Sarah J. Edwards talks to Rupert Grint on how dressing up as his drama teacher and performing a rap opened the doors for life as Ron Weasley.
The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 3 Nø 1 print edition in 2009, this is an edited version.
Interview and Photography by Sarah J. Edwards
Art Direction by Sally A. Edwards
Styling by Charlie Anderson
Hair and Make Up by Gary Gill
Photography Assistance by Samual Garas
Shot on location at Carsten Holler’s Double Club, London
With Special Thanks to Mourad Mazouz and Fondazione Prada
Lighting by Direct Lighting
WHEN LIFE IMITATES ART
Down a cobbled backstreet in Islington lie some workshops, office blocks and empty looking warehouses and at the dead end, a space that resembles a car garage. The occasional delivery truck comes and goes, giving the street a calmness unlike many. A shiny black Mercedes pulls up, glistening against its graphic backdrop. If you look back at the garage and tilt your head up just a little more, you'll see the 'The Double Club,' a sign implying that something pretty special is lurking behind – although we're pretty sure Rupert Grint has wondered where the bloody hell we've invited him.
Behind the original garage doors lies one of the most interesting creative projects of late. Carsten Höller's Double Club, by Fondazione Prada – a pop-up bar, restaurant and dance club where the Congo meets the West. Inside, a huge skylight and original features are intact and anything in-between has had a serious makeover. It resembles a film set more than a club, with contrasting thematic areas. The night before saw Prada throw a party and we've beaten the cleaners. Left behind at every turn are clues and small remnants of a good time. There's nothing better when life imitates art though, so we couldn't really have asked for a better setting.
Rupert Grint is decked out in an army jacket, RMK punk t-shirt, black jeans and scuffed up Chuck's, he is more indie rock star than teen heartthrob. Below the mass of red hair he flashes a famous smile and in greeting us instantly reveals a down-to-earth gent without a hint of child-star stereotypes. Rather that, he's an uncomplicated, shy yet unperturbed adult, prone to attacks of the giggles – which is always a good thing in our books.
At 20, Rupert has spent a staggering 10 years starring as Ron Weasley in the phenomenally successful Harry Potter adaptations. He has more than likely clocked up as many career hours as someone twice his age and grown up in front of millions – the fact he is unaffected is mind-blowing. Even with all this experience under his belt, he has some unexplored new territory to navigate and excitingly, he already is one step ahead of the game. In his latest – and most daring role, Rupert plays Malachy in the Northern Irish indie Cherrybomb – which could well be his answer to Joseph Gordon- Levitt's Brendan in Brick, both smaller budget teen- based yet intelligent, creatively filmed thrillers, filled with tales of sex, drugs and deadly goings on. It's a major departure and surely the turning point to prove he has a whole lot to offer.
“HE LOOKS LIKE A YOUNG CHRISTOPHER WALKEN...”
Underneath his trademark locks, Rupert is chiseled with movie star good looks, dozens of facial expression and a quiet but warm nature. During the shoot, his manner is open and approachable and he’s happy to try out all the clothes on offer at the shoot. When something doesn’t quite suit or fit, he’s not awkward, he just lets out a laugh then moves along showing a subtle keenness that is totally refreshing.
When I ask him to be more moody, he barely moves his face and sends out a terrifying snarl, which has me in stitches. Terrifying, because you can’t imagine him having a bad bone in his body – in fact this is something he prides himself on, he says he can’t even recall the last time he felt angry.
From seeing the shots, it was declared ‘He looks like a young Christopher Walken.’ Impressive, seeing that on the phone the next day, he tells me, “It’s something I’m not really that used to. I haven’t really done many photoshoots like that. I’m usually in costume, holding a wand,” he says in his straight up Hertford accent, with soulful tones. “I suppose that I am quite shy,” but it certainly doesn’t seem to get in the way. He pauses and laughs, “and I’m quite laid back I guess. I’ve got a surreal sense of humour; I’ll laugh at some quite strange things that not everyone would find funny. I pretty much laugh at a lot of things really, Sarah. On set especially,” he pauses. “I do have this problem actually, [mainly] on the Harry Potter set.”
Oh really, with the giggles?
“Particularly scenes with Dan, because... they call it corpsing.”
Oh, I know!
“Not for any particular reason. In the early days I used to get told off quite a bit.”
