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"I love taking chances with what I wear. Sometimes other people may not like the look but I always love what I am wearing. Every time you get dressed, you get to express how you are feeling."
After 10 years of playing the brainy and bossy Hermione Granger, Emma Watson says she is ready to leave the world of “Harry Potter” behind her. But first she has one final duty to perform -- accepting a prize at the MTV Movie Awards on behalf of the cast.
Watson has come to this glamorous Hollywood event with Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller, two of the co-stars of her new movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Worth more than $60 million, the English beauty, 22, never had to work again. But she says she was determined to find out if she could cut it as an actor and chose, for her first post-”Potter” film, to play an American high school student in this indie comedy.
She herself is a college student who splits her time between the American Ivy League college Brown and Oxford. Ironically, she met her American boyfriend, Will Adamowicz, while both were studying at that most famous of English university. Preferring to keep her private life just that, she has not brought him to these high profile awards. Taking a break from the red carpet, she chats about making movies, taking breaks, designing clothes and even her new haircut.
Why did you choose “Perks of Being a Wallflower” as your first film after finishing with “Harry Potter”?
EW: I wanted to really challenge myself. After 10 years, there was so much of me in Hermione -- an English schoolgirl -- and I needed to know if I could be convincing as someone else.
Who do you play in “Perks”?
EW: Sam, this really confident American high school senior who takes a new boy, Charlie, under her wing, and helps him realize who he was and could be.
What was it like working on a low-budget movie after the massive “Harry Potter” productions?
EW: This was so different, such an intense experience. Making a “Harry Potter” movie meant a lot of sitting around and waiting. This was non-stop all the time. I loved it -- that intensity. It really helped the cast bond.
Didn’t you even all live together?
EW: Yes, we all stayed at this one hotel in Pittsburgh -- the cast and the crew -- and that gave us a chance to get really close. It was great to just hang out together, talk, play music. I think that really helped us with our characters.
Isn’t the film based on a book?
EW: Yes, but I didn’t know that when I read the script. Then I heard from my friends at college that it was this amazing book that had a hard-core fan base -- just like “Harry Potter.” How weird is that?
So, the movie has a lot to live up to?
EW: Yes, and I really felt the pressure because I was playing an American for the first time. There was the accent but also the attitude that comes with being the cool kid in high school, something I never was.
How difficult was it to learn an American accent?
EW: I worked harder on that then anything else I have ever done. I practiced for hours each day and had this incredible dialect coach. I grew up listening to all kinds of American music so I guess I developed an ear for the musicality of the language. Sometimes I would even sing the lines first to get the sound in my head.
Well you certainly sound American in the movie.
EW: That is so great to hear. We would work on just a single sound for such a long time but if people believe I am American it was worth it in the end
Were you worried about working with a first-time director?
EW: Not at all. Stephen (Chbosky) wrote the book and the script as well. As soon as I met him, we just hit it off right away. It was the same with Logan Lerman, who plays Charlie.
What was Stephen like as a director?
EW: Incredibly giving. He created this really unique character in his amazing book. But he was so willing to work with me to find new things about her. He even wrote new lines for me while we were filming.
It sounds like it was a great working relationship.
EW: One of the best. He was just so incredibly helpful. He made me relax, not worry whether I understood every expression. He told me that he knew I was the only person who could play Sam. That really gave me the confidence to do this, to believe in myself.
Weren’t you involved in creating the look of your character as well?
EW: I was and I loved getting a chance to play someone who cares so much about how she looks. Sam has this really interesting style -- a little preppy, a little edgy. I can be that way too. In fact, in some of the scenes I ended up wearing my own clothes, like this one dress of my grandmother’s from more than thirty years ago.
Unlike Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, who used the breaks from “Potter” to make other movies, you chose not to.
EW: Between making each new movie and promoting the last one, not to mention all my schoolwork, I was lucky to have even a few weeks left to do a small part in a great movie like “My Week with Marilyn.”
Is it true you thought about giving up acting?
EW: I wondered if there was anything else I could do. I have been doing it since I was nine and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue. But then I did a play at school (“The Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov) and realized how much I loved it.
What was the hardest part about moving to America to go to college?
EW: I didn’t realize how little I knew about everyday things until I went to college. I learned how to cook, do my own washing, all the normal stuff for someone my age.
