Exclusive: Harry Potter star Tom Felton!
Last week I hit the streets of London to chat with the cast and crew of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1. While I was there, I got to take part in a roundtable discussion with Potter bad boy Tom Felton who plays Draco Malfoy. But when I got back, I actually got to have a one on one phone interview with Tom. You all know I'm a huge fan of the books and the films and I have to say, it's with relief/joy/surprise that I can report that this is the nicest cast I've ever spoken to. When Tom called, he apologized for being a few minutes late. The reason? He was posing for pictures with loyal Potter fans at his hotel in NYC. Tom gave us the scoop on Draco's inner good guy, his final moment on the set, HARRY POTTER remakes, his future plans and working with Andy Serkis in his upcoming film, RISE OF THE APES. As with my other POTTER interviews, I will be marking SPOILERS for those who have not read the books, so no one sees anything they don't want to. If you've read them, there is only one well-marked question to avoid, and it's a minor spoiler. By the way, the film rocks! I know. I'm a Potter head. Sue me.
I heard you just had an interesting experience trying to get into the hotel.
Oh yeah! That was cool. It was nice actually. I can't express to you enough how nice it is when there are genuine fans who are really really happy to get...all they wanted was a picture, which is so sweet. It's really nice to meet the genuine fans.
It's pretty cool that all of you guys are appreciative of the fans. That doesn't always happen.
I know! That's a weird thing! They stopped me outside and said, 'You're really nice. You're really friendly.' I thought, what did you expect us to say? No? [laughs] I like to think of us as normal people. I think anyone who stops you and asks for something like that, you'd be more than gracious to say yes. To be fair, there are times when...this morning I couldn't, unfortunately because we were twenty minutes late for a meeting that I said I'd be on time for, but yeah. If I'm not doing anything then it seems...I'm exceptionally grateful. These people have been keeping us going for the past ten years. And as far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't be here in NY promoting this film if it wasn't for those ten or fifteen people who were outside. I'm very grateful for those guys.
I loved the film, and in this one, Draco is really with a different group of people. You're not hanging with the kids anymore.
[laughs] No, he is well and truly a boy amongst men. I'm really glad you liked the film as well. I'm really, really pleased with the way the film came out. Not from a biased point of view, but the whole thing in general. As a fan of the books, I was really pleased with the way it came out. And yeah, it really is. Like you said, Draco is in a whole other realm. He's no longer at school sort of bullying people. He's sitting at a table with the realms of evil. And well and truly out of his depth, might I add. He's terrified. We really see Draco in a whole new light here. He's failed his mission to become Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) right hand man if you will, and now he's just a shriveling wreak. His house has been infiltrated by Voldemort. There's a real sense of life and death, I think, with Voldemort. So we really see Draco, A, being terrified, but B, second guessing actually, that this is the line that he wants to go down. He certainly looks at his father (Jason Isaacs) in a new light. Yeah, it's a great journey for him, I think.
It's interesting, the relationship that Draco has with his mom (Helen McCrory) because she doesn't really seem like she belongs with the Death Eaters. You sort of see that side of her in Draco.
[SPOILERS] I'm very glad you said that! You are the very first journalist of the last three hundred and fifty or whatever it is this week to mention that and I'm very glad that you did. Draco is definitely...he's one hundred percent his mother, and it's really nice when you actually get to see that, but more to the point, as you so beautifully did, you noticed it. Although she is still a Malfoy, she's completely ashamed of her husband and knows...she's the only one, actually...there's a great part in this film where Draco has an opportunity to end it for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe). He has an opportunity to give him up and say, 'Yeah, this is him.' And I think out of all the people in the room that question whether I'm lying or not, she knows. She knows that something is happening. She can see through me, like most mothers can with their sons. And it's really nice to have that because it really answers why Draco isn't like his dad. Because he's like his mum. And that journey really continues in the next one as well.
[SPOILERS] Which I'm really excited for! In that one you have the epilogue, and in the book, Ron (Rupert Grint) is still warning his daughter off of Draco's son. What do you think actually happens to Draco?
[Laughs] In the nineteen years?
Or do you mean just generally?
Well, just generally. [laughs] We don't have to go day by day or anything.
