VF Hollywood: You’ve made a series of movies examining complex individuals. As a filmmaker, is there any point in the creative process when you become obsessed with your subjects, or figuring them out?
Bill Condon: To get inside a character, there comes a point where you begin to have a sort of one-on-one relationship with them whether they’re fictional or not. You spend a lot of time alone with them. It can be quite intense, and quite isolating. But I also think I tend to focus on characters who are themselves isolated. James Whale, Julian Assange, Sherlock Holmes, even the beast in Beauty and the Beast, in some way, these are all characters who are living in exile. And it’s an exile of their own making. Kind of like being a screenwriter.
You are credited with reviving the musical-movie genre. With your expertise in musicals and musical adaptations, what do you think of the seemingly endless musical-adaptation announcements we hear about, pegged to everything from Clueless, and Mean Girls to Groundhog Day and James Bond? Is there a rule that producers should go by . . . if a film does not have X or Y elements, it should not become a musical?
You know, between Dreamgirls and the screenplay for Chicago, I think I’ve been fortunate to be around during an interesting moment in the resurgence of the movie musical. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules to the form, except that hopefully, the songs are good, and they move the story forward. When I first spoke to Disney about doing Beauty and the Beast, they actually weren’t sure they were going to do this new version as a musical, and I said, “With all due respect, I think you’re crazy. The songs are too good. You’re going to spend all this time making a huge, gorgeous live-action Beauty and the Beast and not do ‘Be Our Guest’?”
So excited to see this adaptation! Did you have Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, or Luke Evans sing certain songs from the movie when they auditioned. If so, what?Source: Vanity Fair
Actually, I had them all sing “Hakuna Matata,” just to confuse them.
How are you changing the story to reflect the third dimension that the animated original did not have?
We’re actually here in Belle’s poor provincial town right now, corralling an angry mob, which has always been a dream of any Frankenstein fan . . . I wouldn’t say we’re changing the story so much as sort of making connections that in a lot of cases were right under the surface. Honestly, there are so many people who love the original film and love the Broadway show, and they’ve had two decades now to pick them apart and point out big questions and plot holes, and in a lot of places we looked at those and said, “Hey, that’s a good question,” or “That’s an excellent point, why don’t these townspeople know anything about this huge castle that’s like a mile away from their village?,” and used those as jumping off points for our own discussions. So hopefully, this will be a film where a die-hard fan can jump up and say “exactly!”
Would you please give us one clue about the ballroom dance sequence? Thank you!
It was one of the first scenes we shot, and it was really magical. You will believe a beast can waltz.