Emma Watson GQ interview excerpts: You couldn’t have picked a role more at odds with the role you played in Harry Potter. This was obviously a very deliberate and considered strategy.. Well, yes, she is. It’s funny, but I actually fought for the role; I really wanted to play it. First of all, I was a big fan of Sofia’s. I’m probably the least obvious choice to play the role, as she’s the epitome of everything that I am considered not to be. We’re polar opposites.
When I read the script and I realised that essentially it was a meditation on fame and what it’s become to our society, I had to do it. The character is everything that I felt really strongly against, she’s superficial, materialistic, vain, amoral. She’s all of these things, and I realised that I really hated her. How do you play someone that you hate? But I found it really interesting and it gave me a whole new insight into what my job, or my role as an actress, could be.
You couldn’t have picked a character that was more different from how people see you. She’s sexual, she’s subversive and involved in criminal behaviour. Were you looking for a part like this? No, I just really wanted to work with Sofia. I met with her, then I found out she had a script, then I read it, liked it, and then I found out she was interested in me for Nicki. I never chose the role, I chose director. That’s really how I’ve approached all of my career choices thus far.
Secondly, it wasn’t like I needed to go out there and try to find the furthest part from Hermione so I could get away from her, because that seems like a negative place to jump off from; trying to get away from something rather than trying to get towards something. What I’m trying to get towards is that I want to be a character actress. I want to play parts. I want to play roles that transform me. Nicki seemed like an opportunity to do that.
A lot of people have been expecting you to.. ..do a period drama. I know, everyone wants me to do an English period drama and fit myself into a Jane Austen character or a corset, or a BBC or a Downton Abbey thing. If there was anything that I didn’t want to do, that was exactly it. Really, I was open-minded about doing anything, but the one thing I knew I didn’t want to do was get myself into a corset because I was worried I’d never get out again. I knew that it would be a really comfortable thing to do, but I felt coming straight out of Harry Potter, I had to dive into something really different. I knew that the first few choices I made post-Potter would give people a steer as to what I might do in the future, so I was pretty specific about no corsets. This has been a really big departure for me; it’s a really big character. The fun thing for me was that I showed my audition tape to my friends. Half of them had their jaw drop, and the rest were just hysterical, laughing, because it was so different. That’s so exciting for me, becauseit meant I really was acting.
How have your ambitions changed since you became successful? I think when I was younger I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to act, so I played around with a few different ideas. I wasn’t sure whether I might want to write or whether I might want to do something in fashion. I wasn’t really focused in the same way that Dan was from the get go. His parents [worked in the industry], he went to the theatre, he watched films, he was absolutely set from the beginning: “I’m going to be an actor.” We had maybe four tapes in the whole of our house. My father doesn’t watch films, and I’d been taken to the theatre maybe twice on a school trip. I’d always enjoyed acting in school plays, but that just wasn’t an ambition that I really thought about. I guess how I’ve changed is that coming out of Potter I’ve become more focused. I’ve zoned in on what I actually want to do, which is act. Recently, particularly with my work for Lancôme, a lot of journalists ask, “Don’t you want to design a fashion line or your own perfume?” I’ve kind of stepped away because I don’t want any other distraction.
Surely it couldn’t have taken very long for you to realise that after the success of the Potter films, you could turn your hand to anything. If you had said I want to play Godzilla, someone would have found the money to do it. I don’t think I do feel like that. I feel like I still have to earn the respect of the directors that I respect to play certain roles. I know that sounds ridiculous, but you have to understand, we made these films in this weird bubble. Leavesden Studios is an aircraft hanger [near] Watford. It’s only after the films ended and I remember taking a trip out to LA and my agent saying, “You should really take some meetings, you should go and meet people.” It was only then that it really dawned on me, and it was quite overwhelming when it did, but every single studio head of every big studio in Hollywood gave up their time and came and met me personally. You’re looking at me sceptically, but I really didn’t understand that I had that kind of power. I genuinely didn’t. I think my parents were very focused on keeping me down to earth. The biggest compliment I’ve ever had, getting ready for a premiere or whatever, is that I scrub up all right. I don’t know. I didn’t fully understand what it all meant. I really didn’t have any perspective of it. I was actually just incredibly naive about the whole thing.
