It has been 26 years since Disney released their Oscar-winning animated hit Beauty and the Beast, and the film continues to resonate with its fans. These live-action remakes have given the studio the confidence it needs to open the vault and revisit which films deserve the same treatment. So it seems more than appropriate for Disney to release this new version with an all-star cast that includes of Emma Watson playing Belle.
The film has a special place in Watson’s heart as it not only inspired her to be an actress, but it has also shaped the person that she is today. We were invited to attend the film’s press conference along with our fellow journalists to talk to the actress about her approach to the role, accepting who you are, and discovering your place in the world as an outsider. Check out what she had to say and more below.
For Emma Watson, playing the role of Belle was something that was really important to her as she puts it, she is “almost sure” that the character “had an influence on the woman that I have become.” She recalls Paige O’hara’s “Belle” the “I want songs of I want songs.” She said that even though she was so young, the song resonated with her and that she was “tapping into something she didn’t know she was tapping into.” “There was something about that spirit; there was something about that energy; that I knew she was my champion,” said Watson. “When I was taking on this role, I wanted to make sure that I was championing that same spirit, those same values, and that same young woman that made me a part of who I am today.”
Whenever they would have to address a new scene that director Bill Condon, or screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos put together, Watson said she would have the original DNA of the character in mind and would fight to keep the character’s spirit intact, because Belle was so precious to her. “I love that in our version Belle is not only kind of odd and doesn’t fit in. You also see her reading and not really be a part of the community,” said Watson. “But she is actually an activist within her own community. She’s teaching other young girls how to read. Moments like that, expanding beyond her own little world and kind of grow it, I loved that.”
In the film, Belle is much like her animated counterpart. The villagers see her as a bit odd and unlike any of the other girls. While most would pine over someone like Gaston, Belle would rather have her head in a book. For her, books are a means of escape from the everyday life. “I think that Belle is this ultimate kind of symbol of the fact that books can be rebellious, they can be incredibly empowering, liberating,” said Watson. “You can travel to places in the world that you would never be able to, you know, under other circumstances.” The actress was proud to play the character because there is an earnestness and sense of honesty to her. “She’s not in any way kind of ashamed of that, and it’s not easy being an outsider and it’s not easy to pick battles, it’s not easy to try to move and work against a system, to work against the grain, to move against the status quo,” Watson says.
Watson does have a few words of advice for the young girls who are heading off to college. “I think what’s difficult about the microcosm occasionally of school or sometimes colleges and universities is that you feel that the people that are in your immediate surroundings are the only people in the world,” said the actress. She recalls her own experience as a college student and at times not fitting in the right group. However, she says for those who feel like an outsider in their environment to go out and “find your tribe and your kindred spirits.” She adds, “Pursue the things that you love and that you’re really passionate about. They’ll be there. But don’t give up. They are there.”
Beauty and the Beast opens in theaters on March 17, 2017. Find our review, more interviews, trailers, and more right here.