Published on October 5th, 2010 | by Static Multimedia0
An Interview with Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle of “Beauty and the Beast”
As Disney’s animated heroine, Belle, in the critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning, animated film Beauty and the Beast, Paige O’Hara added a Disney classic to a career that has spanned Broadway, opera and concert stages as well as recordings. This was followed up in 1997 with the multi-million selling videos Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas and Belle’s Magical World. In fact Paige has been nominated for the prestigious Annie Award for her role in Belle’s Magical World. The unprecedented success of Beauty and the Beast, nominated for six Academy Awards including “Best Picture”, has earned her a world-wide legion of fans both young and old. In addition to a Platinum Record for selling over 1,000,000 copies of the multi-Grammy nominated original motion picture soundtrack (it has since gone double platinum) Paige had the opportunity to sing before millions of viewers world-wide on the 64th Annual Academy Awards telecast.
Page talks about the making of Beauty and the Beast.
How did you land the role of Belle?
I was working in New York as a Broadway actress and read about the audition in The [New York] Times. I called my agent and said I have to be seen. I got seen and my first audition was with our casting director. I sang a song I loved from Chess called â€œHeaven Help My Heartâ€ and I read a couple of lines. For the first couple of auditions they sent tapes to L.A. and then the whole gang flew in and we started auditioning live. They would close their eyes so they could imagine the characters saying or singing those lines. In the beginning, thatâ€™s what they wanted. They didnâ€™t want to be distracted by what we were doing with our bodies and our faces.
How many auditions did you have altogether?
There were five auditions all told, with 500 other actresses.
How long did the casting process take?
About 6 weeks. Fairly long. When I found out, it was quite a week. My husband proposed on my birthday and I got the part 2 days later. I think I was 31. Disney says I am a different age every year so I am not really sure anymore.
What was the recording process like?
It was fun. Robbie and I recorded together which they donâ€™t do anymore. They would put cameras on us the whole time. Thatâ€™s how mannerisms and expressions change. We worked 10 to 6 with a lunch break for a few days in a row, and then weâ€™d go away for a few weeks while they animated it. It was incredible to work with Robbie. He is such an incredible Broadway actor and film actor. He helped me to be better. It helps when you are with someone that talented.
What do you remember about the process of creating the character of Belle?
After they finished the first drawing of Belle, they said she was too beautiful, too perfect. So they threw the first drawing away. They wanted her still beautiful but a little quirkier. The fact that they made her with her brown eyes meant so much to so many little girls.
Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach were also in the film. What was it like working with two Hollywood heavyweights?
I only sang with them at the Academy Awards but I would hang out for their [recording] sessions. Angela I idolized. When I first came to New York I would sneak into Gypsy. I watched Gypsy six times.
What is your favorite song in the film?
Iâ€™m torn. Iâ€™ll tell you why. Oddly enough, itâ€™s not my song. I love the ones they added, my favorite of which is â€œHuman Again.â€ That was [lyricist] Howard Ashmanâ€™s favorite song. It wasnâ€™t in the original because you had to stick to a certain time and it would have made the film too long. Something about it that just inspires me and makes me cry.
What is your favorite scene in the movie?
Definitely the â€œSomething Thereâ€ sequence with Belle playing in the snow with the Beast, the bird on his hand. I really think that is the moment when she fell in love with the Beast. She looks at him and says, â€œNew and a bit alarming. Whoâ€™d have ever thought that this could be?â€ I love the way they animated it when he becomes the prince. Every time I see the Beast with that grin on his face and the bird in his hand, my heart just melts.
Itâ€™s been 20 years since the film was first released. When you look back, what are some of your favorite memories from making the movie?
Certainly the film festival in New York when we showed the unfinished version for all the critics in New York. We were all nervous wrecks. We had no idea how the critics would respond to it, but we got a 10 or 15 minute standing ovation. I knew from being in New York since I was 17 how tough the New York audiences are, so it was truly remarkable.
Tell about premiere of the movie. Where was it?
There were several. The first time I saw it was in Florida at Walt Disney World. My mother was too ill to come but my stepfather and my sisters and my brother were there. I sat two rows in front of Alan Menken [who wrote the score] and we both started crying. What was really kind of amazing was that my mom was so sick that they did another premiere in Ft. Lauderdale. She came in her wheelchair.
Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack released today, October 5th!