SPOILERS-A MOMENT NOT IN THE BOOK] [laughs] Well, I think he's turned a corner or something, at one point, definitely. He certainly hasn't followed in the footsteps of his father. Equally he has stayed in that sort of draconian, old money style of family. That's definitely evident. But there is a lovely moment. I can't say too much, obviously about the second film. A, I haven't seen it, and B, we're talking about number one, but there is a lovely moment between Harry and Draco. Throughout both of the films. I mean, certainly, as far as Draco's character goes, here is the interesting bit to really come with Harry. The relationship between him and Harry is a really strange one [laughs] because one minute Draco is offering to help him and the next minute he's trying to take his throat out. So it's a real back and forth with Draco. I don't think even he knows. He can't even decide where his loyalties lie, so it's a really interesting journey for him, definitely.
I happened to read your joke on Twitter (he's @TomFelton if you want to follow him) about playing Lucius if they do a remake in twenty years.
[laughs] Ha! You saw that, huh? Well, I just thought, you never know. Remakes in twenty years time, that would be quite a cool part to pick up on.
True! Remakes are all the rage these days.
[laughs] Yeah, sure, sure. To be fair, I find that lots of people get very upset with me for saying it. 'If they remake these films, I will kick off.' And I do second that. These films, they've been such a labor of love and passion that it would almost be a bit...well, [laughs] it would be criminal to start thinking about remakes twenty years down the line.
We've heard a lot from Dan and Rupert and Emma (Watson) about their last moments on set. What was the experience like for you?
[SPOILERS] It was a bizarre one actually, because my last day of actually having people there was shooting the epilogue. That was my last day of actually having Daniel, Rupert and Emma on the set together. It was quite a relief to get out of there because we were in this horrible makeup that we were desperate to get off our face. [laughs] That was the last day. But my last day as an individual was actually a night shoot that I did by myself, just to get a shot of Draco walking off by himself in the middle of the night. I forget the scene it actually tied into, but it was bizarre. We finished at about three in the morning. The first AD, Dom Fysh gave me a lovely speech and a round of applause to say thank you for your hard work, which really meant a lot to me, and I did that sort of awkward handshake thing with everyone and kind of walked off before I knew I was going to get too emotional. Truth be told, it started to sink in then, and it still hasn't fully sunk in all the way. It's probably going to take another year or so before it's fully sinks in.
Well you've done a bunch of other things since you left. I know you have RISE OF THE APES. What's it like being on different sets? Does it sort of blow your mind?
Yeah! It's very different. Very, very different. Actually, when you go away from POTTER that you realize how bloody good you had it! [laughs] Certainly as a group. You know what it is? Every film set that I've been on to since then has been hugely fun, if not more so in some places, but you just don't have that sense of...there's a real, real air of excitement on POTTER, because you know what you're doing is probably one of the most anticipated films of the last few years, but also, every single person there is really pouring their heart and soul into it. And as much of a big money franchise as it is, it's really about the story and about how passionate these people are about how to tell them well. And certainly when it comes to the producers, the director, the screenwriter, everything is done with such passion and I think that's rare. I only realized that recently, but it comes to turn out that the film industry has a lot to do with money [laughs] and it never felt like that on POTTER. It really felt like we just want to make these stories as good as possible, so that was a unique and great vibe.
You guys have been very lucky in that you've gotten to work on the same character with a bunch of different directors. I know Rupert, Dan and Emma were saying that Alfonso Cuaron is the one that whipped you guys into shape.
Yeah! He was the one that kind of...I saw him actually, two days ago. I bloody gave him a big hug and said 'Thank you so much, mate.' I think he took the films into a whole different direction. We're very proud of the early films and we think Chris Colombus really set the tone. It's almost impossible to make a film when you have almost only eleven-year-old children as your cast [laughs] because funny enough, we're not that convincing as actors. But he made it all work and he was the conductor that got the ball rolling. Alfonso really took it to a far more cinematic place, it seemed. The stories really evolved with him. I mean, obviously that helps with the books, because the stories do get richer and less child-oriented. But yeah, Alfonso definitely did something that was different. And we thank him for it. We think that film really brought the rest of the franchise along with it.
Have you talked to Jo Rowling since this all ended?
Not since it all ended, no. I saw her maybe...actually I think I have. I saw her about three months ago...it's always nice to see her.
I'm always curious about this when you have an author involved in the film experience. Did she give you any little tidbits about Draco that we might not know?