Didn’t you have a hard time at Brown?
EW: It was difficult to juggle my time there with making the last “Harry Potter” movie and doing publicity for the others. One thing that surprised me was how much I was left to come up with my own program.
Has Oxford been a better fit for you then?
EW: I have made some very good friends and get to see my mum, who lives nearby quite a bit (her parents divorced when she was six and her father lives in London).
Both your parents are lawyers. Was that something they wanted you to do as well?
EW: They never pushed me in any direction. Both of them are so levelheaded and I am so lucky they have been so supportive of me pursuing such a crazy career.
Didn’t you just work with a female director for the first time?
EW: Yes, I worked with Sofia (Coppola), who was just great, on this movie called “The Bling Ring.” She was someone I always wanted to meet just because I think she makes really interesting movies like “Lost in Translation.” Then I got the chance to work with her.
What is that movie about?
EW: It is based on the true story of this gang of teenagers in Los Angeles who tracked celebrities on the Internet and would rob their houses when they were away. I play one of the ringleaders. It was good fun being bad.
And next up is “Noah”
EW: Again, it is with someone I have admired for a long time -- Darren Aronofksy who made “Black Swan.” He wrote the script and is directing. I play a girl who gets involved with Noah's son.
You are certainly in demand.
EW: It is more than I could ever have hoped. Next summer I get to work with Guillermo del Toro on this amazing new version of “Beauty and the Beast.”
How do you cope with being recognized all the time?
EW: I am lucky that it doesn’t happen as much as it used to. Maybe my shorter hair helps. I have learned that I can’t go to big public places, like a museum, and enjoy myself. First one person recognizes me, then another and another. It gets pretty crazy pretty quickly.
What made you cut off all your hair?
EW: After all those years of needing to have long hair to play Hermione, I was ready for a change. I was surprised just how freeing it was not to have to worry about how my hair looked all the time. I couldn’t believe how it became such a topic of conversation. I know some people didn’t like it but I have to do what feels right for me.
Your new look certainly caught the eye of fashion editors.
EW: I still can’t believe that I have been asked to do modelling, first Burberry and now Lancome. I love the chance to get dressed up, put on makeup. That is my favorite part of the day when making a movie -- sitting in the chair while we try out different looks and having a good gossip.
How do you handle all the rumours about yourself?
EW: You just have to learn to let it go. It is more difficult for my friends and family. They all thought I was going to be in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” but I was never approached about that. (It just happened again with “50 Shades of Grey”)
What is the biggest misconception about you?
EW: That I am just like Hermione. I love school and all but not like her. I am certainly not as smart as she is. And while I love just relaxing she never stopped.
Why is taking time off so important for you?
EW: When you have been as lucky in life as I have, it is good to sit back and think about what to do next. It is a real treat to not have to worry about getting to the set or doing publicity for months at a time.
What do you like to do in your down time?
EW: I love to travel. I did a lot of it to promote the “Potter” movies but now I get to do it on my own schedule. I also love reading and being creative.
Is that why you have become so involved in fashion?
EW: At first, it was a chance to show everyone I was not Hermione. It allows me to express myself, my creativity. I got this amazing opportunity to work with one of my favorite designers, Alberta Ferretti, on this new line of clothes, “Pure Threads,” that is made in an ethical and environmentally friendly way. I also did two collections for People Tree which sold almost half a million pounds -- that meant work for 400 people.
What does Fair Trade fashion mean?
EW: That the workers who make the clothes are treated fairly, that the materials used do not harm the planet, that the company is green in its approach.
How would you describe your style?
EW: I love taking chances with what I wear. Sometimes other people may not like the look but I always love what I am wearing. Every time you get dressed, you get to express how you are feeling.
How have you handled being famous for so long?
EW: Having a good group of friends who aren’t in show business makes all the difference. They treat me the same as everyone else.
Why don't you do many interviews?
EW: I work hard to keep as much of my life private as I can. There are just some things I won’t talk about. I think that if you want audiences to see you as different people, it is better if they don’t know too much about you.
What would you like to achieve as an actress?
EW: I know that to some people I will always be Hermione. I hope that I can show people that there is more to me than just that and that I get to play lots of different kinds of women in the years to come.
© IFA-Amsterdam 2013.
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