Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson (born 15 April 1990) is an English actress and model who rose to prominence playing Hermione Granger, one of three starring roles in the Harry Potter film series. Watson was cast as Hermione at the age of nine, having previously acted only in school plays. From 2001 to 2011, she starred in all eight Harry Potter films alongside Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint. Watson’s work on the Harry Potter series has earned her several awards and more than £10 million. She made her modelling debut for Burberry’s Autumn/Winter campaign in 2009.
In 2007, Watson announced her involvement in two productions: the television adaptation of the novel Ballet Shoes and an animated film, The Tale of Despereaux. Ballet Shoes was broadcast on 26 December 2007 to an audience of 5.2 million, and The Tale of Despereaux, based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo, was released in 2008 and grossed over US $86 million in worldwide sales.
Emma Watson was born in Paris to Jacqueline Luesby and Chris Watson, both British lawyers. Watson has one French grandmother, and lived in Paris until the age of five. Following her parents’ divorce, she moved with her mother and younger brother to Oxfordshire.
From the age of six, Watson had wanted to become an actress, and for a number of years she trained at the Oxford branch of Stagecoach Theatre Arts, a part-time theatre school where she studied singing, dancing and acting. By the age of ten, she had performed in various Stagecoach productions and school plays, including Arthur: The Young Years and The Happy Prince, but she had never acted professionally before the Harry Potter series. “I had no idea of the scale of the film series,” she stated in a 2007 interview with Parade; “If I had I would have been completely overwhelmed.”
In 1999, casting began for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (released as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States), the film adaptation of British author J. K. Rowling’s best-selling novel. Casting agents found Watson through her Oxford theatre teacher, and producers were impressed by her confidence. After eight auditions, producer David Heyman told Watson and fellow applicants Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint that they had been cast for the roles of the school friends Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley respectively. Rowling supported Watson from her first screen test.
The release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 was Watson’s debut screen performance. The film broke records for opening-day sales and opening-weekend takings and was the highest-grossing film of 2001. Critics praised the performances of the three leads, often singling out Watson for particular acclaim; The Daily Telegraph called her performance “admirable”, and IGN said she “stole the show”. Watson was nominated for five awards for her performance in Philosopher’s Stone, winning the Young Artist Award for Leading Young Actress.
A year later, Watson again starred as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second instalment of the series. Reviewers praised the lead actors’ performances. The Los Angeles Times said Watson and her peers had matured between films, while The Times criticised director Chris Columbus for “under-employing” Watson’s hugely popular character. Watson received an Otto Award from the German magazine Bravo for her performance.
In 2004, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released. Watson was appreciative of the more assertive role Hermione played, calling her character “charismatic” and “a fantastic role to play”. Although critics panned Radcliffe’s performance, labelling him “wooden”, they praised Watson; The New York Times lauded her performance, saying “Luckily Mr. Radcliffe’s blandness is offset by Ms. Watson’s spiky impatience. Harry may show off his expanding wizardly skills … but Hermione … earns the loudest applause with a decidedly unmagical punch to Draco Malfoy’s deserving nose.” Although Prisoner of Azkaban remains the lowest-grossing Harry Potter film as of April 2009, Watson’s personal performance won her two Otto Awards and the Child Performance of the Year award from Total Film.
With Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), both Watson and the Harry Potter film series reached new milestones. The film set records for a Harry Potter opening weekend, a non-May opening weekend in the US, and an opening weekend in the UK. Critics praised the increasing maturity of Watson and her teenage co-stars; the New York Times called her performance “touchingly earnest”. For Watson, much of the humour of the film sprang from the tension among the three lead characters as they matured. She said, “I loved all the arguing. … I think it’s much more realistic that they would argue and that there would be problems.” Nominated for three awards for Goblet of Fire, Watson won a bronze Otto Award. Later that year, Watson became the youngest person to appear on the cover of Teen Vogue, an appearance she reprised in August 2009. In 2006, Watson played Hermione in The Queen’s Handbag, a special mini-episode of Harry Potter in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th birthday.
The fifth film in the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was released in 2007. A huge financial success, the film set a record worldwide opening-weekend gross of $332.7 million. Watson won the inaugural National Movie Award for Best Female Performance. As the fame of the actress and the series continued, Watson and fellow Harry Potter co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint left imprints of their hands, feet and wands in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood on 9 July 2007.
As of July 2007, Watson’s work in the Harry Potter series had earned her more than £10 million, and she acknowledged she would never have to work for money again. In March 2009, she was ranked 6th on the Forbes list of “Most Valuable Young Stars”, and in February 2010, she was named as Hollywood’s highest paid female star, having earned an estimated £19 million in 2009.
