Harry Potter star and bookish media darling Emma Watson is set to star in Disney’s new live-action Beauty and the Beast, now in its pre-production stages. The film will be directed by Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn), but has not yet been given a release date. Watson, a recent graduate of Brown University, expressed her elation on snagging the lead role on her Facebook page:
Playing Belle represents another in a line of somewhat similar characters for Watson, beginning with her rise to stardom as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies and running through recent roles such as Sam in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In some ways, it’s actually a return to form, as her most recent starring role came in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, a 2013 true-story crime drama about disillusioned teenagers who trespassed and stole from famous celebrity’s homes. In an extreme turnabout, Watson plays the rebellious and sensuous thief Nicki, admitting that she was “probably the least obvious choice to play the role.”
The character is everything that I felt really strongly against – she’s superficial, materialistic, vain, amoral…But I found it really interesting and it gave me a whole new insight into what my job, or my role as an actress, could be.
Taking a few steps back from her role in The Bling Ring, Waston reclaims her status as the bookworm in Disney’s new live-action re-hash of the fairytale classic. Considering Belle’s steadfast open-mindedness in Disney’s original animated 1994 film, Watson seems a fitting choice as this particular princess; her recent HeForShe Campaign speech to the World Economic Forum challenged the world to engage gender equality in every aspect of society, much like Belle vouches for respect as an educated woman. Watson is also the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador.
Perhaps her interpretation of Belle will promote a well-learned and strong-minded female character for a new generation of young girls.
Disney’s track record of self-reboots continues at a steep incline with Beauty and the Beast, following in the footsteps of its recent films like Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, its live-action fairytale remake of Cinderella (due in theaters March 13th), and the upcoming remake of The Jungle Book (2016).
Disney’s apparent rejection of original material for its used-but-profitable old formulas has become somewhat of a trend in Hollywood. Universal is in talks with Sofia Coppola to direct the next live-action version of The Little Mermaid, while Warner Bros. is following Disney’s lead by producing its own The Jungle Book, this one directed by Andy Serkis.
With films like Snow White and the Huntsman and Burton’s Alice In Wonderland delivering little resonance in the film community, the question remains as to whether these live-action reboots will weave new magic for a new era of young viewers, or simply be one-dimensional.