Beast specifically, and how they came to be who they are today.”
The film offers a glimpse into the Prince’s life before he became the Beast and what turned him into a man who deserves to be cursed. It also expands on Belle’s life before she goes to the castle and meets the Beast and helps explain what the two have in common and what made them who they are today.