Matthew Lewis (‘The Deathly Hallows’)
Matthew Lewis’s ten-year run as Harry Potter‘s Neville Longbottom is drawing to a close and the Leeds-born actor has mixed feelings about waving goodbye to the wizard franchise. “It’s a great finish but sad that I don’t have a job anymore. It’s hard to explain,” he says. Digital Spy recently caught up with Lewis to reminisce about playing Neville and stepping up to the plate for the final instalment.
Was there a moment when you realised that Harry Potter wasn’t just another job for you?
“I’d done acting since I was 5 and for me it was a bit of fun that I did and got me out of school for a bit. It wasn’t until about 13 or 14 that I started to think of it more as a serious job. Then the films started getting bigger and bigger. It was around film three or four when I suddenly started to think it was so much more than something I’m doing at work. It’s almost become like an institution and it’s very surreal to think of it being like that. If someone had asked me ten years ago before I got the part if I would be here now at Claridge’s doing interviews… It’s very bizarre but it’s been wicked and I’ve really enjoyed it. I feel very privileged to be a part of it.”
What sort of reactions do you get from fans in real life?
“The first question I always get is, ‘Are you Neville in Harry Potter?’ ‘Yeah’. ‘So what’s Emma like in real life? Is she fit then?’ ‘Yeah she is!’ I get that pretty regularly. We have a great fanbase. We have some of the best fans in the world. They’re incredibly loyal and people love the films so much they just want to ask a million-and-one questions. If they’re genuine fans I love to answer them. I love to see their faces and say, ‘We’ve got another film coming out in November, this is what happens – it’s going to be great’.”
Neville really steps up to the plate in Part 2 – have you been looking forward to that?
“Definitely. I spoke to Jo Rowling at the premiere of Harry Potter 5 and she said she’d written some great stuff for Neville in the new book and I was like, ‘I don’t want to hear anything – don’t tell me!’ And I read the book and I was like, ‘Bloody hell’. You don’t know what they’re going to keep in the film but you just think it could be incredible. There was so much in there for me. There was still the typical Neville bumbling around but he’s a bit more adrenalised and reckless and trying to be a hero – there’s a lot of action in here as well. There’s also some really heavy emotional stuff. A few moments when he’s on his own and can stop being this heroic leader for a moment and he just looks very tired and people are dying around him. There’s a scene when he’s carrying a dead child and I hope it’s still in the film because that’s when it hits home that it’s pretty horrible stuff they’re dealing with.”
It must have been good to have that transformation from a bumbler to hero…
“That’s why I think he’s such a great character. As an actor every year I’ve had to come back and add a little bit more depth and there’s something different in it. For me that’s great because it’s kept it fresh over the years rather than playing the same guy.”
Do you think the split was the best decision?
“I’m so confused about what’s in Part 1 and what’s in Part 2 so I’ve no idea where it splits but it was a good idea to split it. I like the idea of Part 1 being about the journey and the toll the journey has taken. It’s like Two Towers and Return Of The King from Lord Of The Rings. Part two was very much about Sam and Gollum and Frodo trying to get to Mordor and it was a tough journey and it was all about how stressful that was, then part three was very much about the fighting and the battles and the ultimate fight at the end.”
What was it like watching Hogwarts get destroyed?
“The great hall that had been there since day one and we filmed on every year – in fact we filmed so much on it you saw people visiting and looking round in amazement and I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever’, and you forget how amazing it is. They destroyed the place and filled it with rubble. It became like a field hospital. It was very weird to see it actually but I love all that – it was wicked. The one set that a lot of it is heavily on is the courtyard scene and it just looks like Normandy. There’s this old-school courtyard with a bell tower and there’s just rubble everywhere and bodies lying around. It looks like D-Day or some crazy battlefield. It is intense – they’ve not shied away from the death and destruction of it all. There’s young kids getting killed and there’s blood and violence. It’s pretty brutal in bits.”
You’ve had a lot of different directors who brought their own unique styles – did you have a personal favorite?
“My personal favorite is David Yates, who we’ve had for the last four films, simply because I got on with David so well and after so many years you got to know him a lot better. You knew Chris [Colombus] for two films and Alfonso [Cuaron] for one and Mike [Newell] for one, but David we’ve known for a long time and I feel like I really know him and on this last film we can sit down and really have a chat together. I would be a lot more comfortable giving him my input so we’d really work together on it.”
How have the Harry Potter stars stayed so grounded while American child actors seem to end up in rehab?
“That’s a tough one. I think Hollywood’s a very scary, intimidating place and you have to appear to be a lot more mature than you are because you’re working with adults all the time. I always went back home to Leeds and to my friends. There were so many of us at the studio as well we all messed around together – we were all in the same boat and were lucky we had each other. In Hollywood in a lot of those films – like Macaulay Culkin – they’ve starred in those films on their own and I imagine that’s really tough to do. We’ve always had people around us our own age. We see each other all the time, they all came up for my 21st birthday a few months ago and I went down for Dan’s. If we’ve got any issues we can talk to each other. ‘Have you ever had this?’ ‘Oh man – tell me about it!’ You get used to it and you talk to each other. I can’t speak for everyone but what’s helped me the most is living in Leeds. I still have the friends I had before Harry Potter and they’re the ones who keep me really grounded.”
Does Deathly Hallows close the door or do you think J.K. Rowling will revisit the characters later?
“Maybe the world of Harry Potter she might come back to. I can believe that with Harry’s kids or whatever… the world is very much still open but I think our characters’ stories are finished. The arc we had is done and the epilogue rounds it off nicely. Voldemort’s been defeated and it’s a really nice story that’s been completed. That’s not saying the world can’t be tapped into again. Like the Star Wars universe – people tap into that all the time for books or whatever but the characters of Skywalker and stuff ended well just like they have in this one.”
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