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We’ve Found Our Beast

The cast for Walt Disney Pictures’ Beauty and the Beast – the upcoming live-action remake of the Mouse House’s Oscar-winning 1991 animated fairy tale adaptation – has suddenly tripled in size, over the past twenty-four hours or so. Former Harry Potter star Emma Watson was already onboard, but yesterday the news emerged that Luke Evans (The Hobbit trilogy) is also joining the project – as is Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens, it turns out.

Stevens, in the years since he played would-be Downton Abbey heir Matthew Crawley, has found his niche as a character actor. His resume now including solid supporting turns in such films as The Fifth Estate and A Walk Among the Tombstones, as well as a memorable lead performance as a mysterious military vet in last year’s action/thriller throwback The Guest – and, most recently, a scene-stealing comedic appearance as Sir Lancelot in Night at the Museum: Tomb of the Emperor.

Stevens, as first reported by such outlets as THR and later confirmed by the actor on Twitter, will be costarring in Beauty and the Beast as the (nameless?) Prince; who, in the story, is transformed into a horrifying creature by an enchantress, as punishment for his cruel and selfish behavior. Watson, meanwhile, will portray Belle: the intelligent young woman who makes a deal to take her father’s place after the latter is captured and imprisoned by the Beast – unaware her captor is a human beneath his monstrous exterior.

Evans is up to play the film’s villain Gaston: a brawny and vain hunter who, concerned solely with her attractive appearance, becomes determined to make Belle his wife. The most recent script draft for the Beauty and the Beast live-action feature was penned by Stephen Chbosky, who also directed Watson in the film adaptation of his own novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Calling the shots here, however, is one Oscar-winner Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) – who, as it were, previously teamed with Stevens on Fifth Estate (the 2013 Julian Assange memoir).

It remains to be seen how Stevens’ transformation into The Beast is handled in Condon’s live-action adaptation. As we discussed when Ryan Gosling was rumored as a possibility for the role, the character could be created through practical makeup effects, as has happened in other recent Disney live-action fairy tale remakes (see: Angelina Jolie as Maleficent‘s namesake or Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland). Or, alternatively, there could be some motion-capture trickery involved to create the hulking Beast, a la Mark Ruffalo as Hulk in the Avengers movies.

Both Condon and Watson previously indicated that the plan is to carry over Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s songs from the 1991 Disney animated Beauty and the Beast feature into the live-action version – with Condon having told EW that modern filmmaking tech will allow them “to bring that brilliant, amazing score and beautiful story into three dimensions.” One just wonders if any of the original tunes from the Broadway musical adaptation will also make the cut. It could be fun to watch Stevens perform a number like “If I Can’t Love Her”, after all.

Beauty and the Beast begins filming later this year, possibly to make a late 2016 or early 2017 theatrical release.

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