Of the three Harry Potter kids, she was the one most likely to become a star, and the one least likely to pursue it. Emma Watson achieved global celebrity at 11, playing Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. As she grew up, and her costars committed to careers in film, she struggled with whether she wanted a life in the klieg lights. In 2009 she walked away from Hollywood to attend Brown University, appearing only briefly in 2011’s My Week With Marilyn. But playing Sam in last year’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower rekindled her interest in acting. With this summer’s The Bling Ring and This Is the End, and next year’s Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky, Watson, 23, has evolved into a smart, stunning young woman with a mind, and career, of her own design.
As the Harry Potter films ended, you weren’t sure you wanted to have an acting career, and the press doubted you could even have one. What was that like?
Emma Watson For a while it gave me a sense of paralysis, and then a professor told me that they didn’t think I should act either. So I was really grappling with it. People had put me in a box so much that it started pissing me off. I wanted to make a conscious adult decision about [acting] because that decision had been made for me as a 9-year-old. I had no idea who I was, really. So I wanted to step away and make sure this is what I wanted.
You’ve been working mostly in ensemble casts. Was that intentional?
Watson It was, but not for the reasons most people would think. I had a long conversation with [Perks director] Stephen Chbosky, and the advice he gave me was: ”Pick movies, don’t pick roles. Be part of great stories. It doesn’t matter if you’re on screen for two minutes.” So I’ve kind of followed that rule.
People don’t understand that?
Watson Recently I’ve been asked whether I’m ”afraid” to take on a leading part. Sometimes I wake up at three in the morning and go, ”Am I afraid?” [Laughs] And then I’m like, ”No, no, people are just putting this stuff in my head.”
How are you feeling now about your career?
Watson This has been an interesting year. I’d been looking for projects, but I hadn’t been finding the right thing, and for the first time, I felt panic. I’m a workaholic, so there have been a few moments where I’ve almost taken things that are almost right. I’ve had to remind myself to hold on for the thing that feels like you would just die if you didn’t get it. It takes patience and faith, but in the long run it will be good. [Pause] I hope. [Laughs]
Emma On… Her Career Bucket List
”I want to find directors who have an innate passion. I don’t want a director-for-hire because I fancy the idea of me playing Joan of Arc. Then it doesn’t have real heart; it’s a vehicle that’s been constructed with a career trajectory in mind. And I think that’s death.”