There’s been a lot of talk about the characters in Beauty and the Beast, so sitting down with two of the stars to talk about what their characters are bringing to the story helps understand all that Disney put into their latest live action film. Luke Evans and Josh Gad talk Gaston and LeFou, the music, the rehearsals and ultimately why they would never say no to working on this amazing film.
When Luke and Josh enter the room, the energy was high. They had just given an amazing performance during the general press conference with the legendary Alan Menken. So of course, we had to start the interview talking about how good these two are together.
Luke Evans and Josh Gad talk Gaston and LeFou
First of all, thank you for that performance in the press conference!
Josh: The truth is, you don’t need to beg us to do a performance. Luke and I will sing at the drop of a coin. But it’s a problem; I never thought I’d be someone who was so willing to sing for no reason at all. Until I met Luke Evans.
Luke: We are literally cut from the same cloth.
Josh: Yeah, we are.
I feel like there was a lot of off screen trouble between the two of you.
Josh: Still is. We like to go –
Luke: Cause trouble wherever we go. But make people laugh in the process. It was just a lot of fun playing these characters. You know, first of all, we were massive, massive fans of the original. You know, we were both kids when they came out. He was 10, I was 12. I was in South Wales, he was in South Florida. And the climate was rather different.
It probably meant even more to me ’cause it was always dark and gloomy where I came from. So to go in and watch a Disney film in the little cinema in our village was the highlight of my year! It always was, and to bring them to life, we both felt very lucky. And we knew that we could have a lot of fun and laugh. And there were moments when some of the funniest moments we had, I think are things that we made up on the moment.
Josh: Oh yeah. The first sequence when the two of us are riding in that wagon with Maurice. That whole idea of calming Luke down with stories about the war was something that we literally came up with on the spot. Yeah, weirdoes and all that.
We had about like 30 variations of it. Some of them were even more insane than what you see on the screen. But you’re always hoping, when you get paired with somebody – and I’ve had a couple of those films that I’ve done, where it’s all about the chemistry between the two characters. And the day I met Luke, especially because I didn’t even realize we both came from musical theater. Luke is from the West Side, me from Broadway. And so we have this common language and this common understanding. And this common goal of wanting to do justice to a movie that was so – I cannot stress this enough – so pivotal in our childhoods.
The second golden age of Disney animation from LITTLE MERMAID to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, to ALADDIN then to LION KING, defined my growing up. They did. I was ten years old when BEAUTY AND THE BEAST came out. And those Allen Menken, Howard Ashman songs, they were the soundtrack to my childhood. And so bringing a song like Gaston to life, that’s like a dream come true. So it was incredible.
How did you feel when you tried on your Gaston costume for the first time?
Josh: Oh, I can tell you, Luke with his body felt a lot better than I did. I can tell you right off the bat.
Luke: I’ve always said, and I always will say, because I think it – a massive part of my creation of a character, especially somebody like Gaston – the look is half of his ego. You know, the hair and the fitted red leather. You know, we went to about four or five incarnations of that leather jacket before we found the right color of blood red.
That represented the sinister part of his nature. Because I don’t know if you noticed, but that red jacket which is obviously so synonymous with Gaston in the original. And it’s the same here. That only goes on when he puts Maurice into the carriage to lock him up. And that’s the first time you see it. And we made that conscious decision. When you put something on like that, there was so much work in it, those buttons all and antlers on each button. And I had a pinky ring which was an antler impressed into red stone.
It was all antler themed, as you can imagine. It looked fantastic, and you put the wig on and there you go. I remember taking it off on the last day and my hair and makeup lady’s like, “Okay, well, say goodbye to the final time, see you, Gaston.” And she took it off, and I go, “Well, hello you.” And she was like, oh no. No. I was joking, obviously.
But he was a hard character to let go. I think we both felt very sad to let them go. Because we’d had so much fun (playing these roles) and brought so much happiness to villains, it is to make people laugh. Yeah, that’s quite a gift, you know, ’cause usually you just make them hate you. But we had the opportunity to do both.
Luke: And they love you at the end. I mean, like full redemption.
Josh: Well, no, and that was important, with LeFou in particular. The character in the original movie is, he is a product of cartoon conceits, right? He has his teeth knocked out. He’s thrown across rooms by Gaston multiple times. There is a part where snow falls on him and makes him a snowman. Which I tried and I fought to bring in the movie. For me it was about adding dimension, I think for every character. About adding dimension. One of the things that I loved about LeFou in this particular version is, he does have this interesting arc where he starts to question the blind devotion that he has to this person who, during the film, turns into the real monster. That was such an interesting part to play.
Again, we didn’t want to just literally recreate a movie, in of itself is pretty perfect, right? You can’t do that, fo you have to add and to keep building on the legacy of that which everybody is waiting and looking forward to (seeing). But also give them new surprises. And for us the new songs, the new moment, all of it adds up to its collective experience, that feels old in the best way. But also new in an amazing way. And that was so important to us.
What made you want to sign on to do the film?
Josh: The money. I literally would have done this movie for nothing. The reason I signed on was that it is iconic. And so – BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was my FROZEN. You know, like this was the movie I saw five times as a kid. You know what I mean? And like, that was just recreating these moments, these iconic moments that I grew up with, knowing that my daughters are gonna grow up with this as hopefully their definitive version of the story.
