The Perks of Being A Wallflower - Emma Watson interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
EMMA Watson talks about some of the challenges and joys of making The Perks of Being A Wallflower as well as her surprise that the book upon which the film is based is banned in large parts of America.
She also talks about being educated in Britain and the US, reuniting with Logan Lerman for Noah and why she really can’t emphasise enough why she’s not going to be in the big screen adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. She was speaking at a London press conference.
Q. This movie really reminded me of the likes of The Breakfast Club and other classic films, so do you think that that was what director Sephen Chbosky was aiming for when he was making this movie?
Emma Watson: Definitely. When we first met he had this… I would call it a Bible of all of the ideas from the book and he knew exactly how he wanted to shoot every shot. There were also tons of John Hughes references in there. He really wanted it to feel quirky and real but also for there to be something timeless and classic about it – that is why he didn’t go too far on the late ‘80s/early ‘90s garb; it was there and you could feel it but he didn’t go crazy.
Q. In preparation did you watch any of those types of films?
Emma Watson: Yeah, I watched Dazed and Confused and he had me watch Harold and Maude, The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, partly for accent and partly just for feel.
Q. Did you read the book first or the script?
Emma Watson: I read the script first and the book second. My American friends berated me for this. They were like: “You are so far behind, how can you not have read this amazing book?” So, I got on it very quickly and what I realised is that there is this 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 Steve’s quotes and that was when I really realised and was like: “Oh wow, this is really kind of a big deal!” And I really put the pressure on myself to get it right. But it has been amazing and it’s nice to know that we can’t go too far wrong because Steve wrote the book and he is directing the film. Obviously, it’s not exactly the same… adaptations can never be exactly the same as the book but the spirit would be authentic.
Q. Do you think that it does make a difference that Steve was directing the adaptation of his own novel?
Emma Watson: Definitely! Pittsburgh is where he grew up and some parts of the book 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 impacted him and what he felt that that line was about was incredibly moving to hear what it all meant to him personally. I feel spoilt really – going onto future movies I will be like: “Excuse me where is the author of the book/script? I need to speak to them personally [laughs]!” It was amazing.
Q. Is there a real Sam?
Emma Watson: There is a real Sam.
Q. Did you meet her?
Emma Watson: I didn’t meet her. But she is a real person.
Q. This is a coming of age film and you are someone who found fame early and came of age in the public eye, so how did that inform you performance as Sam?
Emma Watson: I don’t know how being in the public eye would have helped with Sam… in fact, I think it was the opposite really. It’s the life that I had out of the public eye that helped inform Sam. I tried my best to live my adolescence behind closed doors as far as I possibly could and I think I did manage to do that. I went back to school in between filming, I sat my GCSE’s and A-Levels and I went to university. So, it’s really those experiences that informed her.
Q. You are in a great position of being educated both here and in America so what are the major differences? Is there more pressure on US kids at a younger age?
Emma Watson: Actually, I would have said the opposite. I think that in America, you have four years to complete your degree, whereas in England it is only three – although we do encourage a gap year. But the biggest difference between them 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 out career and what kind of field we want to go into a lot younger… even as early as our GCSE’s in this country and if you want to go into medicine or whatever else you need to choose to take chemistry and biology.
In America, I was able to take four different classes a semester and they could be in whatever I wanted as long as they formed some sort of concentration out of them. So, I am majoring in English literature but I took classes in psychology, history, art and French and all sorts. So, I think that was one of the appeals to me as I knew that my degree wasn’t going to be a vocational degree, I wasn’t going to go and study law, but that I wanted to know as much as I could about as many different things as possible just because I’m interested.
Q. Was that during the time you told your agent not to send you scripts?
Emma Watson: I did, I did… but Perks somehow made it under the door. My agent said: “I really think you should read this one…” And I had been reading things but Perks was the first thing that really lit a fire under me and I was like: “Oh, I think it would really be important to make this film. I think this could really make a difference to a young person watching it.” It felt quite special somehow.
Q. What was it about the script and the character that really interested you?
Emma Watson: I think that there is so much material made about this period in people’s lives when you come of age or when you are in high school. There are so many teenage TV series and movies… it’s kind of a subject matter that people are almost sick of hearing about. But this one felt, to me, really authentic and honest and it didn’t glamorise the experience but it didn’t patronise it or sensationalise it. It’s amazing because I look at Steve and think: “You remember so clearly what it was like to be this age.” It is amazing. It was just the honesty and it was also not afraid to touch on subjects that are difficult. And I think that was one of the reasons why it was so difficult to get the movie made because the film deals with things that people would rather not talk about – almost like taboo subjects. It is one of the most banned books in America and there are many, many state libraries that will not stock this book.
So, that was fascinating to me because I have obviously had the privilege of having a background that was much more open and accepting, so that was a real shock. And it was a shock that no one really wanted to make this film and I had to bang on people’s doors to get it made so that was interesting.
Q. Did you find making this that at any point you’d missed out a little bit on your own coming of age?
Emma Watson: It made me very aware that my life has been very different and it has definitely been unusual. I would almost say that my life has been done backwards slightly [laughs]. There are certain parts of my development which are happening at different times and in different orders… at times that has felt lonely. But generally I just feel privileged to have so much and to have had so many different experiences. Really, the film made me really happy because I realised that I had been doing something for more than half of my life that I wanted to continue doing – I really loved making the film and I really love acting and it is what I want to do.