Never anything! [laughs] And we were always asking for that. 'Can you give us anything?' I only met her a couple of times before doing the sixth film, and she was always incredibly humble and very nice. Almost quite shy. Far from being the loud, ostentatious person that you may think after doing such an incredible series of books. But after the sixth film, a friend of mine actually opened up a letter that was delivered to my house and said something about some woman called Jo banging on about how good you did in the film. [laughs] I didn't think anything of it until I saw the letter, and then obviously instantly recognized the lightning bolt in the top right hand corner, and the unmistakable autograph of Jo Rowling. And she written me a hand-written letter just to express how happy she was with the film and how great she thought the portrayal of Draco was. And I can't tell you, as a seventeen-year-old guy, or however old I was at that point, I was absolutely blown away. And to the day, it stays framed above my bed. [laughs] And that's my mantra. Whenever I'm feeling a bit low or feeling like I'm not up for any more, that's what I refer to.
Talk a bit about RISE OF THE APES, your character, the experience, all of that.
Sure! An amazing film. Definitely one of the best scripts I've ever read in my life. And that's coming from a non-PLANET OF THE APES fan before. I didn't have that much knowledge of the films before this. It's the prequel. It's the learning of how it all came to be. James Franco is our lead. Andy Serkis is in charge of the motion capture, playing Caesar, our lead ape. And it was hugely fun. I was really nervous after working with David Yates, who is such an approachable and a...he's just a genius, really. He's one of those guys who seems...he could be miles away but really he's all there and he notices absolutely everything. And Rupert Wyatt who is the director of RISE OF THE APES, he was exactly the same, really. He was fairly quiet and really approachable and really, really grateful to be there and excited and enthusiastic. All the things that I really enjoy in a director.
Working with Andy must have been quite an experience. What was that like?
I won't lie here. I've worked with some fantastic actors and British gentlemen along the way, but he epitomizes it. He really, really does. As a nervous youngster coming into the set, he made me feel so confident. He's truly a wonderful, wonderful person. Just as a human being he's wonderful. And his family, we really enjoyed getting to know them. But as an actor, he's terrifically scary! I mean, if you just picture, as I say, he's talking to you about whatever it is in the charming way that he does...he's literally the most friendly guy I've ever met. And then all of a sudden he'll break into his ape. [laughs] And I cannot stress to you enough how terrifying that is! He did it so well and so convincingly, that literally, even though I know who he is, it's enough to terrify you when you're standing next to him. I mean, credit to him, I really hope that his efforts get acknowledged in this film.
Everyone must ask this question of you. So I will too. Are you continuing with acting? Your career is exploding...or do you want to go back and do some fishing?
[laughs] No, you know what, actually? The last few years I've realized quite how lucky we are to be doing what we're doing. Fingers crossed, I will continue with the acting. It's something that I've really had a massive passion for in the past few years. I mean, look, film making in general, whether it's behind-the-scenes, whether it's script writing or sound, music, I'm completely enthralled by the whole works. So if I can be lucky enough to continue in this, I'd certainly will do.
I have to ask about the hair. It must be so nice not to bleach it.
[laughs] It is so nice not to bleach it. My normal hair color is nearly back after years of not seeing it. It is nice to avoid that and it's great, obviously because people don't recognize you unless you have blond hair.
I know you have a couple other projects on IMDB, so what new goodies are we going to see from you?
Well, the only things worth paying attention to are the things that are completed. THE APPARITION, that's coming out next year, with Ashley Greene. RISE OF THE APES is coming out next year. And I just finished an independent project called FROM THE ROUGH, which is a story about five international golfers that all win scholarships to Tennessee State to learn golf there off a very famous coach. It's a true story and very moving as well. I'm looking forward to seeing that.
Did you actually have to play golf?
I did! Plenty of golf.
Did you know how to play before?
I am an avid golfer. It must be said. In the last year, the golf bug has bitten me hard. So yes. One of the delights of the film was that I could literally stay on set and keep practicing my swing.
So...what did you steal from the set?
[laughs] What did I steal from the set? What didn't I steal from the set is the question. [laughs] No, actually the have rigorous checks on everyone, even the actors as they left everyday to make sure nothing had gone missing. But I did manage to ask for...they gave me Draco's ring. He wears a silver serpent ring. He's worn that that since the third film. Yes, very gratefully, they let me have that one. So it sits on my mantlepiece.
What did they do, pat you down when you left?
[laughs] No, they just search your car. Literally they would open the boot of your car to make sure you haven't stuffed Daniel in there. We were going to do it one night as a joke, but we thought, no, just in case we took it too far.
Oh that would have been awesome!
Yeah, handcuff him and throw him in the boot!