SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains light spoilers for Beauty and the Beast - and nothing that will ruin your experience if you've seen the animated version of the film from 1991.
There is no questioning that the inhabitants of the royal castle in Beauty and the Beast suffer a great deal as a result of the witch's curse. After all, they're not only all transformed to be shocking to any stranger who comes upon them, but there's also pretty much nothing they can individually do to try and change their station (they're actually incredibly lucky that Maurice happened to be in the woods at night being chased by wolves). As bad as it all was for the prince, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and the rest, however, there is one person in the new live-action film who arguably has it worse than anybody stuck inside the castle walls: Jean the Potter, a.k.a. Mr. Potts.
Audiences first meet Mr. Potts, played by Gerard Horan, shortly after the introduction of Emma Watson's Belle -- featured as one of the friendly townspeople she runs into as she walks to return her book. While he's friendly to Belle, he notes that he personally isn't in a great place due to the fact that he's having trouble with his memory. It's an innocent line that you don't really think much about... until you get to the end and realize exactly what he's been forgetting. For the last nine to 10 years his wife and adolescent son have been stuck as a tea set, and the spell of the Enchantress (Hattie Morahan) has individually cursed him so that every fleeting thought he has about them winds up fogging his mind (an extension of the curse used to have everyone in town forget about the people in the castle).
Can you imagine this horrific nightmare? The movie never shows the audience what Mr. Potts' home life is like, but one can just see him pacing the halls of his home, wondering why he never goes in the back bedroom anymore; or why his bed feels half-filled as he's going to bed every night. He goes to the market to pick up food and supplies, but gets confused whenever he gets the notion that he may need to get anything for anyone else. The fact that he is as put together as he is when we first meet him is miraculous to the point where it should basically be counted as a continuity error. Because after a decade of this lifestyle, Mr. Potts should be full-blown insane.
Now you're thinking, "It's okay because they got a happy ending," right? You might be correct... but that's also an incredibly optimistic point of view. It's true that Mr. Potts reunites with Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) and Chip (Nathan Mack) at the end of the film when the curse is lifted, but there is an important detail to address here: none of the people who were transformed by the Enchantress, be it the Beast nor the housewares/furniture, aged while they were in their altered state. You know who did spend the last decade aging, though? Mr. Potts. So even if the removal of the spell totally fixes his dementia, he's still going to die much sooner than his wife and son, and no matter what he lost out on 10 years of being with them. Not so happy.
I brought up the terrible tale of Mr. Potts to Bill Condon when I sat down with him at the Beauty and the Beast press day earlier this month, and in addition to giving him a good laugh, it gave him an opportunity to tell a funny story. Josh Gad, who plays LeFou in the movie, used one take during the filming of the end of the movie to joke with the Enchantress about the sincere hell that she has put so many people through:
What I love - and we shot it, it's not in the movie. There's a moment when... we have a new character named The Enchantress, who is sort of in charge of all this magic. And Josh Gad came out, and the line in the script, which is in the movie is, 'Hey, crazy couple of weeks, huh?' But at one point he came up to her and said, 'You know, you've really put a lot of people through a big mess here. Was it really worth it? Was he that bad?' It was a good point, because these people have really suffered!
You can watch Bill Condon talk about this funny alternate scene in the video below (and hopefully we'll one day get to see it on Blu-ray and DVD copies of Beauty and the Beast):