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When Emma Watson turned 18, Karl Lagerfeld sent her a Chanel fly-fishing rod as a birthday present. “It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” she laughs. “It’s actually my dad who’s the fly-fisher in the family, but it was so sweet that Karl had obviously done some research, seen that I’d once donated to The Wild Trout Trust or something similar and thought that this would be something that I would love. I’ve never used it but it’s such a beautiful object – one of the best things I’ve ever been sent”
You’d except a girl who gets sent Chanel rods from Karl -a child star who’s been part of the highest-grossing movie franchise in history for the past 12 years and spent the past three juggling Burberry campaigns with Hollywood Movies – to be spoilt and messed up. Emma Watson is neither. Softly spoken and introspective, the 22-year-old Harry Potter actress has clung to normality by her fingernails. “I won’t lie to you – it’s not been easy,” she smiles. “Celebrity is definitely the hardest part of what I do. But you just have to hope that people look past all that – past the overblown hyper the industry -and see you.” When a mere haircut provokes double-page spreads in broadsheets, every outfit is dissected in fashion magazines and every man you’re pictured with is a ‘boyfriend’, that’s not easily done.
But Emma hasn’t let that effect her life choices. In 2009 she enrolled at Brown university in the US to study european woman’s history and drama, trying her best to ignore the paparrazi following her around campus, and picked a poignant high-school drama, The Perks of being a Wallflower (see out review page 217) as her first post-potter project.“It’s not some wild break away from Harry Potter,” She explains from her JFK-bound car in New York. “Because I don’t really want to get away from Harry Potter – I’ve never seen it as shackle. But I knew the second I read the script that I wanted thus film to be seen.” If anything it was the films coming of age themes, and its generous-hearted heroine, Sam, that struck a chord. “I wish someone had told me at 15: ‘You accept the love that you think you deserve,’” she says, quoting one of the seminal lines of the film. “I would have approached my relationships Completely different if they had. I like this idea of quality control: that we don’t have to accept just anyone into our lives. People talk about love as though it just happens to you – as though you’re a victim in it all, when actually you can make good choices and bad. But women have a natural tendency to want to nurture and take care of men,” she maintains. “You always think that the guy is going to end up coming around and that you’re going to be the one that saves him – like the Oasis song. Actually I don’t think that you can change other people, but women always hope for the best.”
These impassioned little monologues – hastily broadened out into generalities – are as close as Emma gets to talking about bet love life. Whether it’s her two-year relationship with financier Jay Barrymore, flings with One Night Only singer George Craig (the two allegedly got together after the rocker liked her face in their video for Say you don’t want it.) And her perks of being a wallflower co-star Johnny Simmons, or the most recent man in her life, student Will Adamovicz, Emma had remained tight-lipped about her boyfriends. “I tend to date people who are quite introspective,” is all she will say. “I like deep thinkers.”
Born in Paris and educated at headington school in Oxfordshire, the multi-millionairess (thanks to Hermione Granger, Emma’s said to be worth £24million) inherited a serious streak from Jed lawyer parents, Jacqueline and Chris, who divorced when Emma was just five. She was always treated as an adult, she says – to the extent that neither she nor her younger brother Alex, were never allowed to order from tben kids’ menu un restaurants. Such early discipline made it easier for Emma when she found herself in the unenviable position for being a teenage role model to a generation of Children growing up with Harry Potter. “Obviously I was aware that young people were watching me and following what I was doing, but I was fortunate to have had so much freedom from a young age. I started travelling and working away from home when I was nine, and there would have been so mango opportunities there if I’d wanted to take them. If I’d wanted to get blind raving drunk I could have done; if I wanted to do drugs I could have done. Luckily I don’t have an additive personality, and I don’t really drink.” She’s sensible, I suggest. “I’m not sensible” she flings back, aghast. “I’m just me, I guess.”
