Tuesday, July 15, 2008

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Casting Coup: Beauty and the Beast

After the success that was Sleeping Beauty, a CCT dedicated to one of the greatest Disney movies of all time, it was only natural that I should continue this trend of crowd-pleasers with what many consider to be the greatest of Disney Princess films.

Released in 1991, Beauty and the Beast soon became the benchmark by which all other animated films were measured (then came The Lion King). To this day, it is the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. It became a hit Broadway musical, and became the Disney standard by which to measure future expectations (then came The Lion King). The straight-to-video sequel didn't suck, and there was even a live-action spin-off series for TV: "Sing Me a Story with Belle" (with a pilot called Belle's Magical World.

Most importantly, it introduced the first fully feminist Disney heroine. Sure, Ariel was cool, but that movie's more about a sexual awakening than a woman kicking ass. Belle's hot. Belle's smart. She reads, cares for her family, totally accepts singing flatware, and makes a man earn her love. That's the real selling point. A selfish prince turned into a ferocious Beast, until Belle taught him (a) manners, and (b) 'spect.

Wanting to tap into that demographic (and not like that) and satisfy the people, I decided to start some discourse. After all, we're all fans of Beauty and the Beast. Some of us can get protective of these clocks and candlesticks. Let's take a look at what Walter considers the ideal cast for a live-action version of the Disney classic, and see if he "gets it".

Who is He: The head of the asylum where Gaston tries to commit Maurice--unless Belle marries him! A small cameo, but so memorably creepy. And evil.

Originally played by: Tony Jay (Frollo in Hunchback)

My Choice: A popular Dutch actor who I find to be intriguingly creepy. Some people might find him sexy, but those people are not me.

Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, Batman Begins, The Hitcher)

Who is He: Gaston's sycophantic "friend". Probably gay.

Originally played by: Jesse Corti (Crocodile #1 and #3 in The Wild Thornberries)

My Choice: This was pure Amanda. Thanks, girl Friday!

Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events)

Who is He: Belle's father, an eccentric inventor who wanders into the Beast's castle and makes himself at home. When the Beast imprisons him, Belle comes to the rescue and stays with the Beast instead.

Originally played by: Rex Everhart (Tony Award Nominee for Working)

My Choice: An Academy Award Winner for Best Director (once) and Best Original Screenplay (twice), this actor looks nothing like the Maurice you know. On the other hand, he's a great choice for a father figure who happens to be an inventor, thought mad by all who meet him.

Academy Award Winner Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters)

Who is She: Head Housekeeper of the Beast's castle, she was transformed into a teapot by the spell. She has a son, and she loves to sing.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee Angela Lansbury (The Manchurian Candidate, Gaslight, The Picture of Dorian Gray)

My Choice: Academy Award Winner for Best Actress (Misery)

Kathy Bates (Primary Colors, About Schmidt)

Who is He: Footman or butler or something. Probably valet. Or something. Anyway, he's a servant that's turned into a clock, and has a big ol' stick up his works and everything. Then Belle softens him, because she is MAGIC.

Originally played by: Disney/Woody Allen regular David Ogden Stiers (Radcliffe in Pocahontas, Edward Norton's dad in Everyone Says I Love You)

My Choice: I decided to go with an actual Frenchman, because I think he is the best choice. Of course, his accent will be out of place...

Dominique Pinon (Amelie, Delicatessen)

Who is He: Another servant who may or may not be the butler/footman/valet/gardener/guy who wandered in at the worst possible moment. Turned into a candlestick, he has a "flare" for entertainment. Also a bit of a lothario, so you know he must have been sexy when he was a man.

Originally played by: Jerry Orbach (TV's Law & Order, Crimes and Misdemeanors)

My Choice: I wanted to add a bit of color to the cast. And he's awesome. And women consider him sexy. To which I say, imagine him with an accent.

Taye Diggs (Rent, Chicago, House on Haunted Hill)

Who is He: A closet-case who flexes his muscles and acts all straight and manly and sadistic. Wants Belle, the most beautiful girl in town, to marry him, but cannot understand her world of things not Gaston. Clearly, the villain.

Originally played by: Richard White, an ordained minister from Tennessee

My Choice: An actual stage star, for once, and one that is both gay and incredibly built/good-looking.

Cheyenne Jackson (Xanadu: The Musical on Broadway, United 93)


Who is He: A spoiled Prince who was a bastard one too many times. Transformed into a Beast, he must learn to love and be loved before a rose loses all of its petals.

Originally played by: Robby Benson

My Choice: Yes, yes, yes, of course he's rough enough to play the Beast. He can do it! And when he's the Prince--WHOO! You better believe that man's a prince!

Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential)


Who is She: A hot piece of ass who happens to also have a brain. But really, she's beautiful and smart, and the Beast can't become a handsome prince until he adheres to her rules.

Originally played by: Paige O'Hara (the soap opera Prince Edward watches in Enchanted)

My Choice: Smart, beautiful, could totally pull it off. She has a sophistication that absolutely nullifies the age difference between her and Guy Pearce.

Rachel McAdams (Married Life, The Notebook)

And, just as a special treat.....

Who are they: A group of blondes, following Gaston around until he realizes he doesn't need to bother with Belle when there are three nymphomaniacs surrounding him at all times.

Originally played by: Kath Soucie (Phil and Lil on Rugrats)

My Choice: Oh, come on. This is the most obvious of all casting choices.

Holly Madison, Kendra Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt (The Girls Next Door)

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