Interview: Emma Watson, Star of The Perks of Being a Wallflower
We speak with The Perks of Being a Wallflower starlet Emma Watson about growing up, acting and those 50 Shades of Grey rumours…
The film really reminds me of The Breakfast Club and those classic films – do you think that’s what Stephen was going for?
EMMA WATSON: Definitely, when we first met he had this kind of ‘Bible’ of all his ideas from the books 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 for there to be something timeless and classic about it. That’s why he didn’t go too far on the late 80s early 90s garb. It was there, you could feel it but he didn’t go crazy with it.
In preparation did you watch any of those types of films?
EMMA WATSON: I watched Dazed and Confused, Stephen got me to watch Harold and Maude – amazing film, love it. And I watched The Breakfast Club and 16 Candles. Partly for accent, partly just for feel.
Did you read the book first?
EMMA WATSON: I read the script first and the book second and my American friends berated me, they were like you’re so far behind how could you not have read this amazing book. I got on it very quickly and did read the book and what I realized it had this kind of amazing 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 Stephen’s quotes and that’s when I realised like ‘Oh wow this is kind of a big deal.’ Again I really put the pressure on myself to get it right. It’s been amazing. It’s nice to know we can’t go too far wrong as Steve who has written the book, has directed the film and even if its not exactly the same adaptation, it can never be exactly the same as it is in the book but the spirit would be authentic.
Do you think it makes a difference that Stephen has directed the film?
EMMA WATSON: Definitely. Pittsburgh is where he grew up and some parts of it are autobiographical. It was amazing to have him, 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 affected him and what he felt that line was about, it’s incredibly moving to hear him talk about what it all meant to him personally. I feel quite spoilt really. Going into my future films. I’ll be like… where’s the author of this book or the script, I need to speak to him personally about what I’m about to do.
Is there a real Sam?
EMMA WATSON: There is a real Sam, I didn’t meet her. But she is a real person.
This is a coming of age film and you’re someone who has had your coming of age in the public eye so 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. It was the opposite really, the life I had out of the public eye helped inform Sam and I tried my best to live my adolescence behind closed doors and I think I managed to do that. I went back to school when I wasn’t filming, I did my GCSEs and my A Levels, I went to University so it’s really those experiences that informed her.
You’ve had the privileged position of being educated both here and America – what are the major differences? The view is they seem to pile on pressure on their children at a younger age, is that what you found?
EMMA WATSON: Actually I always thought the opposite. I think that in America you have four years to complete your degree and we have three although we encourage a gap year. The biggest difference I would say is in American education you’re encouraged to broaden yourself out and to concentrate later on whereas we’re encouraged to make decisions about our career and what kind of field we want to go into much younger.
As early as our GCSE’s in this country if you want to go into medicine you need to choose to take Biology and Chemistry and whatever else. In America I was able to take four different classes a semester and they could be in whatever choice I wanted as long as I formed some sort of concentration out of them. I major in English Literature but I took classes in Psychology, History, Art, French and all sorts. I think that was one of the appeals to me that I knew that my degree wasn’t going to be a vocational degree; I wasn’t going to go study law, but that I wanted to know as I could about as many different things as possible, because I’m interested.
Is it true you told your agent don’t send me scripts?
EMMA WATSON: I did! Perks somehow made it under the door. She said I really think you should read this one and I had been reading things but Perks was the first thing that lit a fire under me. I thought it would be really important to make this film, I think this could really make a difference to a young person watching it. It felt quite special somehow.
What was it? The character, the story, subject matter?
EMMA WATSON: I think that there’s so much material made about this period of people’s lives where you come of age or when you’re in high school. There’s so many teenage TV series and movies and it’s a subject matter that people are sick of hearing about but this one felt to me really honest and authentic and it didn’t glamorise the experience but it didn’t patronize it and sensationalise it. It just looked at it. It’s amazing and I look at Steve and I think you remember so clearly what it was like to be this age. It’s kind of amazing. It’s just the honesty and it wasn’t – It’s not afraid to touch on subjects that are difficult I think that was one of the difficulties in getting it made.
The film deals with a lot of things that people would rather not talk about, taboo subjects really. Its one of the most banned books in America, there are many state libraries that won’t stock this book. That was fascinating to me, I obviously had the privilege of having a much more open-minded, accepting background. That was a real shock. And it was a shock that nobody wanted to make it really, I had to bang on people’s doors to get it made.
Did making Perks make you feel that you’d lost out on your own coming of age and going through those rites of passages, the camaraderie of school where you make friends and lose friends? Did you ever feel because of the intensity of the work you’ve done in the last ten years that you lost out?
EMMA WATSON: It made me very aware that my life has been very different and unusual. I would almost say my life has been done backwards slightly. There are some parts of my development that are happening at different times and different orders and at times that’s felt lonely but generally I feel that I’m privileged to have so much and so many experiences. Really the film has made me really happy because I’ve realised that I’ve been doing something almost half my life that I want to continue doing… I really loved making this film and I really love acting and its what I want to do.
It made me quite grateful that I had that platform that allows me to do that in a way that I want to. And it was happy because I got to have a lot of the experiences that I didn’t get to have in an even more exotic way – I got to go to football games and I don’t know many English girls that get to go to prom and it was fun.
