Emma Watson’s new film sees her back at school, but it’s a world away from Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. Susan Griffin talks loneliness and nude scenes with the newly-grown-up star
Making the transition from child to grown-up star can be tricky, but so far Emma Watson seems to be doing rather nicely.
She managed to go through adolescence while under the public spotlight as Harry Potter’s studious schoolgirl Hermione Granger, without a hint of going off the rails.
Career-wise, she’s successfully pushing forwards with brave and intelligent film choices.
The first post-Potter was a supporting role in My Week With Marilyn, starring Michelle Williams, and she now steps up to leading lady status, as the free-spirited Sam in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower.
Based on the beloved best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky, it’s a funny and tender coming-of-age story, in which Sam and her step-brother Patrick (Ezra Miller) take the academically precocious but socially awkward Charlie (Logan Lerman) under their wing, inviting him to join their group of ‘wallflowers’.
“Charlie’s been through a pretty rough time but he’s the sweetest, most sensitive soul you’ll ever meet, and Sam and Patrick try to shepherd him through the first year of high school, which we all know can be intimidating,” says Watson.
She was studying at Brown University in the US when she received the script.
“Even though it was set in America it felt like it had something to do with what my adolescent experience was like,” she says.
“It was funny and sad and witty all at the same time and it felt really honest and authentic. It didn’t glamourise the experience and didn’t patronise or sensationalise it either.”
Watson hadn’t read the novel though, which stunned her American classmates.
“My American friends berated me,” she explains. “They couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it and I realised there’s this amazing cult following of people that really care about it.
“So, again putting a lot of pressure on myself to get it right,” she adds with a small laugh.
Watson remembers a sense of panic a month before the cameras were due to roll.
“I was like, ‘I’ve got to do an American accent and I don’t know anything about being at an American school’, so I started freaking out and making these crazy notes and emailing the director at three in the morning going, ‘What does this mean?’
“It all worked out fine in the end but it was a real stretch for me, and there were parts that really pushed me out of my comfort zone in a big way.”
That includes spending numerous scenes in little more than a corset and suspenders but Chbosky, who also directed the film, had immense faith in Watson.
“Emma is absolutely luminous in the role. It took about five minutes for me to realise that she was the perfect person for the character,” he says.
“She grew up in the middle of a hurricane, and she did it with such grace and such class, but there is this loneliness about her. I knew when I met her that this was a part of her that was just dying to come out. She just needed permission.”
Watson admits that loneliness has been a reality.
“I tried my best to live my adolescence behind closed doors and I think I managed that,” she says. “I went back to school between filming; I sat my GCSEs and A-levels and went to university.”
But making the film did make her “very aware” that her life has been very different to the majority of her peers.
“It’s definitely been unusual, almost like it’s been done backwards. There are certain parts of my development that’s happening at different times.
“At times that’s felt lonely but generally I feel privileged to have had so many different experiences.”
And she acknowledges the advantages that being part of the Harry Potter franchise has brought her.
“I really loved making this film and I love acting, it’s what I want to do, so I’m grateful to have had a platform that allowed me to do that.”
There are four more projects in the pipeline already, including Sophia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, based on the real-life robberies of celebrity homes, and a cameo in the apocalyptic The End Of The World, both of which are completed.
She’s just started filming Darren Aronofsky’s Biblical epic Noah, alongside Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins, and she’ll appear as a self-destructive writer in Your Voice In My Head opposite Stanley Tucci.
There are rumours that she’s also in the running for the lead role in the movie adaptation of ‘mummy porn’ bestseller Fifty Shades Of Grey.
Laughing at the mention of this, she says: “It’s flattering in the sense that people are excited about what I do next.
“The thing is I haven’t read any of the books so it’s quite difficult to know what I’m turning down potentially, but I hear it’s quite raunchy.”
She pauses in contemplation.
“I mean, if there’s interesting character development and there’s an interesting story then I would consider it.”
Having to strip certainly wouldn’t put her off: “I’ve been saying since I was 16 that if it’s an interesting character and important for the character development, and of course if it’s important to the story, then I’ll do it because I’m an actress and that’s it really.”
Besides, she feels she’s already faced the riskiest stage of her career, by tackling her first major role since Harry Potter.
“I did feel the pressure from the fact that whatever I decided to do next, people were going to put a lot of weight on and judge a lot,” she says.
“But at the same time I enjoyed making this film so much, it doesn’t matter to me whether people like it or not. I know it’s special and I know I’m really proud of what I did in it.
“And when you feel good about something you don’t need other people to validate it so much.”
Perks Of Being A Wallflower is released on Wednesday, October 3