Thanks to the amazing folks at Disney Pictures, I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend the press junket for the new live action film adaptation of Disney’s Beauty and The Beast! I couldn’t wait to attend, as the day would begin with a special live action performance from Alan Menken. He’s the incredible composer and song writer behind most of the Disney animated classic films you probably grew up loving and watching. The junket itself had all of the main cast and filmmakers in attendance including: Emma Watson (“Belle” aka she will always be Hermione Granger), Dan Stevens (“Beast / Prince Adam”), Luke Evans (“Gaston”), Josh Gad (“Le Fou”), Audra McDonald (“Garderobe”), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Plumette”), Bill Condon (Director), and of course the incredible Alan Menken (Music by).
There was a beautiful grand piano set up for Alan to perform at and I have to admit I cried during the performance. It brought back so many memories from my childhood! It was an incredible performance because Josh Gad and Luke Evans came out as a surprise and sang their song “Gaston”. It was amazing to see all three singing live. They actually sound even more incredible live.
You can see the entire performance below. Sorry about it’s a little shaky at all. I had to do it by hand and hold it for the entire performance. I tried to keep it as steady as possible. Either way it’s an amazing performance that you definitely want to see!
How amazing is that performance folks?! LOVED IT!
After the performance, all the cast and filmmakers in attendance came out and chatted with us about the film.
Alan Menken and Bill Condon spoke about adapting the animated classic for a live action film and what the process was.
Well first you get over the terror first, But then you just start with that basic idea. You’re going to take it into a new medium, which is live action. They’re going to be actors. Emma’s going to be playing a character on real locations who has to fall in love with the beast. So all the behavior which is, let’s face it, an animated film is a little more exaggerated, has to come into reality, and once you start to investigate that, then you realize, wow, there are questions maybe you never asked before that you want to know about. How did Belle and Maurice wind up in this village where they’re outsiders? That leads to then new songs and suddenly you’re creating something new.
Yeah, we had these discussions. For me, when Bill came aboard we had meetings about what would we add, and one of the things we talked about was the music box moment and Maurice and getting into the backstory of how Maurice and Belle came to the town. We also talked about the backstory for the Beast, how he became such a cold and callous young man, and also trying to root ourselves much more in the time and place, 18th Century France, and that really helped immensely.
Alan also shared how he began at Disney, which I found amazing.
When I first came to Disney, I got to say, I thought of Little Mermaid first and foremost as Howard Ashman and my follow-up to Little Shop of Horrors. We were still working in musical theater, you know, we were these off-off Broadway guys coming and bringing our skills to Disney. And we don’t calculate beyond telling the story and serving the characters and trying to give each of these projects its own unique musical stamp, and beyond that it’s just storytelling. There’s no more collaborative form than musicals. They call it musicals and I’m the composer, but the truth is it’s a director, it’s a choreographer, it’s a lyricist, it’s a book writer, it’s a composer, it’s an orchestra, it’s an arranger, it’s a lighting, it’s everything put together, so I think benefited a lot also from the Disney association obviously.
Emma and Dan chatted about making their characters, which they grew up loving, their own.
You know, it’s really remarkable to play someone that I’m almost sure had an influence on the woman that I have become. I think the first time I saw Paige O’Hara sing the Belle (Reprise), you know, it’s kind of the I want song of all I want songs. I just immediately resonated with her. I was so young, I didn’t even know what I was tapping into but there was something about that spirit, there was something about that energy that I just knew she was my champion. I think when I knew I was taking on this role, I wanted to make sure that I was championing that same spirit, those same values, that same young woman that made me a part of who I am today. And so, you know, every time we would address a new scene that Bill or Steve or Evan had put together, you know, I just kind of went, I just always had the original DNA of that woman in mind, you know, and I had my fists up, you know, I was ready to fight because she was so crucial for me. And you know, it was just taking what was already there and just expanding it. And I love that in our version Belle is not only kind of awed and doesn’t fit in, and you know, you see her reading, and you see her not really a part of the community. In our film she’s actually an activist within her own community. She’s teaching other young girls who are part of the village to read and moments like that, where you could see her expanding beyond just her own little world and trying to kind of grow it, I loved that. That was amazing to get to do!
