RedEye met Lewis on the day the film came out in the U.S., which was also the day after a night at Studio Paris and Hub 51 left him tweeting, “I am very hungover. I am very busy. This is an ill-advised combination. Chicago, my apologies.” No apologies necessary. ARIEL@TRIBUNE.COM | @MISSARIEL
Where were you when you first heard or read that Neville was going to be such a big deal in this last movie?
I was in bed, where I usually am. I’m quite lazy, you see, as I’ve just been in bed there. I was in bed and I was reading the book, and it was one of those things … like, I’d get a new book and I’d just, I’d wake up and I’d read them all day, in bed, and I just wouldn’t get up until I finished them. And that’s what I was doing. And J.K. Rowling had told me a few years previously that she’d just finished the book and that she’d written this amazing bit for Neville Longbottom. And she wouldn’t tell me what it is, but that it was going to be good. So then I read the book and was just totally blown away by it, really. It was amazing, really. I read it as a fan first, as I always do, you know, I read it as a fan and got lost in the whole world, and then all of a sudden, when you turn half a page, and you think, “Wow.” And you go back and you look at it and you go, “Jeez, that’s going to be incredible.”
Did you call anyone on the phone?
No, I didn’t. I just sat there and was like, “Pheww.” You know? My mum had already read it and she was like, “That’ll be a fun one.” And I was like, “Yeah, should be good.” It’s really weird because you never really know. It’s like a four-stage process. Like, it’s in the book, great. Is it in the screenplay? And it was. And then, “Are you going to film it?” We did. “Is it in the final film?” Find out premiere night. And it’s four stages that you just, each time you never know whether it’s going to make it. So, um, you know, I just had to wait and see. But it was there.
Are there any scenes throughout this Potter process that you wish had made it into the movie?
Yeah, there was one scene where I really wanted to see, where Neville visits his parents in St. Mungo’s Hospital. Just because it really summed up why Neville is as he is, really. You know, you see him there with his parents. There’s a really tender moment where his mother gives him that sweet wrapper and his gran just misses it so she doesn’t know what she’s doing, but to Neville it means the world. The thought that his mother’s giving him a gift, no matter how insignificant. Everything he does is for them, and that’s where his courage comes from, that’s where his loyalty comes from, it’s from his parents. And it would have been nice to see that. And we would have also seen the spectacular Kenneth Branaugh reprise his role as Gilderoy Lockhart, and that would have been fun, but you know, you have to make these sacrifices.
So instead, you had to make do with people like Gary Oldman.
I know, what a shame.
It’s cool to talk to you now that the movie’s out and people have seen it. I think a lot of people are wondering what’s with all this Neville-Luna innuendo?
Yeah! Well, basically, it was just you know, something that Steve Kloves put in the screenplay. And you know, a lot of the fans were sort of enjoying the whole Neville-Luna thing. I think a lot of fans saw them as being kindred spirits, two people who were very, you know, outcasts who came into their own, really. And the other thing, obviously J.K. Rowling said that Neville goes on to marry Hannah Abbott, but he’s only 17 years old at this point and he could have a little thing with Luna. They seem to match, don’t they, at that early stage, when they’re at school? They just seem to match. It was quite nice. And again, back to his parents, that’s why he does what he does in this film, it’s because of his love for his friends, for Harry, Ron, Hermione and, of course, Luna.
A lot of the media attention surrounding this movie is the fact that you and Neville grew up to be not so nerdy.
What do you make of all that?
I’m struggling with it, to be honest. Yeah, it’s, I don’t know what to make of it. It’s very overwhelming. I can’t wait to return home and retreat to relative obscurity again. I’m going to go lock myself in my house for some time. Yeah, I know, it’s, I think everybody’s been caught up in the end-of-Harry-Potter delirium. And I think everybody’s going to very soon realize that I’m very, very average-looking and, yeah, I’m a fraud.
Have you asked any of any of your co-stars for tips on how to deal with the attention or the paparazzi?
No—actually the paparazzi don’t follow me around. You know, they don’t. I’m very fortunate that I almost get to live the best of both worlds. I have this amazing time doing “Harry Potter” and traveling the world and stuff, and then I go back to my home city of Leeds and I have the same friends as before, I can go to the soccer and I can go to the pub and I’m left alone, you see. Which is why I’m struggling so much with this attention because it’s just not what I’m used to. I mean, it’s very flattering, don’t get me wrong. It’s not what I’m used to.
But yeah, Dan [Radcliffe, Harry Potter], Dan’s been, Dan’s someone I’ll always look up to because he’s someone who’s had this level of fame since he was 11 years old, you know, almost had it a bazillion more times than I’ve had in the last week, and yet, he remains very firmly on the ground. And he hasn’t changed a moment since the day I met him. He’s inspiring.
OK, I read a bunch of news reports that Tom Felton [Draco Malfoy] wants to be a rap star.
I don’t know, but I read the same thing. Was it on Twitter or something? What was it about, do you know?
He made some kind of comment, probably as a joke, but people took it and ran with it.
Wow. He could probably do it. You know, he can sing. And he used to be into that kind of music when he was younger. I suppose he still must be, a little bit. Tom is a performer, you know, and it’s art. I’m not sure why he’d want to take that career path when he’s such a good actor, but he could probably do it. I’ll ask him about it.