Had it not been for her natural flair for fashion, the media would almost certainly have cast this demure, literary-minded teenager in the role of wallflower. But well before that pixie cut had set the style commentators’ pulses racing, earning the actress a contract as the face of Lancome, Emma bad begun to experiment with clothes, appearing at the front row at Burberry and Chanel, and challenging the critics with risky choices like chain-motifed Rodarte, leather Christopher Kane and corseted Bottega Veneta numbers. “I’m not going to tell you some of my biggest style disasters because you’ll dig out the pictures,” she laughs. “I wore a lot of my stepmother’s clothes when I was young – things that were just far too big for me too – but my all time favourites are probably the white Alexander McQueen dress I wore the the Empire awards and the vintage Ossie Clark dress I found in a shop around the corner from my house.”
She’s low key in private, referring to go out make-up free in jeans and an Agnes B T-shirt, but thanks to an 80’s-tastic wardrobe in the perks of being a wallflower, she’s been channelling her inner Cyndi Lauper in puffball skirts, Dr Martins and cropped cardis. “I’ve also rocking some high-waisted denim shorts recently,” she smiles. “It helps that I’ve accepted my body shape more as I’ve got older. I went through a stage of wanting that straight-up-and-down model look, but I have curves and hips and in the end you have to accept yourself as you are.”Harder then the interest in her private life has been the the physical scrutiny Emma’s been subjected to over the years. “It made me very self-conscious teenager so it makes me sad to hear girls constently putting themselves down. We have these unbelievably high expectations of ourselves, when actually were human beings, and our bodys have a function. We say that the pressures coming from men, but actually it’s from each other. I think women feel so much pressure these days and it can turn us against one another. But we really damage our own confidence when we put ourselves down, so I try not to.”
She’s not always successful, she admits, anxious to point out that she has the same insecurities as other girls. “I had terrible skin at one point and had to wear braces at another, and my weight has fluctuated between a size 6 and a 10. When you’re growing, your body is still figuring itself out and it takes a while to settle down.” Her happy weight? “Probably not far from where I am now, but it depends on my life at the time. If I’m filming action scenes and running from Dementors 12 hours a day, it’s great, but if I’m sitting in the library revising 12 hours a day, inevitably it changes.” She’s lucky enough to have people who can snap her out of it when the pressure gets too much. “Still, it’s hard to constantly compare yourself with other people. The papers have said everything about me, from ‘having the figure of Marilyn Monroe’ to ‘looking unhealthy and anorexic’, and that has been incredibly hurtful.
Still I keep telling myself that I’m a human being, an imperfect human being who’s not made to look like a doll, and that who I am as a person is more important than whether at that moment is more important I have a nice figure.”The problem with a beautiful, intelligent and accomplished young woman like Emma is that, while she suffers from the same vulnerabilities as any girl, there’s no inner torment or dysfunction there for people to pick at. So she keeps calm and carries on, with plans to return to brown in January (“I made such nice friends there”), and invites her friends to join her on the set of upcoming film Noah in Iceland – her destination today – when she gets lonely. “You have to work to maintain relationships when you’re constantly away, but when my best friends and I get together it doesn’t feel like a day had passed.”
With her studies and her relationship gaining importance, it seems the acting may take a back seat – at least for a while. She’s not interested in “conquering Hollywood”, she says, and she’s not – she insists, contary to recent reports – stripping off to play Anastasia Steele in EL James’s bestseller, Fifty shades of grey (“I haven’t even read the book!”). For now, she’d she’d settle for being considered “a good, versatile actress. I feel happiest when doing something creative – writing, painting, acting or dancing, so I think I’ll always complement the acting with something else. If you act all the time, you’re spending your life living other peoples lives. Really I’d quite like it if things calmed down a bit,” she says quietly “and I think that will happen naturally.” Perhaps, then, the only pap shots of Emma will be of her on a riverbank somewhere in Oxfordshire, finally using that Chanel fishing rod.