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Emma Watson enjoys growing friendship with J.K. Rowling

Her future holds many possibilities, but for now she is looking to one person for direction: the author.

July 05, 2009

While working on the series' sixth film, the actors talk to Times writer Geoff Boucher about 'The Half-Blood Prince,' music, friendship and getting older.

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'Potter' trio looks beyond graduation

There were so many faces. "Thousands. It felt like every kid in England wanted to be in the first 'Harry Potter' film." That's how producer David Heyman remembers the crush of casting options a decade ago when the Hollywood's massive and magical spellbinding franchise began with the key decision of picking its young wizards. They found their Hermione in the daughter of two attorneys who seemed as driven as the character. Ron was discovered in a videotape audition plucked from a mailroom mountain. The future Harry himself was spotted by Heyman in the audience of a theatrical production and encouraged to try out. "It was kismet," Heyman said. It led to the biggest and best show-biz decision of the past decade. The little children are now young adults and, somehow miraculously, they have thrived in the face of fame, fortune and relentless pressure. "There wasn't a Britney in the bunch," one Warner Bros exec said with unceasing relief. Interviewed more than a year ago on the Watford, England, set of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (the film, due July 15), was postponed to position it in the summer marketplace) the three stars -- Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson -- talked to staff writer Geoff Boucher about the past and the future and, most of all, all the magic.

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How many people get to meet their maker and live to tell the tale? Emma Watson, with a chuckle, said that's how she has viewed the recent blossoming of her friendship with "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling.

During the filming of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," Watson contemplated the relationship she's developed with Rowling as she sat one brisk afternoon in her dressing room (relentlessly pink in its decor). "We talk, we e-mail each other now," she said, nodding toward her laptop and that morning's missive from the woman who is arguably the world's most famous living young-adult author.

"I must admit I still feel quite intimidated by her," Watson said. "Not because she is actually intimidating, but because I admire her so much, and we have all been such mad fans of the books and her and everything."

Rowling has said that Watson's character, the sweet but swotty Hermione Granger, is based in part on her own persona as a child. That has led to a mutual fascination between the actress and the writer who, together, have shaped the character. In "Half-Blood Prince," Hermione is the wounded heart of the film, dealing with her stirring feelings for childhood chum Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) as well as the dark threats gathering at Hogwarts.

"There are serious dangers brewing, but there is also a lot of romance and humor in this film," Watson said, "which I enjoyed quite a lot."

During the filming, Watson, who is now 19, had a certain famous pair of eyes looking over her shoulder far more often than in the past; Rowling was a rare visitor during the making of the first five "Potter" films -- she was simply too busy with the ongoing series of novels -- but with the final book published in summer 2007, the writer dropped by the Watford set outside London.

To hear cast members tell it, Rowling became like one of the wise old ghosts who populate the fictional wizard academy of Hogwarts -- she was a fairly common presence but one who never failed to startle and amaze.

That meant more to Watson, perhaps, than anyone else in the cast and crew. The other lead actors spoke about Rowling in casual terms, but Watson could barely tamp down her awe.

"I just really want her to like me," Watson said, sounding a bit like the insecure overachiever Hermione. "I'm always really keen to tell her how I feel, and maybe it's a bit much. She is so down to earth and funny and witty. . . . I definitely see Hermione in her. She's genuine and brilliant."

Those are terms others use to describe Watson herself.

"Emma is astonishingly bright and just anxious to move forward with life," said "Potter" producer David Heyman. "She's been amazing to watch. She has these choices. She could be an actress or a model, but with her studies and success she could also be a lawyer. She could also be an artist. . . . It's pretty amazing to see."

The day she was interviewed on the set, though, Watson was most excited about the new possession she proudly showed a visitor: Her first driver's license. "My makeup lady gave me a car freshener as a gift," she chirped. "It's all quite cool."

The actress, like the other two members of the "Potter" trio, seems remarkably grounded despite the oddities that come her way, such as the roomful of Bibles that have been sent to her by fans. Why Bibles? "I have no idea. They just come in the mail. People think I need spiritual guidance. Everyone sends Rupert pajamas. He has no idea why."

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