Tom Felton: ‘Emma Watson encouraged me to tell the whole story’

Twhether Felton looks different. It may seem cliché to point this out, but it’s the first thought I have when we shake hands inside a sparsely packed canalside pub in King’s Cross, north London. The man sitting in front of me couldn’t be further off Draco Malfoy. Long gone is the bleach blonde hairdo, the sneaky Slytherin glint in his eye. He is wearing a white woolen cardigan and is sitting drinking tea; before we speak, he politely explains that he needs to call his mother first. Some villain.

Felton is here because he has written a memoir, Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard. It has been 11 years since the final Harry Potter movie, The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and more than two decades since he was first cast as the flaxen-haired Draco. Despite a memorable role in the 2011s Rise of the Planet of the Apesand supporting turns in Amma Asante’s period dramas Belle (2013) and A Great Britain (2017), Felton, now 35, has struggled to escape Potter’s immense gravity.

In his memoir, he recalls the harsh realities of auditioning in Hollywood as an adult. “It wasn’t really going back to audition. It was learning how to audition again,” he says. “When kids are brought in, half of it is, ‘Can you stand on the mark, don’t look down the lens of the camera and take basic direction?’ I mean really, how good can a seven year old be at anything?

“When you go in there as a 20-year-old, especially in Los Angeles, the auditions are much more frequent and tougher. It’s a lesson – not necessarily in brutality, but in acceptance,” he continues. The one exception was Monkeys, a major blockbuster that arrived at his door without an audition. “It was an incredible, strange anomaly that hasn’t really happened since,” he says.

Beyond the Wand covers Felton’s life, before, during and after Potter. The bulk of it includes fond anecdotes about his time on the franchise — his interactions with the other actors, his teenage transgressions off screen. Towards the end, however, he opens up about his mental problems in the years that followed, which culminated in an intervention and a few brief stints in rehab, as well as a breakup with his long-term partner, stunt assistant Jade Olivia Gordon. “I was encouraged by a few people, Emma Watson specifically to tell the whole story and not just kind of cherry-pick the fluffy bits,” he says. “Not only because it was devastating for me. But also in the hope that sharing those parts of my story will help others who may not be doing the best.”

Felton is careful not to label exactly what he went through; in his book he describes his drinking as the “symptom” rather than a cause. But it’s fair to say that back in 2016 he was approaching a crisis point. “I think one of the problems with the word ‘intervention’ is that it naturally insinuates that there are some specific things that are a problem in most cases, either depression or substance abuse or whatever it may be,” he says.

“The reality of my experience was that I had a group of people around me who knew me well enough to know that I wasn’t happy. That I wasn’t the Tom they knew. I wasn’t thinking clearly. And that has less to do with what I did and more a case of them seeing that I needed help I think a lot of people when they’re in the muddiest of waters don’t recognize where muddy it is.”

Felton and Emma Watson chat on the set of this year’s 20th anniversary of Harry Potter

(HBO Max)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Watson was the one who encouraged him to open up. He and the Hermione Granger actor have always shared a bond dating back to when Watson – four years his junior – used to follow him around “like a puppy desperate for his attention” (her words) on the set of The philosopher’s Stone. The pair’s friendship has long been a point of particular interest to Harry Potter devotees. “I think it was only through comic cons that I was introduced to this idea of ​​’shipping,'” he says. (For those who don’t know, it’s fans’ desire for their heroes to meet, in real life or on screen.) “I know, Emma, ​​and I have no problem with that,” Felton adds.

Felton maintains a lot of eye contact when he speaks, breaking only when a dog enters his peripheral vision (“Good lord, what a beautiful animal!”). As evidenced by the branding of his book, he is not one of those stars who has turned his back on the franchise that made him. He still goes to rallies, speaks warmly of his fans – next week he’s even going out to watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on the West End stage. Asked if he’d be willing to pick up the peroxide again for some kind of Harry Potter sequel (which almost seems an inevitable at this point), he seems receptive to the idea: “I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t consider it.” It’s clear he’s tried to move on, even if he remembers the role with nostalgia. “I certainly don’t miss Draco Malfoy, but I am very fondly attached to him,” he says.



My dog ​​doesn’t care about Harry Potter. She doesn’t care that I’m on stage. All she wants to do is chase squirrels

Tom Felton

“It seemed, looking back now, that Potter would be the only thing in my life,” he muses. “But there were many, many things prior to that.” Any of his Instagram followers could probably tell you what some of these things are. Firstly, Felton recently made his West End debut in a production of 2:22: A ghost story (“I was absolutely terrified and convinced that I was going to be terrible … but I was definitely going to come back”).

Then there is music, which Felton is a fanatic about, both listening and playing – there is already an album “in the works”. There is also his black labrador, Willow, of whom he speaks with genuine affection. “She doesn’t care about Harry Potter,” he says. “She doesn’t care that I’m on stage. All she wants to do is chase squirrels.” There is something quietly heartbreaking in the way he says it – but also something hopeful. “Being around something as pure as that really helps me.”

JK Rowling is mentioned a few times throughout Beyond the Wand; she might be considered a conspicuous absence in an acknowledgments section that goes out of its way to thank many of the Potter films’ cast, crew and others. Rowling has become a polarizing figure in recent years, predominantly for her many comments on trans rights, which many LGBT+ people and activists have described as transphobic (something she denies).

Felton (center) as Draco Malfoy in ‘Deathy Hallows: Part 1’ with Josh Herdman and Louis Cordice

(Warner Bros)

“First of all, I don’t know enough about the details of what anyone said. My dog ​​takes up way too much time for me to go into things like that,” Felton says, appearing to brush the subject off—but he continues. “I mean, the obvious things to say are that I’m pro-choice, pro-discussion, pro-human rights across the board and pro-love. And anything that isn’t those things, I don’t really have much time for.

“It is also a reminder that as much as Jo is the founder of [these] stories, she was not a part of the filmmaking process as much as some might think. I think I only remember seeing her once or twice on set.”

However, he is keen to express his admiration and gratitude for Rowling’s writing, noting that she is “responsible” for stories that are loved by people “of all ages, of all backgrounds”. “Honestly, with my friends, we all have different opinions on different issues and we celebrate our own choices,” he adds. “We certainly don’t take any pleasure in cross-examining people who may have said things that we disagree with.”

Our time is now almost gone; the conversation meanders back to the book. Isn’t he worried about how readers will react to some of the revelations in it—his trips to rehab, his mental problems? “I think one of the joys of creating art – music, film, television, literature, whatever – is the journey. What someone else gets out of it is really not up to me,” he replies.

“I can sleep well, knowing that it is all true. And I think it will do more good than bad to share it.” It may be a modest statement of intent, but it’s an admirable one. More Gryffindor than Slytherin, anyway.

Beyond the Wand’by Tom Felton will be released on October 13, 2022, published by Ebury Spotlight

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