‘I can’t re­call life be­fore Harry Pot­ter but it was a huge and im­por­tant part of my life that ended at the right time’

Ru­pert Grint, who played Ron Weasley in eight Harry Pot­ter films, tells how fame was dif­fi­cult to cope with at an early age and how strange it was to see some­one else play the role on stage

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - INTERVIEW -

up­ert Grint has just turned 30. To a whole gen­er­a­tion of fans who will for­ever know him as Harry Pot­ter’s smirk­ing, flame-haired side­kick, this may well come as a shock.

“I don’t feel like I’m 30 at all,” Grint says. “I have quite a weird re­la­tion­ship with age, be­cause of that pe­riod of my life on Pot­ter. It was very strange.”

We are here to talk about the sec­ond sea­son of Snatch, a loose TV adap­ta­tion of Guy Ritchie’s film of the same name in which Grint stars as Char­lie Cavendish-Scott, a man from a wealthy back­ground who gets en­tan­gled in the world of crime. De­spite at­tempts not to drop the “Pot­ter” name into our con­ver­sa­tion, all but five min­utes pass be­fore the ac­tor is of­fer­ing a ma­tured per­spec­tive on the “crazy” years that de­fined him.

For 10 years, be­tween 2001 and 2011, Grint was a per­ma­nent fix­ture in peo­ple’s lives. Over the course of eight films, the na­tion watched as his char­ac­ter, Ron Weasley, un­der­went the trans­for­ma­tion from boy­hood through his teenage years: his voice break­ing, his hair go­ing through mul­ti­ple floppy cuts, his first time fall­ing in love. As we saw the fic­tional wiz­ard grow, so, too, did we wit­ness Grint be­come a young adult.

Yet, un­like the rest of his gen­er­a­tion — those who at­tended mug­gle school and played nor­mal chess — Grint did not grow up sur­rounded by peo­ple his age. Sure, costars Daniel Rad­cliffe and Emma Wat­son were on the same Hog­warts Ex­press, but work­ing on the Pot­ter films was ex­actly that: work. It wasn’t the av­er­age up­bring­ing for a naive 11-year-old (when he was cast as Ron).

“We were al­ways with adults, ab­sorb­ing their sense of hu­mour, their ref­er­ences,” he says. “I al­ways re­mem­ber, the few times I did go back to school to do ex­ams, I felt a real de­tach­ment from my peers. We had very lit­tle in com­mon, which is quite iso­lat­ing in a way. Which is why I think it felt like such a strong fam­ily unit on set. When you’re in it, you don’t re­ally think about that.”

That’s not strictly true. Af­ter the fourth film in the fran­chise, Harry Pot­ter and the Gob­let of Fire, Grint se­ri­ously con­tem­plated leav­ing the wiz­ard­ing world be­hind, hav­ing had enough of be­ing one of the three most recog­nis­able teenagers in the real world.

“I had just fin­ished my GCSEs,” he says. “I thought ‘Do I ac­tu­ally want to keep do­ing this? It’s a bit of a drag.’ Be­cause ob­vi­ously it’s a big sac­ri­fice. You take for granted anonymity, just do­ing nor­mal stuff, just go­ing out. Ev­ery­thing was dif­fer­ent and a lit­tle bit scary. There were times when I was like ‘I’m done’.”

Of course, Grint per­se­vered, fin­ish­ing the fran­chise and achiev­ing world­wide fame, all be­fore turn­ing 23. While he has no re­grets over the de­ci­sion, there were times when the un­fet­tered at­ten­tion be­came par­tic­u­larly MAGIC MO­MENTS: fright­en­ing. He points to the pa­parazzi and their “ap­petite” for a scan­dal to arise from the Pot­ter set; for one of the child stars to break down like so many be­fore them. Noth­ing truly hor­rific ever erupted, but the pho­tog­ra­phers were still a stress­ful pres­ence in his day-to-day life.

And then there were the fans, many of whom would clam­our for a pic­ture with the beloved ac­tor at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, whether he was walk­ing down a street or shop­ping in Tesco. Even those who spent time hang­ing around un­der the premise of be­ing friends would make things dif­fi­cult: were they there for Ron or Ru­pert?

“It’s al­most like hav­ing a split per­son­al­ity,” he says. “Some­times it can be quite de­hu­man­is­ing to have peo­ple just tak­ing pic­tures of you when you’re out. To them, you are just this one thing. It’s a weird ex­is­tence. But that’s my life. I can’t re­ally re­mem­ber life be­fore it. In a weird way, you be­come blasé about it. It be­comes nor­mal and you adapt.”

There’s that word again. Grint says “weird” over a dozen times while dis­cussing his Pot­ter years, es­pe­cially when it comes to talk­ing about the items he bought at the height of his fame. These in­clude an ice cream van, a hov­er­craft, and a full-size Os­trich skele­ton — which he just hap­pens to be stand­ing next to as we speak over the phone.

“I think it was Dan [Rad­cliffe] who once said that I’m slowly con­struct­ing some sort of Nev­er­land. It took me a while to ac­cept a re­la­tion­ship with money. It’s kinda em­bar­rass­ing. I do buy weird stuff but I stopped that now. I’ve grown out of that a bit.”

The money was never some­thing Grint re­ally thought about (he says he still doesn’t know the ex­act sum he made from the Pot­ter films, but in­dus­try es­ti­mates put it around £28m). When he signed on to star as Ron, he was just an or­di­nary kid whose fa­ther, Nigel, sold rac­ing mem­o­ra­bilia, and whose mother, Ju­lia, was a home­maker. The young Ru­pert ini­tially wanted to be­come an ice cream seller — hence the ice cream van pur­chase — but also had a bud­ding in­ter­est in act­ing, ap­pear­ing in the­atre pro­duc­tions for his school and a lo­cal act­ing troupe (he once played a gold­fish in Noah’s Ark).

Af­ter see­ing a cast­ing call on the chil­dren-fo­cused show News­round, Grint sent off a three-part au­di­tion tape that saw him rap, change into women’s clothes, and read some of Ron’s di­a­logue. His hu­mour shone through and, de­spite hav­ing no pre­vi­ous pro­fes­sional act­ing work, he landed the part. Even with the huge amounts of fan­fare be­fore the ini­tial movie was re­leased, Grint didn’t be­lieve the fran­chise would be that big. Then, af­ter the suc­cess of Harry Pot­ter and the Philoso­pher’s Stone, which was the high­est gross­ing movie of 2001, he still didn’t be­lieve it would con­tinue.

“I re­ally did think it would die down af­ter the first film fin­ished and thought it was done,” he says. “If any­thing, it’s gone [the other way] as peo­ple hold those films very highly. I’m hear­ing sto­ries about peo­ple who grew up with Harry Pot­ter a lot. I think it comes hand in hand with the peo­ple who lit­er­ally shove cam­eras in your face. In a weird way, they feel own­er­ship of you a lit­tle bit. We’re quite fa­mil­iar peo­ple in their lives.”

Af­ter Harry Pot­ter and the Deathly Hal­lows — Part 2 wrapped, Grint was at a loss. Rad­cliffe found a niche in in­de­pen­dent dra­mas, in­clud­ing play­ing a fart­ing corpse in Swiss Army Man, while Wat­son be­came an ac­tivist and Dis­ney Princess. A role op­po­site Shia LaBeouf in the poorly re­ceived

Ru­pert as Ron in Harry Pot­ter along­side co-stars Emma Wat­son and Daniel Rad­cliffe. Right, with Emma

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