It was a very physical engagement for me. I think just to support that muscle suit on stilts was a challenge that I’d never really encountered before. I’ve definitely been taking a more physical approach to my roles in the last few years and just training myself in different ways. I think with the backstory, we decided that the prince before he was the Beast was a dancer and that he loved to dance, so I trained myself like a dancer and learned three quite different dances for this movie and worked very closely with Antony, just in terms of his general deportment, both for the prince and the Beast. There was a lot of work dancing in stilts. Getting to know Emma, first and foremost, on the dance floor was probably, I think a great way to get to know your costar, and I’m going to try and do with every movie I do now, whether there’s a waltz in the movie or not. I mean the trust that Emma had to place in me that I wouldn’t break her toes, and also it really became part of that sort of crucial part of the title really, the “and the” bit and that’s sort of the essence of a waltz being two people in this whirlwind and learning about choreography really, the storytelling through dance, not just getting up and dancing but actually really telling a very crucial part of the story in that big turning point. So yes, lots of physicality.
It was so refreshing to see how much fun these too had together bringing this tale as old as time to life.
I love this shot of Emma, as she totally looks very Belle-like in the photo below, in my opinion.
Luke Evans also shared about how he brought his character Gaston to life.
I just think a villain shouldn’t start out as the bad guy. A villain should end up being the bad guy and I think with Gaston, outwardly to a lot of people in that village, he is the hero. He’s a bit of a stud, you know. He’s got the hair, he’s got the looks, he’s always impeccably dressed, not a bad singing voice. He’s got a great pal who makes everybody support him and sing about him. And I wanted the audience to like him a little bit first, so that when the cracks start to appear, which they do very subtly, even from the door slam, you know, there’s something inside of him that he’s like, I’m not used to this, this isn’t how it goes, you know, this is not what she’s supposed to be doing. And although he keeps believing that Belle will change her mind, that’s where the cracks appear in my thought process and then slowly the jealousy takes over and he becomes the villain. This is especially unique for Gaston, as opposed to other Disney villains. He has no book of spells and he has no magic powers. He’s a human being and he uses his status within that village to rouse a crowd and he does it all from just being himself, which is quite terrifying in a way. So I played on that, I played on the humanity of the character as much as he is larger than life. There was a lot to pull on, and obviously he was a war hero of sorts, we decided, didn’t we, Bill, from the past. That’s why his murals are all over the pub that he drinks in. And there is a slight soldier, this animalistic soldier, in him when he finally fights the Beast on the rooftops. You see this man out for blood and it’s a scary moment to see the arc of somebody who was the loveable buffoon of the village to become the Beast and the monster.
It was so well said and Luke and Josh Gad, were incredible in the movie. I’ll share all my thoughts on the film on Friday, where I’ll post my full review of the film.
Finally, Josh Gad shared the most hilarious story about his horrific experience riding a horse during the making of the film.
He had to cross his legs as he sat on the couch to tell the story, because it was such a dramatic tale to tell. He’s so darn funny! I love him!
JOSH GAD: I’m going to get comfortable for this. So it’s interesting. I learned a couple of great lessons on this movie, one of which is that Jews don’t belong on horses. Specifically ove
rweight Jews. My horse was an anti-Semite and he interestingly enough they would call action and the horse that they told me was trained for this movie, but I believe they found him in the wilds of England. Luke and I had our first entrance into the village of Villanov. Luke and I are walking into the village on our horses and on action all our horses need to do is walk side by side. It’s so simple and Luke’s horse does it. The two of them worked on The Hobbit together, Three Musketeers and have this incredible background.
We share a trailer.
Mm, hm, they share a trailer. Mine is a cold-blooded killer. My horse proceeded to moonwalk, as in he walked backwards. Then, he ran through multiple extras in the village, ran around the pillars in the village, which I didn’t even know it was possible! He ran through these pillars around, up and back again. I heard “cut” and I heard laughing and the laughter was coming from the horse’s trainer. He came up to me and he goes, “I’m so sorry. I’ve never seen this happen before.” And it was so sad. It made me feel so awful about myself. Ironically, my horse’s name was Buddy. That is a true story. He’s nobody’s buddy. I’m begging Disney to press charges against him, and I’ve told my agents to never send me another script with a horse in it again.
It was so much fun to get to chat and meet this amazing cast. I mean honestly, it was a dream come true to meet Emma and Alan. I’ve always wanted to meet them!
Again stay tuned for my review of the film coming Friday!
Thanks again to Disney Pictures for having me!
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST opens in theatres everywhere on March 17th!