Emma Watson is Belle in Disney’s Live Action ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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Emma Watson has closed a deal to portray Belle in a live action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Wrap reported earlier today. The Harry Potter star had previously been attached to a similar project at Warner Bros. with Guillermo del Toro at the helm, but the deal fell apart last summer when del Toro opted to write and produce the film, rather than direct.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn director Bill Condon will be heading up this version, working from a script by Stephen Chbosky, writer and director of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in which Watson co-starred to rave reviews. Sources say that Disney became interested in the actress shortly after she left the competing project, and that del Toro have the studio his blessing to pursue her for the role.

Shortly after the news broke, Watson took to her Facebook page to confirm the casting:

“I’m finally able to tell you … that I will be playing Belle in Disney’s new live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’! It was such a big part of my growing up, it almost feels surreal that I’ll get to dance to ‘Be Our Guest’ and sing ‘Something There’. My six-year-old self is on the ceiling — heart bursting. Time to start some singing lessons. I can’t wait for you to see it.”

Disney is investing heavily in live action versions of their classic animated tales. We’ve already seen the Sleeping Beauty prequel Maleficent, and Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella is slated to hit theaters in March. And let’s not forget Jon Favreau’s upcoming take on The Jungle Book, which might be the most interesting of all.

Disney’s original animated version of Beauty and the Beast was a colossal success, garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and spawning a hugely successful Broadway musical. The new Beauty and the Beast will begin production later this year, and although no release date has been announced, it’s doubtful that we would see the finished product before late 2016, if not after.

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