How was it working with Logan (Lerman) on this and returning together for Noah and also were you attached to an Oscar Wilde biopic?
EMMA WATSON: I wasn’t attached to it, I seem to be attached to so many strange projects at the moment, which I have no idea, and that I don’t know much about. Unless it’s confirmed that I’m going to be in it. People get attached to things all the time. Oscar Wilde’s awesome though, I collect many of his quotes, he says many wise things.
With Logan, yeah walking onto set and knowing you’re doing an Aronofsky movie and Russell Crowe‘s there and Anthony Hopkins is arriving in a few days, I really felt the gravity of it, it felt like a very big thing to be doing and to have Logan there who I could share that kind of – “Are you really nervous?” “Yes I’m really nervous,” “Great at least we’re in the same boat”. To have that support and a bit of continuity as well, working with new people all the time can get a bit disorientating, so it’s nice to be working with the same person again, I lucked out, it worked out really well.
Music plays a large role in the film, there was music on set, what sort of music do you like and what role does it play in your life?
EMMA WATSON: Well one of the first things Steve did when he met me was to give me a mix tape – his own mix tape. And then throughout the movie, we as a cast all made music together, I sing, Ezra (Miller) also sings and plays the drums and Logan plays the piano. Mae Whitman is musical, so all of us, most nights, would sit and play music – so that was really fun. When we were doing the tunnel scene we did actually have music playing, it’s rare on a movie set – because they put the music in later, but with this some music was playing. But Steve insisted that all of us chose the song we would listen to going through the tunnel and it was a song called Happiness and yeah it was really important. I listened to The Smiths a lot before we started shooting. No it was very, very important.
What did you all sing in your band?
EMMA WATSON: Our band, tentatively, was called Octopus Jam, I don’t know how we came up with the title but it was tentatively Octopus Jam, and Logan’s a classical composer – he actually composed a piece of music for his part and he composed a piece of music for me and for Ezra – so he’s very talented. He was more classical.
And then Ezra’s more Rock n’ Roll, and I was somewhere in the middle sort of just doing my own thing really.
Would you like to do The Rocky Horror Show for real?
EMMA WATSON: Yeah, definitely, it was great fun. I mean I have big shoes to fill, Susan Sarandon, she’s quite wonderful. Don’t turn that into ‘Emma Watson is looking to do The Rocky Horror Show’ – which I know is what you all do. But I had a good time doing it. I was having the best time, the best time.
Given your unique up bringing, was there a relationship that you identified with, that you could latch on to?
EMMA WATSON: I have a step brother called David, who reminded me of my relationship with Patrick in the film. Because we are the same age – we sat our GCSE’s together, we sat our A-Level’s together, we very much gave each other moral support during that time. And then just the close friends I have really – I don’t know who this quotes by but it’s ‘the friends you can call at three o’clock in the morning are the ones that really count’ and I’m lucky to have a few of those. So I just drew on that and also the people who believe in me; the people who believe in you are the pope who lift you up. It’s important to have people around you that do that.
Have you got a favourite scene from the film?
EMMA WATSON: For experience wise I love the tunnel scene, cause I love remembering what it was like to do that, and it was incredible, I felt like I was flying. I was so pumped up with adrenaline and it was so beautiful. Very memorable to me, regardless of the film.
The scene that I love to watch back and the scene I loved reading in the script was where Sam wants to give Charlie the perfect first kiss. Because her first kiss kind of sucked and most people’s first kisses aren’t always great. It’s not always how you picture things, so I thought it was great and beautiful that she wanted to make sure that it was perfect. That really touched me.
There are so many quotable lines in the film, and emotional where you could laugh at the beginning of a sentence and be crying at the end. Was it a different experience than you have had previously?
EMMA WATSON: Yeah, it was a much smaller crew and a much smaller budget, we did a lot. My two biggest scenes we shot in one day – the ones that I consider to be the most emotional – where I kiss Charlie and the scene at the end of the film where I’m just about to leave – we shot all of that in one day. And I’m used to, you know on Harry Potter where we had to shoot one sequence in the period of like three weeks, so it was nerve-racking for Steve to give me one or two takes, you know. Or three takes so I really had to have a lot of faith in him and trust that it was all going to work out ok. And it’s nice working with a smaller group of people, you really band together and you sort of – everyone’s really involved, well you have to be. We worked crazy hours on it, by the end of the movie I was just so tired, I was not even functioning properly, it was very exhilarating.
You’ve been attached to 50 Shades of Grey – would you ever take your clothes off for a role?
EMMA WATSON: I don’t know how many times I have to reiterate this, I must have said it in like twenty interviews now, but I am not attached to it. I don’t know why this keeps coming up again and again. It’s flattering in the sense that people are excited to see what I do in the future but I just don’t know where this thing has come from. It’s mental, I can’t seem to shake it – I haven’t read the book, I haven’t been sent the script, I haven’t been approached, I don’t know what more I can say. Also I’ve been saying since I was sixteen, that if it’s right for the part and for the character development, then of course I’ll do it if it’s important to the story, I’ll do it, because I’m an actress and that’s it really.