Beauty and the Beast the Live Action Remake is in theaters now and by the box office returns it’s a bonafide hit! Have you seen it yet? If not you should grab your friends and family and head to a theater immediately. I was lucky enough to attend the #BeOurGuestEvent in LA a few weeks ago and was able to interview the man behind the movie Bill Condon PLUS Musical Genius Alan Menken. Both of these guy are genuine LEGENDS and it was an honor to even be in the same room with them. Let alone ask for a bit of Behind The Scenes information. So let’s get straight to the interview!
Q: What drew you to this story?
AM: I was drawn to the story by Disney. I mean it was basically Howard Ashman and I were working Little Mermaid, it hadn’t been released yet but people were very happy with it and they said how about Beauty and the Beast. We’re interested in doing that next. I have to say Howard and I actually, we had Aladdin but Aladdin had to go back to development because we were a bit too edgy. There was more development work to do on that so Beauty and the Beast then came in and became the next thing we worked on together.
As far as what drew me to it beyond that I mean I gotta go back and credit Howard who had some really, you know, when you look at the initial story and how you’re gonna turn it into an animated musical then it was a matter of inventing the enchanted objects and inventing this huge ego for Gaston and his posse of nitwits who praise him. So simply because for the structure we needed to put in production numbers and comedy numbers and so it was all those brilliant ideas and I gotta say Howard was so instrumental in that.
BC: There’s this movie, this classic, perfect movie that already exist and for me more than anything it was the score, the chance to really roll around in that music and to restage it, Do a kind of new version of it in a live action format but to especially those songs. It just felt to me that, that like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Q: Are the new songs brand new?
AM: They’re brand new. No, Days in the Sun, before Bill was on as a director, this goes back to about 2008. There was discussions about a movie version of Beauty and actually went as far as early script and when I was in London working on Sister Act Tim was there and I said let’s try working on a couple of songs. The Days in the Sun, the genesis of that actually began back there as sort of a lullaby moment but once Bill came aboard then that really got reworked to be a vehicle of so much back story and we’re threading a lot of story to it. And the other songs I would say they were the song we decide at the beginning. Some moments we followed through on. You know, the actual conception of the songs was yes, here they are. The actual execution was two years of here are these songs, black and blue and we’re gonna reprise it here and we’re gonna put it, you know, so a little bit of How Does a Moment Last Forever into the middle of Days in the Sun. We’re gonna take Days in the Sun theme and we’re gonna put it at the top as the Aria and just begin, you have these threads and you begin to weave with them. I never, by the way, I never pull from a trunk, ever.
Q: How do you work together throughout the process?
BC: Well for me I was intimidated at our first meeting because here I am and I’m sort of talking about the first possible new song and this is a legendary composer but also it’s a property that as we keep saying is perfect on its own so it’s like okay, gonna tell me we need that but Alan is a direct opposite of that. You know, I think Alan as a man of the theatre, is somebody who craves the dialogue and the collaboration. I think that’s what it’s about and that became clear very, very soon, you know. We just started a conversation. It went on for a couple of years, right?
AM: Yeah, and also we’re both professionals. I mean we both have done a lot of work. We know what’s necessary in order to collaborate and there are people who are new to musicals and will try to reinvent the wheel in one direction or another but we both have been through so much and when you’re a pro you basically arrived at the same place kind of because you know what’s important and you know what needs to get done and you, also by the way, know the necessity of process and I know that for me to go back to Beauty and the Beast on my own, no way I could do it. I had done it. It’s all about other people coming in and collaborating and for me the director is the boss and so it takes such a burden off of me. Now I’m able to be a catalyst which is what I wanna be more than somebody driving the ship. Bill had the burden of actually driving the ship so I don’t know.
Q: Talk about the challenges of preserving the timeless classic with integrating new things?
BC: I think again it was always about revealing more. It wasn’t about reinventing, you know. So it was like you start to bring it into the real world and you start to ask questions that didn’t matter in the animated film, you know. How did Belle and Maurice wind up in this village. What happened to her mother? How did the Prince become such a dissolute figure that he was worthy of being cursed? It’s interesting you start asking those questions and you start to bat around what the possible answers are. Then you’re making something different but I think for me I could ever really rely on my own kind of reverence for the original film in knowing when you’re changing something or going too far. You know, I hope never to cross that line.
Q: How did you know that Emma was your Belle?
BC: Well I suspected it right. Just seeing her in Harry Potter. It seemed like that was a perfect kind of connection to a 21st century Belle. Then we met. I was shooting a movie called Mr. Holmes. We met for an hour and the thing that I loved was how much she loved the original movie and how much she wanted to play the part and she came with a whole pile of books, because I was late. I was shooting and she was in the middle of reading. So there she was. And then the only question really became she’s never sung professionally before. She needed to answer that question for herself too. She wanted to go off.
It was Christmas holiday and she said, you go out and get a script together you can send me. We made a handshake deal and Emma’s gonna go off and make a tape and explore her voice. That was the thing. That kind of scary moment. To me it’s more intimate than taking your clothes when you first hear somebody sing even in a karaoke session. You know, it’s like oh, my god, that’s the sound that comes out of you. We’ve seen that a few time in movies too but her voice is so much — it’s so much a continuation of who she is and how she speaks and there was clearly this kind of sweetness to it and clarity to it that made it seem like it was gonna be a different Belle but I was gonna be a really satisfying one.
AM:She was a little terrified. I mean no bones about it and we made sure she had her vocal coach. I had Michael Kosarin, my musical director. Bill was actually at the sessions. This is not necessarily it always is but it’s so helpful because she was I think really intimidated by me. I don’t know why. Possibly because of me being the composer I don’t think she wanted to be that vulnerable in front of me so I really hung back in the control room and in the back of the control room. And we also had a guy named Matt Sullivan who is a music supervisor and just gave Emma the space to just find her voice and work on it and work on it and she did and Dan was similar. It was new for both of them.
About The Movie
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a live-action re-telling of the studio’s animated classic which refashions the classic characters from the tale as old as time for a contemporary audience, staying true to the original music while updating the score with several new songs. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Oscar® winner Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s eccentric, but lovable father; Josh Gad as Lefou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Golden Globe® nominee Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, the candelabra; Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; six-time Tony Award® winner Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe, the wardrobe; Oscar nominee Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and two-time Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.
Directed by Oscar® winner Bill Condon from a screenplay by TBD based on the 1991 animated film, the film is produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman with eight-time Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken, who won two Academy Awards® (Best Original Score and Best Song) for the 1991 animated film, providing the score, which will include new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Howard Ashman, as well as several new songs written by Menken and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice. “Beauty and the Beast” in U.S. theaters NOW.
***Disclosure: I attended the #BeOurGuestEvent My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney All opinions are 100% mine. ***