BEING RON WEASLEY
On 24th August 1999, Rupert Grint was celebrating his 11th birthday in a totally unique and surely unexpected way, he spent it at his first major job – acting as Ron Weasley. It was the beginning of the much hyped silver screen adaptations of each of J. K Rowling’s Harry Potter books and it was a day that would see Rupert take an unprecedented step, from normal school boy and unknown actor to world famous star, literally overnight.
“I’d just finished my first year of secondary school. I did one year of that and suddenly, I never went back.”
Didn’t you? Wow, that’s an absolute dream for lots of people. So, how did you get on doing your GCSE’s?
“Well, they were really good about it. We had a teacher on set, so when we weren’t filming we did about three hours a day. Which isn’t a lot, but they were quite long days.
“I really fell into it because I wasn’t the best at school and because it was all one-to-one, it was really good for me actually. I probably did better in my exams than I would have done if I was in a class.”
Did you keep in touch with all your friends that you initially went to school with?
“Yeah, I’ve always managed to keep in touch with them. We always had weekends off, so I don’t really feel like I’ve missed out socially by not going to school.”
That’s brilliant, I’m actually really jealous.
[Rupert bursts out with his now familiar laugh.]
What is really interesting about this story and what has probably shaped Rupert, is that he was an original fan of the books, loved drama and just liked the idea of the character as opposed to wishing ‘I want to be an actor.’ “I never really thought about it as a career. I didn’t think you could really do that sort of thing,” he says. He saw an open call for young British talents to audition on the CBBC show Newsround. “[We filled in] application forms, your height, what you were interested in, bits of information about yourself. I sent mine away to Newsround and didn’t get anything back. Some of my friends were all trying out as well and they were making videotapes of themselves, reading bits of the book. I was really quite determined, so we made this video. [laughs] I did this rap song and I dressed up as my drama teacher and did this weird speech and yeah, it was just a laugh really. It was quite a strange feeling and then, I got a couple of auditions on the back of that.
“I’ve always thought I was quite similar to Ron really, in certain little ways. Especially with the books, I saw myself as Ron when I was reading them. I’ve always had quite a strong connection to him.
“I loved the way [the books] all sort of link up with little details. It just gives it more depth. I just love all the characters, all the names [J.K Rowling] gives everything. It’s just really creative and a huge, huge world.”
This was Rupert’s first audition – although he’d performed in school plays and was a member of an after school drama club – and so far it seems the last, “I’ve been quite lucky. I’ve been able to just meet the Directors and read from the script, never really sort of a formal audition.”
This is good, isn’t it? No school and no formal auditions.
“Yeah. [laughs] It’s going well so far.”
Through his work on the Harry Potter films, Rupert has been able to watch some of the absolute British greats perform, “I guess you sort of unconsciously pick stuff up. All the guys like Jason Isaacs and Gary Oldman, they’re great to watch, they’ve got such strong characters. I don’t really have that many scenes with them. There’s some good people on the Half-Blood Prince as well, Jim Broadbent had been added to the cast, he was really cool too.”
It’s kind of unusual having such a long duration of playing one character.
How do you get on in public, do people mostly assume you’re Ron as opposed to Rupert? “Yeah. [laughs] Yeah, it doesn’t really bother me at all. I do get called Ron mainly. But everyone’s really nice about it and boys and girls like the films. I only get recognised... it’s never crazy. It’s pretty manageable.”
You see what I mean about down-to-earth?
The two last films have recently started filming at Leavesdon Studios again, “They build scenes there, it seems to be a bit cheaper than getting a whole crew [out on location] because it’s got quite a lot of space there. It looks amazing. “[There’s] a lot more about relationships, love, there’s a lot of that sort of thing going on [in the Half-Blood Prince].
“It’s also kind of setting us up for the last ones as well. There are a lot of cool scenes, I got to do a Quidditch game in this one, which I’d been wanting to do for quite a long time, that was really fun.”
Can you name three of the fantastical things that don’t exist in real life, that you think would be really handy?
“The Invisibility Cloak would be good.”
It would, wouldn’t it?
“Yeah. What else? Just having a wand would be pretty cool. [laughs] I love everything in that world. To fly on a broomstick would be pretty good.”
THE REBELLION STREAK
The aforementioned Joseph Gordon-Levitt as well as Shia LaBeouf and Josh Brolin have all made film a lifetime achievement by starting young and portraying vast characters. Josh Brolin is a prime example, he started in Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus’ cult classic The Goonies – Chris Columbus incidentally went on to produce three of the Harry Potter films. More recently Josh Brolin showed huge range in No Country for Old Men, Planet Terror, American Gangster, W. and Milk.
