Disney's Beauty and the Beast under attack and film not even out yet

While Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson defends herself for a recent photo spread, an Alabama theatre and Russian officials are finding common ground in their scrutiny of the new Disney film.

Emma Watson battles critics after photo shoot, Russian officials say they'll screen film before release

Emma Watson stars as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic which is already attracting controversy prior to its release. (Walt Disney Studios)

Disney expected to get attention for its Beauty and the Beast reboot, but likely not this kind.

While Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson is defending herself following a recent photo spread, an evangelist, an Alabama theatre and Russian officials are finding common ground in their scrutiny of a potentially gay character in the new children's film. And it hasn't even been released yet.

Beauty and the Breast

British actress Emma Watson, who portrays Belle in the live-action film, is fighting back after coming under attack for a Vanity Fair photo helping to promote the film.

Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It's about freedom- Emma Watson, responding to criticism over her Vanity Fair cover photo

Critics argue she is betraying feminist principles — a cause for which she advocates in public and through her humanitarian work — by posing for the picture. The photo reveals part of her breasts.

"It just always reveals to me how many misconceptions and what a misunderstanding there is about what feminism is," she said in an interview with Reuters Sunday.

"Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It's about freedom, it's about liberation. It's about equality."

Calls for boycott

In an interview last week with the British magazine Attitude, director Bill Condon said Josh Gad's manservant character LeFou has "a nice, exclusively gay moment" in the film.

LeFou is the sidekick to Gaston, the villain in the story.

Luke Evans (left) is Gaston and Josh Gad is LeFou, a character director Bill Condon has described as being sexually confused. (Walt Disney Studios)

"LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston," Condon said.

While few people have seen the film yet and the scene is apparently fleeting and subtle, it's sparked tremendous reaction online.

Many are embracing this as an effort by Disney to promote inclusivity and representation, but others see it in a less positive light.

American Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, son of evangelist preacher Billy Graham, called on Thursday on his Facebook page for a boycott of the film he said is attempting "to normalize this lifestyle."

TV personality Franklin Graham, seen here in 2010, is calling for a boycott of Beauty and the Beast because of its openly gay character. ( Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

"They're trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out!" he wrote. "Disney has the right to make their cartoons, it's a free country. But as Christians we also have the right not to support their company."

Alabama theatre bans film prior to release

An Alabama theatre took the words to heart, posting a Facebook message Thursday saying it won't be showing the film and citing the "homosexual character" as the reason.

The operators of Henagar Drive-in said in the post, which was pulled down the following day, that they "will not compromise on what the Bible teaches."

"When companies continually force their views on us, we need to take a stand."

Russia on the fence

Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky told BBC News yesterday his department will look into whether the film should be banned in the country.

 "As soon as we get a copy of the film with relevant paperwork for distribution, we will consider it according to the law."

The country's gay propaganda law, signed in 2013 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, prohibits the dissemination of content presenting homosexuality as being normal in society.

The film will be released in North American theatres on March 17 and in Russia — maybe or maybe not — on March 16.

With files from Reuters