As Disney continues re-calibrating its classics from its vault into live action films - like last year's Maleficent, and this March's Cinderella - so too does it command stronger talent on every new production. Cinderella, for example, has Kenneth Branagh at its helm and Cate Blanchett playing Lady Tremaine; Jon Favreau, meanwhile, has wrangled a stacked cast for his take on The Jungle Book, including such thespians as Bill Murray, Idris Elba, and Lupita Nyong'o.
The slowly germinating Beauty and the Beast is no different. Disney has award winning talent at the reins for their new treatment of the musical fairy tale, including Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters, Twilight: Breaking Dawn) as director and Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as screenwriter. Now, Harry Potter vet Emma Watson has signed on to play their Belle, giving further shape to the film as it goes through the development process.
News of Watson's involvement has trickled down the grapevine thanks to The Wrap; it's the second time she has crossed paths with Chbosky (who directed her as one of the supporting players in The Perks of Being a Wallflower), and the first she's had a chance to work with Condon. Interestingly, Watson was also primed to star in Warner Bros.' own version of the film, before director Guillermo del Toro jumped ship to work on one of the other billion projects on his docket instead.
Watson, for her part, is excited to be on board Disney's Beauty and the Beast. No sooner did TheWrap make their broadcast than she posted the following message on her Facebook page for her fans to read:
I'm finally able to tell you... that I will be playing Belle in Disney's new live-action Beauty and the Beast! It was such a big part of my growing up, it almost feels surreal that I'll get to dance to 'Be Our Guest' and sing 'Something There'. My six year old self is on the ceiling - heart bursting. Time to start some singing lessons. I can't wait for you to see it. Emma xx
Seems that Watson's been waiting to portray Belle all her life; and after the disappointment of del Toro's interpretation of the story falling through, the call from Disney must have come as something of a relief. If nothing else, her outpouring of joy should be taken as good sign (reuniting her with Chbosky, no less). Better to have a leading lady who's passionate about playing a role than not, and it's clear that Watson is nothing if not passionate about this project.
Watson is, of course, an outspoken feminist, so casting her as Belle is surprisingly complimentary. Belle is a lover of books and a formidable reader; a young woman defined by her intellect, her willful personality, and her perspective on her own life. She sounds, in other words, an awful lot Hermione Granger - a character that Watson embodied to a T in every entry of the Harry Potter franchise.
Whether the character resemblance is intentional or not, she's a great choice for the part. Now to see who Disney casts as the "Beast" half of the film's title.
We’ll bring you more information on Beauty and the Beast as it becomes available.