He’s appeared in films such as Pixels, The Wedding Ringer and Jobs and voiced characters in films including Frozen, The Angry Birds Movie and A Dog’s Purpose. I recently had the chance to speak with Josh Gad about his role in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast.
Matt: What was your first reaction when you heard about a live action remake of Beauty and the Beast?
Josh: My first reaction was “oh God, it better be good”. That movie, as I’m sure it is with many others, was a pivotal part of my childhood journey. I was 10 years old when I first saw the movie in a theatre in South Florida and it left an indelible impression, specifically the songs which are now iconic. Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin became the soundtrack to my childhood. Being able to bring those songs to life, given that they were so influential on me, was a thrill.
Matt: How do the singing numbers work? How much time is spent on rehearsal and getting your voice down pat and in sync?
Josh: We rehearsed the choreography for 5 weeks and recorded the song over 2 days. The problem was that Luke Evans and I both come from musical theatre and we’re perfectionists when it comes to singing. You can record something but to do it out of context and not match the physicality of what you’re doing doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the greatest results and so we insisted on singing it live and not lip syncing. A lot of the flourishes in the song were actually moments that we recorded on the day of shooting.
Matt: So it wasn’t all done in a studio? It was done like Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables?
Josh: It was both. Some moments were in a studio but others, like when we’re dancing, were done as part of the shoot as it brings a different quality and energy to the vocals.
Matt: How easy was it shooting the scenes themselves when you’re dancing and jumping all over the place whilst trying to sing at the same time?
Josh: It’s not an easy process but it’s a process I’m comfortable with because so much of the work I’ve been blessed enough to do has been musical orientated like Frozen or Book of Mormon. I come from that background and my first big break was on Broadway doing a musical called Spelling Bee and so I sort of love it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to finally bring those skills to the big screen because they are few and far between.
Matt: So how did Bill Condon find you for this project?
Josh: Bill and I actually worked together years ago on the pilot for HBO called Tilda with Diane Keaton that sadly never saw the light of day. We both really loved working with each other. He called me about Beauty and the Beast and I was like “yes, sign me up”.
In the original movie, so much of the comedy from the LeFou character comes from cartoon conceits. He’s so physical and he’s the butt of every joke like where he’s getting his teeth knocked out, he’s getting thrown across the room multiple times by Gaston, and animals sit on his head. That’s not something that I thought would be really great to play in a live action version.
So for me, it was about giving him a humanity. If LeFou was as dumb as a box in the original movie, what if we made him dumb as a fox? That means that he’s not quite as dull and a fool as people would imagine. He’s actually got a conscience and he calls into question this blind faith he has in Gaston along the way. That added a really interesting dynamic to the whole enterprise.
Matt: What stands out for me watching this film are the visuals – the castle and the surrounds are incredible. Since it’s almost impossible to discern the difference these days, how much of what we see is real and what is not?
Josh: It was all practical when it came to the sets. When I tell you that Disney spared no expense on creating this environment, it’s true. Bill felt that it was important, especially in a film that requires so much digital trickery, to put the characters in an environment that was real and tangible because you want to ground the other elements.
Matt: The costumes in the film area really great and you’re working alongside Oscar-nominated costumer Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina). Do you have a lot of fun with that part of the process?
Josh: It was so, so, so brilliant working with every single department on a film like this because they all bring their A-game. The costumes are gorgeous but so are the sets and the hair & make up. You just feel like you’re doing this grand, incredible, epic film that is a homage to something you grew up with. To bring it to life with an all-star crew, you pinch yourself every day coming to work.
Matt: The film has an amazing cast and a lot of them you wouldn’t have had a chance to work with before. Who surprised you? Was there someone you got along really well with?
Josh: You can’t be surprised at the level of that cast. Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci… these have been idols of mine growing up. What I was surprised by was working alongside Emma, Dan and Luke was how well-rounded all of them are when it coming to the singing, dancing and other elements that they aren’t necessarily known for. That to me was a great joy to collaborate with them on.
Matt: What’s it like seeing the finished product? Are you amazed sometimes by how it all comes together on screen?
Josh: Sometimes? Try every minute. It’s stunning and amazing. For instance, Dan Stevens was wearing a onesie with his face sprayed with thousands of dots for motion capture and then all of a sudden you see this living, breathing beast on screen and your jaw is on the floor. The audience are saying “how did they do this?” I was there and I still don’t know how they did it!
Matt: What are you working at the moment? When are we going to see you next?
Josh: I just wrapped production two weeks ago on Murder on the Orient Express which is directed by the amazing Kenneth Branagh. That’ll be out at the end of the year and it has an incredible cast including Johnny Depp, Dame Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, the list goes on and on. It was such a thrill and I feel the movie will have a David Lean quality to it where it feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s a different type of film to what audiences usually get. It’s a murder-mystery set in the 1930s. I then have a smaller film coming out with Chadwick Boseman and Dan Stevens again which his directed by Reginald Hudlin called Marshall. That should be out in October.