Emma Watson, along with Miles Teller, was rumoured to have been cast in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land when it was first announced. But Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling ended up starring in the film – and subsequently went on to pick up a lot of accolades (albeit not the Best Picture gong) during this year’s awards season.
So what happened?
Well, in a new interview with SiriusXM’s Town Hall, Watson has explained why she really decided against appearing in La La Land - and it makes a lot of sense.
“It's one of these frustrating things where names get attached to projects very early on as a way to kind of build anticipation or excitement for something that's coming before anything is really actually agreed or set in stone," she said, explaining that when La La Land was mentioned to her, she was already signed on to do Beauty and the Beast.
And Beauty and the Beast required a lot of work on her end.
“It wasn't a movie I could just sort of step into,” she explained. “I knew I had horse training, I knew I had dancing, I knew I had three months of singing ahead of me and I knew I had to be in London to really do that.
“This wasn't a movie I could just kind of parachute into. I knew I had to do the work, and I had to be where I had to be. So, you know, scheduling conflict-wise, it just didn't work out.”
The 26-year-old women’s rights activist wasn’t just playing a part in Beauty and the Beast, either; the actor got heavily involved in her character’s backstory, convincing Disney to give Belle a feminist makeover to inspire the film’s modern-day audience.
Speaking with EW, she explained: “In the animated movie, it's her father who is the inventor, and we actually co-opted that for Belle.
“I was like, 'Well, there was never very much information or detail at the beginning of the story as to why Belle didn't fit in, other than she liked books. Also what is she doing with her time?'”
Watson continued: “So, we created a backstory for her, which was that she had invented a kind of washing machine, so that, instead of doing laundry, she could sit and use that time to read instead.
“So, yeah, we made Belle an inventor.”
Watson’s interpretation of Belle has also been imbued with a sense of fearless courageousness – and the actor worked alongside the film’s costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, to ensure that her character was dressed to suit her new feminist narrative.
“For Emma, it was important that the dress was light and that it had a lot of movement,” Durran explained.
“In Emma’s reinterpretation, Belle is an active princess. She did not want a dress that was corseted or that would impede her in any way.”
They even made sure that Belle’s shoes fit within this new narrative, ensuring that, while they were heeled slippers from the 18th century, they were still “something that Belle can run in and that she can go off and save her father in”.
Beauty and the Beast is out in cinemas on 17 March 2017.
Images: Disney / Rex Pictures