February 5th, 2014
A day ahead of publication, we exclusively preview Emma Watson in conversation with Derek Blasberg taken from our Wonderland February/March issue cover story.
DEREK BLASBERG: My mother is the first person to say I always wanted a little brother or sister. I was the youngest in my entire family, and I always felt like it was a disservice to humanity that there wasn’t someone after me onto whom I could dispel my pearls of wisdom. So, when Emma Watson – then a smiley, sweet, super smart teenager – and I became buddies, I felt like my childhood prayers had been answered. There was only one striking difference: Emma, wise beyond her years, already knew more than I did about just about everything and didn’t need any such advice. Emma is one of those rare breeds of people who have an intuition, a good head on their shoulders, a quick judgment. I can’t be certain that, as her adopted big bro, she’s learned any of that from me, but I will say she’s taught me a thing or two. She is concise, put together, organised, forthright and reliable. (Which are not the sorts of adjectives that apply to most child actors.) Back when I’d visit her on the Harry Potter sets, her dressing areas would be tidy(ish) and her well worn and bookmarked books would be stacked everywhere. She navigated the pressures of filming the world’s most successful cinema franchise with elegance and grace, and she didn’t forget to do the little things, like send funny postcards from vacations and fruit baskets at the holidays. After Potter, I watched her grow into a beautiful young woman who is navigating a career that’s entirely her own. It’s been an interesting transition: As she herself says, she felt she was an adult even when she was in the body a little girl waving a magic wand. Now, it’s as though she has caught up with herself. In the film Perks of Being a Wallflower, she charmingly captured the end of an American innocence. In the upcoming Noah, she tackles the role of a biblical daughter-in-law in an epic adventure. Behold: Emma, a thoroughly modern woman.
DEREK BLASBERG: Where are you right now and what are you doing?
EMMA WATSON: Right now I’m on holiday. I’m stood on the balcony of my hotel room and I’m scratching my feet because I’ve been eaten alive by mosquitos. I look like I have a disease. I’m told I have sweet blood.
D: Well, I’m freezing in New York, so you won’t get much mosquito sympathy from me.
E: Well, I miss New York. I loved living there.
D: You were in New York during Hurricane Sandy. How surreal was that?
E: It was surreal for a couple of reasons. It delayed the end of our shooting for a few weeks, so we got the irony of filming an epic biblical movie about a flood, and then a storm comes and floods much of New York. It even damaged the ark, which was what set us back. The other reason that it was surreal was because you and I were on the Upper East Side, which was completely unfazed by the storm. We had high speed Internet and our phones. All the shops were open and, even weirder, people were shopping in them. The Carlyle Hotel was packed with people getting drinks. I remember calling you and asking, ‘Isn’t there something we can do I feel like such a waste of space?’ And you took me on a meal delivery with Citymeals on Wheels. That was amazing that we could do that. Do you remember Pearl?
D: How could I forget Pearl?
E: She was the spritely 90-year-old woman who was listening to Elvis Prestley records when we knocked on her door and delivered her food. Pearl was a babe.
D: Were you ever scared during the storm?
E: I remember not taking it very seriously, and then my dad called and said I should fill the bath with water. And I said, ‘Why would I do that?’ He said to put on the news and then I realized it was going to be a serious thing in some areas. When I showed up at Brown they warned me that it was going to get cold, and I said, ‘ I’m from England. I know what cold is.’ But I soon learned that, no, I didn’t know what cold is. My first semester at Brown [in Providence, Rhode Island], when it got into the negative temperatures, I just didn’t want to leave my dorm room. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I’d only go out to get supplies. The cold makes me miserable!
D: Speaking of Brown, I’m very proud that you are going to be an official Ivy League graduate soon.
E: Yes! I’m going to graduate in May, which I can’t believe. I can’t. I just can’t! Very exciting.
D: So, tell me: What do you plan on doing with that major?
E: Tough question… I’ve been very fulfilled by my studies. English has helped me think in an analytical way. It’s helped me see the world from new perspectives. Diving into these stories and characters has given richness to my own life. And now, when I read scripts or look at stories, I have these references for a larger understanding of humanity. I’m sure it will make my job as an actress more interesting.
D: I visited you on the Harry Potter set a few times, and it was like a little family and everyone knew each other.
E: It was. I miss the people too. I miss the familiarity.
D: And to go from that to a new place, a new school, with new friends – must not have been easy, right?
E: I really wanted a new experience. I loved not knowing anyone. It felt very exciting, and I felt like I was striking out on my own in a very real, very new way. But there’s this thing called the Sophomore Slump, which is a phenomenon that is apparently known and recognized, though I had never heard of it. It caught me by surprise. For the first year at university, everything is new and exciting. You don’t realize that you don’t have your support structure, your home comforts, and all those touchstones that help keep you on track. Then, after the first year, when the adrenaline wears off, you find yourself in a slump. That’s what happened to me by the end of my third term. I felt very unsettled and lost.
D: My mother always told me that in struggles we find strength.
E: She’s right. Now I really know how to take care of myself, how to be alone, how to deal with stress. If I hadn’t been through that time, I wouldn’t have got there. I never knew I had limits. You make good friends and you make bad friends, and you have to figure it all out. You realize you can’t do everything. I really did think I could do it all – commute back to the UK for Potter filming and press, then go to Brown for finals, and keep up with my friends and family. You can’t do by the way. You do have to take breaks. It’s how I became interested in meditation and yoga. I developed bedtime rituals.
