By resisting the restrictive parameters that shaped — sometimes literally — the beloved cartoon character, the 26-year-old actress has introduced a fresh, new take on Belle in the film co-starring Luke Evans.
For starters, she worked with costume designer Jacqueline Durran to create Belle's signature yellow ball gown. But one key element was missing — Watson declined to wear a corset.
"For Emma, it was important that the dress was light and that it had a lot of movement," Durran told Entertainment Weekly. "In Emma's reinterpretation, Belle is an active princess. She did not want a dress that was corseted or that would impede her in any way."
But Belle isn't all about the body, she also has a mind, too. That's why in this version of the story it's Belle who is the inventor, which was her father's profession in the animated version, further transitioning the Disney princess to resemble a 21st century renaissance woman.
"In the animated movie, it's her father who is the inventor, and we actually co-opted that for Belle," Watson said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "I was like, 'Well, there was never very much information or detail at the beginning of the story as to why Belle didn't fit in, other than she liked books. Also, what is she doing with her time?' "
Working alongside director Bill Condon, Watson was able to expand the vision of Belle beyond the beauty.
"We created a backstory for her, which was that she had invented a kind of washing machine, so that, instead of doing laundry, she could sit and use that time to read instead," she added. "So, yeah, we made Belle an inventor."
It's no secret that the Harry Potter star's feminist stance is something she lives in her everyday life. In 2014, Watson launched her HeForShe campaign, which aims to inspire men and boys to join the fight in gender inequality, with an empowering speech she delivered at the United Nations in New York City six months after being appointed U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador.
"For the record," Watson explained during that speech, "feminism by definition is: 'The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.' "
Now, she's taking that approach and incorporating it into the roles she plays on-screen — even as a Disney princess.
Disney's forthcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast hits theaters March 17, 2017.
Check out the trailer below:
(H/T: Spoon University)