Emma Watson is Still Going to Play Belle in a Live-Action Beauty and the Beast

By  · Published on January 26th, 2015

Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

It’s a casting decision as old as time. Emma Watson signed on to play Belle in a live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movie back in 2011. That project was set up at Warner Bros. with Guillermo del Toro attached to direct. Now she’s officially signed on to play Belle in a different live-action “Beauty and the Beast” movie, according to The Wrap.

This one is from Disney, part of their plan to remake every one of their animated features with actors in the flesh (and sometimes enhanced by CGI) and being helmed by Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – parts 1 and 2, which concludes a kind of update on the “Beauty and the Beast” narrative). Reportedly the production got del Toro’s blessing to snag his leading lady since the Warner Bros. movie is all but dead now. Watson will now get to reunite, to an extent, with The Perks of Being a Wallflower writer-director Stephen Chbosky, who scripted this take on the classic fairy tale.

We’ve wondered in the past how much teen angst we’ll get from this Beauty and the Beast given its screenwriter and director’s work with YA adaptations in the past (Chbosky’s being from his own book, of course). Now I also wonder how feminist the movie could be, considering Watson regularly speaks out on women’s rights and gender equality as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. This story has been analyzed to death by feminist scholars, with the animated Disney film being celebrated for some positive traits given to the Belle character but still criticized for its focus more on her looks than her smarts and a narrative centered around which male character she’ll wind up with, Gaston or the Beast.

Of course, while it’s stereotypical that feminists are anti-Disney Princesses, there’s also a lot of defenses to Belle being one of the more feminist of the bunch. As with most fairy tales from their root themes and plots, Beauty and the Beast is intrinsically a complicated animal that can be dissected this way and that way with results providing evidence for either perspective. Presumably the former Harry Potter star sees something more positive for women in this tale. I can just picture her big scene from This Is the End but where she’s attacking the Beast for having a rape-y vibe after she becomes his prisoner. Not that Disney would ever be so explicit.

“It was such a big part of my growing up,” Watson wrote on her Facebook page following the official casting announcement, “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.”

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.