Emma Watson will most likely play Belle in a new version of Beauty and the Beast.

Guillermo del Toro, who helmed the dark fantasy Pan's Labyrinth and Kung Fu Panda 2, is set to direct the English actress in a film version of the classic fairytale. Last summer the Mexican was reported to have said that Watson was "perfect" for the part of Belle. Variety has reported that the former Harry Potter starlet is only steps away from confirming the role.

Since filming Harry Potter, Watson's film roles have included parts in My Week With Marilyn, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is due for release later this year, and David Yates' Your Voice In My Head.

Beauty and the Beast, which tells the tale of a merchant's daughter who is told that in order to save her father from death she must become mistress of a luxurious castle inhabited by a man-beast, is a classic fairytale which has been passed down through the ages.

There have been various film adaptations of the classic fairytale, including, notably, Jean Cocteau's 1946 production, which starred Josette Day as the Beauty, and also Disney's children's animation in 1993.

Beauty and the Beast is scheduled for release in 2014. No details of who might play the Beast are yet known.