LOS ANGELES – Originally from Athens, Evan Spiliotopoulos has made a name for himself in Hollywood as a writer with such credits as Hercules- starring Dwayne Johnson, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, as well as several animated films. He spoke with The National Herald about the experience of working on the live-action Disney film Beauty and the Beast- opening on March 17, his Greek heritage, and his upcoming projects.
The National Herald: What were the challenges of working on Beauty and the Beast, such a well-known story and animated film?
Evan Spiliotopoulos: Primarily we were all aware of the responsibility of handling such a beloved fairy tale and popular Disney property. Our goal was to be respectful of the animated film’s great elements, songs and characters while grounding the live action movie more in reality, adding some fresh elements to the plot and fleshing out the existing roles and story. We are confident that audiences will enjoy this new retelling and a new generation will fall in love with Beauty and the Beast.
TNH: It must be exciting seeing your work on the big screen, especially with such an anticipated film as Beauty and the Beast, the public sees all the hoopla surrounding the actors at premieres and events leading up to a film’s release, but what is it like to experience as a writer, as someone behind the scenes?
ES: Magic. I was walking around the Disney lot in January after a meeting and there were posters of Beauty and the Beast everywhere. With my name in the credits. And it hit me how I will be forever associated with what hopefully will become a new Disney classic. I had the same reaction with Hercules because of my Greek heritage — I was now a part of the myth, of expanding and retelling and adding to a legend that began three thousand years ago.
TNH: Many people would like to write for the screen, but have no real sense about the process and how long it takes for some films to be made. In your experience, how long does the average project take from start to finish, from idea to first draft and eventually to the finished film?
ES: It can take years, decades even. Or never happen. Hercules was in development for something like three years before I even came aboard. The Huntsman and Beauty and the Beast were fairly quick in that they took about a year and a half each. In the best possible situation, the writing process takes six months, then assuming everyone loves it, a couple of months to get a director, a couple of months to get a star. So it takes a year just to be in the position to start scouting, building sets and completing casting. Preproduction, depending on the nature of the project, can take a simple two months for a small indie to half a year on a big studio film. Add four months filming and another six to nine months post (again spending on the size of the film.) So in the very best of circumstances, a big Hollywood movie would take two years and change.
TNH: What are you working on now? What projects can we look forward to?
ES: A lot of projects are cooking both in film and — for the first time in my career — television. We are still in the early stages of preproduction on several so I can say nothing concrete now. But there is a science fiction thriller at New Line that I am very hopeful about. The genre is also a sharp change from Disney movies so it allowed me to flex different muscles.
TNH: I read that you are originally from Athens, are your family roots also from Athens, or elsewhere in Greece? How often do you get to go back to Greece with your busy schedule?
ES: I grew up in Vrilissia, just outside Athens. My dad’s roots are from the Northern Peloponnese. Unfortunately I visit Greece very rarely these days. My schedule is tight… and I’m not a great fan of flying. The last time I visited was just after Hercules wrapped so it has been a while.
The highly anticipated, live-action Beauty and the Beast opens on March 17.