Matthew Lewis Chats About Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Looking surprisingly tall, fit, and dapper, Matthew Lewis joined the press at a roundtable for the upcoming Deathly Hallows: Part 2 film. Lewis was extremely modest and humble, and someone even made a joke that Lewis “seemed like just another reporter.” Lewis filled us in on Neville’s transformation from a shy young boy into a brave hero, and told us about an on-set accident involving the sword of Godric Gryffindor.
Read on to hear more from the new-found hero of the Harry Potter franchise! But a warning to those who haven’t read the books: there are some SPOILERS!
Can you talk about the moment when you were reading the last book and you realized that the character that you play has such an epic moment at the end? And the pressure you felt while reading that scene?
Well I was in bed actually, when I was reading that. And J.K. Rowling had actually told me previously that she just finished and she had written a rather exciting bit for Neville Longbottom, and I didn’t really know what to expect, to be honest. But then I read the book, and I remember sitting bolt upright in bed and thinking “wow, that’s going to be cool.” Because I knew Neville was special; I knew he had something to give in this last book, but I didn’t expect it would be something quite as epic as that. Then naturally, immediately after the excitement had calmed down, the immense amount of pressure started to build. I’m a huge fan of the books, and I know what these stories mean to a lot of people around the world. I wanted to make sure I got that right. I remember reading the script and reading Ralph Fiennes in there, and I remember being very nervous when it came to the day when we had to do that scene. I was terrified. I mean Ralph is a very, very frightening man, especially when he looks like that [points to promotional poster of Voldemort]. But David Yates is very keen to get it in the first few takes, and he believes it’s for the best, and I agree. So we don’t do much rehearsal. Literally all we did for that scene was we did blocking, then we had a quick run through of the lines, all in our own clothes. You know, Ralph had hair, and a nose, and he was still terrifying (laughs). He did this thing, and to this day I have no idea if he did it on purpose, or if he was even aware of it, but he just stared at me. Like the whole time. Even when other people were speaking, his eyes never left my face. It’s like he was studying me, and I just went to pieces. I suddenly felt like I was in the hardest exam of my entire life. It was frightening, but it spurred me on; it gave me that extra boost. That kind of challenge in an actor is what you need, I think. I think actors tend to be in their element when they’re being pushed out of their comfort zone. You know, I don’t know if it’s any good; that’s up to the audience to decide. I just know that I loved every single minute of it, and being able to work one-on-one with Ralph, despite the pressure, despite the nerves, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I won’t ever forget it.
Can you talk a little bit about the physical aspects of this? I imagine this was really hard.
Yeah, bits of it were. You know, lots of running around. I’m not very good with a sword; I nearly killed somebody, actually, we’ll come to that in a moment. It was tough, but again, I loved it. I like playing sports. I’m quite active anyway, so I was very keen to work with the stunt team. They trained us all for some time, actually. Dan had been training with the stunt guys, and we did a bit of kickboxing and cardio work throughout all of it, because when it came to us doing stunts, the more comfortable we were, the more relaxed the producers were in letting us do our own stunts. So we used to train with them and get to know each other and do our own stuff. So yeah, we already had a good rapport with those guys, but this one was a lot of running. I don’t like running. I don’t understand people who run. So that was hard, but when you’ve got explosions going off around you, and you’ve got blood, and Nick Moran is brilliant, we had a good laugh with him. Even though you’re doing it at three in the morning in the freezing English cold, it was great. People kept saying, “are you tired? Do you want to take a break?” I was like, “no man, let’s keep going—this is great!” When you’re a young man, a young boy, you want to be an action hero, the James Bond, and I got to do that for a bit.
You said you almost killed somebody with a sword?
Yeah, you know when I do that big swing (demonstrates) in the film, and the sword came off of the hilt and just went about thirty feet in the air. I was just holding the hilt looking terrified in the camera. It’s a great outtake. But it goes up and obviously everything that goes up must come down, and it landed amongst a lot of children. And that was that last place I wanted it to go, but amazingly it missed everybody. I don’t know how, but I was very thankful. So if you see it in the museum—I think it’ll be in the museum—it’s dented and bent. And that was because I did that.
WARNING: SPOILER! In Part 2, Neville and Luna sort of have a flirtation going on, what did you think about that?
I liked it, I mean obviously I thought it was terribly coincidental that Harry and co. managed to end up with people they met in high school; that doesn’t happen often. So I thought maybe he and Luna could have had a summer fling, perhaps, and then gone on to marry Hannah Abott later on. But it suited them, you know. They were both outcasts when they were younger, but they had so much to offer that people couldn’t see on face value. They both stood up to the plate in the end, and they’re both really endearing, inspiring characters I think. They both come from really humble beginnings, and people think they’d never amount to anything and yet they both do, and I think that’s nice. They’re suited to each other. But Luna is a lot scarier than Voldemort, I think. I think girls in general are scarier than Voldemort. So that might be the next challenge for Neville.
