One thing about Emma Watson: She has never been arrested. Nor, so far as anyone knows, has she ever eloped, been kicked off a movie set, or unleashed an angry rant on Twitter. Under normal circumstances, none of this would be particularly noteworthy. But Emma, 23, doesn’t live under normal circumstances, and she hasn’t for a very long time. Instead, the Paris-born, Oxford-raised actress is a self-made young Hollywood success, and more to the point, she is exceedingly famous thanks to a decision she made when she was only nine (and, of course, the dozen-odd years of hard work that followed).
“I think, in a way, I was very protected during Harry Potter, because I was working all the time,” Emma muses, taking a sip of tea. Dressed in a pair of dusky gray jeans, two layered cotton T-shirts, and a chic black blazer, she’s sitting in the corner of a posh but deserted hotel restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, open just so we can conduct the interview for her fourth Teen Vogue cover. “I would get in the car, go to the studio, and go home,” she says. Whenever possible, she continued to attend school and hang out with her childhood friends.
As a result, Emma explains, it took an improbably long time for her to understand how unusual her existence had become. It wasn’t until she enrolled at Brown University, in 2009, that she began to grasp the enormity of her renown. “It sounds stupid,” she admits, “or completely unbelievable, but that was when I really realized that I was famous. There are still days when I deal with it horribly and there are days when I deal with it really well.” She felt as though everything had been “turned upside down.”
It throws her latest role into sharp relief: Emma plays Nicki, a fame-hungry would-be reality star, in this summer’s ripped-from-the-headlines crime caper The Bling Ring. Based on the true story of a group of image-obsessed teenage burglars who targeted the homes of Tinseltown’s best dressed, the film, written and directed by Sofia Coppola, offered Emma the opportunity to take on a completely different kind of character: a mildly villainous party girl who’d do almost anything for a taste of the kind of attention Emma’s been dealing with for more than a decade. It also gave her the chance to utter the sure-to-be-timeless line, “Come on, let’s go to Paris’s. I want to rob.”