Emma Watson embraces inner ‘Beauty’ for Disney musical

March 14, 2017 GMT

Disney’s costly live-­action musical 3-D version of “Beauty and the Beast” arrives Friday and continues the Mouse House’s recycling of classic fairy tales.

Walt Disney’s feature-length cartoon empire began with 1938’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” and its canny founder realized that a new generation of kids would always be right around the corner.

Every seven years, the studio re-released “Pinocchio,” “Bambi,” “Cinder­ella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and so many others.

But DVD home viewing made reissues history. So Disney now regards their animated classics as ready source material for the stage and big screen.

Already the studio that Walt built has fielded global­ smash hits having live actors rework the animated footprint of “Alice in Wonderland” (2010) and “Cinderella” (2015).

Angelina Jolie, as “Maleficent,” had the biggest box-office hit of her career in this riff on “Sleeping Beauty’s” evil witch.


Which is why Oscar-winning best actress Emma Stone is to play evil Cruella de Vil, the dog-napping vixen of “101 Dalmations,” in “Cruella.”

“Beauty” holds an esteemed spot in Disney history. The 1991 Howard Ashman-Alan Menken animated musical literally revived Disney’s fortunes and ushered in a critically praised and hugely popular era of Broadway-style animated movie musicals, which spawned today’s crowded animated landscape.

Tinkering with an Oscar-winning movie — the first animated film to ever be Oscar nominated for best picture — has big risks.

Veteran movie musical helmer Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) pushed Disney to make a faithful live reproduction of “Beauty,” not a snarky update.

Casting brave Belle was crucial. Belle offers herself as prisoner in the Beast’s opulent mansion in exchange for her father’s release. While captive, she grows to love the sensitive soul under the ghastly exterior.

“Harry Potter” veteran Emma Watson had an agonizing choice to make. The 26-year-old was not just first choice for Belle but also first choice to star in a new original, contemporary musical a hot young director wanted to make: “La La Land.” This decision may have cost Emma Watson a shot at an Oscar, as she was originally offered a part in “La La Land” and had to choose one or the other.

In an interview on ITV’s “Lorraine,” Watson explained, “With a movie like ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ it’s like three months prep, it’s like three or four months shooting, it’s in the U.K. I had to be there to do that, and as I was saying before, it’s like you can’t half-(expletive) a project like this, you know, you’re in or you’re out. And I was like I’ve kind of got to be all in and so this was really where my heart was.

“I knew I had to fully commit and make sure that I did this.”