Anyone who has ever spent a lazy afternoon perusing Ewan McGregor’s filmography, wondering why on Earth he has never played a talking French candlestick, can finally rest easy.
Though those folk are surely legion (just us?), the makers of the new, live-action version of Disney classic Beauty and the Beast can also rest easy that the demographics for this month’s blockbusting retread are somewhat more diverse. Make no mistake: 2017 may well have a new Star Wars, a new Spider-Man and a new Guardians of the Galaxy up its sleeve, but this will be the year’s biggest movie.
If its director is feeling the pressure, he’s doing a fine job of not showing it. “I didn’t feel that much pressure,” says Bill Condon, of Dreamgirls and Twilight fame. “But only because we didn’t drop anything. The original is so beautiful as it is. The score is iconic and great, but also perfect! So this wasn’t a case of wanting to come at it from a different angle or to reinvent the wheel. This was translating it into this other dimension, into a new medium, really – a photo-real, live action film – and then filling it out. It was about translation and expansion, not reinvention.”
And so it is that Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens is unrecognizable under Beast make-up, Luke Evans is the dastardly Gaston and, yes, Ewan McGregor is Lumiere, the computer-generated candlestick, among a starry cast that also features Ian McKellen, Kevin Kline and Emma Thompson.
All of them, of course, are just window dressing to Emma Watson’s Belle, the young girl bitten by love. “When she walked on set in that yellow dress,” says Condon, “Genuine goosebumps. She’s taken something that was so fresh 25 years ago and brought it right into our time.”
Beauty and the Beast is in cinemas March 16.