What is sure to be remembered as the most enchanting press event of 2017, the Beauty and the Beast press conference was full of jubilant celebration as the cast celebrated the release of Disney's latest live-action film.
Don't miss the Ultimate Beauty and the Beast giveaway going on now!
While having the amazing opportunity to sit with the cast of the most highly anticipated film of the year is an honor in itself, you never know what extra “Pixie Dust” Disney has planned for events like these, which is what makes Disney so special. But on this day, no one could have expected the surprise Disney had in store for us.
Alan Menken Performance with Surprise Guests Josh Gad and Luke Evans
Simply getting to sit alongside Emma Watson (“Belle”), Dan Stevens (“Beast / Prince Adam”), Luke Evans (“Gaston”), Josh Gad (“Le Fou”), Audra McDonald (“Garderobe”), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Plumette”), Bill Condon (Director), Alan Menken (Music by) during the Beauty and the Beast press conference wasn't enough to spoil us is Disney's eyes. Nope, not even close.
To kick off the Beauty and the Beast press conference, eight-time Academy Award and four-time Grammy winner Alan Menken treated the press to an exclusive concert featuring popular songs from the film, Beauty and the Beast. It was at the 3:30 mark in the video below that he blew us all away.
Beauty and the Beast Costumes
We even had the opportunity to get an up close look at the costumes worn in the film just before the fun started.
Beauty and the Beast Press Conference
Before we knew it, it was time for the Beauty and the Beast press conference to begin. Learn more about the film as the cast discusses adapting an animation into a live-action film, modernizing Belle and creating a role-model for kids, and why Josh Gad will never ride a horse again.
Q: This question is for Bill. So when you approached adapting it for a live action, sort of what was the process for you?
Bill Condon: 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. All the behavior which is in an animated film is a little more exaggerated. It 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.
Q: Thees films in general really speak to children in such a wonderful way, and Audra, as a parent, what do you like about what this Beauty and the Beast says to kids?
Audra McDonald: Many things, but one thing that was really important to me was knowing not only did it have this incredible creative team but that Emma Watson was going to be Belle, and knowing how much Emma has affected girls of my daughter’s age. My daughter is someone who now asks for people to donate money to charities for her birthday gifts instead of presents and that’s because of you, Emma. Knowing full well that Emma was going to make sure that Belle was somebody who was independent, who was strong, who was educated, who was sticking up for girls and women, and who does all the rescuing in the film. That’s why I knew it was going to be important for me to be a part of and for my kids to see.
Q: Absolutely. Emma, Audra brings up an excellent point. You’ve become a role model to so many young girls and women all over the world and I know that growing up Belle was someone you sort of looked up to. When you began to make her your own, what were sort of the things that you thought about in modernizing Belle?
Emma Watson: It’s really remarkable to play someone that I’m almost sure had an influence on the woman that I have become. The first time I saw Paige O’Hara sing Belle (Reprise), 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.
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.
I love that in our version Belle is not only kind of awed and doesn’t fit in, 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.
Q: I think in bringing this to life, one of the probably the biggest challenges would be the creation of the Beast because he’s such a huge player. The physicality has to be so intense and large and specific. When you approached that, did you approach playing him any differently than you would any other character you’ve played?
Dan Stevens: It was a very physical engagement. 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.
With the backstory, we decided that the prince before he was the Beast was a dancer, that he loved to dance, so I trained myself like a dancer and learned three quite different dances for this movie.
Getting to know Emma, first and foremost, on the dance floor was probably a great way to get to know your costar, and I’m going to try and do that with every movie I do now, whether there’s a waltz in the movie or not.
Q: When you have the title Beauty and the Beast there is someone trying to keep those two apart and Luke, that is Gaston. Someone once said that villains never think of themselves as the villains in the story, they always think of themselves as the hero, and I’m sure that’s especially true with him. What did you clue into in his past or in building the character that made him more than a villain to you?
Luke Evans: 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. 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. Although he keeps believing that Belle will change her mind, the jealousy takes over and that's who he becomes.
Q: Josh, we’ve seen you on Broadway and we’ve seen you in other musicals. We know you’re very adept at singing and doing comedy. In this film, you get to ride a horse. How was the horseback riding for you?
