The live-action adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” may have found the other half of its title couple.
“Downton Abbey” actor Dan Stevens is reportedly in negotiations to star in the new Disney version of the film, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Actress Emma Watson announced on Facebook earlier this year that she is playing the protagonist, Belle.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” actor Luke Evans is in talk to portray “Beauty” villain Gaston.
And according to Watson, Stevens and Evans joining the production seem to be done deals. She tweeted about the two on March 5.
Stevens is of course best known for his role as romantic hero Matthew Crawley on the smash hit British series “Downton.” More recently, he appeared in 2014’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” and “A Walk Among the Tombstones.”
If Stevens does join the cast, it will be an interesting choice. The Beast as a character is by necessity a bit more rough around the edges – at least at the beginning of the story – than the polished Matthew.
And “Beauty” remains a good choice for a new live-action adaptation of a fairy tale (more were inevitable after the success of last year’s “Maleficent”). Early Disney stories like “Snow White” and “Cinderella” aren't exactly full of lessons we would want children today to absorb, with their frequent emphasis on heroines being valued for their beauty or couples getting engaged after one meeting. “Cinderella” is getting the live-action treatment this month and the movie’s director, Kenneth Branagh, emphasized in at least one interview how they moved away from such elements in the new movie.
“We've given it a contemporary feel that is human and humane and strangely enough, not built around the idea that Cinderella's life depends on finding a man or things, like clothes or a title, or just hoping this magic will come along,” he told E!. “It's much more about who she is, what she feels about herself, and taking that kind of sort of spiritual cue to make it refreshing in a contemporary way.”
“Beauty” has no such stumbling block to get past, with protagonist Belle already being one of Disney’s strongest heroines. And the pedigree of the original movie is flawless – “Beauty,” which came out in 1991, was the first animated movie to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar (it’s still the only one to have earned a nod in a year in which there were only five Best Picture nominees) and is often called one of Disney’s best films ever. Monitor readers voted it the fifth-best animated film ever made.