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Watson on how Hogwarts prepped her for Noah

Actress Emma Watson in the US premiere of Noah in New York.
By Eric Kelsey
Reuters
LOS ANGELES — After spending a decade at the Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter film franchise, actress Emma Watson put her magical training to good use for her first big budget post-Potter role, in biblical action blockbuster Noah.

In director Darren Aronofsky’s movie, Watson plays Ila, the wife of Noah’s eldest son, Shem, who is played by Douglas Booth.

Oxfordshire, England-native Watson, 23, spoke about how the Harry Potter films prepared her for the physically punishing role, the challenge of realistically portraying childbirth on screen and working with a cast of veteran actors.

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, 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.

Ila is unable to conceive initially, but then is made fertile by a miracle. Was there anything in particular you tried to emphasize of her psyche?

I guess just her self-doubt... Ila is barren, she can’t have children, and she doesn’t want to deprive her future husband of being able to have kids and to have a family. There’s this real wrestling match within her. She’s so in love with him and she kind of sacrifices her own happiness for his, and that struggle and self-doubt felt very relatable to me.

What attracted you to the role in the first place?

I was a huge fan of Darren’s films. I loved Requiem for a Dream. The Fountain is one of my favourite movies of all-time, The Wrestler, Black Swan. So, you know, even before you read the script, you’re intrigued because his work speaks for itself, really. And then having read the script, I loved my role. She’s got such a huge heart. She’s very wise, very relatable, and then you hear about the cast, it’s like Russell Crowe and Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jennifer Connelly and Ray Winstone. And you realize that it’s the opportunity to work with people who really are at the top of their game.

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