BEAUTY AND THE BEAST opens in theaters everywhere on March 17th!
Alan Menken started off the Beauty and the Beast press event with a beautiful medley of music from the movie…but then we got a surprise performance by Luke Evans (“Gaston”) & Josh Gad (“Le Fou”).
AMAZING! It was a fun way to start our day! After this pleasant surprise we headed upstairs to talk to Luke and Josh.
This was by far the funniest interview I’ve even had…laughs and jokes all around. We immediately thanked them for the performance and Josh Gad said, “The truth is, you don’t need to beg us to do a performance. Luke and I will sing at the drop of a coin. But it’s a problem, actually, that’s really – I never thought I’d be someone who was so willing to sing for no reason at all. Until I met Luke Evans.”
“We are literally cut from the same cloth.” ~ Luke Evans
Once these guys started talking, you couldn’t help but love them and laugh along with them. They were definitely a duo full of trouble (on and off set). Luke said that they would “cause trouble wherever we go. But make people laugh in the process. It was just a lot of fun playing these characters.” Both Luke and Josh were huge fans of the original version of Beauty and the Beast. Josh was 10 and Luke was 12 when it first came out.
Watching the classic animated version was a highlight for the young Luke Evans…but now as an adult, he got to bring Gaston to life! Luke told us “We both felt very lucky. And we knew that we could have a lot of fun and laugh. And there were moments when some of the funniest moments we had, I think are things that we made up on the moment.”
Improv was BIG for Luke and Josh. Josh explained that “The first sequence when the two of us are riding in that wagon with Maurice. That whole idea of calming Luke down with stories about the war, was something that we literally came up with on the spot.” They of course did about 30 different variations of that scene…each one just as funny…and some of them even more insane.
Josh truly feels that “it’s all about the chemistry between the two characters.” An actor can hope to be paired with someone who you spark with… and he has been fortunate to have done so in a couple of films. The day he met Luke he connected and bonded with him. They both came from a musical theater background. “Luke from the West Side, me from Broadway. And so we have this common language and this common understanding. And this common goal of wanting to do justice to a movie that was so – I cannot stress this enough – so pivotal in our childhoods.”
“The second golden age of Disney animation from LITTLE MERMAID to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, to ALADDIN then to LION KING, defined my growing up. They really did. I was 10 years old when BEAUTY AND THE BEAST came out. And those Alan Menken, Howard Ashman songs, they really were the soundtrack to my childhood. And so bringing a song like Gaston to life, that’s like a dream come true. So it was incredible.” (Josh Gad)
“Oh, I can tell you, Luke with his body felt a lot better than I did. I can tell you right off the bat.” ~ Luke Evans
A major part of Gaston was his ego. Luke had to look the part…the hair, the fitted red leather…“we went to about four or five incarnations of that leather jacket before we found the right color of blood red.” The color represented the sinister part of his nature. “I don’t know if you noticed, but that red jacket which is obviously so synonymous with Gaston in the original. And it’s the same here. That only goes on when he puts Maurice into the carriage to lock him up. And that’s the first time you see it. And we made that conscious decision. When you put something on like that, there was so much work in it, those buttons all and antlers on each button. And I had a pinky ring which was an antler impressed into red stone.” EVERYTHING was antler themed! Gaston wouldn’t have it any other way. Luke had fun bring Gaston to life…he may have been a villain, but he made people laugh too!
Josh Gad said, “I think that Gaston in particular, represents a really interesting character. Because there’s I think one of the most important lessons to be learned, comes surprisingly out of that character. Which is, you have a guy who is provoking fear, based on a character that nobody knows. That people are scared of because they’ve never seen him. But they’re afraid of what he’s capable of. Feeding into those fears and going to attack someone because, based on the fact that you’ve never met them before. But what you believe they’re capable of. Well, that’s as relevant today as it was when BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was first written.”
LeFou starts off as an oaf who solely devotes everything to Gaston…but in the end he redeems himself. Josh explained, “The character in the original movie is, he is a product of cartoon conceits, right? He has his teeth knocked out. He’s literally thrown across rooms by Gaston multiple times.” Josh wanted to add dimension to LeFou. “One of the things that I really loved about LeFou in this particular version is, he does have this interesting arc where he starts to question the blind devotion that he has to this person who, during the course of the film, turns into the real monster. And that was such an interesting thing to play.” In the life version, they didn’t want to just recreate the animated movie. Josh really felt that the best way to improve upon PERFECTION was to add dimension and bring new surprises to the story. They did this by adding new songs, new movement, and in doing so it brings out the old into a new amazing way.
“Love conquers hate.” ~ Luke Evans
The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in Disney’s live-action adaptation “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.
Directed by Bill Condon based on the 1991 animated film, “Beauty and the Beast,” the screenplay is written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos and produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman, p.g.a. and Todd Lieberman, p.g.a. with Jeffrey Silver, Thomas Schumacher and Don Hahn serving as executive producers. Alan Menken, who won two Academy Awards® (Best Original Score and Best Song) for the animated film, provides the score, which includes new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Howard Ashman, as well as three new songs written by Menken and Tim Rice. “Beauty and the Beast” will be released in U.S. theaters on March 17, 2017.
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Disclosure: I was invited by Disney to attend an all expenses paid trip to cover the #BeOurGuestEvent & other fun adventures in LA on 3/4-3/7. All opinions are my own.