Emma Watson and Dan Stevens Talk Beauty and the Beast
Emma Watson and Dan Stevens were our last interview of the day during our #BeOurGuestEvent press day. We sat in our interview room after lunch anxiously awaiting the pair. They both seemed to glide into the room and immediately headed for the Funko Pop figurines on the table. Emma was wearing a completely different dress from the one we had seen her in early that day. We’d hear some many wonderful things about the pair all day, so we couldn’t wait to talk to them about the film.
We briefly touched on the audition process with the director earlier in the day. You’re probably wondering like most people if Emma is actually singing in the film. We’d already learn that she was committed to learning to sing for this part. We wanted to know from Emma and Dan how the audition process was for them.
Emma Watson: I think for Disney, it was about wanting to explore whether or not I could sing. I think, really that was the major question mark, so I was put together an audition tape, and I went away and trained. Then I 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.
Dan Stevens : And yes, for me I put a song on tape for, for Bill Condon, and it was the Beast song from the Broadway musical which we end up not using in the movie, but it is was because the Beast doesn’t sing in the animated film. Fortunately he like it.
Wardrobe and costumes play and integral part in any movie or television show. We wanted to know what was it like seeing themselves in full costume the first time?
EW : 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 was I sort of started to feel like I was understanding her really well through her costume, so it was like 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 which actually just like one that I wear, which is one from my mom. I really felt like I was starting to get to know her, so her costume was really important for me, actually.
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, 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, in the movie.
Emma Watson is known for her portrayal of Hermione in the Harry Potter series. Both Hermione and Belle are very strong charac- very strong characters. 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 really a good question. There was talk of- a little bit at the beginning, – of a wedding perhaps at the end, and that had not been in the original, and I was sort of like, oh, me, sorry, 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, 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, actually, people ask me a lot, you know, 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 Disney of young women who actually isn’t a princess. She’s an ordinary girl from an ordinary village and, 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, I said, could I say actually, I’m not a princess?
And he was like, yeah, sure. And so just like 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, and faithful to this very independent young woman.
We briefly touched on the dancing scenes in the film. Both actors did an amazing job, they trained for three months to learn all the dances for the movie. First they started with separate partners, then started dancing with each other. Both credited learning to Waltz with helping them build chemistry for the film.
While discussing the dress Dan shared a funny story with us about how his five year old daughter overheard Emma and him talking about the design of the dress. She went to her room and sketched five designs. Emma played along and picked a favorite, and a few weeks later when his daughter appeared on the set and saw the dress her response – “Yep, that’s the one!”. In her mind she designed that dress. Emma shared the qualities she required of the dress.
EW : So 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, so originally we started off with a very kind of like seventeenth century traditional dress, but then we realized that it didn’t do that, like, 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, [AUDIENCE LAUGHS], otherwise it’s not right. So we’re like, okay, back to the drawing board. It’s gotta twirl. All right, so it can’t be quite seventeenth century, but the bottom’s gotta be different, so let me try another version of it, which kind of have that movement. It needed to be light, 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 kind of like 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.
One of the last things we asked about was what was important for both of them, for girls and boys to take away from this movie, because it’s a great- on both sides, there’s such great messages for boys and girls to learn.
DS : There really are. 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 [AUDIENCE LAUGHS], you know, because 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, in all ways, and I think that’s, that something to be applauded.
EW : 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 kind of like 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 kind of 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 like a 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 kind of- she symbolizes that very well.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens in theaters everywhere on March 17th. Check out the trailer below.
About 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 adaption on 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 film is 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.