So, it made me quite grateful that I had a platform that allows me to do that in the way that I would want to. And it was happy because I got to have a lot of the experiences that maybe I didn’t get to have and in an even more exotic way because I got to go to the football games and I don’t know many English girls that get to go to Prom [laughs]. So, it was fun.
Q. Having worked with Logan Lerman on this movie, how great is it to be working with him on Noah? And how is work on that going?
Emma Watson: Walking onto set and knowing that you are doing a Darren Aronofsky movie and Russell Crowe is there and Anthony Hopkins is coming on set in a couple of days… I really felt the gravity and it felt like a very big thing to be doing. So, to have Logan there who I could share that, ‘are you really nervous?’ ‘Yes, I’m really nervous’; ‘Ok great…’ To have that support and a bit of continuity as well because working with new people all of the time and in different places can be a little disorientating. So, to be working with the same person again is really nice. It worked out well.
Q. Music plays a big part in the movie so was there a lot of music on set? And what kind of music do you like?
Emma Watson: One of the first things that Steve did when he met me was give me a mix tape… his own mix tape. And then throughout the movie we as a cast made music together – I sing, Ezra also sings and plays the drums and Logan plays the piano and Mae Whitman also is musical. So, all of us… most nights we would sit and play music, which was really fun. And when we did the tunnel scene we did have music playing. It’s not very often on a movie when you are doing a scene to have that as they put the music in after, but Steve insisted that all four of us together chose the song that we would go through the tunnel listening to and it was a song called Happiness. I listened to The Smiths a lot before we started shooting.
Q. What did you all sing in your little band?
Emma Watson: Our band was tentatively called Octopus Jam – I don’t know how we came up with the title! Logan is a classical composer and he actually composed a piece of music for his part in Perks. He also composed a piece of music for me and for Ezra. So, he’s very talented. But he was more classical and Ezra is more rock and roll and I was somewhere in the middle doing my own thing really [laughs].
Q. Would you like to do the Rocky Horror Show for real?
Emma Watson: [Laughs] Um… yeah! Definitely! It was great fun. I mean, I have big shoes to fill in Susan Sarandon. She’s quite wonderful. But don’t turn that into ‘Emma Watson is looking to do the Rocky Horror Show!” I know what you all do! But I had a good time doing it.
Q. Given your unique upbringing was there anything in the movie such as a relationship that you could identify with and really latch on to?
Emma Watson: Unique, I like that. I have a step-brother called David who reminded me a lot of my relationship with Patrick in the film. We are the same age and so we sat our GCSE’s together and we sat our A-Levels together and we very much gave each other moral support during that time. Then it was the close friends that I have really, the ones… I don’t know who this quote is by but the friends that you can call at 3am are the ones that really count and I am lucky that I have a few of those. So, I just drew on that and the people who believe in me as they lift you up. It’s really important to have people around you that do that.
Q. Do you have a favourite scene in the movie?
Emma Watson: Experience wise I love the tunnel scene because I love to remember what it was like to do that – it was incredible. I felt like I was flying and I was so pumped up with adrenaline. It was very memorable for me personally regardless of the film. The scene that I loved reading when I read the script is the scene where Sam wants to give Charlie the perfect first kiss because her first kiss kind of sucked and a lot of people’s first kisses aren’t great – it isn’t always how you picture things. And I just thought that it was beautiful that she wanted to make sure that it was perfect and that really touched me. So, I was proud of that scene in general.
Q. How did this movie compare to films and sets that you have been on in the past – you are used to working on blockbuster films?
Emma Watson: It was a much smaller crew and a much lower budget. My two biggest scenes we shot in one day. The ones that I consider to be the most emotional and difficult is the one where I kiss Charlie and the scene at the end of the film, the night before I am about to leave and we shot all of that in one day. On Harry Potter I am used to us shooting one sequence in a period of three weeks, so it was nerve wracking for Steve to give me one of two takes. I had to really have a lot of faith in him and trust that it was all going to work out ok. But it’s nice working with a smaller group of people because you really band together and everyone is very involved – but you have to be. We worked crazy hours on it. By the end of the movie I was so tired I was not even functioning properly because we did so many night shoots. But it was also completely exhilarating.
Q. You have been attached to Fifty Shades of Grey which is quite a saucy film so if you were to do a movie like that is it something that you would be comfortable with or would you shy away from it?
Emma Watson: I must have said this in 20 interviews now but I am not attached to it – I don’t know why this keeps on coming up over and over again. It is flattering in a sense that people are excited about what I am going to do in the future but I don’t know where this thing is coming from – it’s mental. I can’t seem to shake it. I haven’t read the book, I haven’t been sent a script, I haven’t been approached and that is all I can say. Also, I have been saying since I was 16 that if it an interesting character and if it was important for the character development and it is the right role, then of course, if it’s important to the story I will do it because I am an actress. But that’s it really.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday, October 3, 2012.
- Read our review
- Emma Watson interview
- The Perks of Being A Wallflower Photo Gallery
- Watch the trailer