THE LAST SPELL: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” closes out a decade of Hogwarts in Hollywood. Hero Complex is counting down to the release of the final film in the magical franchise with exclusive interviews and photos. Today: Hero Complex‘s Noelene Clark chats with Neville Longbottom actor Matthew Lewis.
NC: Neville is one of the most awesome characters in the books. He could have been the chosen one instead of Harry. Did that influence how you played him?
ML: Well, I mean, not in the early days. I’d not read the fifth book; it hadn’t been released at the time when I was doing Neville Longbottom in the first few films, so it wasn’t something I was really aware of. And then I decided to read after the new ones got released, and then you realize just how crucial your character is, and even how crucial he could have been. Yeah, it was interesting. I don’t think Neville was aware of all that kind of stuff going on. I just think it’s something where he’s an everyday kind of guy who ends up being caught up in this mad situation. Harry’s a hero, and Neville’s not. He’s just an average kid, and he happens to get caught up in this, and he plays his part. I think that’s quite endearing. I love the idea that he’s not really aware of all these prophecies and things, and just how important and special he actually is. He gets on with it.
NC: He does what he thinks is right, regardless of the chaos around him?
ML: Exactly, exactly. That’s the nice thing. He’s got amazing heart and courage, and he’s got no interest in the politics. He just wants to stay loyal to his friends and do the right thing.
NC: He seems like more of a Hufflepuff when you first meet him. In the final film, does he get to have his Gryffindor moment?
ML: It’s that weird thing that Jo [J.K. Rowling] did when she wrote the character. Everyone was sort of thinking, “Well, why is he in Gryffindor?” And it just shows that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be a Brad Pitt look-alike hero just to be courageous and help out your friends and come through when it really matters. I think everyone can sort of relate to that in some way, particularly back to people’s school days. Like, I wasn’t on the football team at school or whatever, but it doesn’t matter. You can still make a difference. … He’s watching Harry. He’s learned from Harry. They’re very similar people in terms of what’s happened to them in their past, and I think he got a lot of inspiration from Harry, particularly in films 5 and 6. And now he’s stepped into that role while Harry’s been away, and he’s really stepped up to the plate. He’s changed a lot. He’s come a long way.
NC: Do we get to see him as the leader of an army?
ML: There’s some nice moments where [Professor Minerva] McGonagall is handing out instructions, and Neville’s got a job to do, and he takes his band of troops, and they go. It’s pretty cool stuff. Neville’s a leader in this film. There are a couple of moments in the room of requirement with the rest of Dumbledore’s Army, where we really see Neville as this resistance leader, this on-the-ground leader who’s instructing the students what to do, where to go. He’s like a beaten, battered war veteran in this one.
NC: What was your favorite part about filming the last movie?
ML: All the battle sequences were just amazing. Doing stunts and stuff like that is not something you get to do every day. And working with the explosives and running around, firing spells and using swords and stuff — it’s not something that you do all the time. So that was just so much fun, coming into work and being able to do all that and mess around and have fun.
NC: The most challenging part?
ML: I got a couple of scenes with Ralph Fiennes, which was pretty terrifying, because he’s just so good at what he does. He’s so good at playing Voldemort, and he’s got this very sinister, malevolent feeling on set. It helps you get into character, I can tell you that. But at the same time, I was terrified! I was nervous. I was thinking, “Gee, he’s Ralph Fiennes. What an amazing actor, and I can have this scene with him.” But I enjoyed it, you know. That’s what I got into acting to do — to push myself and see if I can do these things.
NC: Could you give us a picture of your last day on set?
ML: It was kind of odd. I had two last days. I had a proper last day, and I had a fake last day. … On my first last day, I was on main unit, and that was with loads of people, and they were in the big courtyard scene. That’s the one that actually felt like a last day to me. I got to say goodbye to everyone, and it was just very surreal to think we wouldn’t be coming back. I looked around the set, and the courtyard was all destroyed, and there were rubble and rocks everywhere, it just seemed fitting and really strange. We’d built this all up in 10 years and just torn it all down. It was very weird. My actual last day, [we came back to film] some night shoots, running up and down a bridge for hours and hours and hours at night. I got wrapped around 2 o’clock, and they had to carry on until 4. It was a bit of an anticlimax, actually.
NC: You must have grown very close to the other actors.
ML: Absolutely. Ten years, we were filming. Everyone’s got on so well. One of the crucial things to the story of “Harry Potter’s” success is just how well everyone got on. There were never any problems with anybody. We’re all good friends, and I think that chemistry really came across on screen, and that helped make it, part of it, the success it is today.
NC: I understand that you were a big fan of the books long before you were cast in the movies.
ML: I read all the books, and I said to my mom, when I was about 10 years old, I said, “If they make a film, will you take me to go see it?” But little did I know that I’d be in it. It’s pretty strange. I hope they enjoy it. I hope we got it right. The pressure’s on. We’ll see. … This film has just been so crucial for me, Neville being so integral in the story, and I just hope that everyone enjoys it. We’ve all been building up to this moment for 10 years, and being a fan of the books myself, I know I’m a part of that “everyone.”
NC: You were just a kid when you started acting in these films. Is it strange to be at the end?
ML: I was 11, and I’m 22, so I suppose it’s near 11 years. But anyway, it’s a long time. It is kind of strange to have done something for so long and all of a sudden, you’re not doing it anymore, and you’re not coming back to do another film. ‘Cause I always knew whenever we finished, we had another script to read, or there was another book, or another film that I was going to do, and then all of a sudden, now it’s all totally finished. I mean, 10 years. I’ve enjoyed myself a lot. It was a great role to have in “Harry Potter.” I mean, for me, it was a dream come true. So really, I think now, “I’ve done that, I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m ready to move on and do something different.” I still want to be an actor. I’ve acted since I was 5 years old, so that’s still something I want to do. I just want to go and be a different character now, see if I can for a start.
NC: So now you’re acting in an Agatha Christie play?
ML: It’s called “Verdict.” I’m really enjoying it. It’s a bit unusual for Agatha Christie. … It’s quite thought-provoking, and it’s a very interesting look at morality and ethics and stuff like that. It’s one of the few plays that she actually wrote as a play, not a book that was converted. It was actually meant to be a stage play. It was one of her personal favorites.
NC: What’s next for you?
ML: Well, TV or film. I’ll just do whatever I fancy. If someone wants to employ me, whoever wants to employ me, I’ll go and do that. I just want to work. I’m looking forward to doing different stuff and keeping my fingers crossed.
— Noelene Clark
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