I can’t think of a big screen musical, live action, that my kids have seen on the silver screen in their lifetimes. And that is unacceptable to me. Like coming from musical theater. But think about that. Like, we’re not gonna take ‘em to MOULIN ROUGE, we’re not gonna bring them to LES MIS. You can’t take ‘em to NINE. This is gonna be for many of your kids and my kids certainly, the first time they ever see a musical screen, that isn’t animated. That’s huge. That’s huge.
Luke: My godchildren are very young, and I’ve got lots of kids in my family, who are just a little tired of me noodling movies that they can’t watch. So the day that I got offered it, the first thing I did was text all their parents and just say to them, “I’m gonna be in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and they can finally come to the cinema.”
And they all were at the London premiere. And weirdly, they were happy but also a little sad that I was the bad guy.
Did you two improve?
Luke: Oh yeah.
Luke: There were – I mean, the moments that I remember were on the cot in the forest, when there were lots of different versions of that.
Josh: Yeah, the end of Gaston –
Josh: I did about 30 different versions of that.
Josh: Every time we shot it it was different. ‘Cause every time my goal was to make Luke laugh. We got him in trouble, but there were so many opportunities. There’s also a lot of stuff on the cutting room floor that I hope you’ll see on the Blu-Ray and the Extras. Because there was some great scene when we come into the village. Remember when Belle’s in trouble, and we come in.
Josh: It’s hero time. We come in, and Gaston hands me his gun, and it goes off in my hand. And you just hear a cow die in the background. And it was such a funny moment.
Luke: It was. A lovely excuse to have these two characters, where they just are the most blundering bunch.
Josh: My friend at the end of the movie, was – involved a toilet played by Stephen Merchant at one point. I mean, there’s so many great parts that hopefully you get to see one day.
Now that we have a new generation that’s gonna be watching your characters of Gaston and LeFou, what are you hoping they take away?
Josh: Well, that’s a great question. I think that Gaston, in particular, represents a really interesting character. Because there’s, I think one of the most important lessons to be learned, comes surprisingly out of that character. Which is, you have a guy who is provoking fear, based on a character that nobody knows, that people are scared of because they’ve never seen him. But they’re afraid of what he’s capable of (doing). Feeding into those fears and going to attack someone because based on the fact that you’ve never met them before.
But what you believe they’re capable of doing, that’s as relevant today as it was when BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was first written. And I think that that then is the thing that I hope kids can look at and they’re not gonna understand it now. But that’s something as they revisit this film over and over and over again – this idea of never judging a book by its cover, is so important. Right? So that’s what I would say I hope they take from it.
Luke: Well, yeah. Love conquers hate. And that’s basically the running theme. And to watch it all being carried by a very strong female lead character. Who basically at the end of the day, guys, she saves the Prince.
Josh: Multiple times.
Luke: Multiple times, you know. If it weren’t for her, this story wouldn’t have the backbone that it does. And it comes from a very fearless, independently spirited young woman who reads, who’s intellectual. Who wants to learn.
Who sees that there are no boundaries in her world. It might be right there and then but she knows there’s a world out there to conquer and to discover. And she doesn’t need a man to do it. I mean, she’s a 21st Century Disney princess. And Emma was exactly the right person to portray that character. And it’s a role model, and you’ve said this, and it’s lovely, I mean, the best compliment I guess Emma could have. Is that here’s two girls who are quite young, they will look to her.
And Belle, in this version, as a brilliant role model for young ladies. And young boys as well. You know, it’s not just one sex, it’s both sexes can look at this young woman and see, that’s how you should be.
Josh: And that’s the other thing that I think is so wonderful about this movie. And what Bill Condon has done, is just the inclusiveness of it all. I think that that’s a great lesson.
Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?
Luke: It would have to be for me, the Gaston tavern sequence. For two reasons. One, my song. Two, it was the one piece of the whole film where we got to rehearse for four to five weeks. Because it was incredibly technical, and we had all the villagers in the room. There are vignette stories going on, which you have to watch it a few times to notice that. All of that took a lot of time. Honestly, the music was playing throughout the whole thing, and we have to get them onto roofs and tables. And there were swords and murals that we have to reflect in the back of each shot.
And it was a lot of stuff going on, which took time, development and collaboration. We come from the theater, we’re used to that rehearsal experience. And so to have that on a film, which was a joy. Also, we got paid one month more.
Josh: Yeah, yeah. I agree. Not to sound redundant, but it is Gaston. You know, it’s so rewarding to watch an audience now, after two years of working on this in some capacity or another. To now share it with an audience and see the adrenaline boost that it gives the film. All of a sudden, out of nowhere this up-tempo song with people dancing on the table.
You can feel the energy of the audience wanting to jump into that. And raise a glass to Gaston alongside you. That is the brilliance again of these Menken and Ashman songs, is they are so unbelievably addicting. And Luke and I have now been singing this song in one way or another, for –
Luke: For two years, crazy.
Josh: And yeah. And it’s not because we want to, it’s because we can’t stop. It’s because we are literally haunted by these songs.
I think that the other night when we had the, for the world premiere here in Los Angeles. And people clapped at the end of our number. I mean, it’s crazy. We’ve done what we needed to do here. We are taking people out of the world in which we live and made them escape into this wonderfully technical emotion of this story. We are really proud of that.
I was invited by Disney to the Beauty and the Beast #BeOurGuestEvent to share my experience with my readers. All opinions are my own.
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