Known to global audiences as the spunky and smart wizard Hermione in the Harry Potter franchise, Emma Watson is now poised to be fondly remembered as Belle, the shrewd villager who yearns for adventure, in the live-action retelling of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
For over a decade, the British actress has charmed audiences playing the quick-witted and tenacious Hogwarts student in the Potter films and in films including The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Noah, and The Bling Ring. In addition, she has a highly visible role as a human rights activist and global goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, something which has become her life’s calling.
Of all the female characters in all the Disney films, she has always been drawn to— and most identifies with—Belle.
“I have loved Beauty and the Beast since I was four years old,” she says. “I remember Belle as this feisty young woman who spoke her mind and had these ambitions and was incredibly independent and wanted to see the world. And she had this relationship with the Beast where they were just toe to toe and that, to me, just seemed like such a terrific dynamic and interesting kind of relationship that I’d never seen before in a fairy tale.”
Prior to 1991, most female characters in animated films were viewed as passive and somewhat one-dimensional, but Belle broke the mold. She is interested in literature, has thoughts of her own and is not easily intimidated, and quickly became an empowered role model for girls around the world and the first contemporary feminist heroine in an animated film. “Belle is someone who doesn’t really care about becoming a princess,” says director Bill Condon. “She’s more interested in seeing the world and figuring out who she is than in finding a man and getting married.”
Not only does Belle herself love reading, but she also loves sharing her passion for books. Says Condon, “We all know how intelligent and worldly and sophisticated Emma is, and while that doesn’t describe Belle, it is what Belle aspires to be, and it is the innate intelligence that Emma brings to the role that is such a crucial element when you’re doing a live-action film.”
The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in Disney’s live-action adaptation Beauty and the Beast, with the cast of Watsons, 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. (See sidebar).
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. The film is produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, with Jeffrey Silver, Thomas Schumacher and Don Hahn serving as executive producers.
Opening across the Philippines today, Beauty and the Beast is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Philippines.