'Beauty' backlash: 'Too much' made of LeFou being gay, Josh Gad says

Brian Truitt

Josh Gad finds the growing backlash over his gay Beauty and the Beast character LeFou overblown but is at least seeing some humor in the situation.

Josh Gad arrives for the world premiere of Disney's live-action 'Beauty and the Beast.'

“For me, the most controversial part of this movie that nobody’s talked about is the fact that my horse in my opinion hates overweight people and threw me off every opportunity that he had,” Gad joked to USA TODAY during an interview Sunday about his upcoming Disney live-action musical, which arrives in theaters March 17.

A Henagar, Ala., drive-in theater canceled plans to screen Beauty and a Russian lawmaker asked the government to consider banning the film following revelations about LeFou, the loyal sidekick to the movie’s villain Gaston (Luke Evans). The hubbub is a result of an interview with gay British magazine Attitude in which Beauty director Bill Condon mentioned that LeFou explores his sexuality and has “a nice, exclusively gay moment.”

Backlash grows over Disney's gay 'Beauty and the Beast' character

“Too much has probably been made of this entire thing," says Gad. "At a certain point what I want to be talking about is how wonderful, how entertaining, how amazing this movie is for all audiences.”

Josh Gad as LeFou, left, and Luke Evans as Gaston in the remake of 'Beauty and the Beast.'

Giving LeFou emotional complexity was one of the most important things for Gad. While he loves the character in the original 1991 animated film, LeFou’s comedy “is derived from cartoon conceits,” Gad says. “He has his teeth knocked, out, he’s literally thrown across a room by Gaston multiple times, his head is sat on by animals. For me, that’s very hard to play.

“I said to Bill, ‘LeFou in the original is dumb as a box. We start from a place of maybe he’s dumb as a fox,’ meaning he doesn’t let on just how much he actually does know and this blind devotion, there’s a conscience behind it this time around.”

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The actor notes that there are other themes in the movie more worthy of discussion than LeFou’s sexuality, “first and foremost, the idea of not judging a book by its cover or giving into the fear of that which we don’t understand,” Gad says. “You have a character, Gaston, who literally preys on people’s fears and gets them to attack the home of somebody they’ve never met before, who has never in any way presented a danger to them. Why? Because he uses his charm to whip them up in a frenzy. Now that’s a theme that is sadly as relevant today as it was when Beauty and the Beast was first written.”

Gad says he still hasn’t forgiven his Beast steed. In filming one scene where Gad and Evans ride through town, Gad's horse moonwalked and then bolted, running through the village and almost trampling a few people. “I am planning on pressing charges against my horse who is ironically named Buddy."