Emma Watson and Tom Felton both came to fame as stars of the Harry Potter franchise, in which they played hero Hermione Granger and villain Draco Malfoy respectively. The whole world watched them grow up on screen, seeing them go from cute little kids to confident adults. But the Potter sets were full of secrets; Watson, for one, had a big one, and it involved her on-screen enemy Felton.
Watson was a mere 11 years old when she began playing Hermione in the Harry Potter series. She had always wanted to be an actress, but being cast in the adaptation of the massively popular Potter books was a big, big break for her. Meanwhile, Daniel Radcliffe was, of course, selected to play the title character, and Rupert Grint was cast alongside them as Ron Weasley.
Naturally, there were other important roles that needed to be filled, too. Tom Felton, a child actor who had already appeared in the films The Borrowers and Anna and the King, was cast to play snobbish Hogwarts bully Draco Malfoy. And it was a role that would turn out to require more, perhaps, than young Felton had bargained for.
One of the most famous scenes in the Harry Potter movies happens in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment in the series. Hermione decides that she’s simply had enough of Draco’s nonsense and sucker-punches him in the face. Ouch. And, what’s more, it wasn’t mere movie magic; the punch was very real, in fact.
Felton suggested at the time that Watson fake the slap – but she didn’t. She went right for it and injured him a little in the process. Awkward! It did, however, make for a highly memorable moment. “Getting punched by Hermione, that one gets brought up a bit with me,” Felton told MTV News in 2010. “A lot of street cred was lost on that film.”
Now many people might have found watching Draco get punched a somewhat cathartic experience, as the character is a horrible person. He is a bully and a racist, and he eventually ends up fighting on the side of Lord Voldemort, the big baddie of the story. By the end of the series, though, Draco has relented somewhat, although he never really faces the consequences of his actions.
Yet despite his personality, Draco remained a popular character. He is the “bad boy” of Hogwarts, after all – and Felton’s good looks probably also played a part. Nonetheless, J.K. Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter series, once said that she didn’t understand why the snooty young wizard was so popular with Potterheads.
“I have often had cause to remark on how unnerved I have been by the number of girls who fell for this particular fictional character,” she wrote on her website, Pottermore, in 2014. “Draco was not concealing a heart of gold under all that sneering and prejudice… He and Harry were not destined to end up best friends.”
But Rowling, too, figured that Felton was the main cause. “I do not discount the appeal of Tom Felton, who plays Draco brilliantly in the films,” she wrote. “And, ironically, [he’s] about the nicest person you could meet.” Yes, Felton was very different indeed from his character. While Draco schemed and plotted on screen, Felton did charity work and visited children’s hospitals.
But the juiciest part is that one of the cast was herself among those “number of girls.” On the set of Harry Potter, Watson found herself bewitched by the actor – and to a lesser extent by his objectionable character. Now Watson’s character and Rowling have always had various common traits, with Rowling claiming that Hermione is the Potter persona she herself is most like. But it seems that the author and the actress still nevertheless disagreed on this one particular matter.
“For the first two movies, I had a huge crush on Tom Felton. He was my first crush,” Watson told Seventeen magazine in 2011. “He totally knows. We talked about it – we still laugh about it. We are really good friends now, and that’s cool.” Who knew? What’s more, the following year she went into even more detail about what her emotions had been like at the time.
Yes, appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show in 2012, Watson recalled her feelings with particular candor. “Between the ages of ten and 12 I had a really terrible crush on Tom Felton, to the extent that I would go into work in the morning and look down the numbers on the call sheet to see if he was going to be in,” she said.
“We love a bad guy, he was a few years older, and he had a skateboard. And that just did it, really,” she added. What would J.K. Rowling have said?! Well, alas, in any case, it wasn’t to be. “He totally knew, and the thing is that he’d tell everyone, ‘I see her in a younger, sisterly way.’ And it just broke my heart. It still does,” she said.
But what about Felton’s side of the story? Well, in January 2018 Seventeen cheekily asked him about Watson while at the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Studios theme park in California. Were the feelings reciprocated? “Er, um, no,” Felton answered, laughing. And when asked if he had known about the crush, it was another negative.
“Sorry, I’m being a bit aloof with my answers,” Felton added – but he wasn’t off the hook just yet. “I’m assuming there must have been some crushes and stuff on the set,” the interviewer pressed the young movie star. “Honestly, not particularly,” Felton replied. “We were all growing up in a sort of family-esque environment.” But oh, how wrong – or dishonest – he was…
Over the years, many a Harry Potter actor has in fact admitted to having had a crush on one co-star or other. For instance, in 2009, before the series had ended, Rupert Grint spoke to FHM about an upcoming romantic scene that he was to film with Watson – with Hermione and Ron having gotten together in the books. And his words were telling. “I’ll be honest with you: it’s not something I’d say I’m dreading,” he said.
“Emma’s a pretty girl,” Grint went on. “Have Daniel or I ever hit on Emma? Well, she’s quite popular with the cast. As for who has the worst crush on her – me or Radcliffe – I’d rather not say.” Yet they weren’t even the only two actors interested in her. Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom, was also part of the club.
“I probably had a crush on Emma for a couple of years,” Lewis told Seventeen in January 2018. “I mean, nothing ever came of it, anyway. It never went anywhere.” But they laughed about it as adults, he said, because the entire Harry Potter film set had been a hotbed of teenage hormones. “It was like being in school,” he explained.
“We started tutoring on set, and we were on set all the time, so I think that everyone had crushes on everyone else at some point,” Lewis told the magazine. “Everyone would write secret Valentine’s cards to different people… It was just exactly what you would imagine you would get in any high school – just we happened to be in a film studio.”
Those days are long gone now, however. Many of the Potter actors have since moved on to adult careers in the film industry – with Watson, for one, a very popular actress who’s starred in movies such as Beauty and the Beast. And though Felton still seems to be typecast somewhat as a villain and bully, he’s appeared in multiple high-profile films since Harry Potter ended, too.
But are there any hard feelings between Felton and Watson – or indeed any of the Potter cast members? Well, it would appear not. In April 2018 Felton posted a picture on his Instagram of himself, Watson and Lewis all hanging out and smiling together. “School mates #hogwartsalumni,” he tagged the pic. Just as in the Potter books, it seems to have been a happy ending all round!