Emma Watson Interview
Emma Watson Interview
Emma Watson, the star of brilliant new indie film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, written and directed by Steven Chbosky, discusses her experience of working on the film, life in America and playing music on set with her co-stars, Ezra Miller and Logan Lerman.
Emma, The Perks of Being a Wallflower really reminded me of The Breakfast Club and those classic teen films. Do you think Stephen Chbosky was aiming to make that type of film?

Emma Watson

Definitely. When we first met, he kind of had this bible of all of his ideas from the book and he knew exactly how he wanted to shoot every shot and there were tonnes of John Hughes references in there. He really wanted it to feel quirky and real, but also timeless and classic, which is why he didn’t go too far on the ‘late 80s/early 90s’ garb. You could feel it, but he didn’t go crazy on it.
In preparation, did you watch any of those types of films? Did you research those teen movies?

Emma Watson

Yes, I watched Dazed and Confused and he had me watch Harold and Maude, I love that film! I also watched The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, all of those kinds of films, partly for accent and partly just for feel.
Did you read the book first or the script first?

Emma Watson

I read the script first and the book second. My American friends berated me for this, there were like ‘You are so far behind, how can you not have read this amazing book? And so I got on it very quickly and read the book and what I realised is that there’s this amazing kind of cult following that really, really care about it. I was in Pittsburgh and a girl came up to me and she had a tattoo of one of Steve’s quotes and that’s when I realised, ‘Wow, this is kind of a big deal!’

Again, I really put the pressure on myself to get it right but it’s been amazing and it was nice to know that we couldn’t go too far wrong as Steve wrote the book and directed the film, and even if it’s not exactly the same - adaptations can never be the same as they are in the book - the spirit is still authentic.
Do you think that it does make a difference that it’s Stephen’s whole thing?

Emma Watson

Definitely. Pittsburgh is where he grew up and some parts of the book are autobiographical and it was amazing to have him on set. If I was ever stuck in a scene and I needed help finding a particular moment, to have him tell me about that specific moment in his life and how it impacted on him and what he felt that line was about and whatever else, it was incredibly moving to hear him talk about what it all meant to him personally; so I feel quite spoilt really. Going into my future films, I’ll be like ‘Excuse me, where’s the author of the book or script? I need to speak to him personally now about what I am about to do!’ No, it was amazing.
Is there a real Sam (Emma Watson’s character) then?

Emma Watson

There is a real Sam, yes!
Did you meet her?

Emma Watson

I didn’t meet her but she is a real person!
This is such a coming-of-age film and because you became so famous so early on, you kind of had your coming-of-age in the public eye. How did that inform your performance as Sam?

Emma Watson

I don’t know how being in the public eye would have helped me with Sam. Actually, it’s the opposite really. It’s the life I had out of the public eye, which helped inform Sam. I tried my best to live my adolescence behind closed doors, as far as I possibly could, and I think I managed to do that. I went back to school in-between filming, I sat my GCSEs, I sat my A-levels, I went to university. So it’s really those experiences that informed her.
Emma, you had the incredible privilege in being educated both here and in America. What are the major differences? The view here is that they kind of pile pressure more on their children at a younger age, is that what you found?

Emma Watson

Actually, I would have said the opposite, I think. In America, you have four years to complete your degree and over here, you normally have three, although we encourage a gap year. The biggest difference I would say is that an American education encourages you to broaden yourself out and to concentrate later on, whereas we are encouraged to make decisions about our career and what kind of field we want to go into a lot younger. Even as early as our GCSEs in this country, if you want to go into medicine or wherever else, you need to choose to take chemistry, biology, and whatever else. Whereas, in America, I was able to take four different classes a semester and they could be in any choice I wanted, as long as I formed some sort of concentration out of them. So I am majoring in English Literature, but I took classes in Psychology, History, Art, French and all sorts. I think that’s what one of the appeals to me was, that I knew that my degree wasn’t going to be a vocational degree; I wasn’t going to go study law, but I wanted to know as much as I could about as many different things as possible, because I’m interested.
Is it right that you told your agent to not send you scripts?

Emma Watson

I did (laughs). Perks somehow made it under the door. My agent said, ‘I really think you should do this one’ and I had been reading things, but Perks was the first thing that kind of lit a fire under me, where I was like, ‘Oh, I think this will be really important to make this film. I think this could really make a difference to a young person watching it.’ And it felt quite special.
Was it the story, the character or a combination?

Emma Watson

I think there’s so much material made about this period in peoples’ lives, where you come of age or where you’re in high school. There’s so many teenage TV series and movies and whatever else, that it’s kind of a subject matter people are almost sick of hearing about. But this one felt to me really honest and authentic and it didn’t glamorise the experience, but it also didn’t patronise or sensationalise it. It’s amazing, I look at Steve and I’m like, ‘You remember so clearly what it was like to be this age, it’s kind of amazing’.

Perks was honest and it wasn’t afraid to touch on subjects that are difficult and I think that’s what one of the difficulties was in getting the film made, that the film deals with things that people would rather not talk about. Almost like taboo subjects, really. It’s one of the most banned books in America. There are many, many state libraries that will not stock this book, so that was fascinating to me, really, because I obviously had the privilege of having a background where I am much more open minded and accepted, so it was a real shock. And it was a shock that nobody really wanted to make it, really. I had to kind of bang on people’s doors for it to get made, so it was interesting.
Did you find through making this, that you’d lost out a little bit on your own coming-of-age and going through all of those rites of passage that come with being in a school, where people muck in, where you make friends, lose friends, whatever else; did you ever feel or think you’d lost out on any of that? Did it stir anything?

Emma Watson

It made me very aware that my life has been very different; it’s definitely been unusual. I would almost say that my life has almost been done backwards slightly in that there are certain kinds of my development, which are happening at different times and in different orders. At times, that’s felt lonely but generally I feel privileged to have so much and so many different experiences and really, the film actually made me really happy because I realised that I’ve been doing something almost more than half of my life that I want to continue doing.

I really loved making the film and I really love acting and it’s what I want to do and so it made me quite grateful that I had a platform that allows me to do that in a way that I want to. I was also happy because I got to have a lot of the experiences that maybe I didn’t get to have whilst making the film and in an even more exotic way because I got to go to the football games and I don’t know many English girls who get to go to prom! It was fun!

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Content updated: 22/04/2019 15:55

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