Modern takes on classic fairy tales can spawn interesting results, and in Alex Flinn’s novel Beastly, she took what may be one of the most romantic fairy tales of all time and transplanted it into modern-day Manhattan with young people living in the lap of luxury. “Beauty and the Beast” had already been turned into a popular television series and a much beloved Disney animated film (which is being re-released next year in 3D), but Flinn tapped into the type of teen angst, mixing fantasy and reality, in a way with which many teens should be able to relate.
Maybe that’s why it seemed like a no-brainer for the fledgling CBS Films to turn Flinn’s novel into a film directed by Daniel Barnz, who generated a lot of interest for his debut Phoebe in Wonderland, when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. The movie of Flinn’s novel stars “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens as the “beauty” Lindy Taylor, and Alex Pettyfer (Stormbreaker) as Kyle Kingson, a cocky high school jock who falls foul of a strange classmate named Kendra, played by Mary-Kate Olsen, a witch who casts a spell on Kyle, turning him into a hideously disfigure creature, a “Beast.” After the incident, Kyle is put into hiding in a Brooklyn brownstone by his wealthy father (played by Peter Krause), his only company being his blind tutor Will (Neil Patrick Harris) and the housemaid (Lisa Gay Hamilton). (One major difference from the novel is that the maid isn’t Kendra in disguise, trying to keep tabs on Kyle.) When Lindy’s father gets into trouble with drug dealers, Kyle comes to her rescue, and Lindy is immediately intrigued with the mysterious scarred young man, unaware that it’s her arrogant former classmate.
A couple of weeks back, ComignSoon.net flew up to the beautiful city of Montreal, Quebec in Canada and spent an evening in Mount Royal Park, the city’s equivalent to Central Park, which is in fact doubling for New York’s Central Park and many of the film’s other outdoor locations. We watched them shooting two key sequences, including one of the film’s action sequences, plus we had a chance to speak with producers Susan Cartsonis and Roz Weisberg, director Daniel Barnz and Miss Vanessa Hudgens herself, most of which we’ll be saving for sometime next year. We didn’t get a chance to talk to Alex, because he preferred not to do interviews while done up in the jarring make-up that turns him into the transformed version of Kyle, but we hope to have a chance to talk to him soon.
Cartsonis, who produced Catherine Zeta-Jones rom-com No Reservations a few years back, told us why they decided to go with Daniel to direct, considering he had only directed the one previous indie flick. “Maria Falaise (production head at CBS Films) zeroed in on Daniel, whose work she’d seen at Sundance, and she loved the movie and said, ‘You guys would love it, too’ and she was right. Daniel has an energy about him that makes you believe he can do anything, and (he) pretty much can. He saw in it what was immediately apparent to me which was that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ set in a high school is the perfect venue for it, because there’s never a time in a person’s life that they feel more self-conscious about their looks than in high school and the hierarchy of school is so much based on that, too. It’s such a rich time of life to tell the story. For me, that transcended whether it was a ‘tween movie or a teen movie or an adult movie. It didn’t really matter, because it was such a perfect marriage of subject and story.”
Daniel was very busy on set the entire time we were there, but before we left, we had a chance to sit down with him and learn more about his own interest in the project, especially being that it will be his second film to put a different spin on a classic fairy tale. “The studio originally had the book and I immediately fell for it, because I saw that there was an amazing opportunity to tell a modern version of this fairytale and I loved the idea of it. There was this sort of hyper-modern version of this story and that it was told from his perspective, which we’d never seen before and thematically, because it’s all about beauty and how you look and inner beauty that this was such a great story set in the teenage world and for teenagers, because it has such a great message to it.”