How about you? What’s next?
I’ve got a few meetings and stuff in London when I get back. And there’s a couple of scripts I’m reading, but yeah, I don’t know, it’s just, I just want to act, really. I want to stay in the industry. Probably something a bit more low-key, I think. We’ll see. You know, I haven’t had time to process everything yet!
Were you sad that Neville wasn’t mentioned in the epilogue? Would you have liked to see him age?
No, no. You know, I don’t like seeing myself young, and I don’t want to see myself old, I’m just happy where I am now. Actually, it would have been very strange for me to see myself as an old man. I don’t want to rush that kind of thing. But, you know, it was a shame he wasn’t mentioned in the final cut, but I think most people know what he’s up to. He’s Herbology professor. I think most people know that.
And do you think that suits him?
I do. Down to a T.
So you just said you don’t like watching yourself when you were young.
No. Well, it’s I don’t like watching myself, full stop. To be honest, I’m very self-conscious as an actor, and I sort of squirm and cringe in my seat when I’m watching the films. But then you couple that with the chubby cheeks and the high-pitched voice of the early days and it’s not something I want to, you know, immerse myself in.
What are the steps to become Neville? I read there’s something about making your ears stick out?
I had a fat suit for a few years, false teeth, plastic they stuck behind my ears to push my ears out. There was a vast array of interesting cardigans. There was ridiculous hair. I look like Adolf Hitler in one of the films. Yeah, there were a few little tricks in there they used. [Peeks at reporter's notebook, laughs] As you just wrote there, “Adolf Hitler” in big writing. That’s the quote there.
Exactly. Let’s move on to a Twitter question: Are you good at accents, or will you “do a Sean Bean” and retain your Northern English accent in future films?
[Laughs] I like the accents. I like doing them. I prank call a lot of my friends, you know, doing like Scottish accents or different accents, stuff like that. … Sean Bean’s cool, he’s northern, he’s from Sheffield and he really flies the flag for Yorkshire and he’s an incredible actor, and I’d like to keep my roots really firmly there. And I’m proud of where I’m from. But obviously, acting is acting and whatever the role requires is what I would do. But, yeah, given the situation, and if I can justify the character being where I’m from, then, yeah, that’s what I’d do, absolutely.
Could you do an American accent someday?
I hope so, yeah! What, do you want me to do it or something?
Yeah, I do!
Well, you have to give me something to say—it’s going to be terrible, but go on.
How about: Chicago is the best city in the world.
Chicago is the best city in the world.
Not bad? That means awful.
Only the “Chicago” part was weird.
Chicago. Chicago. How do you say it?
Chicago. Chicago’s the best city in the world. OK, I’ll work on it.
Have you been here before?
No. … I expected Eliot Ness to meet me at the airport, but he didn’t. That’s disappointing. But it’s cool being here. I can feel the history of it all, you know.
So a lot of people go totally crazy for Harry Potter and go to midnight shows and dress up and all that. What do you make of that?
[Laughs] I do think it’s crazy. But only in terms that it’s for our film. I understand that Harry Potter—I mean, I was queueing up to get the books late at night when I was younger, so I get that.
You don’t get the books in advance?
No! No, we have to go and buy them like everyone else. Which is kind of fun, really, because I get to go with my friends who have been reading the books, as well. So I get the whole Harry Potter thing and I don’t see it as being odd. It’s just odd because it’s a film that I’m in, you know? That other people are queueing up at night to watch a film that I’m in is very, very strange. I find that hard to contemplate, really. But again, we’ve got some amazing, amazing fans, and that’s why we kept making them, because those guys kept turning up to watch them.
Just so you know, last night, when Neville slays the snake, he got a big round of applause from the audience.
Yeah! You know, he’s a great character and I feel very proud to be able to play him. And that moment for him was so nice and [director] David Yates captured it perfectly. I’m glad he’s—Neville—is getting the response he deserves. J.K. Rowling created a fantastic character there.
Definitely, Neville was the comic relief in this last movie.
Well, we tried. You know, I thought Maggie Smith was superb as well. She’s so funny. But yeah, Neville, it’s the thing, you have to find that balance with Neville. Because he’s now this hero, we didn’t want him to come out and be Rambo, because he’s not. He’s still Neville Longbottom, he’s still making a mess of stuff, but he’s trying his hardest. And that’s what we wanted to find there.
And he’s still wearing his terrible sweaters.
He likes his knitwear.
Any last words about the Harry Potter experience? Last-minute story to share?
I don’t know, really, there’s so much stuff that’s happened over the years! You know, Dean Thomas, Alfie Enoch, the actor who plays Dean Thomas, I once stole his mobile phone as a joke. He dropped it in the back of a taxi once, and I stole it. And I intended to give it, to panic him a little bit—”Oh, I lost my phone!”—and give it back to him. I forgot. He went off to Brazil. For two months. And I had his phone the entire time. And then I, like, when he came back, I sort of called his house and I said, “You’ll never guess what, but you’re gonna love me, I found your phone!” And he said, “Thank you so much! Man, I owe you!” And to this day I’ve never told him that I actually stole it. I didn’t find it, I actually stole it.
And now you’re telling a newspaper. OK, thanks so much for having us!
No worries, it’s all right. I’m sorry I kept you waiting. I was just napping in there.