THE TALENTED MR. FELTON
Tom Felton is multi-talented man: he can act, play the guitar and ride an ostrich. After a decade of blondness, he is ready to move on.
PORTRAITS LORENZO AGIUS
Tom Felton felt a sense of relief when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows filming ended. Like his fellow actors, he is sad to let go of his role as the saga’s most complex characters. But he’s also glad to be able to move on with his career and do the things he previously couldn’t do with much freedom. Like lying around in the sun and getting a tan, for example. And he is certainly ecstatic not to have to bleach his hair anymore. But before he bids adieu to Draco Malfoy, this charming and talented actor looks back on his childhood on the set of Harry Potter and his unique character…
How do you feel now that this has ended?
It’s hard to sum it up, it’s hard to sort of conjure the words to describe it. It’s been a lot of fun, obviously. A little hard work has gone into it – hard work, if you could call it that. Great relationships have been struck up certainly in the last four years. A lot of people have made friends for life. I’ve certainly been invited to a lot of weddings and so forth since the last three years… So, yeah, it’s hard to say one thing about what’s been good about it. The whole thing has been a roller coaster of emotions, really… mostly good. It’s a shame that it’s all over.
Has these films influenced you greatly over the years?
Yeah. Massively. I like to think that those years – 12 to 18 – you’re very influenced and very susceptible to what people are saying, certainly from adults etc. And usually those years you spend at school with your peers and so forth, they can influence you in one way and I think you end up quite different if you’re influenced by a whole different set of people, and most of those people have been adults. You spend a lot of time around all different walks of life, which I feel very grateful for, the fact that I haven’t just spent my childhood with other children of my own age in a fairly similar environment. We’ve also had the benefit of meeting, you know, electrical guys from London, and meeting producers from all over the show, from America and so forth. So really it really has brought… having the opportunity to really talk to different walks of life. Also, the musical influences, film influences, you know, the recommendations are very different from adults as they are from children so you’re watching [movies rated] 18 at 13!
Without any of it, do you think your life would’ve been different?
So it’s very hard to say… had I not gone to Harry Potter, what sort of person would be or how would you differ from how you are today? My brother ask me that quite a lot, what would you be doing and do you think you would still be like this and like that. It’s obviously impossible to say but I like to think that I’d still be doing something creative. I’ve always been a guy who struggled with the format of 9 to 5. I hate school. And I think that would be fairly shared similarly if I went to an office job or something like that. So yeah it’s hard to say how I changed as a person but I think generally it’s been a good thing.
Was your childhood difficult because of your involvement in Harry Potter?
Yeah, always, it is very hard. I usually come across as arrogant or having a confidence you don’t deserve so teachers are always going to assume that you’re this kid who thinks he’s a big shot so immediately they don’t like you. And it’s really easy to single out the guy with the bright blond hair so I did do my best to maybe overly try to fit in when it wasn’t really necessary. Equally, I’ve had a really good group of friends – some four or five lads that I’ve been friends with since then – so I feel very lucky that I sort of managed to retain to have normal friendships with those friends anyway. They couldn’t give a toss about Harry Potter then and they care less about it now. It’s nice to have a bit of my life away from the hype of it all. If you get lost into the showbiz world, I don’t think it would be a very happy life. I’ve been blessed with normal friends.
You start as a bully and end up being one of the more complex characters.
Yeah, it’s a real journey, I think, for young Draco. I think Jo [Rowling] – I mean, I don’t know this for a fact – but I think he was written purposefully quite one-dimensional for the first five years as sort of a typical bully… to get the audience hating him, to get the audience knowing exactly what he is. And then on the sixth, we sort of go behind the scenes a bit and see his family, to meet his mother, who I think is a good representation of why maybe he was a bit softer than his dad. His dad is certainly more militant… he also bullies him to a small extent so that’s half the reason I think, why Draco is how he is. It’s been fantastic for me as an actor, really, to sort of play it one way and for it to be turned on its head and to completely go the other way with it… I was actually very nervous about the lack of stages of the character because I knew it was going to get a lot more complicated and I wasn’t really that confident in my ability. But David Yates set up several meetings to boost up my confidence and he’s really happy at the end of it.
There’s a scene at Malfoy Manor where Draco seems unwilling to unravel Harry’s secret identity…
Yeah, it was fantastic.
