Empire (Oct 2010): The Long Goodbye

With Harry Potter drawing near its apocalyptic finale, Empire joins the three stars ats they contemplate their final farewells to Harry, Hermione, Ron – and Hogwarts.

But freedom wasn’t always easily won. Emma Watson’s Hermione escapes the family worries that plague her friend Ron in the film – but she does so at a huge cost. “The film opens with Hermione wiping her parents’ memories [of her] and leaving their house. You don’t read that in the book; you just know she does it. That’s a scene that Steve (Kloves) and Dave (Yates) wrote for the film, which I was happy about because you see the sacrifice that Hermione and Ron make to be Harry’s friend. You see Ron’s home and Harry’s. But you never really get a sense of Hermione’s life outside Hogwarts, outside that friendship, and it’s important. She’s not just going off to school for another year. You’re choosing between family and friends; it’s pretty brutal. They offer her a cup of tea, completely unaware that anything’s about to happen, and then I cast a spell that wipes their memories of me. There’re photos all around the room, actual childhood pictures of me, and they just dissolve. It’s horrible. And then I have to shut the door and walk out alone.”

Despite showing no more inclination for the limelight than her male co-stars, Watson is most hounded by the tabloids. So famous that her haircuts are front-page news, she seems almost relieved to be in the odd bubble of Leavesden Studios, and has chosen to go to university in the US, at the relatively quiet Brown (”Brown is a small campus so everyone is used to seeing me around. No one takes a second glance anymore, which is wonderful.”) For Watson, it wasn’t the length of the shoot or the prospect of finishing that was most draining, but the sheer scale and content of this film.

“The emotional stuff is much harder. These two films have been on a completely different level in terms of what they’ve demanded from me physically and emotionally. I did a scene where Ron’s had half his body splinches (the result of an unsuccessful disapparition), and he’s drenched in blood and my hands are covered in blood and my friend’s in a huge amount of pain in my arms, I’m trying to save him. I also got tortured; I’ve never had to do a torture scene before. And then physically … there were huge amounts of physical exertion for, like, days on end, you know, working with explosives because there are so many fighting scenes. When the spells go off, they have tonnes of pyrotechnics and it’s scary. No acting required; it’s absolutely terrifying. I felt like I was in the army. So yeah, it was a very, very demanding shoot.”

Not that anyone wants to ask her about that. Watson, who’s Hermione-like levels of academic overachievement continue at Brown (where she’s been acting in a Chekhov play), has found on this film that journalists are only interested in one thing: what it was like kissing Ron. “I supposed I understand. This kiss between Ron and Hermione is highly anticipated, it’s been building up for eight films now. And Harry Potter, it’s not Twilight, you know; we’re not selling sex. So, whenever there is a hint of that, everybody gets terribly excited. In fact, it was horribly awkward; we couldn’t stop laughing. The nicest thing about it was, before we did it, we turned to each other and were like, ‘God, this is going to be awful, isn’t it?’ But hopefully it will look good.”

Despires the dashes full-tilt through forests and glens (”It was quite competetive; the camera was on a zip wire and we were sort of racing each other”) and the stuntwork (”When they set up these pyrotechnics there’s a huge pressure to get it right”), Watson’s biggested disaster on set occured when she tried to document this last instalment of the franchise.

“I wandered into a second-hand camera shop, and this very nice gentlement persuaded me I needed an old-black-and-white film camera. I realised I hadn’t taken any photos for the last ten years, so this time I’ve been bugging everyone. Takes me about ten minutes to take one because I have to work out the aperture, the shutter speed, the focus and everything. But the girl who was helping me develop the film accidently turned on the lights in the dark room and wiped everything. I couldn’t talk for about three days. I was devastated. Forget the arty cool effect of using old film caeras. It’s absolutely bollocks. Digial cameras and Photoshop is the way to go.”