Did you have stalkers? Yes. I do have people who show up from time to time in different parts of the world. I’ve never really known how to respond; I’ve never really known if I should be afraid or not. This is how I put it into perspective: thousands of women all over the world have to deal with feeling afraid when they walk home from the Tube, on their way to work, when they go out for a drink. Feeling not safe isn’t something that is singular to me or my experience as a woman, and I don’t think any of these people mean me any harm. They just tend to be people caught up, who don’t really realise what they are doing, and I think it is very important that I don’t allow it to isolate me further, to be another reason why I shouldn’t go out and meet people or walk down the street. Weird guys sometimes take it too far, and that is it. I just keep a friend with me. I don’t have a full-time security guard or anything like that. Even at university I went everywhere completely alone, which looking back was probably a pretty ambitious thing that I tried to do there, but somehow I got away with it. There were times when I did feel stressed and anxious and could probably have done with a bit more support. At the same time I would rather make my own mistakes and learn what I need. I think it is so easy when you get famous to just disengage from having a life and that can make some things really dangerous.
Is there someone whose career you look at and think: ‘I would like to do my career like that’? There are, but it is difficult to find someone who has had a comparative experience to mine. It was eight films that were filmed back-to-back in one franchise. People have in the past compared me to Natalie Portman, and I have said that I would like to emulate her career but really she did a few things in and out. My experience was back-to-back, eight movies, blockbusters, all encompassing, and it is difficult to find anyone who has had anything quite like that. I really admire Cate Blanchett, I like the choices she has made. Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, those kind of actresses.
Tabloid journalists always assume that you are surrounded by gold-diggers, and that you must find it difficult to find a man. So how does it work, what are the mechanics of you choosing a man? It is a particular context. Generally people I have dated have been friends of friends, or people that I have been in a class with. Someone that I have met under circumstances in which we are equals, so the fame thing doesn’t enter the situation. In a classroom it is really just about who has the right answer or who has an interesting discussion point, and in those kinds of conversations and situations everyone is equal. I think that is one of the reasons I like being at university so much. There is no special treatment for me when I sit down in an exam, and the fact that I have done eight Harry Potter films doesn’t really come into play. The worst date I’ve ever been on was a guy who told me he couldn’t be friends with fat people or anyone who was unattractive and I realised pretty quickly that he was a nutter and I had to get out as quickly as I could. The very worst men are those that say, “Are you the girl from Harry Potter?” I have had my heart broken, though, twice, and I have slapped someone. I was very young. I wouldn’t do it again. I’m sorry. I guess I have developed an instinct for people that aren’t fazed by my situation. You either have chemistry or you don’t. It becomes much more interpersonal, the relationship you have with that person you either find that you are clicking with them or not.
When did you first start understanding the amounts of money you were earning? My dad told me when I turned 18. I haven’t done anything decadent or mad with my money. You look pleadingly at me, you are like, ‘Please tell me you have done something, please tell me you are not all boring and responsible.’ But I haven’t just bought Mexico or flown from pole to pole and back again; the truth is, I rent a house in London. It was the house I fell in love with and they would not sell it to me. I rented in New York when I was there. I bought a Toyota Prius and I bought myself a laptop. That’s kind of it.
What is the worst thing that’s been said about you in the press? Will Self said that I would always be to him a nice, middle-class girl but, to be honest, I would rather someone really just detest [me] and think I am horribly boring and stuck up and I don’t deserve to be where I am and I have been really lucky and whatever else they want to say, than say that I was nice. I feel like, you know when you go on a terrible date with someone you don’t really like, you say it was nice. I would rather people really liked me or really didn’t like me, anything other than just being average.
I don’t think you should feel aggrieved about anything Will Self says. He just talked about me like I was this tiny, white, fragile, breakable, china doll that didn’t really have anything to say, which was wrong because I had talked to him about a lot of things. British men can have a great sense of chivalry and often have great manners. But not all of them.. Arrogance and vanity are the worst male characteristics.