The new live-action adaptation of Disney's Beauty and the Beast was clearly no easy feat to put together. On beyond the thousands of man-hours required for the visual effects, the performances by the actors had the additional challenges of complex choreography and belting to the rafters. This was definitely the case for Emma Watson, who had never previously led a big screen musical before, but the project actually came with a surprising new task as well: she had to learn how to ride a horse.
With the actress having previously taken on a wide variety of roles in different genres and settings, you'd think that horse riding would already be a part of her skill set - but as she explained when I sat down to talk with her earlier this month, it was it counted on the list of new experiences when she took on the part of Belle. Taking part in the Los Angeles press day for Beauty and the Beast, I asked Emma Watson what she would single out as the most difficult aspect of production... and she actually wound up mentioning a number of demands brought on by the project:
The standout challenge really was for me to get into a place where I felt I was ready to carry a musical. It's something that I've always wanted to do, but never done professionally! So it was sort of like learning to ride a bike again/knowing that I needed to work a motorcycle kind of thing. This is the Ferrari of musical movies, really. It's one of the most beloved. I'd never ridden a horse before also! Dancing, getting the waltz right. It was really challenging, and I'm very proud that I get to take away all the skills that I learned from this film and bring them to the rest of my career. So it's been pretty cool!
So when you eventually see Emma Watson taking on a Western role and speeding across the great plains, you'll know that the birth of those skills came while learning how to ride the loyal mare Phillipe in Beauty and the Beast.
Emma Watson's comments also do bring up what must be one of the best aspects of being an actor. Once you've reached a certain level of success, new projects offer all kinds of opportunities to access special skills and abilities -- whether it's learning how to ride a horse or play an instrument. There's obviously a level of dedication involved, and there is certainly a long list of notorious actors who aren't big on that extra mile, but it's fun to learn that Watson sees productions as teaching experiences that can help her become a better performer.
You can watch Emma Watson (seated beside Beauty and the Beast co-star Dan Stevens) talk about the challenges of bringing the film to life in the video below: