Rise of the nerd
The time has come to shine for a ubiquitous Hogwarts sidekick, writes Neala Johnson
NEVILLE Longbottom’s nerdy days are over. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, the wimpy wizard of Hogwarts takes the lead in the battle against good and evil.
So when E Guide meets Matt Lewis, the actor who plays Neville on the set of the final film, he isn’t wearing a fat suit, false teeth or some other comedic touch. Instead, he’s sporting some impressive battle scars.
‘‘ I’ve had a bit of trouble,’’ jokes the amiable Yorkshireman.
‘‘ There’s a great scene where Neville takes a band of troops to stop the Deatheaters getting into Hogwarts and it doesn’t go incredibly to plan . . .’’
Like many of the Potter actors who aren’t Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson or Rupert Grint, Lewis has, over the past decade, grabbed whatever chance the films gave him to shine.
More often than not, Neville was there to offer light relief.
Deathly Hallows – Part 2 offered Lewis his biggest chance yet, as Hogwarts comes under attack from baddie Voldemort ( played by Ralph Fiennes).
‘‘ It’s amazing to see how the character’s evolved,’’ Lewis says. ‘‘ He’s no longer following Harry’s lead all the time; he’s now leading his own bunch of people.’’
‘‘ Neville realises he’s going to have to step into the breach and take over where Harry left off.’’
Yet the 22-year-old admits to finding his transition to hero ‘‘ pretty weird’’.
‘‘ I’ve been watching Dan do it for so many years, so it’s been quite nice to have a go and do stuff like that. I was terribly nervous but Ralph’s so good at what he does it really helps you get into the scene,’’ he says.
Neville’s rise was foretold by, who else, J. K. Rowling.
‘‘ At the premiere of number five, Jo Rowling came up to me and said, ‘ Oh, I’ve got some great stuff for you in number seven, it’s gonna be wicked’,’’ Lewis recalls. ‘‘ I was like, ‘ Don’t tell me anything, I don’t wanna know!’ ’ Cos I was reading the books. So she goes, ‘ OK, I won’t tell you, but it’s good’.
‘‘ Then when it came out, I was going through the book going, ‘ Where the hell is it? She’s lying to me!’ But I got to the end and it was unbelievable. I never expected anything like that.
‘‘ I like the idea that Neville’s really adrenalised in this last one, he’s been living underground, hiding out, so all the stuff he’s gone through finally comes to the surface and he explodes in this really reckless, wonderful way and leads everyone into battle without any care for his own wellbeing.’’
While he’s relished the Potter perks, such as travelling the world for premieres, Lewis reckons he’s lucky to be able to walk down the street without being ‘‘ mobbed’’.
He remembers being in a store buying his England shirt for last year’s World Cup and this woman said: ‘‘ Do you ever get told you look like Neville?’’
‘‘ I was like, ‘ Yeah, sometimes’. And she goes, ‘ This guy just came up to me and said, you’ve got Neville in your shop. I said, yeah of course we have. Don’t worry, I don’t believe him, but you do look a little bit like him’. I just had to go along with it.
‘‘ She goes, ‘ Do you want Neville on your shirt?’ I was like, ‘ No, just Lewis will be fine’.’’
While he dabbles in rock’n’roll, Lewis hopes his future lies in acting. ‘‘ I’ve acted since I was five, so it’s 16 years now, which is kind of strange. I don’t know if I can do ‘ owt else,’’ he says.
‘‘ It’s a great job to have because I never have to grow up – I can dress up, pretend to be someone else, do what kids do and get paid for it.’’
STICKLER: Matt Lewis ( right) as Neville Longbottom with Harry Potter et al and Ralph Fiennes ( below) as Voldemort.