Josh Gad: I learned a couple of great lessons in this movie, one of which is that Jews don’t belong on horses. Specifically overweight Jews. My horse was an anti-Semite, and interestingly enough they would call action and the horse that they told me was trained for this movie, but I believe they found in the wilds of England. As Luke and I were walking into the village on our horses all our horses needed to do was walk side by side, it’s so simple. Luke’s horse does it. The two of them worked on The Hobbit together, Three Musketeers, have this incredible background.
Mine, is a cold-blooded killer. He proceeded to moonwalk, he walked backward. Then, he ran through multiple extras in the village, ran around – I didn’t even know it was possible – but 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, and he came up to me and he goes, “I’m so sorry. I’ve never seen this happen before.” 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.
Q: Gugu, I want to ask you, one of the most impressive things I think the film pulls off is it makes you really empathize and care about these inanimate objects. They’re not inanimate, but they are objects. For me, one of the most emotional moments of the film is when the curse is taking them over at the end and you’re watching them say goodbye to one another. How do you inject so much emotion into a feather duster?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw: It was an interesting challenge. Working on the French accent, both I and Ewan had the same dialect coach, and playing in the studio with Bill encouraging us to embrace that inner child and that let’s pretend kind of freedom. Having done a few serious roles that year, to be able to embrace the feather duster Plumette and to also be able to really not be limited by your own face and your own body was so joyful.
Q: This question is for Bill and Alan. You mentioned songs as storytelling devices. Working with Stephen and Evan, you get to organically incorporate this into the film. How did that process work? How did you go about doing that?
Bill Condon: Let’s take one example, instead of talking about all of them. The song Evermore, the song for the Beast. They often say in musicals that people sing when it’s no longer enough to speak, that their emotions are running so high. It’s one of the dramatic high points in all of literature, the fact that the Beast at this moment, that he lets Belle go and becomes worthy of love and discovers what love is, but at the same time sacrifices his future.
Alan Menken: In the Broadway show there was a song called “If I Can’t Love Her.” but each iteration of Beauty and the Beast is a different medium in a way. There’s an animated musical, there’s a stage musical, and there’s this – and they all have sort of different shapes. The stage musical is definitely a two-act structure, so we wrote this song for the Beast, because at that act break is the moment where the Beast out of anger has driven Belle away and it was important – we needed at that moment for the Beast to sort of howl for redemption or just say I’ve given up. But in the structure of a live-action film, which is more of a three act structure, Bill felt, and I agree with him, that the more satisfying moment is the moment when the Beast lets Belle go because she’s no longer his prisoner, and he loves her, and the spell will not be broken now, but at least he knows what love is.
Q: This question is for any of the actors that want to comment. We all have these songs permanently in our brains, but when you look at them they’re very challenging. The turns of phrases are amazing, they’re in character, there’s a lot to these songs. When did you realize this is not as easy as you think it is?
Josh Gad: I remember first getting the call, and I immediately flashed back to being a kid. I was 10 years old, it was 1991, and I saw the movie in a small theater in south Florida. I remember that the response was something I had never seen before, which was audiences applauding after these animated characters were singing these songs. It was very unusual.
Prior to that, like The Great Mouse Detective didn’t have much applause when I saw it, and The Black Cauldron certainly did not. What Ashman and Menken brought to the Disney library was hearkening back to a time of the Sherman Brothers, the early days of Disney, and that was for us, that was so a part of our childhood.
Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, and Aladdin, I cannot tell how important that was. I got nauseous. I felt how am I going to bring a song like Gaston to life? I went into my office and I started singing it, and I literally started choking up, because you cut to yourself as a kid, you think back to yourself as a kid, and you’re like, oh my god, I’m doing this. I’m doing this for real and I’m going to be the version that a lot of kids are going to see. That was such a thrill.
It was that first day that we did the table read that I remember watching Luke perform the choreography for Gaston – took me a little longer to get it – and Emma performing Beauty and the Beast, and Emma Thompson performing the song, and all of these pieces coming together before our eyes, and I don’t think there was a single one of us who didn’t have goosebumps.
Beauty and the Beast Press Conference Photo Gallery
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 adaptation 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.
Portions of this material have been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.