As great as Walt Disney Animation's Beauty and the Beast is, there is one significant flaw in its storytelling. Lumiere establishes in "Be Our Guest" that the curse has lasted for 10 years -- but since the curse is meant to end on the Prince's 21st birthday, that means that he was only 11 when the spell was initially cast (and that he was totally justified in not letting a stranger into his house while alone during a storm). This is an issue that the new live-action adaptation avoids by both removing both the 21st birthday plot point and the "10 years we've been rusting" lyric... but this still leaves the question of how long the curse has lasted in the new film. Fortunately, it was a query that I was recently able to pose to both star Dan Stevens and director Bill Condon.
I sat down with both men earlier this month at Beauty and the Beast's Los Angeles press day, and used the opportunity to dig for details about the fantasy film's timeline of events. First sitting down with Dan Stevens -- who was paired with co-star Emma Watson -- I asked if the production had established a definitive history of the curse to study in his character work. While he did remember that they had set a number during filming, he was fuzzy on the details -- but with a bit of support and suggestion from Watson he settled on an odd number. Said Stevens,
That's a good question. I couldn't give you to the nearest day -- I'm trying to remember how long we had established that he had been cursed. I think by this stage it's been a while. You get the sense that it's been a few years... Ten? I think we were playing in that sort of ballpark. Let's say maybe nine!
Later that same day I asked Bill Condon about his thoughts on the matter -- and not only did he admit to not firmly answering that question within Beauty and the Beast, but also supported the inquiry and pointed out a funny benefit that the Prince gets from the witch's curse:
We don't definitively answer that question. I think it's not a bad thing to imagine that's what it is. And he doesn't age during that point, but he's a grown up, you know?
Funny enough, this idea of the curse essentially pausing time for the Prince and everyone else in the castle occurred to me while talking with Dan Stevens as well, and you can watch his funny reaction and realization in the video below: