Mirror Online – November 2012
Nerdy Neville Longbottom grows up: Actor Matthew Lewis unrecognisable from Harry Potter role
For someone who was part of Britain’s biggest-ever film exports, grossing £4.8billion worldwide, Matt is a remarkably cool-headed character
That’s magic: Matthew has turned into a hunk That’s magic: Matthew has turned into a hunk
Taking to the West End stage, actor Matthew Lewis is virtually unrecognisable as the unfortunate-looking character who made him famous.
There are no sticky-out jug ears, no jagged teeth, no helmet of hair and distinctly less of a waistline on the 23-year-old actor, who spent 10 years wearing a fat suit and prosthetics to play JK Rowling’s nerdy Gryffindor student Neville Longbottom.
Gone is the geek and, hello, frankly, the hottie.
But while Neville might have puffed out his plump chest at being paid such a compliment, modest Matthew shrinks into his seat.
He’s still embarrassed about the premiere where all anyone talked about was his “transformation” into a “red-carpet hunk”.
“It was just a few good camera angles in New York,” he says.
“I wasn’t attractive when I was growing up and I don’t think I am now. It was never something I associated with me, ever, so it came as a shock. It was never, like, ‘Let me take these ears off then you’ll see’.”
And while he appreciates the nice comments, the self-deprecating star feels they are only preceding a backlash.
He says: “Julia Roberts says it in Notting Hill. ‘Eventually, people will realise that I can’t act and I’m not that good-looking’ and stuff. You’re just thinking, ‘Tomorrow they’re going to figure it out.’
“It was very nice to hear it said about me – very humbling, you know – it’s just a lot of pressure.”
Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom Frog prince: As awkward Neville in Harry Potter films
One person who, it seems, does think Matt is attractive is his former co-star Emma Watson.
In a recent interview, their pal Rupert Grint revealed that Matt “had a thing” with the star during filming while Matt was fully kitted out in prosthetics.
“No comment,” says Matt, blushing and burying his head in his hands before looking up awkwardly and chuckling: “No comment. No, she’s great.
“I used to fancy Emma a great deal when I was a kid. But I wouldn’t say we had a ‘thing’. I don’t know where Rupert’s got that from… ”
Fortunately for him, if Matt ever does want to give himself a Neville-makeover – if only to entice Emma back – his parents still have all the old equipment.
“They have this weird shrine thing,” he laughs. “They hate me calling it a shrine. It’s a big glass cabinet in their study at home, and it’s got loads of Harry Potter memorabilia.
“To make my ears the prosthetics team had to make a cast of my whole head. It looks like a Victorian death mask. It’s horrible.
“That’s right in the middle – it’s the centrepiece. And it’s got my old wig on it.
“My mum thinks it’s cute and shows it to anyone that comes to visit. I’m like ‘Mum, don’t show my girlfriend that!’”
For someone who was part of Britain’s biggest-ever film exports, grossing £4.8billion worldwide, Matt is a remarkably cool-headed character.
A proud Yorkshireman, he says his mates in the North keep his feet on the ground.
“Leeds is quite laid-back,” he explains. “That’s why I live there now. When I got back to school after Harry Potter everyone would be ‘Oh, Matt’s back… great.’
“There weren’t any questions on where I’d been. It was really nice.”
The actor – who is dating teacher Alison Wynd – even took a friend, Nick, along on his glamorous promotional trips.
“He came to New York, Washington, Australia – he travelled first class and stayed in top hotels yet Harry Potter to him is nothing.
“The fact that I was in Sharpe – for one scene as ‘boy in workplace’ – that is the pinnacle of my career to him because I was with the King of Yorkshire, Sean Bean.
“I was the face of Warburton’s when I was little too. That’s a close second.”
His shyness, and his decision to shun the limelight, mean Matt’s turned down lucrative offers to appear on reality TV shows including Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing On Ice.
Not that he needs them. At 23, he’s made millions, already bought a number of properties and is awaiting delivery of a brand-new Jaguar.
“Twitter is the limit of me putting myself out there,” he says. “I’m not a big fan of people knowing too much about me. To put yourself on camera every day on reality TV, you’re just setting yourself up for people thinking, ‘What a d***.’”
Hiding behind a character, though, Matt’s full of confidence.
“I can literally go on stage and do whatever. In this play I’m showing my circumcision off and getting cake on my face, and it’s not embarrassing.
“But if you’re being yourself, and I’m a nervous person anyway, you don’t have that barrier any more.”
Matt is currently starring in the West End production of comedy Our Boys, alongside Billie Piper’s husband Laurence Fox and Doctor Who star Arthur Darvill.
Former Doctor Who David Tennant came to the opening night along with Matt Smith – and Matt says the show is benefiting from the many Whovians and Potterites in the audience.
“A lot of Potter and Dr Who fans come to see it. There are a lot of similarities between my character Mick and Neville – he’s the butt of a lot of jokes.
“He’s a soldier, talking about sex and being overtly racist and sexist because he doesn’t know any better.
“Potter fans won’t expect that but hopefully he’s not too far detached that they get upset about it.”
The play is set in a military hospital and the central theme is the camaraderie between the sick soldiers.
“The research was meticulous,” says Matt. “We had a lecture from an officer about the army of 1984 – it was a peacetime army. Lads were in Germany or sunbathing in Cyprus.
“But it’s also about the boredom of the 80s. People only had three TV channels, Betamax and a Walkman.
“They have to entertain themselves by playing pranks on people.”
Banter is a crucial element of the play and Matt says they did a lot of their prep in the pub – on the producers’ instructions.
“We were allowed to get away with a lot – more than with Shakespeare.”
It was Alan Rickman – Professor Snape in Potter – who first encouraged Matt to tread the boards. “I went to his trailer on his last day and said, ‘I just want to say it’s been an absolute privilege these last 10 years.
“We chatted for a bit and he said I suggest you do a bit of theatre.
“But at first the acting style was so different. I was shouting in everyone’s face rather than ‘projecting’. Vocal warm-ups – what’s that? Eventually, after four months of embarrassing the rest of the company, I figured it out.”