Rupert’s situation, while not exactly the same has meant he’s gathered a huge experience working with revolving cast and directors. However, Cherrybomb was a whole other story, “Yeah it was. It did feel very different because, well obviously the budget.
“It was a tiny budget, I think it was two million pounds. Everything was smaller and you seem to work a lot harder, because it only took four weeks to shoot. You don’t have much time to wait around, so we were doing around five scenes a day. You’re constantly moving and sometimes not even having time to have lunch. I actually really enjoyed it, I preferred that pace of working, it was quite exciting.
“[Working on Harry Potter] does teach you a lot about how films are made and by going on to films like Cherrybomb and much lower budget films you do feel ready for most things, you feel like you know quite a bit about what’s going on.”
This Romantic thriller promises to deliver a portrayal of gritty teenage reality in Northern Ireland. Writer Daragh Carville based the plot of experiences not only of his own, but those around him. While the film is low on budget, it’s high on creativity and the hunger of its first time directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn. But it’s seeing an actor so familiar – especially with unrivalled success, in a series of mass-appeal high budgets – make a departure into indie rooted, real-life-style territory that can have a dramatic effect on your standpoint of them. It certainly doesn’t show complacency, but a genuine passion and eagerness for a career with longevity.
Cherrybomb’s plot focuses on elements of the rebellion streak, some more extreme than others. Every parent’s worst nightmare, nevertheless learning curves many go through on one scale or another. It’s the time for questioning authority, mostly excusable screw- ups, mini-disasters, discoveries and guilt(y) leaving pleasures for the path to adulthood. This may be a teen film, but don’t let that sway you. Set in modern Belfast, it runs the whole gamut from competitive friendships, troubled families, secret affairs, drug frenzies, sex, violence, romance and love. Rupert likened the film to a darker version of Skins, “It’s quite a new thing really. Most films set in Belfast are mainly to do with religion and the troubles. This doesn’t have any reference to religion or bombing, or anything. So it’s quite unique for a Northern Irish film. There’s quite a lot of drug references and it is sort of trippy.”
The story is set around three main characters, Malachy (Rupert), Luke (Robert Sheehan) and Michelle (Kimberley Nixon). “Malachy is from quite a stable family. He’s got good parents, he does well at school and he’s got a good job. You can sort of sense that he’s got ambition and that he’s going to go somewhere,” says Rupert. “Luke on the other hand, he’s living on a construction site with his alcoholic Dad and his drug dealer brother, sort of looking after him. They live in completely different worlds and they form this friendship.
“Luke brings out quite a bad side in Malachy, because they’ve got a competitive relationship,” explains Rupert. “Michelle comes along and changes everything really. She’s Malachy’s boss’s daughter. She comes back from London – she’s been living with her Mum – and now decides to live with her Dad. She originally gets introduced to us, because Luke is the drug dealer of the area and that’s where everyone goes to get their stuff. So, that’s how we meet her and she kind of gets a kick out of the fact we both really like her and would do anything to impress her.
“She likes these bad boys, so both Luke and Malachy compete with each other to out bad each other. So, various different sorts of criminal activities [take place]. Luke and Malachy both have quite a different dynamic with Michelle. With Malachy it’s a lot quieter, because he is more reserved than Luke, they’ve got a whole different manner really. Half way through Malachy realises he does actually really like Michelle. So for him, it’s not really a game anymore. He’s really got quite genuine feelings for Michelle and I guess he kind of gets a little bit annoyed with Luke, who can’t really see that he does actually like Michelle. That’s when they clash a little bit. Malachy does grow up a bit more and realises that Luke is a bit of a loser really.”
The film also sees Rupert take on his first sex scene too, “There was a little love scene, it was quite nerve wracking because neither of us had done anything like that before really. It’s quite a small scene but it’s still quite a big deal. It’s just quite a weird, unnatural thing really, because you’ve got this room full of people, a camera and you do feel quite self-conscious.”
Did you feel relieved afterwards?
“Yeah, well they kind of made it into a routine, they made it quite mechanical. I suppose it made it less embarrassing really. It did make it a little bit easier. It was alright, once we’d done a few takes and got a bit more comfortable about it. Yeah, it was fine in the end. It was probably worse watching it back, because... [laughs] I had my Dad sitting behind me when we saw it in Berlin. The scene in the swimming pool was on reflection the hardest to film though, as Luke and my character have a big fight and wrestle each other into the pool, which got pretty violent. [laughing] That on top of the fact that we had to do so many takes meant it got pretty cold in the end.”
