Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Emma Watson on Fashion and Fame

Jessica Chastain recently interviewed Emma Watson for Interview Magazine. Here are some of the highlights from their conversation:

CHASTAIN: Talk to me about your relationship to fashion and photo shoots. It must have been such a different experience for you when you started, because you were so young. 

WATSON: Fashion is something that I love, and I find it to be so expressive and creative, and it's obviously a way into my characters, so I'm always deeply engaged with it. What I find difficult about photo shoots is the line between playing a character—you're being asked by the photographer to take on a role like you would in a movie—and being a fancier version of yourself. It's about finding that line between being spontaneous and open to direction, but also trying to explain to photographers that the "me" is often taken out of context because it has all of this other stuff attached to it. The fact that I was a child star is difficult for most people to understand, and it can be really conflicting for me. Photographers want to reinvent you, to take you somewhere else, to show you in a completely different way. They look at your previous work, and try to figure out what they can do to show a new side of you. 

CHASTAIN: I wonder if I have freedom in a way that maybe you might not. Because people grew up watching you become a woman, are you held to certain standards of having to be the same as you always were? 

WATSON: I think I am. It's one of the things that I struggle with, because the three of us—Dan[iel Radcliffe], Rupert [Grint], and I—were kids when we got cast in this fairy-tale series, and what happened to us was kind of a fantasy story in itself. Outside of the movies. So the story of my life has been of public interest, which is why I've been so passionate about having a private identity. When I step into a character, people have to be able to suspend their disbelief; they have to be able to divorce me from that girl. And not having everyone know every single intimate detail of my entire life is part of me trying to protect my ability to do my job well. Generally, I've been fortunate, like when Sofia Coppola offered me a role in The Bling Ring, which was so wonderfully different. Artists have given me a lot of freedom—have been able to imagine me in other ways—but it's something I am aware of, for sure. 

CHASTAIN: I've learned so much about acting and theater and films—life in general—from making mistakes. Do you feel the freedom to do that?

WATSON: I know that I'm under a different microscope, a certain level of scrutiny, which I find really hard at times. And sometimes the fear of doing things is overwhelming. I get incredibly overwhelmed, and sometimes feel hemmed in by that, afraid of that. But I know that if I live in that fear, then my life as an artist, as a human being, really, is over. Ultimately, it will silence me, and it will silence what is in me—which I have yet to explore and uncover. People couldn't believe it when, after Harry Potter, I was like, "I'm going to school." Essentially, I took five years out to study, doing only a few smaller projects, and, to a lot of people, it seemed like I was passing up a lot of opportunity. I received a lot of angry phone calls. But I needed the space to go and explore who I was, without being under the microscope. And I did a play at Brown. I did Three Sisters. I loved it. I loved working with other people my age who were figuring it out. As you say, I loved being able to make mistakes. To be able to step away was pretty key. When I was auditioning to play Hermione, I had this fearlessness, because I wasn't aware of anyone else. I just knew I loved that girl and I loved that role and I loved that world, and I went for it. But now I have this other thing to overcome, like in Beauty and the Beast I sang for the first time, and journalists would ask me, "Do you think you're going to be able to pull it off?" There's an incredible awareness that I have to push through. The night before I gave my speech at the U.N., I was an emotional wreck. I thought I was going to hyperventilate. [laughs] 

CHASTAIN: Is there anyone who gave you a lasting piece of advice, maybe on acting or how to navigate this social media society?

WATSON: I remember being like, "Am I crazy? Am I masochistic? Why am I doing this to myself?" But one of my mentors was like, "In life, things happen. And as much as we can try to fight to make our lives a certain way, there are things that will keep coming back to you, and you have to follow your marching orders." I think our fears find us and force us to confront them over and over again. In terms of social media, it's a minefield! Technology is moving so fast right now. Everyone is scrambling around trying to understand what it means to have an avatar, how to live our lives on the internet, what it means for privacy, for citizens of a political universe. I think that we're trying to find rules now, as we speak, and it's difficult. But, like everything, the internet is an incredibly powerful force that needs governing—not to restrict our freedom, but to protect people. 

CHASTAIN: Yours is a very positive message on social media. I can't help but be grateful that young women have someone like you to look up to, someone who prioritizes education and authenticity over the empty calories of what social media can be. 

WATSON: Gosh, I can't even imagine what it's like for the generation after me, whose parents document their whole lives as they grow up. It's kind of crazy to think about how quickly things are changing. Doing this movie, The Circle, made me think about all of this in so much more detail. I read the book first, and I could not stop thinking about it. It's not like a dystopian future—it could be tomorrow. Someone recently said he thought it was The Truman Show meets The Graduate with a dash of Kardashians. And I said I would describe the movie as The Social Network meets All About Eve meets Panic Room. The Social Network because it deals with how technology intersects with basic human needs: to feel loved, to feel seen, to feel a connection, to feel that you belong. All About Eve because it deals with the complexity of the female relationship in a patriarchal world; usually there's only one woman or two women in a boardroom. And Panic Room because it's intense. 

Read the full interview at Interview.

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