“I went through a point where I didn’t know if I was a good actress or even wanted to be an actress,” Emma Watson told Yahoo! Movies at the Trump International Hotel in Toronto while promoting her latest movie, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” It’s true that while a student at Brown University there seemed to be a moment where the hyper-intelligent “Harry Potter” superstar was unsure about the future of her acting career post-Hermione. Could she navigate that difficult transition from child superstar to adult actress that stars like Lindsay Lohan have found so challenging — and did she even want to?
Few career transitions are trickier than the stage that Watson navigates now, having dropped out of Brown over a year ago: morphing from naive child star to sexually aware lead actress. In “Perks,” based on Steve Chbosky’s hugely popular coming-of-age in the suburbs novel, Watson’s Sam is the princess of a circle of misfits.
The stylish high school senior with a reputation for putting out (and a history of sexual abuse) has a gay best friend, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and together they invite shy-guy freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman) to join their circle of misfits. Sam could never be confused with Hermione: she’s no shrinking violet. In one holiday scene, A braless Watson raises eyebrows in a revealing tight red sleeveless sweater. Hermione would have worn a bulky cardigan!
To some extent, the film’s coming of age narrative parallels Watson’s current experience as she matures and distances herself from her Hogwarts past toward a Hollywood career. “I read a lot of high school coming-of-age pieces they didn’t feel authentic. This spoke to me,” Watson, 22, told Yahoo! Movies. “I love that Sam is such a unique individual girl: creative, fun-loving, spontaneous and big hearted. I loved her.”
There seems to be a rite of passage for child stars to transition to adult roles through taking more sexually explicit parts. Daniel Radcliffe followed years of playing Harry Potter by appearing naked on Broadway in “Equus.” Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley, dropped trou in “Wild Target” opposite Emily Blunt.
Emma, sleep-deprived and barefoot, curled up on a couch beside Writer-Director Chbosky. They had been up late the night before for the movie’s gala premiere, an emotional high for both of them as well as a late night. (Shortly after our meeting, Watson cancelled three hours of scheduled interviews due to exhaustion.) The actress reflected: “Gosh. I guess it is a difficult transition for child actors because you catch someone when they are still forming themselves, and their identity. They haven’t yet become what they are going to be. You don’t even know if they are going to want to be an actor. ”
Starring in “Perks” has improved Watson’s confidence about her career choices. “One of the reasons I wanted to work with Steve was that he was my Charlie,” she said, referring to Lerman’s class wallflower whose adoring gaze boosts Sam’s self-esteem. “Steve gave me so much belief in myself. This movie really helped me find my feet. It made me want to go and do more.”
Chbosky chimed in: “I saw Emma in all the “Harry Potter” roles. She was always getting better. I saw her in “Goblet of Fire” in this beautiful scene in front of the staircase with Daniel Radcliffe. It broke my heart. But it was meeting her that was the icing on the cake. In Emma I saw a kindred spirit that takes the weight of the world on her. I knew she would make me a better director because I felt an enormous responsibility to her as an artist and a person because of the transition from what she was to what she was going to be. Because what I recognized in Emma was greatness. This is the beginning of an amazing discovery of a young actress.”