‘Harry Potter’ countdown: Tom Felton on the ‘gradual crumbling’ of Malfoy
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It’s here! “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” has arrived and today our Denise Martin finishes off our daily ‘Potter’ countdown (but not our ongoing Hogwarts coverage, of course). Her interview subject? Here’s a hint: He is a key figure and an especially conflicted wizard in the new film.
After years of playing the petulant platinum-blond pest Draco Malfoy, actor Tom Felton couldn’t wait to get his hands on the script for the series’ sixth film, a sort of coming out party for the aspiring Death Eater. And with good reason. There’s plenty for Draco to wrestle with in this edition. With his father, Lucius Malfoy, stuck in Azkaban, young Draco is tapped by Voldemort to use the Unforgivable Curse on the school’s headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. And while Felton’s alter ego has been eager to carry out some dark doings in the past, when the big moment arrives Draco instead comes up against the conscience he never knew he had.
Felton, who was heading off to get his hair dyed blond during our chat, told Hero Complex all about growing up Draco, facing off with Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore, and what he and star Daniel Radcliffe really talk about on set.
DM: This is the major film in Draco’s story. There‘s some coming of age for him here. What were your thoughts going into it?
TF: Very excited, but I also got a little bit anxious, and slightly worried, about what to do and whether or not I could do it. I had many meetings with David Yates and Mike [Gambon] to discuss it, and they really encouraged me to really try and excel with the character. It’s what any actor wants when it comes to trying to sink your teeth into a character, and we really do reveal more of Draco’s emotions. He’s always been slightly two-dimensional in previous years, and this time you really see lots of sides of him.
DM: How so?
TF: You see a much harder and much more violent side, his hate is much stronger. But there’s also an immensely vulnerable side to him too. Hopefully you empathize with him by the end, a little bit.
DM: In the book, all is revealed, more or less, in his showdown with Dumbledore. Does his back story play out the same way in the film?
TF: Draco starts off very determined, very hard, and very up for it, so to speak. But definitely, toward the end, that crumbles. That whole façade. You really feel that weaker side of him, the young boy that he is. He’s acting like a man, he’s being the father of a house while his dad’s in prison, so he really feels like he’s got to step up his game, but unfortunately he’s not quite as solid as he thought. It’s a more gradual crumbling in the film.
DM: As you were nervous at the outset, did director David Yates say anything particularly helpful?
TF: He was very keen to mention all the things I should be feeling and thinking instead of leaving me too much on my own. We played around with it. If I get any praise out of it, it’s on account of his direction and his vision. He’s so encouraging of all of us really, and I think it really makes a difference. As it went on, I got a lot more confident and less panicky.
DM: What do you remember about shooting that climactic scene on the Astronomy Tower?
TF: It was intense! When we shot it I was surrounded by the cream of British actors [Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter were present, as was the Dublin-born Gambon], and the scene itself is very intense. There’s lots of shouting, screaming and tears. We had good fun with that one. It was the scene I was most looking forward to.
DM: What was working with Gambon like?
TF: I was obviously very scared about having a one-on-one scene with him. But early on we met up and we got on really well. He’s a character beyond character, anyone will tell you that. He’s got more stories than an encyclopedia and he’s a wealth of knowledge and comedy. It’s just a joy to be around him. Every time there was a break, I would take it as a good opportunity to have a cup of tea with him, asking questions and stuff like that.
DM: His Dumbledore is a lot more intense than in the books, isn’t he?
TF: Yeah, I was slightly afraid that he was going to be cold or stone-faced. But he’s far from it. Honestly, he’s like an 18-year-old and he loves it.
DM: Is it fair to say this film is the darkest Potter film yet?
TF: It is, but I don’t think it’s just that. It happens in every film, people say it’s getting so dark. But this one also gets funnier and more romantic. Also, the nature of the film is more adult, so it’s only right for the dark side to correspond to the good. I don’t think it’s just dark, that’s just one of its many features.
DM: You’re about to start shooting “Deathly Hallows” -- excited or sad?
Dan, Emma [Watson] and Rupert [Grint] have been hard at work for the past month or two.I’m actually going in tomorrow to get the bonnet dyed. I’m looking forward to getting blond again.
DM: You’re more recognizable that way, though.
TF: I know. I’m panicking about that part.
DM: Has it started to hit you that this is it?
TF: Very much so. It’s a very daunting time for all of us. Every year we finish and we know we’ll come back for more. After this one, it will be a goodbye for a while. It is quite exciting as well. There are other things to look forward to, and I know we’ll all be happy in a way because we’ve seen the story all the way through. It’s quite a big deal doing the next two movies though. They’re not short films. There’s a lot of work to be done. It’s going to be well over a year of work.
DM: What has kept you willing to return for all the movies?
TF: It’s always been fun. That’s the main thing. It’s not really an arduous process. Also, I love the idea of looking back at it in 10 or 20 years and knowing you were a part of it all. I couldn’t bear to leave it, especially now when we’re so close to finishing.
DM: Where does “Half-Blood Prince” fit in for you? Where do you rank it?
TF: It’s my personal favorite -- I don’t know whether or not I’m being biased though because Draco’s featured in it. But there’s something about the story that’s very human and relatable in many respects, lots of love in the air at Hogwarts, lots of boys and girls kissing. It’s about growing up.
DM: What will you miss most?
TF: The whole cast and crew. It’s a great atmosphere when we’re all there together on set. I suppose we won’t have that again. I’m sure we’ll keep in touch, but we won’t all be under the same roof. I got on very well with young Daniel. We’re both cricket fans so there’s plenty of cricket chat going on between the pair of us. There’s no one I don’t get along with. We all click rather well.
DM: Have you lined up any post-Potter plans?
TF: I have a couple of film projects in the run. “In Between the Waves” is a film I’m hoping to do next spring. It’s about two boys, two keen surfers who travel around Europe on a mad surfing road trip. I used to skateboard, and I’ve been snowboarding, and I’ve been told that if I can do those, I’ll be all right. But I’ve never been on a surfboard.
DM: I understand you sing as well. Any plans to record?
TF: I have done a bit of recording and the songs are available on iTunes, and I’ve got some nice comments. It’s something I enjoy doing, but I’m not looking for a singing career any time soon. As long as one person gets enjoyment out of it, I’m happy to make it available.
DM: Worried about being typecast as an evil Draco-type from now on?
TF: That question comes up a lot. I think it’s pretty crazy to say you’ve been typecast at the age of 20 before you’ve even really started getting going. I think with young Mr. [Robert] Pattinson’s success, I think it pretty much gives us the green light to say there’s life after Harry Potter. It’s just a matter of who wants it and who will work for it.
-- Denise Martin
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