D: Like what?
E: You’re going to laugh, but now every night before I go to bed I make a hot water bottle. It’s a ritual that makes me feel like I’m taking care of myself, and that’s important.
D: Learning how to be alone is a good lesson, and one I don’t think a lot of actresses learn.
E: I realized that. When you’re on a film set you’re watched and you’re never alone and there are all these demands on your time. Everyone knows where you are at every moment of the day. Then, I went to Brown and suddenly I was all alone. At first I hated it. Now, I’m happy to be by myself. I can be calm and productive and content, alone in my apartment.
D: Now, be honest: Have you ever wanted to go off the rails? Like, get drunk and get a tattoo?
E: Ha, I love tattoos. But I love them on other people. In fact, I have a Pinterest account and a whole board of tattoos that I like – but I would never want one for myself. I don’t think I could pull it off. My own self-image would not allow it.
D: But you’re not as puritanical as that, Emma.
E: I feel like I’ve been given a lot of credit where it isn’t due that I don’t like to party. The truth is that I’m genuinely a shy, socially awkward, introverted person. At a big party, I’m like Bambie in the headlights. It’s too much stimulation for me, which is why I end up going to the bathroom! I need time outs! You’ve seen me at parties, Derek. I get anxious. I’m terrible at small talk and I have a ridiculously short attention span.
D: That, I have noticed. Is part of that because you’ve become this big public figure?
E: Probably. I feel a pressure when I’m meeting new people because I’m aware of their expectations. That makes socializing difficult. Which isn’t to say that when I’m in a small group and around my friends, I don’t love to dance and be extroverted. I am just extremely self-conscious in public.
D: On that note, I’d like to formally apologize for being so shocked when you cut off all your hair.
E: Why? I loved that you were one of the first people to see it. I loved your reaction. You were utterly shocked. It was an appropriate reaction for a big brother.
D: You caught me off guard. It was so unexpected.
E: It wasn’t unexpected to me. I had been crafting it in my mind for years. So, when the time came, I went ahead and did it.
D: Have you ever thought of the psychology behind it? Like, did you do it because you were done with Harry Potter and you wanted to craft yourself a new image? Like Jennifer Lawrence and The Hunger Games?
E: I think Jennifer Lawrence needed to cut hers off. But I see the parallel you’re trying to make. Maybe Miley Cyrus is a better example?
D: Ha! Exactly.
E: My mother always had really short hair, always had a pixie. So for me, it wasn’t as crazy as it was to you. To be honest, I felt more myself with that haircut. I felt bold, and it felt empowering because it was my choice. It felt sexy too. Maybe it was the bare neck, but for some reason I felt super, super sexy.
D: So, one day you’ll cut it again?
E: Absolutely. I miss it so much. The minute I get pregnant, the first thing I’m going to do is cut my hair off because I know I won’t be working for a time. If I wasn’t an actress, I’d keep it that way. I could wash it in the sink and shake it out like a dog. It’s so low maintenance!!!!
D: Let’s continue discussing appearances. Has fashion been any sort of fulfillment for you?
E: I love fashion as a thing. And I very much still follow it and find it interesting and when I come across something really great I get excited and I’m inspired. But there was a moment when I took a step away from fashion.
D: I was once sat next to Gwen Stefani at some fashion event, and she told me she always often feels like she’s in a Saturday Night Live skit at those things.
E: I find it slightly surreal too. I can remember my first Paris fashion week, and the insanity and hysteria that went along with it. Just to get into a fashion show? It’s more intense than a movie premiere. Sometimes people ask me why I don’t go to more shows, but to be honest I’d rather watch it on the internet. Fashion is this massive, huge industry, which I like to dip my toes into. But it’s not my industry.
D: That’s true. Film is. Do you remember the day that you and me went to see the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Tate, and I told you that I could see you being a producer or director one day? And you looked at me like I had ten heads.
E: Yes! People say that to me a lot now. Maybe I will one day.
D: Are you still looking for something else you enjoy doing?
E: Do you remember that time I called you up and asked if you knew anyone who needed an intern? And you almost died laughing?
D: Yes. You asked if I knew anyone who wanted me to be a personal assistant for a week.
E: I was serious! I am interested in everything!!! This year, I’m turning 24. A lot of my friends are really worried about turning 24, but I like that I’m getting older. In a way, I started out like this old lady, and now I feel like my age is catching up with me. And I’m excited by all these new things for me to do. I feel like I have so much more to accomplish as an actress. I’d love to try theater and that’s a whole other thing. But when I finish my degree, I will have a lot more time to pursue other passions, and I want to figure out what those will be. I love having something completely unrelated to the film industry. I want to find something that will let me use my brain in another way. I like connecting people who aren’t part of that world too.
D: I’ve seen your paintings, they’re swell.
E: I love painting. So maybe I hone in on that and do more art classes? Or maybe something different.
D: Well, I know you’re great at yoga.
E: Then, there you go. I can be a full time actress and a personal part-time yoga teacher?
D: Ha! Well. We’ll see.
Photographer Kerry Hallihan
Fashion Editor Grace Cobb
Hair Vi at Management
Makeup Dotti at Streeters