Dan Stevens as The Beast and Emma Watson as Belle
Credit: Disney

How difficult was it for Dan Stevens to play the cursed Prince in Disney’s new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast? Well, at least one notable person thought the special effects-process involved in portraying this almost entirely CG-creation would render the task impossible.

“In my research and preparation, I had a chat with a couple of people who know this world,” says Stevens, whose previous credits include The Guest and Downton Abbey. “I had a really good chat with Andy Serkis, and he was great at reminding me to just disregard the freaky stuff, and to trust that all will be well. I also spoke with Mark Ruffalo, and when I told him what we were trying to do, he was just like, ‘No, that’s impossible! You can’t do that!’ So, I was like, Oh, okay.”

Essentially, Stevens had to give two different performances — one neck-down and one neck-up. He acted out the movements of his character’s body in takes shot on the film’s sets, using stilts to enhance his height, and wearing a lycra body suit with tracking markers which would facilitate a CG rendering of the Beast’s torso and limbs. Then, at a later date, Stevens’ face was covered in ultraviolet makeup and actor replayed the scene seated in front of a bank of cameras. This footage which would then be used to create the Beast’s face, using the so-called “Direct Drive” process, a new technology developed by Digital Domain.

Dan Stevens as The Beast and Emma Watson as Belle
Credit: Disney

“There was the physical puppeteering and the facial stuff,” says Stevens. “Essentially, you go from these incredibly lavish, amazing, tangible practical sets on these stages at Shepperton [Studios] — and everything’s looking gorgeous and there’s me looking like a crash-test hippo on stilts — and you’ve got to do all that again, but you’re now essentially in Tron. I’m sat wearing a black t-shirt in a sort-of UV booth with 27 cameras. The whole thing felt very very magical in a way. It just felt like pure magic how they fused these two experiences together.”

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Beauty and the Beast (2017)
  • Movie
  • 129 minutes