Disney has now officially announced that Harry Potter star, Brown graduate, feminist activist, and highest-paid actress in Hollywood Emma Watson will take on the role of Belle in the upcoming live-action adaptation of the animated classic Beauty and the Beast. The part is nearly perfect for the 24-year-old, whose real life reputation is very similar to the smart, book-loving, and beautiful character of Belle.
“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,” Watson said in an announcement on her Facebook page.
According to a report from Variety, Disney said that production will begin later in the year and no release date has been set. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn director Bill Condon will direct. This is the latest in a recent trend from Disney of adapting its classic animated films into live-action ones with big-name stars that started with last year’s highly successful Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie. A live-action version of Cinderella starring Helena Bonham Carter and Cate Blanchett is due to hit theaters this spring. A version of The Jungle Book directed by Jon Favreau and with a voice cast featuring Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken, and Scarlett Johansson among others is in the works as well.
Watson has actually been loosely attached to this project for awhile. Back in 2011, Guillermo del Toro was working on a version of the project with Warner Bros. Over the summer that version of the project fell apart when del Toro dropped out, Deadline reported at the time.
It makes sense that she’s been circled for that role for so long. Belle actually has a lot in common with the part that made Watson famous, Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter novels. Both characters are strong, intelligent women who believe that gaining knowledge through reading books and general academic learning is the most important way to gain agency and find meaning in life. Watson herself projects a similar image due to her prestigious college studies in English literature after completing the Harry Potter films and her feminist activist work with UN Women, which included launching the HeForShe campaign. Unlike the stereotypical child star, Watson has always given off an intelligent, poised vibe and has never had any public meltdowns, a reputation for partying, or occasions where she’s needed to shove her foot in her mouth. Everyone knows that Watson can play a smart, bookish character because she is smart and bookish, so she’s a natural choice for Belle.
Watson has also been smart about building her adult career post-Harry Potter. She’s stayed away from other big franchises and instead focused on learning her craft with parts in smaller indie films like The Bling Ring, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and My Week With Marilyn. Playing Belle will be a good way for her to return to a big starring role as an adult with a character that she already knows she will be good at playing. Just so long as she can actually sing.
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