Despite the success of Order of the Phoenix, the future of the Harry Potter franchise became surrounded in doubt, as all three lead actors were hesitant to sign on to continue their roles for the final two episodes. Radcliffe eventually signed for the final films on 2 March 2007, but Watson was considerably more hesitant. She explained that the decision was significant, as the films represented a further four-year commitment to the role, but eventually conceded that she “could never let [the role of] Hermione go”, signing for the role on 23 March 2007. In return for committing to the final films, Watson’s pay was doubled to £2 million per film; she concluded that “in the end, the pluses outweighed the minuses”. Principal photography for the sixth film began in late 2007, with Watson’s part being filmed from 18 December to 17 May 2008.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince premiered on 15 July 2009, having been delayed from November 2008. With the lead actors now in their late teens, critics were increasingly willing to review them on the same level as the rest of the film’s all-star cast, which the Los Angeles Times described as “a comprehensive guide to contemporary UK acting”. The Washington Post felt Watson to have given “[her] most charming performance to date”, while The Daily Telegraph described the lead actors as “newly-liberated and energised, eager to give all they have to what’s left of the series”.
Watson’s filming for the final instalment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, began on 18 February 2009 and ended on 12 June 2010. For financial and scripting reasons, the original book has been divided into two films which were shot consecutively. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 was released in November 2010 while the second film was released in July 2011.
Other acting work
Watson’s first non-Potter role was the 2007 BBC film Ballet Shoes, an adaptation of the novel of the same title by Noel Streatfeild. The film’s director Sandra Goldbacher commented that Watson was “perfect” for the starring role of aspiring actress Pauline Fossil: “She has a piercing, delicate aura that makes you want to gaze and gaze at her.” Ballet Shoes was broadcast in the UK on Boxing Day 2007 to an audience of 5.7 million viewers, despite generally poor reviews. Watson also lent her voice to the role of Princess Pea in the animated film The Tale of Despereaux, a children’s comedy starring Matthew Broderick with Harry Potter co-star Robbie Coltrane (playing the character of Rubeus Hagrid) also starring in the film. The Tale of Despereaux was released in December 2008 and grossed $87 million worldwide. In December 2008, Watson stated she wanted to go to university after she completed the Potter series.
In May 2010, Watson was reported to be in talks to star in a film adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Filming began in summer 2011. Also that month, she announced that she would appear in a music video for One Night Only after meeting lead singer George Craig at the 2010 Winter/Summer Burberry advertising campaign. The video, “Say You Don’t Want It”, was screened on Channel 4 on 26 June 2010 and released on 16 August. In her first post-Harry Potter film, Watson has been cast in the upcoming My Week with Marilyn as Lucy, a wardrobe assistant who has a few dates with the main character, Colin Clark. Watson has also expressed interest in being in a musical film.
In 2008, the British press reported that Watson was to replace Keira Knightley as the face of the fashion house Chanel, but this was flatly denied by both parties. In June 2009, following several months of rumours, Watson confirmed that she would be partnering Burberry as the face of their new campaign; she received an estimated six-figure fee for modelling Burberry’s Autumn/Winter 2009 collection. She later appeared in Burberry’s 2010 Spring/Summer campaign alongside her brother Alex, musicians George Craig and Matt Gilmour, and Max Hurd. Watson continued her involvement in fashion advertising when she modelled for Lancôme in March 2011.
In September 2009, Watson announced her involvement with People Tree, a Fair Trade fashion brand. Watson worked as a ‘creative advisor’ for People Tree to create a spring line of clothing, which was released in February 2010;the range featured styles inspired by southern France and the City of London. The collection, described by The Times as “very clever” despite their “quiet hope that [she] would become tangled at the first hemp-woven hurdle”, was widely publicised in tabloids such as You magazine, Heat Magazine, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and People. Watson, who was not paid for the collaboration,admitted that competition for the range was minimal, but argued that “Fashion is a great way to empower people and give them skills; rather than give cash to charity you can help people by buying the clothes they make and supporting things they take pride in”; adding, “I think young people like me are becoming increasingly aware of the humanitarian issues surrounding fast fashion and want to make good choices but there aren’t many options out there.” Watson continued her involvement with People Tree, resulting in a release of a 2010 Autumn/Winter collection.
After moving to Oxford with her mother and brother, Watson attended The Dragon School until June 2003 and then moved to Headington School, also in Oxford. While on film sets, Watson and her peers were tutored for up to five hours a day. In June 2006, Watson took GCSE examinations in 10 subjects, achieving eight A* and two A grades.
After leaving school, Watson took a gap year to film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows beginning in February 2009, but said she “definitely want[ed] to go to university”. The Providence Journal reported that Watson had “grudgingly admitted” that she had chosen Brown University, located in Providence, Rhode Island. In March 2011, after 18 months at the university, Watson announced that she was deferring her course for “a semester or two”, to give her more time to participate in the advertising buildup for the release of the second Deathly Hallows film, and other projects. It has since been announced that Watson will be continuing her studies in autumn, reportedly on an exchange programme to Worcester College, Oxford, and that she will complete her final year at Brown University.
Watson supports the Wild Trout Trust.