1. She made Belle a proactive princess
Emma wasn’t content to play just another princess. After reading the script, she was hesitant to sign on for the role until she was assured she could collaborate on Belle’s character and backstory, and it shows.
“We tried to tweak things to make her more proactive, and a bit less carried along by the story, and a bit more in charge of — and in control of — her own destiny” she said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
2. Her sense of style
Emma’s no stranger to wearing clothes fit for a princess to red carpet events and fashion shows, but when it came to Belle’s costume she insisted that practicality should come first. Rejecting the restrictive corsets typical of Disney princesses, Emma had several other adjustments to make Belle’s look more wearable.
“In the movie, she wears these little ballet shoes, and I knew that they had to go because if you’re going to ride a horse, and tend your garden, and fix machinery, then you need to be in proper boots,” she told Entertainment Weekly.
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#Repost @calvinklein with @repostapp. ・・・ At the #metgala, actor + activist @emmawatson in a custom Calvin Klein Collection look designed in collaboration with @ecoage and made from sustainable cotton, satin, and taffeta woven from recycled plastic yarn. #mycalvins #manusxmachina
3. She’s a bookworm just like Belle
A character who wanders around town with her head in a book is the perfect fit for Emma, who’s made a habit of hiding novels in the nooks and crannies of London and New York City for eager readers to find.
Always a voracious reader, Emma runs a book club on Goodreads called Our Shared Shelf which focuses on female authors and experiences.
4. She’s smart, and wanted Belle to be too
While developing her character with director Bill Condon, Emma came up with the idea of making Belle the inventor, rather than her father. “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?’
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.”
5. She’s not afraid of a challenge
“I sing, so that’s really unexpected. I’ve never had to do that for a film role before, and…it gives me a different challenge, really. That’s terrifying in and of itself!” she revealed to The Telegraph.
While some actors would be daunted by the prospect of taking on some of the most beloved songs in the Disney canon, Emma approached the task with her usual tenacity, and judging by what we’ve heard in the trailer, it’s paid off.
6. She’s a feminist
Even before Emma had a hand in expanding Belle’s backstory, the character was different from the classic Disney princesses — she doesn’t wait around to be rescued by a dashing prince or wooed by a handsome suitor and as Emma herself told E! News, “she challenges the status quo of the place she lives in, and I found that really inspiring.”
As the UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women, Emma has been an outspoken campaigner for gender equality, spearheading the HeForShe initiative aimed at engaging men and boys against sexism.
7. She’s a great role model
She’s already an idol to many after her unforgettable role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, but starring in a new Disney movie will introduce Emma to a whole new audience of young fans.
This isn’t lost on Emma, who had previously turned down the role of Cinderella because it didn’t resonate with her. She says of Belle, “She remains curious, compassionate and open-minded and that’s the kind of woman I would want to embody as a role model, given the choice.”
Speaking to Total Film magazine, Emma revealed that one of the differences was “this kind of outsider quality that Belle had, and the fact she had this really empowering defiance of what was expected of her… She manages to keep her integrity and have a completely independent point of view. She’s not easily swayed by other people’s perspectives — not swayed by fearmongering or scapegoating.”
Beauty and the Beast will be released in Australian cinemas on March 23rd.