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Exclusive Interview with Rupert Grint and Julie Walters – Driving Lessons

By Joe Utichi.

We’ve been sat down barely a second with Rupert Grint, who turned 18 just a week prior, when Julie Walters joins us, beams a smile at her co-star and friend and gives us the evil eye, asking him if we’ve been treating him alright. Reassured that we’ve only just arrived, we’re let off the hook, for now, and enjoy a chat with two of Britain’s finest actors.

FF: How’s everything going today?

Rupert Grint: Yeah, it’s cool.

Julie Walters: It’s alright, isn’t it? Knackered, but then… that’s ‘cos I’m old!

FF: Good to be reunited?

RG: Yeah.

FF: You seem to be spending all of your time together these days…

JW: Yes, we’re getting engaged! Didn’t you know?!

FF: Onto Driving Lessons, then; did you know you were both involved when you signed up?

JW: I knew Rupert was.

RG: I’d heard rumours they wanted her and that quite appealed. It’s quite scary going onto a new set. I’m used to the same crew and the same people over six years on the Harry Potter films. This is the first thing I’ve done outside of it, really, and it was good have a friendly face on set.

FF: Were you the protective mum on set?

JW: Yes; so don’t you go messing with him!

You do feel a bit like that. It’s strange but you do feel that Rupert and the others – the twins and little Ginny and everything – they do feel a bit like your children. A little bit!

FF: Was it a hindrance switching from Mrs. Weasley to Dame Edie on this film?

JW: Not really; Mrs. Weasley’s quite small. And the script was different, so you wouldn’t go there.

FF: Rupert, having grown up on Potter, this film seems like quite a brave choice because it’s not at all on that scale. Was that part of the attraction?

RG: Definitely, yeah. It was just so different to the Harry Potter films. It’s much lower budget, it’s a much smaller crew and there’s no blue-screen, special effects or creatures or anything like that! That was definitely one of the reasons I wanted to do it and it was just nice to be someone who’s sort-of a bit different. Being Ron – as much as I love it – for six years does get a bit repetitive. It was nice just to be someone else.

FF: There must be more opportunity to explore the character, as well…

RG: Yeah, it’s a much bigger part, I suppose. That makes it a bit more scary because there’s more responsibility, I guess, but it was just a good experience and I’d love to do more stuff like this.

FF: Did you get to know each other better than you would do on the Harry Potter films? Is there more bonding?

JW: There is, because it’s an intimate film. It’s mainly the two of them, and then Rupert and his family. We spend more time together and the parts are more emotionally explored than they are in Potter.

FF: You seem to have a whale of a time playing Dame Edie.

JW: It was great fun. Edible, really. I love the swearing! It’s very liberating; the whole thing. It was a liberating part, really, because she is so liberated and liberal!

FF: Do you know people like Edie?

JW: Apart from myself? *laughs* Bits of her in people, yeah, but not a whole. She’s not based on anyone in particular. You don’t think, “Oh I’m going to use that from so-and-so,” or, “I’m going to use that from someone else,” you just read it and say, “She thinks like this.” It’s a feeling rather than anything scientifically laid out. It’s hard to say where she comes from in that sense.

FF: Is it fun to play an actor?

JW: It’s fabulous playing an actor. It’s lovely playing an actor. Because you’re not going through her actors’ hell so it’s quite nice to play it and look at it and have a laugh at it, you know.

FF: Have you ever been struck by stage fright?

JW: Everybody has. I don’t know an actor – especially of my age – who hasn’t been through a, “Oh shit, I’m going to forget my lines!” It’s very common.

FF: No forgetting your lines here, though?

JW: No, but film is different. It’s not standing on a stage with an audience where you can’t stop. That’s where Edie’s fear comes from. You do get it sometimes on film when you’re delivering big speeches, but generally speaking it’s never as terrifying as it would be on stage.

FF: Which is your favourite media?

JW: Stage, really. Stage is the most exciting. Film is lovely, because it’s like a family.

FF: Rupert; have you learned a lot from this wonderful actress here?

JW: *laughs* Oh, don’t ask him that!

RG: I think so, yeah!

JW: You’ll know for sure later, won’t you! Rupert’s great. That’s obvious. He’s fantastic and he’s really good in it. I think it’s great he’s done it.

RG: Again, that was one of the reasons I wanted to do the film as well, because obviously I’d worked with Julie before and that just makes it much better.

FF: Has she tempted you to try some stage work?

RG: I don’t know really. I know Dan [Radcliffe] is off to something quite major there, but I don’t know. I’ve not really had much experience with stage, aside from a couple of school plays, but maybe later.

FF: You seem to be keen, at least, to keep acting beyond the end of the Potter films…

RG: Yeah, I suppose. I definitely want to follow the Harry Potter films through and do the last two. I want to continue doing them because I really do enjoy them. Now I’ve finished school I’ve got nothing really else to do so I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue acting!