It must have been complex to shoot…
Yeah, it was great! Because, again, it’s not actually answered in the book specifically why he does it. It never even says, you know, if he’s looking for a stroke of redemption so he does this. He just does it. And it’s the same with David – we did it several ways, so I don’t know which way it’s gong to end up. But generally the idea was that he doesn’t even know it himself, he doesn’t even realize it himself, what he’s doing. He just knows somewhere deep down he doesn’t want to give up or he doesn’t want to kill Harry right then and there. I think it’s almost against his will. As hard as he would want to be, he would want to be like his dad, as much as he could, but he can’t; he has too much of his mother inside him. The idea being he chooses not to recognize him but at that moment it’s very hard to tell whether he’s choosing to or [not]. This is an interpretative thing, whether you choose to think that he knows or he doesn’t. I’m endlessly intrigued… I know we spent a day and a half, about this far away from each other’s faces… and it’s very hard not to laugh!
Isn’t their story continued in Part 2 when they met at the station?
It’s quite left to interpretations. There are never actually answers in the last book. There’s always been a thought, there was never a conversation between Harry and Draco to say thanks for helping each other out or a nod or a handshake or anything for that matter. It’s just a stare and that’s supposed to say it all. So it’s nice, I think, the fact that they don’t say anything in the end. It’s left to the readers’ minds.
Dan raved about his Epilogue family. He sounds so proud!
(laughs) He embarrassed me by how paternal he was. He really struck up a bond within four or five minutes… and he was asking them, “Do you need a drink? Do you need to go to the toilet?” and holding their hands to the toilet… good Lord.
And how about yours?
Great fun! Young Bertie, I believe, is the young guy we had. It’s a lot of fun when they were bringing them in for the first few times… so they brought in three or four and asked if I could go and sit and chat with them for ten minutes. Obviously you’re not really asking them if they can act but whether they would just… having them react with the camera in front of their face and with all the people around them. So it’s more about one person sticking a camera in front of their face and me just kind of talk to them about school and stuff. And I feared that it was going to be really easy because I enjoy talking to children of that age, I find it really interesting what they’re into… but I find it really bizarre because he was sitting on the same couch where I was sitting ten years ago, being asked the questions, because when you audition they’re just throwing questions at you, to see what you say so I was kind of a little bit stuck with him and didn’t know what to ask him, or what to say. Luckily, he was a talker. It was kind of strange. I felt like I’ve grown up before my time, really, to see… to be looking back and thinking, “God, that was me 10 years ago.”
And your lovely wife…
Yes, we were very blessed with this. It was sprung on me completely. The director and the producers asked whether my girlfriend would do it – she’s been working on the films over the last four so they’re very familiar with her. They had to twist her arm for quite a bit. She’s a bit camera shy, to say the least, so she wasn’t too keen on it but I actually warmed to the idea and thought we could have a lot of fun. She was great with kids so she got on very well with our young Scorpius. We had a lot of fun, actually. It was 3 days of giggles. A chance for her to see how I look like 20 years on… needless to say the years were not kind to me.
She looked lovely…
Yeah. The women look great. The lads not so much…
If you could rewrite that ending, would you?
(laughs) I wouldn’t touch a page. I have never even thought about it. I think if you were given all the time in the world, you still probably couldn’t have come up with something even half as good. So I dare not touch a classic.
But wasn’t he treated sort of unfairly?
Damn right! He doesn’t even get any girlfriend… what’s up with that?! (laughs) We’ve actually talked about this as well – Daniel and I have said that Harry and Draco are like two sides of the same coin. But Harry has all these fantastic influences – Dumbledore, Hagrid, his great friends – whereas Draco just has the worst of the worst. Certainly the worst parents and Auntie Bellatrix is pretty mad. And Voldemort, again, is not the nicest soul in the world. So, yeah, Christmas was a real drag for Draco, as you can imagine, it wasn’t much fun for him. I guess he’s kind of a victim of his circumstances. He wasn’t born evil, he’s been thrust into this horribly world unwillingly.
What do you focus on when you try to play Draco?
I think trying to make him villainous doesn’t really work too well. There needs to be something, I suppose, effortless about his villainy, if you will, that doesn’t seem forced or too rehearsed. Generally, it was nice to have Jason [Isaacs, who plays Lucius Malfoy] as something to model yourself around because he does it exceptionally well. I remember after the second film, with him coming along, it became a lot easier for me to play a horrible villain because he’s the nicest guy in the world, charming, and he can turn very quickly when they start rolling cameras. It’s quite scary.
Well obviously you cracked it, winning Best Villain…
(laughs) Yeah, bless you, yeah…
What’s the most villainous thing you’ve ever done in real life, then?
Oh, Christ… um, I don’t know, I’m not the most villainous person in the world, it must be said. I may have run the odd red light in my car. I’ve certainly never mown anyone down or anything like that. No, I hate to say, it’s going to sound childish, but it would probably be about forgetting putting on a seatbelt or something like that. AA/LJ
For more of my articles on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, buy Total Film Indonesia Issue 13, November 2010.