One of the main characters in the new live action version of Beauty and the Beast actually has a South African heritage that not many know about.
Tale as old as time… the new live-action Beauty And The Beast has already raked in a magic $1 billion (thats over R13 trillion) at the box office – making it the biggest live-action movie musical ever made.
The Disney film, which stars Emma Watson as Belle, has already secured the biggest opening for a PG-rated movie in the US, after making $170 million on its first weekend of release in March.
The film only debuted locally over the past weekend, and as South Africans flocked to the theaters, we thought we would point out that one of the main characters has a South African heritage that not many people know about.
Her name is pronounced “Goo-Goo mBAH-tah Raw”. Her birth name, “Gugulethu”, is a contraction of “igugu lethu”, that means “Our Pride” in Zulu and she plays the beautiful feather duster, Plumette in the new film.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw was born Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha in the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, England. Her father, Patrick Mbatha, is originally from South Africa where he studied and practiced as a doctor, before meeting her mother, Anne Raw, who is an English nurse.
Call it a cliche, but Disney movies have a certain magic about them. How else do you explain the classically trained British actress giggling delightedly when discussing being transformed into the feather duster Plumette for the new live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast”?
“Disney has a global impact and for me, certainly. When I was 8 years old, it became my favorite Disney movie. I was obsessed with it. I knew all the words to all the songs, I had the cassette tape and listened to it in my mum’s car — I don’t know if she sang along, but I certainly did.”
It’s a departure for the actress, who’s made her name in tougher fare like the the abolitionist period film “Belle,” Matthew McConaughey’s Confederate rebellion drama “Free State of Jones” and “Miss Sloane” with Jessica Chastain about the seedy world of lobbyists.
“I was really inspired by that idea of beauty coming from within, which is an oldie but a goodie. I loved Belle as a heroine — I also grew up in a small town and I always knew there was more out there. I didn’t always feel like I fitted in where I grew up, so I related to Belle on that level, and also the fact that she reads books and she knows her own mind. She’s a really cool heroine.”
The original animated “Beauty and the Beast” was revolutionary in its own ways back in 1991. It’s perhaps the only Disney movie where the heroine (Emma Watson) rescues the prince (Dan Stevens). It’s also one of the only Disney “princess” movies where the lead is not actually a process.
And despite being household objects, the supporting cast are hardly mere window dressing — as the dove-like feather duster, Mbatha-Raw got a true love story too, with Ewan McGregor’s candelabra Lumiere.
The new Beauty and the Beast is out now at all your local cinemas. Go relieve your childhood and watch this incredible story brought to life on the big screen.