Bill Condon on the challenges of adapting a 'tale as old as time'
Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon is no stranger to musicals -- he wrote the screenplay for movie versions of Chicago and Dreamgirls -- the latter of which he directed as well. But when Disney approached him about making a live-action adaptation of its famous animated classic he was initially hesitant to take it on. He talks about what changed his mind and how he set about making the movie his own.
Reports of a "gay moment" in Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast made noise around the world before the film even opened. Director Bill Condon swears he wasn't trying to create an international incident. Any blowback was inconsequential, to put it mildly: the movie broke box office records in its first weekend. Condon talks about overcoming his misgivings about taking on a classic and explains what his earlier Twilight movies have in common with Beauty and the Beast.
From the opening notes of the new live-action Beauty and the Beast, it's clear that Disney was not going for understatement with this one.
Coming 26 years after the animated version, the lavish, live-action production broke multiple box office records with a $175 million opening weekend. That was the biggest-ever bow for a PG-rated movie, and it surpassed last year's Batman v Superman as the biggest March opening ever.
As in the animated version, the action follows book-loving Belle to a cursed castle, where she is held in captivity by a prince-turned-beast whose time is running out.
Emma Watson and Dan Stevens play the title characters, while Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen voice Lumiere and Cogsworth, once human servants who have been transformed into a candlestick and a clock.
Our guest today is Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon. His credits include the screenplay for the movie version of Chicago and he wrote the screenplay for and directed Dreamgirls.
In 1999, he won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for Gods and Monsters. More recently, he directed the final two films in the Twilight franchise.
Those credits may seem eclectic, but Condon doesn't see it that way. He tells us about the thread that ties his films together and explains what his earlier Twilight movies have in common with Beauty and the Beast.
And then, of course, there's the "gay moment."
As in the 1991 animated version, the villain Gaston has a lackey named Le Fou, always ready to buck him up when he's down.
But as has been widely reported, Le Fou -- played by Josh Gad -- finally comes to a realization about his sexual orientation.
Condon said as much in an interview a couple of weeks before Beauty and the Beast was released, and in some quarters, the backlash was immediate. Russia threatened to ban the film but then allowed it to pay to audiences 16 and over. Malaysia demanded cuts to the film, though it too eventually allowed an uncensored version to open with a PG13 rating.
Obviously this became a distraction from Disney's point of view. The studio had invested hundreds of millions in the film, and probably would have preferred to avoid any further discussion of the controversy.
Condon tells us why he decided to make a subtle statement about Le Fou's sexuality and gives his take on the immediate reaction--much of which happened, to his disappointment, before anyone even saw the movie.