During the films, Remus Lupin is one of the few teachers to really take an interest in Neville, and to believe in him. What was it like to work with David Thewlis, and the other adult actors as you grew up?
It was funny how it sort of changed. In the early days, it was very much like the children, and the adults. Then as we got older, we sort of realized we could actually speak to them and they wouldn’t kill us. We started chatting with them on the same level. I enjoyed the later years so much more, because I was just sort of chatting to Alan Rickman about scrambled eggs, and really inane things, and it was just someone at work; it was a lot of fun. David Thewlis is great, again one of the first adult actors that I really had much to do with. It helped me gain confidence, working with those guys. Their professionalism, but also the idea that they could have fun as well. Alan Rickman, for example, plays such a frightening character and he’s got such an aura and a presence, and yet he’s such a good person to be around. Michael Gambon tells filthy, filthy jokes. And yeah, they’re just people, you know? Once you realize that, you can start to have fun with them.
Will you continue acting?
Yeah, I definitely want to be an actor. I’ve acted since I was five years old, so after seventeen years I think I’d be rather lost without doing it. I don’t even think I can do anything else. I definitely want to carry on, but really there’s no role in particular that I’m desperate to do or really focused on. I just want to stay within this world. It’s a tremendous amount of fun, and all I’ve wanted to do. I’ve been doing theater for the past six months, which is something I wanted to do for myself. It was a learning experience for me. Having got into television in the UK at five and Harry Potter at eleven, theater was something that passed me by, and I want to go back and see if I can do it. I hated it. I really hated it to begin with, and then something caught me, and I understood what it was all about. I got why people do it, and by the end of my six month tour, I absolutely understand why actors take time out to go and do Broadway. It’s so satisfying, and it’s really a foundation for all acting. I can’t wait now to take what I’ve learned from that experience to TV and film. I want to stay acting for as long as people allow me to.
What was the theater role?
It was Agatha Christie, but not your traditional Agatha Christie. Obviously there was a murder, but not your typical “who dunnit?” There was a lot of character exploration, and a look at ethics and morality. Some fine performances from the guys there. It was one that was written as a play, rather than a novel. It’s called Verdict. If you get a chance, it’s still going. I’m not in it, so it’s not as good obviously.
You, Emma, and Rupert went and saw Dan’s musical yesterday. What did you think?
It was rubbish. (Laughs) No I’m joking obviously. It was absolutely outstanding. I loved every minute of it. I had a smile etched on my face from beginning to end. Daniel just blows me away in everything he does. I saw him in Equus, and I was spellbound, and this was just something else entirely. He has this amazing work ethic that I admire so much. His ability to constantly try to find that next level, constantly wanting to improve himself: It’s inspirational. I don’t know where he hid that voice for a decade. Who know he could sing? I was so proud of him. I went and saw him in his room and I was just lost for words because I was so proud of what he’s achieved.
Would you do a musical?
No! I can’t sing! I love to sing, but I can’t sing. And I definitely can’t dance either. I followed him as far as the play. I could do that, but a musical would be too much.
There’s a moment during the battle where you sit up after being knocked out, and there are bodies flying by and everything, and it got a huge laugh from the audience. Did you intentionally shoot that to be funny?
No (laughs). That whole sequence was interesting, because we wanted it to be really concussed, and on autopilot. Neville’s been so adrenalized all evening, and I think at this point he is just exhausted. He has no idea where he is; it’s all instinct and very primal. We just wanted it to look as though he’s been concussed. Fortunately—and unfortunately—I’ve been concussed before playing sports. So I knew the idea of walking, but not really knowing where you’re walking. I just tried to recreate that as much as I could remember from it. He looked kind of dopey, I’ll give you that, but that was the point. It’s like killing the snake: he doesn’t know the snake is the horcrux; it’s attacking his friends, so he kills it. We didn’t want Neville to be Rambo, you know? We wanted him to be a guy in a rubbish situation who’s doing the best he can to do the right thing. He’s an everyman who happens to be a hero. He has no idea what he’s just done, and that’s what I love about Neville. He’s a hero and he doesn’t even know it.
In summary, what are you taking away from all this?
How do you summarize this experience, really? It’s tremendously difficult to do. I’ve just had the most amazing experience for the last eleven years. I’ve met the most wonderful people, traveled the world, I’ve been to many exotic locations. I mean, I’m in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, talking to assembled journalists. That’s not something I expected to be doing ten years ago. I feel like I’m living somebody else’s life. Every day I have to pinch myself and think, “is this really happening to me?” If I never work again, I’ll always look back and go, “You had a pretty good run there.” I just feel so honored to be able to play a character like Neville, as well, who is a hero. He’s really inspirational; he inspired me. I think Jo did a really wonderful thing with Neville. That journey is spectacular, and I think a lot of people can relate to that. School is lousy for a lot of people, and it shows you don’t have to be perfect and you can still be a hero. I think that’s inspirational, and I feel very honored to have been able to be a part of that. That’s what I take away. It’s hard to describe, but I just take away the memories, the friends, and the sense of how lucky I am.