What do you think people’s perceptions will be of you, once they’ve seen it, because it’s so radically different to how people are used to seeing you?
“Yeah, it is a massive change. Everything about it, the opportunity to try out different characters has always appealed to me. Having no expectations around a character is definitely a different experience and I enjoyed that bit of extra freedom to develop it myself with the directors. The whole look too, its sort of a Teddy Boy kind of thing, a quiff and also the accent as well.”
Yes, I wanted to talk to you about that.
“None of us were from Belfast, so we were all learning this new accent, this new sound. It is quite tricky to get your head round; there are so many different types of it as well. It wasn’t really an accent that I was that familiar with before anyway. We had a really good voice coach – Brendan Gunn, he made this CD he recorded himself reading all our lines and that actually really helped.”
Is that something you’d like to do more of and really expand your offering?
“Yeah, I did actually really enjoy it, it was a challenge. It was mad though, I remember the first day it was quite scary because you’ve got this whole crew of guys who speak this way and you want to get it right. Once the first few days went by, you get a bit more comfortable with it, it was alright.”
Did they give you encouragement as well? “Yeah, the crew were really good, whenever we said a word that didn’t sound right, they’d always say it for us before the take and you’d have it in your head. It wasn’t that bad in the end. It’s such a mixture of different accents [too], you’ve got Scottish and Geordie.”
[Laughing] That’s good though, you get to learn lots of accents all in one go
[Laughs] “Yeah, it’s kind of like that yeah.”
What do you think is the ultimate message behind the film?
“It deals with consequences, the consequences of doing wrong. It deals with how drugs, lust and violence can destroy your world. It is really a coming of age story especially for my character who is seen growing out of that lifestyle and realising there’s more to life. It may be a lesson to young people to try and keep to the right path, communicate with your friends and family and don’t try and impress people to get liked.”
Shall we talk a little bit about Wild Target? Can you tell me about your character and his involvement in the plot?
“Yeah, it’s a remake of an old French film. Called, ah, I can’t pronounce it’s... Ci... Argh! It’s basically called Wild Target in French and it’s about an assassin [played by Bill Nighy] on the verge of retirement. He goes through this mid-life crisis, because he hasn’t got a wife, or any kids or anything like that. He’s getting pressure from his Mum who’s in an old people’s home, because she believes that she’s got this killer instinct that apparently gets passed onto each generation and the fact that he hasn’t got an heir to his power. So, I play his sort of assistant, I work at a car park. While he’s on the chase of this girl, [played by] Emily Blunt, I witness him killing some other people, so he takes me on as his apprentice. Then they all form this quite strange, kind of family, because we all need each other. I’m sort of an orphan, and Emily and Bill’s characters fall for each other. Yeah, it’s just quite a fun story.”
How does that compare to Cherrybomb for you in terms of your character and what the role demanded of you?
“It was a much easier part I guess.”
Any accents or radical changes of look for you?
[Laughs] “I had a beard!”
“Yeah, quite a challenge [laughing] and that’s about it really. There was no accent; it was just my normal voice. It was a six week shoot and we filmed half in London and half in the Isle of Man. It was really good fun actually, there was a lot of gun [work] which I enjoyed.”
Wow, so you’ve had all these amazing experiences in such a tiny amount of time. It’s really cool.
BEING RUPERT GRINT
What would you say are your best and worst points, I’m trying to think what I’m like, I’m terrible at doing anything on time.
[Laughs] “Oh, I guess I’m not massively confident. I don’t know really. [Pauses] Good points? I don’t know, I’m just thinking...”
Well, you can think about if you’re generous or if you’re good at cheering people up?
“Yeah, I would say I’m not very selfish, I’m quite thoughtful I guess.”
What are you good at that people would be surprised by? Remember yesterday, I thought you played guitar, but you said no, not yet.
“I wish. I wish I could play guitar.”
You’ll get there, if you have the chords you’ll be fine.
“Yeah, I can play about two songs, but that’s about it. I’ve got a banjo, I really want to play the banjo as well.”
What other areas do you wish you had skills in? “I’d like to be good at gymnastics and do back- flips and stuff.”
That would be cool. From all your travels, is there any city that you really, really love?
“I do like London to be honest. Berlin was really cool, when I went to the film festival and Belfast. It took me a while to get into Belfast because it is a place that’s still sort of being rebuilt, there are some great places there though so I had a really good time.”
What discoveries did you make there?
