The graduate

The graduate

New role

The graduate

Emma Watson, the onetime co-star of the most successful movie franchise ever, is a very grateful and a very lucky person.

Watson is a young woman who wants it put firmly on the record that she understands human lives are shaken up in the snow globe of uncertainty, and that simply because she’s ended up being covered in golden flakes, she doesn’t take it as her due, oh, no.
Watson still looks younger than she is.

It’s quite possible that this rather serious emphasis, all those years ago, alerted the casting director that this nine-year-old girl should play Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, rather than the umpteen 1,000 others who were gagging, swooning, dying to do so.

But setting her calendar age to one side, Watson’s neoteny affects more than her physical appearance, for she is enfolded in the diaphanous — yet profoundly real — swaths of her former status as a child star.

Now Watson has started to cavort in rather more adult vehicles; the first of these is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, an indie venture directed by Stephen Chbosky and adapted from his novel of the same name.

It’s a film set in early 1990s Pittsburgh, about a misfit kid named Charlie, who finds his niche in high school when he falls in with a bunch of like-minded misfits. Watson plays his object of desire, Sam, and she does this with reasonable éclat and newfound maturity. She also manages the difficult feat — for a nice English middle-class girl — of sustaining an American accent.

I asked her why she’s waited this long to make other movies and she  said: “I think at first I didn’t because I was always either studying or filming, I didn’t have the time to go off and do other films or other things to sort of show people that, Oh, she is not just Hermione, she is an actress and she can go and do these other parts and roles.

I didn’t, because I was so focused on, you know, my GCSEs and on my AS and on my A-levels and then getting into university and then whatever. I didn’t really have the time to do any of that.”

Watson ended up attending Brown University, and had just finished doing a year abroad at Oxford University. She has one more semester at Brown before she completes her degree.

Not that she’s only studied and ‘Pottered’ — Watson is the face of Lancôme, and she’s done a fair bit of modelling over the past three years. She told me that this was her way of establishing a public identity for herself, separate from the brainiac character of Hermione Granger.

Watson was astute enough to realise that the Potter franchise had acted as a splint to her career; which is also why she’s taken the time out at college ­— testing her legs in a student production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, among other things — before making her own decision about continuing with professional acting.

The measured approach is paying dividends: after Wallflower, she shot The Bling Ring with Sofia Coppola in Los Angeles, and when she spoke to me she was about to start to making Darren Aronofsky’s Noah in New York. It’s a fairly sharp ascent — from kiddie flicks to indie flick to grade-A art-house movies. Watson demurred: “I’m not really sure how I’ve managed to do it.

I guess weirdly in my head I knew what I wanted, I didn’t know how it would or if it would ever happen. But before Bling Ring, I said I’d really wanted to meet Sofia Coppola and — this is before I knew that she had a film in mind — ended up meeting her. And Darren was someone who actually I met a good year ago.

And then I’m doing a film with Guillermo (del Toro) next summer, and I went to him and said Warner Brothers have given me the script for Beauty and the Beast, but the only way I’d really want to do it is if you did it. And then miraculously he said, ‘Oh, funnily enough Beauty and the Beast is my favourite fairy tale. I can’t let anyone else do this. I’ll start putting a team together.’ ”

There are inchoate glints here of a future Hollywood mover and shaker, but, speaking to Watson, they were offset by an impression of someone still looking for nurture in each new temporary family she encounters — whether it be the Potter circus, the cast of Wallflower or at Brown.

I suspect it may be this emotional connection she seeks quite as much as fulfillment through acting.