Hollywood's in Love with 'Beauty and the Beast'
It's Valentine's Day, so let's talk about love. Hollywood studios love nothing more than a proven concept (RIP, original idea), and it seems like the timeless love story Beauty and the Beast is back on everyone's love-to-do list. But do we really need four new versions of the classic fairytale to love?
Fairytales are hot again, with the box office success of the Shrek series, the Puss in Boots spinoff and films like Tangled and the return of Disney's Beauty and the Beast in 3D. Two competing Snow White fantasies are hitting the big screen in the coming months – Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman – and ABC's Once Upon a Time is also a smash.
Lest we forget, Hollywood is a business, first and foremost -- that's why they call it "The Biz" – and studios are much more comfortable gambling on a tried-and-true concept with brand recognition. Which brings us to all the love Beauty and the Beast is receiving.
This week it was revealed that Guillermo de Toro will be directing Harry Potter star Emma Watson in the big-screen Beast, hot on the heels of the recent announcements that not one but two competing Beauty and the Beast projects are headed to TV (on ABC and The CW).
The CW pilot ordered is based on the '80s Beauty and the Beast TV series starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman, with the update dubbed "a romantic love story with a procedural twist" -- a female cop receiving help "from the shadows" by a "manly man who can quote poetry and kick ass at the same time," and also "beasts out" when the time is right, according to EW.com. Shades of Jacob Black from The Twilight Saga, perhaps?
EW.com also says that the ABC show from Jericho's Jonathan Steinberg is more fantasy-based and described as "a fantastical re-imagining of the classic fairy tale set in a mythical, dangerous world wherein a beautiful and tough princess discovers an unlikely connection with a mysterious beast."
The fourth Beauty and the Beast in question is a new French version that will star Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel, reuniting him with his Brotherhood of the Wolf director Christophe Gans. Perhaps this update will channel fellow Frenchman Jean Cocteau's stirring 1946 adaptation of the classic fairytale (La Belle et la Bête), which remains one of the most faithful to the original story ever put on film.
With all of these Beauty and the Beast options, which ones will rise to the top? My money is on the Guillermo del Toro project to be the biggest hit. The imaginative director of Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy franchise (not to mention his attachment to direct The Hobbit before MGM's financial foot dragging forced him to drop out) has demonstrated a strong capability of combining strong storytelling with vivid imagery, and there will be plenty of curiosity seekers interested in seeing how Emma Watson fares without her magic wand and Hogwarts uniform.
On the TV side, I'll throw a bone to The CW remake of the '80s version of the show. That series had a huge cult following, and I'll bet fans of the original will tune in to see if the new recruits have half the chemistry that Hamilton and Perlman displayed.
Remember, the concept is not bulletproof. One look at the box office of Beastly (starring Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer) should be a potent reminder that if you stray a little too far from the formula, you could get burned.