The live-action Beauty and the Beast remake won’t only serve as a major dose of nostalgia — the choice to make Gaston’s sidekick LeFou the first openly gay character in a Disney movie adds a modern twist to the tale as old as time.
At a press conference for the new film in Beverly Hills on Sunday, director Bill Condon addressed the buzz-about decision to include a new subplot for LeFou (Josh Gad) — which includes a crush on his pal Gaston (Fast & Furious star Luke Evans) and a happily ever after moment of his own.
“I talked before about how we translate this into live-action. That means building out the characters. It’s also a translation to 2017, you know?” Condon, 61, said. “And what is the movie about? What has this story always been about for 300 years? It’s about looking closer, going deeper, accepting people for who they really are.”
He continued, “And in a very Disney way, we are including everybody. I think this is for everybody, and on the screen we’ll see everybody. And that was important to me.”
The choice to include a gay character in the remake has made plenty of headlines, some due to backlash — a theater in Alabama announced it would not be screening Beauty and the Beast due to LeFou’s open flirtation with Gaston and what Gad described as a “subtle but incredibly effective” scene during the film’s finale.
However, Gad said he is “very proud” of bringing the new element to the big screen.
“Bill Condon did an amazing job of giving us an opportunity to create a version of LeFou that isn’t like the original, that expands on what the original did, but that makes him more human and that makes him a wonderfully complex character to some extent,” Gad said at the film’s premiere.
LeFou isn’t the only character receiving a modern upgrade. The director took steps to ensure Belle, played by Emma Watson, remained a feminist icon for the new generation. For example, Condon added dimension to Belle was by giving the book-loving character a passion for helping others.
“In the original film she’s someone who loves reading, and in this film, she’s equally concerned with teaching other girls how to read,” he says.
And Condon says it’s no accident that many of Belle’s new characteristics reflect Watson’s in real life.
“It’s interesting how when we would think of ideas for Belle, it was like, ‘Wow that’s what [Watson] is doing in her own life,’ ” he says.
Beauty and the Beast hits theaters March 17.