Director Bill Condon has said that actress Emma Watson was always the first choice for Belle in his ambitious live-action reimagining of “Beauty and the Beast”.
Watson was originally set to star in “La La Land”, for which Emma Stone won the best actress Oscar in year 2017, but things did not work out and she went on to sign the Disney musical.
“I don’t know exactly what happened there but I am so glad that Emma (Watson) agreed to do my film. Both are great actresses. Emma Stone is fabulous in ‘La La Land’ and she won an Academy award for that.
“Emma Watson is perfect for ‘Beauty’. She was always my first choice. Sometimes things align in the perfect way,” Condon told in an interview over phone from Shanghai where the film premiered recently.
Condon, an Oscar-winning screenwriter, says he knew that reviving the classic story for a new audience would be a huge responsibility.
“Everybody has a favourite memory of the 1991 animated movie. It is still played around the world. I knew it was an enormous responsibility. I was careful about not betraying the soul of this story.
“I remember watching the film and being completely blown away by it. I did this film because I wanted to experience that feeling again. I wanted to reinvent it in the live-action format.”
The classic fairytale, about a woman captured by a beast only to fall in love with him eventually, has traces of Stockholm syndrome but the director says they have addressed the issue in a careful manner.
“I am aware of that. In fact, it is the biggest pitfall of the story. But I feel the 1991 version was very progressive in that way. Emma (a noted feminist) is a highly aware actress and we have done it carefully.
“In the film, when the Beast finally declares himself to Belle and says ‘Do you think you could you ever be happy here?’ She replies, ‘How can anyone be happy when they are not free?’ She turns him down. She does not allow herself to fall in love with him. It is only when she is free and finds the Beast in trouble that she comes to his rescue.”
Condon, known for directing movies like ‘Chicago’, ‘Kinsey’, ‘Dreamgirls’ and the two final installments of the Twilight series - “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2”, says he likes to shuffle between independent movies and big budget projects.
“I really like going back and forth between movies. Studio productions are such a huge machine that sometimes you struggle to stay connected to the drama, while it is difficult to get coverage for small movies.”
When asked about the recent goof-up during the Oscars where ‘La La Land’ was mistakenly declared as the best picture winner over actual winner “Moonlight”, Condon, who produced the show in 2009, says it was unfortunate.
“I produced that show some nine years ago. I can only imagine what they must be going through. Both the films were deserving. I am glad that they awarded ‘Moonlight’.”
“Beauty and the Beast’ is all set to hit Indian theatres on March 17. The movie also stars Dan Stevens as the Beast, Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts, Josh Gad as LeFou and Luke Evans as Gaston.