Emma Watson will forever be known for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise. But it’s apparently another entirely different role that has most affected how she thinks about her public profile. Here’s a look at how a timely techno thriller made such an impact on her.
Born in Paris in 1990, Emma Watson resided in the French city until she was five, at which point she moved with her mother to Oxfordshire, England. In 1999 she auditioned for the role of Hermione Granger in the big-screen adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She was subsequently cast alongside Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint as part of the film’s central trio.
After the release of the 2001 movie, the press often singled out Watson as the finest of the three young actors. She of course returned to the role in 2002’s The Chamber of Secrets and then again in 2004’s The Prisoner of Azkaban and 2005’s The Goblet of Fire. Watson then ventured outside of the franchise in 2007 with a starring turn in BBC drama Ballet Shoes.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix also hit screens that same year. By that point, Watson had additionally become the youngest ever Teen Vogue cover star and won a National Movie Award. She was further reported to have earned an astonishing $13 million over the course of her career. Three years later, she was crowned the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.
After voicing Princess Pea in 2008 animation The Tale of Despereaux, Watson returned to the Harry Potter franchise for 2009’s The Half Blood Prince. Its final instalment, The Deathly Hallows, was split up into two separate movies, with the second arriving in cinemas in 2011. And Watson didn’t waste any time proving that there was more to her talents than playing a young witch.
Indeed, later that year she played wardrobe assistant Lucy in biopic My Week with Marilyn. Then, in 2012, she took a leading role in coming-of-age movie The Perks of Being A Wallflower, while in 2013 she worked with director Sofia Coppola on crime satire The Bling Ring. Shortly after, GQ magazine named Watson as its Woman of the Year.
Watson then continued to pursue interesting roles, appearing in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, starring in thrillers Colonia and Regression, and sending herself up in comedy This Is the End. She then enjoyed her biggest success since her Harry Potter days when she portrayed Belle in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. Taking more than $1.2 billion at the worldwide box office, it was 2017’s second-highest-grossing movie.
Of course, Watson’s talents extend beyond acting. In 2009, for instance, she became the face of Burberry’s fall/winter campaign. Earlier that same year she worked on a spring clothing line with Fair Trade fashion label People Tree. She’s also picked up a Style Icon award from Elle magazine, and in 2014 the British Fashion Awards named her as having Best British Style.
And she’s no slouch when it comes to academic achievements, either. After taking a gap year to focus on her Harry Potter commitments, Watson began studying English Literature at Brown University. Although she took a further two semesters off to fulfil her acting duties, she did eventually graduate in 2014.
And then there’s her work as a philanthropist. Just months after the UN appointed her as a Women Goodwill Ambassador, she gave an address to launch a gender equality campaign named HeForShe. Thanks to her tireless feminist work, too, TIME magazine placed Watson at No.26 on their annual list of the most influential people in the world in 2015.
But her focus in part remains on the big screen as well. In 2017, for example, she added to her filmography with The Circle, an adaptation of Dave Eggers’ novel about the impact that new technology and social media is having on society. Watson starred as Mae Holland, a new recruit at a shady tech organization known as The Circle.
After its first showing at the Tribeca Film Festival, the movie hit cinemas to a largely underwhelming critical response. However, it proved to be more popular with audiences. Indeed, it grossed $40 million at the worldwide box office on an $18 million budget to become the highest-grossing film of director James Ponsoldt’s career.
So The Circle may not be the biggest film Watson has appeared in. But it’s one that had a profound impact on her way of thinking, nonetheless. Indeed, speaking at the movie’s Tribeca premiere in 2017, the star revealed that she had even questioned author Dave Eggers about the story’s themes of technological advances, privacy and freedom.
She told audiences, “Really, I’ve taken him to a room and have been, like, ‘Tell me what we do! How do we stop it? What do we do?’ And, you know, it’s much more complicated than that, unfortunately, as is life.”
“I guess the big thing for me having been involved in this is just taking back the idea that this information that belongs to us or belongs to me,” Watson added. “And just being mindful and much more aware of what’s unveiling before our very eyes, oftentimes without us even realizing.” Watson also explained that as a celebrity she’d had similar experiences to her character.
Yes, it seems that making The Circle also left Watson feeling vulnerable. “I think it’s just ’cause it really went to the bone, a lot, just in terms of experiences where you know you have to walk out to a stage and there are things going on behind the scenes that no one knows about,” she said. “And you just have to turn on and kind of be this thing.”
Watson also expressed her concerns about privacy while talking to fellow actress Jessica Chastain for Interview magazine. “The story of my life has been of public interest,” she commented. “Which is why I’ve been so passionate about having a private identity.”
Watson then revealed that she keeps a low profile for professional reasons. “When I step into a character, people have to be able to suspend their disbelief; they have to be able to divorce me from that girl,” she said. “And not having everyone know every single intimate detail of my entire life is part of me trying to protect my ability to do my job well.”
Watson also admitted that she still finds it hard to cope with intrusion. She said, “I know that I’m under a different microscope, a certain level of scrutiny, which I find really hard at times. And sometimes the fear of doing things is overwhelming. But I know that if I live in that fear, then my life as an artist, as a human being, really, is over.”
Fortunately, Watson’s life is far from finished. Indeed, Watson continued to make headlines for her work away from the movie cameras after the film’s release. In January 2018 she caught attention by taking noted women’s rights activist Marai Larasi as her date to the annual Golden Globes. Later that same month, she also acknowledged her “white privilege” in a letter to members of her feminist book club.