Matthew Lewis of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2' on Action, the End of the Saga and Horrible Sweaters
Neville Longbottom ... Saves the Day?
One of the pleasures of the "Harry Potter" films has been the way they function almost as a high school yearbook for a group of people we've never met, both actors and characters. But while we've seen Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe go from childhood to youth in the leads, we've also enjoyed watching several other actors grow from film to film -- not merely in size, but, rather, in story as well. Hired on board the "Potter" franchise from the first film, Matthew Lewis was cast as series sad-sack Neville Longbottom -- a character whose early mentions (and very, very British name) gave no clue to the importance of the role he'd wind up playing in the saga. I spoke with Lewis in New York as the acting job that had defined his life -- through both the years and at least one growth spurt -- was coming to a close.
When you're reading the script -- with Neville's big speech to rally the troops against series nemesis Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) -- when did it sink in that you get to bring it in this film?
Lewis: I read the book, so I knew what Neville was bringing to the table. You never know when you're making a film if (the exact story from the book) is going to make the screenplay, and it did. I read it and thought, 'Geez, it's going to be something -- I don't know what -- (shooting) with Ralph Fiennes.' I was terrified of the prospect of that; he's an amazing actor. I (thought) they might not get around to shooting it, and then we did, with the whole process, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. That was enough -- I was happy just filming it. Whether it got into the film or not, that we would find out later on. Then it did, and I watched it at first, and blew me away. I think you never really know until you sit in a cinema and actually watch it. I feel very proud and very, very lucky.
It's not just the level of moral heroism Neville gets to bring with that great, rousing speech at the end -- you get to jump around and do a lot of action. When you're getting ready to leap with a weapon in your hands, do you have to psych yourself up?
Lewis: Yeah, definitely. Particularly in that scene you're talking about, at that moment Neville's been fighting not only all night at the final battle; he's been fighting all year. He's physically and mentally exhausted; he's got nothing left in the tank. He's on autopilot; he's on instinct. Me and David(Yates, director) wanted it to be very primal, and to get into that frame of mind is not easy. I had to sit there very quietly for a long time and think to myself and try to get into that feeling. With the scream that comes out as he swings the sword, it was not something I'd ever had to do before, never had to do in real life ever. I certainly had to dig deep for that one.
When wardrobe showed you the sweater you were wearing in that sequence, did you roll your eyes, or did you go, "That seems pretty Neville?"
Lewis: (Laughing) Yeah, that's what it is. It's like the fat suit before that, and the false teeth and everything. They're difficult to work with, but you go, "They're Neville." The thing about Neville that's so brilliant is that he's not a commander, he's not Tom Cruise; he's your everyguy, your everyday guy who just happens to be a hero. I don't think he's aware of quite what a hero he is; he just gets on with it and does the right thing. I love that, as an actor. As a male, 18, 19. It's difficult to wear those cardigans sometimes, but it works.
You were worried you were going to get let go from the series for growing too tall, but screenwriter Steve Kloves said, "If Matthew had tried to leave, we would have kidnapped him." Is it gratifying to hear things like that?
Lewis: Yeah, absolutely. I've not heard that before, but that's an awfully nice thing to say. You never know in a film like this. It was a worry of mine, having changed physically, whether they wanted to bring me back or not, and they did. When you hear things like that, it's very lovely. Steve Kloves knows these characters as much as anyone -- J.K. Rowling and myself; he knows each and every one of them, so for him to say that means a great deal. I'm glad I could do a good job and do a service to him.
And not face kidnapping.
Lewis: And not face kidnapping. Again, if they wanted to kidnap me for these films, I wouldn't have minded it that much. It's a great series of films; I'd love to have been kidnapped to have done them.