NEW YORK — While the mere mention of library research can incite glee in Hermione Granger, the industrious student witch in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, it is fashion that has a smile-inducing effect on Emma Watson, the actress who brings Hermione to life on the big screen. Seated in her hotel suite deep in the midst of promoting “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the poised 15-year-old gives short, polite answers to questions about acting and school. When talk turns to her wardrobe, however, she becomes effusive.
“I just love clothes. I love clothes!” she exclaims. “I love, love Alberta Ferretti stuff. I love DKNY. I love Marc by Marc Jacobs. Abercrombie & Fitch just for really casual stuff, I discovered this week — isn’t that great? Nicole Farhi — I love her. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful clothes.”
Lest die-hard Harry Potter fans are concerned this clotheshorse teenager seems light-years away from the bossy, strong-willed Hermione they’ve loved for years, Watson puts their fears to rest. “We’re really, really similar,” she says. “I used to kind of deny it, but now I don’t think it’s so bad to be like her. She’s a bit of a role model, actually. I think she’s got power.”
Director Mike Newell, who was taken with Watson’s intelligence and subtlety as an actress, concurs with his young star. “[Hermione’s] cleverer, she’s far ahead of [the others] in instinct and what not. That’s the character. And I think that Emma feels that herself,” he says. “She’s a very clever girl. And what’s remarkable about her is that she’s so open. She’s not defensive like a bloody-minded teenager can so often be.”
Indeed, the Oxford, England, native, who had only acted in school plays before being cast as Hermione, possesses an unnerving calm and self-assurance for someone her age. Though she giggles easily and aimlessly kicks a table chair between thoughts, Watson is sanguine on the topic of growing up on-screen. “I’ve been doing it since I was nine years old, so I don’t really think about it very much,” she says. “It’s just kind of how my life turned out.”
Watson spends 11 months on set per film (the fifth installment begins shooting in February), which leaves little time for her many hobbies, including field hockey, net ball, tennis, golf and art. And though she would like to try other roles outside of Hermione, Watson is not sure she if wants to pursue acting as a career. But Newell, for one, believes she already has the makings of a star.
“By habit, by education, she’s now a leading lady. She’s not a character actress. She is a leading lady in the way that any kind of big, important actress is one,” he declares, predicting a big future for her.
And in “Goblet of Fire,” released Friday, she finally gets to play a glam moment, complete with the perfect prom-worthy gown and chiseled jock-star date. The male attention may have been a first for the character, but Watson has become accustomed to being the lone female amongst the main cast of Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley). It is not exactly a status to which Watson — a heartthrob for many teenage boys — objects.
“I quite like it, actually. I get along really well with guys,” she remarks with a trace of a smile. Then she hastily adds, with a giggle: “Just as friends.”