Emma Watson was no believer.
She just couldn’t see Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky telling the biblical story of Noah.
“Darren does these very dark, very intense, very gritty, very real films,” the Harry Potter actress explained. “And then Noah is kind of — you see this guy with the long beard and there’s the animals. … You can’t really picture it.”
Then the 23-year-old Watson read the script by Aronofsky and Ari Handel.
“I think it’s a really original take on a genre, on a story, on an idea,” noted Watson, who portrays Noah’s adopted daughter Ila.
Nearing the end of a recent day of interviews promoting Noah, Watson, in a Stella McCartney dress covered with red hearts, discussed the movie, as well as her spirituality and the trick to surviving child stardom.
You followed the Potter films with a string of indies. What was it like to have Noah put you back in big-budget territory?
I think there’s value in these bigger-scale projects because, obviously, they have this incredible scope… But then it’s so lovely to work on a more intimate scale and do those kinds of films as well.
Did stepping into the world of Noah make you consider your own take on religion?
I already had the sense that I was someone who was more spiritual than specifically religious… I’m really interested in those things that are more far-reaching than culture, nationality, race, religion.
Some groups have already criticised Aronofsky for taking liberties with the biblical text. What’s your response to them?
If we had gone with exactly the original story, Noah doesn’t say anything until he steps off the ark. You would have been watching a silent film. None of the women are really spoken about in the biblical story. There wouldn’t have been any women in it. He had to adapt it for the screen.
You’ll get your degree in English literature from Brown in May. Are you excited?
I will be having a hell of a party. It will just be a relief, I think, because I’ve been really juggling so much and it will just be really nice to be able to focus on just one thing but I think I’ll miss it, too.
You’ve made the transition from child star to adult actress look easy, and we know it can be challenging. How’d you do it?
You know, it can be a very corrupt environment and situation for a young person and I’m just so thankful that I have people around me who have really held my hand.
Family, filmmakers, managers?
Everyone from my publicist through the person who does my hair and make-up, from my brothers through to my friends to my professors who helped support me through my education. I mean there’s a huge group of people that just helped me so much. Yeah. I’m a very, very, very lucky girl.
Noah marks your return to large-scale spectacle films, do you approach your role any differently than you did while making the Harry Potter series?
I remember being on set and Darren was saying, “Okay, the water is going to be cold, we’re probably going to be here for a full day, try and conserve your energy between takes, like keep warm and make sure you eat properly. This is going to be physically very demanding.” For a minute I felt very intimidated and then there’s something about having done those Harry Potter films and they were very physical. We did a lot of stuff in Scotland. It was freezing cold, filming at four in the morning, working crazy hours.
It’s kind of comforting in a way to know that in some senses, nothing will be as hard as that again, and I’m pretty prepared for most things people can throw at me, whether it be animals, water, stunts, CGI [computer-generated imagery], whatever it is. It was a very good school in a way and set me up very well for this kind of environment and this kind of pressure.
Did you do any reading on your character of Ila outside of the script?
I actually didn’t do a lot of reading, but I did a lot a research because I become a mother in the story, and obviously have never given birth myself. That required quite a lot of careful thinking. Darren and I had this conversation where we both agreed that in so many films, women give birth and it looks like they’re barely breaking a sweat. We wanted it to feel very raw, very real and so I took it pretty seriously.
Did you talk to anybody about what it’s like to give birth?
Any pregnant woman anywhere, I’d be like, “Can I talk to you? Can I talk to you about your experience?” I spoke to my own mother a lot, obviously, and then I watched a lot of YouTube videos of natural births, lots of documentaries, spoke to midwives, just any information I could get my hands on, really.