FF: Silly but sensible question now; Julie, why aren’t you a Dame yet?

JW: *laughs* What, like in a panto?! How could I answer that! I don’t know! It’s unanswerable!

FF: You seem to be trying it on for size in this film!

JW: No, no! I’m not bothered about that sort of thing; I didn’t come into the business to get awards or titles. I just love acting. But… I’m too young! For heaven’s sake!

FF: By virtue of the fact you’re always playing older characters we’re always wondering why we’re not addressing letters to Dame Julie!

JW: I’ve been playing older characters since I was in my twenties, that’s true! They appeal to me greatly, older characters, and Victoria Wood is responsible for that! That’s where it started; I loved playing old women so she wrote loads of old-woman parts for me. I find them much more interesting. My grandmother lived with us for a short time while I was a child and I think that’s probably why. The incontinence, the madness, they were all there!

And old people tend to be slightly more eccentric, too. They can behave the way they want; it seems that when you get to a certain age you almost give yourself permission to misbehave and say what you think. People allow it; especially with very old people. It’s like when Spike Milligan got a lifetime achievement award off Prince Charles. Charles gave this terribly gushing speech saying how marvellous Spike Milligan was, and when he came up to collect it he said, “Snivelling bastard!” There’s no way anyone’s going to take offence to him saying that.

FF: Is there more in store with Victoria?

JW: No, not at the moment. She’s busy directing Acorn Antiques up north at the moment. It was really good fun doing that when it was in London so I hope there’s more on the horizon.

FF: I have to ask about a certain film that’s coming up very soon for both of you – Order of the Phoenix. Julie, have you done your part on that now?

JW: It’s all finished. It was only about ten days.

FF: We’re desperate to know if the boggart scene with Mrs. Weasley made it to the shooting schedule!

JW: I can’t say! They won’t let us!

FF: Was it good to be back anyway having skipped film four?

JW: I know, I wasn’t there. The Weasley boys sent me a postcard, do you remember?

RG: Yeah! *laughs*

JW: It said, “We miss you; Dad can’t control us!” *laughs*

FF: Ron steps up to the plate a bit in this film…

RG: Yeah, it’s going really well actually. We’ve nearly finished; we’ve only got a few months left. We’ve got a new director this time and it’s been really fun. He’s wicked and really different to the other ones we’ve had as well. I definitely want to do the next two, but nothing’s official yet; I really want to find out what happens in the seventh book.

FF: What have you got coming up in addition to Potter, Julie?

JW: Coming out I’ve got a Philip Pullman adaptation of The Ruby and The Smoke with Billie Piper. It’s a BBC ninety-minute film for Christmas.

And then in the early part of next year there’s Becoming Jane which is a film about Jane Austen and I play her mother. It’s really very interesting and she was an extraordinary woman; to actually be able to survive as a novelist in those days – unmarried – was just unheard of.

We found out a lot about her mother. She was a bit of a writer, too, and they had loads of children; eight kids. They were obviously very keen for her to marry, interestingly, and not to bloody be writing. It’s about that and how she manages to make a success of herself. It’s a bit like Pride & Prejudice in a sense; you can see where the novels came from.

FF: From what I know of her there seems to be a lot of herself in all of her books.

JW: Oh yeah, absolutely.

FF: Who’s Jane Austen?

JW: Anne Hathaway. I know! She’s actually amazing in this film. People think it’s an odd choice but she’s actually brilliant. I haven’t seen Devil Wears Prada yet, but I’ve heard it’s wonderful. She’s a really, really good actress and I hope she does very well.

FF: So you’ve shot those? What’s coming up production-wise?

JW: Well I’ve got a novel coming out in October. I’ve got to do a book tour! It’s called Maggie’s Tree and it’s about a couple of actresses who go to New York to visit another actress who happens to be working there. One of them is in the throes of a breakdown and within a few hours of their arriving in New York she disappears. She’s lost touch with reality, really. She’s eventually picked up by a man in a bar in the middle of the night and it’s about what happens between them; he takes her back to his apartment and it’s about what goes on and what his agenda is. It’s character-led so it’s about what happens with the other people looking for her too.

I’ve been writing for a very long time and I wrote something years ago that was supposed to go into paperback but my daughter was ill and I didn’t want to do the publicity. So they asked if I’d consider writing something else instead and the suggested doing a novel so I said I’d give it a go.

It’s a bit daunting in that I find it very exposing in strange ways. I didn’t think it was at all while I was writing it but it’s very intimate.

FF: A lot of writers say they put themselves in their work without noticing.

JW: It’s like acting in that way. Creating them was just like acting and making up their lives and I loved it; it was like being God! It’s revealing and exposing in some way and I’m not sure why. And I don’t know how a lot of it came about, either. The characters do have a life of their own and I can’t believe they’re not out there; it’s weird.

Original article found here: FilmFocus | September 2006

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