Emma Watson was first choice for 'Beauty and the Beast'

Emma Watson attends the 'Beauty and the Beast' New York screening at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on March 13, 2017 in New York City. (Andres Otero/

Emma Watson was director Bill Condon's first and only choice to play Belle in "Beauty and the Beast."

The 61-year-old filmmaker said it was the "Harry Potter" star’s many qualities that made her stand out above other actresses in Hollywood as his favorite to star as the protagonist in Disney's live-action remake of the 1991 animated movie.

"Emma was the first and only choice. It was a culmination of all those qualities that she brings to it. Obviously her intelligence, her beauty, her talent. The only question was whether she could sing," Bill told Digital Spy.

And after meeting with Watson, it was clear she was his leading lady, even though he didn't know if she could hold a tune.

"So we met. When I met her, I was even more hopeful that it was going to work out, because she also seemed to have a real passion for this story and this character," he explained. "And then she went off and did a little tape, and it was like, 'wow, that's it'."

Condon also revealed staunch feminist Watson wanted to bring a much more modern take to the character of Belle.

"I think she had no interest in just being a Disney princess. The 'princess' word isn't appealing to her, because it suggests that 'someday, my prince will come...'" Condon said. "The thing that defined Belle in 1991 too was that books were more interesting than boys - it wasn't just about finding the guy and getting married.

"Even at the end, it's kind of a celebration of their love. It's not a wedding scene. The happy ending here is not that she's wearing a tiara," he added.

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