“There were some really good places there, actually the bar in the film – it’s called The Rotterdam. We went there quite a lot. It’s like a dingy, red lit bar and there was a really cool kind of Rockabilly band who used to go there all the time.”
Shall we chat about music; we talked a little at lunch yesterday, didn’t we? If you were going to do a playlist, who would you put on there?
“I go through different phases with music, I guess I’m going through a bit of a Britpop kind of thing at the moment. So, it would be Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene... people like that.”
Ah, you’re digging in the crates.
“Yeah. I quite like The Prodigy, I like Beastie Boys.”
You heard plenty of that yesterday didn’t you?
“Yeah, yeah. What else? Mogwai and I like The Clash and people like that.”
When you’re travelling around, I know that you don’t really get to experience a city very easily because there’s never enough time. I wondered how you manage to take in as much as you can and if there are any places you’ve really enjoyed and what you liked about them?
“Yeah, you don’t get that much time, but Tokyo is really cool and we also went to Kyoto for a couple of days which is a much more traditional Japanese place.”
And how were you received there compared to what the crowds might be like at say, a premiere in London?
“Quite different actually. They’re really polite and [laughs] bowing and stuff like that. They’re really sweet. They don’t really have a premier, we just went onto the stage of the cinema when it first opens.”
Oh wow, really?
“Yeah, it’s quite different. We met the Japanese Pop Idol winners as well, that was strange.”
It’s always fun to have the unexpected experiences though. So, has anything like that ever happened in the states?
“When we went to LA last, we did the hand print on the Walk of Fame thing. None of us really expected that. [laughs] We met the Mayor of Hollywood and it was amazing. They also took our shoes as well, so it was hand, foot and wand prints. They kept our shoes and I think they’re going to put them in a little museum.”
And those were your own shoes?
“My own shoes.”
Wow. What do you think people would be most surprised to learn about you?
“Hmm, I don’t know really. I guess, that I’ve got an Ice Cream Van. That’s always a good conversation starter.”
[Laughing] Rupert, that’s not new! See I knew about that and I didn’t even ask you about it.
Do you think you’d like to do anything else in film, as well as act?
“I don’t know really, I’ve never really thought about it, but I guess it could be quite fun. Directing would be quite cool. [laughs] Not right now, but maybe in the future.”
If you could do that, what kind of film would you like to make yourself?
“I think all things Quentin Tarantino are brilliant. If I was making a film myself though it would probably be something quite surreal and I love animation so would love to explore something more along those lines. One of my favourite films is for example is Eraserhead – admittedly I have quite weird taste in films.”
So, if you had your surreal film, who would you like to cast in it and where would you like to set it?
[Laughs, pauses] “I’d probably cast Bill Murray.”
He’s great isn’t he?
“I really like him, he’s brilliant in fact. As for a location – I’d have to get back to you on that one, as there are too many places I love to be able to choose a favourite from. Belfast where we filmed Cherrybomb was beautiful and it was so nice to be away from England for a change. I really enjoyed it, we had a great time.”
Alright, let’s have a look, what else shall we talk about? Louis Theroux made a really interesting documentary. He followed some actors from Off-Off Broadway and realised how much energy and effort they put into it. He was just amazed at how these actors could subject themselves to so much acceptation and rejection at the same time. You have to be really strong-minded don’t you? You’re really in it on your own, because you don’t have an obvious support system. What’s it like being so independent, as you have to navigate this team of people by yourself - directors, other cast members, agents.
“Yeah. I’m lucky enough to have a wealth of great people around me. I don’t know how it happened and where they’ve all come from really - they all just sort of magically appeared from the first Harry Potter film. [laughs] Maybe there’s a connection there. Now, I’ve suddenly got a lawyer and an agent and you don’t really quite understand what they do and who they are, but you appreciate it and realise that you wouldn’t probably work as well without them. I’m gradually learning more and more about what a big industry it is. On the set of my new film Cherrybomb, we were fortunate enough to have two directors which added a whole new dynamic to the way we worked, because you’ve got two different people with very alternate but equally brilliant ideas and I think the edginess to my character Malachy certainly has something to do with that.”
I was really keen to know if you’ve thought further down the line – it’s kind of an idealist question because it’s really whether you know what you want to do and obviously things can change and things can be better – but I wondered what you’d like to be doing career- wise at 30 and 40. What would be the ideal things for you to have under your belt in terms of roles and your career within the industry and outside of it?
“I guess I’d be happy if I’m fortunate enough to just carry on with acting really, and keep going for these diverse and interesting roles – and of course being successful in getting them. I’d be really content with that.”