More Than Hermione: A Biography of Emma Watson

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
March 27th, 2014

Many people from her generation love the "Harry Potter" books, but actress Emma Watson has a special attachment to author J.K. Rowling's fantasy series as she owes her phenomenal success as an actress to the popular film adaptations of the books. Forever immortalized as the smart and courageous Hermione Granger, Watson's rise to fame has been nearly as impressive and engrossing as the teenage witch's quest to defeat Lord Voldemort.

Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson was born in April of 1990 in Paris, France. Her British-born parents both had careers as lawyers. When Watson was only 5 years old, her parents separated, and Watson departed France to live with her mother in Oxfordshire. Growing up, she also traveled to visit her father in London. Watson felt a draw to the performing arts and was soon taking lessons at the Stagecoach Theatre Arts school in Oxford. Watson's natural abilities shone through, leading to parts in local productions and prizes for poetry recitals.

While many aspiring stars have spent years or decades searching for a big break, a combination of luck and talent landed Watson in the spotlight at a very young age. In the late 1990s, Rowling's beloved book series about a trio of friends attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was in the process of becoming a film adaptation. Rowling worked closely with the casting agents to ensure that her vision would come to life in a faithful, vivid way.

One of the biggest roles in the film would be that of Hermione, the confident, know-it-all witch who befriends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. Although Watson had never before acted professionally, her instructors saw a lot of potential in the 9-year-old actress. They recommended her to casting agents, sparking a series of eight different auditions. Rowling loved Watson from the first time she saw her perform, believing that Watson was perfect for the role of the clever bookworm. Eventually, the casting agents agreed with Rowling's assessment, and Watson officially landed the role of a lifetime. She would join fellow newcomers Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint as Harry and Ron. The film also starred a lineup of established actors, including Maggie Smith, Richard Harris and Alan Rickman.

Watson was 11 years old when the first film in the series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," debuted in theaters in November of 2001. Fans of the book series flocked to the theaters to see the whimsical Hogwarts and its students brought to life, turning the movie into a box office darling. Watson's starring role as the brash, lovable Hermione pleased fans and critics alike, establishing the young actress as a solid box office draw.

Fortunately for Watson, this first movie was not an isolated success. Seven more films waited in the wings, covering the fascinating adventures that Hermione, Harry and Ron undertake over the course of seven books. Watson worked tirelessly on the project for 10 years, transforming from a precocious child star into a polished, confident young woman. In 2011, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2" premiered, marking the bittersweet end of the series that had played such a significant role in Watson's life so far.

While working on the "Harry Potter" series, Watson occasionally appeared in other leading roles. She played Pauline Fossil in a BBC One adaptation of "Ballet Shoes," and she provided the voice for Princess Pea in "The Tale of Despereaux." However, most of Watson's energy was focused on completing the fantasy epic.

Although the end of the "Harry Potter" series was poignant in many ways, it also gave Watson true freedom for the first time in her acting career. She could now pursue more varied roles and expand her screen presence without worrying about her reputation as Hermione Granger. Thanks to her interest in fashion and beauty, Watson soon emerged as a style icon, making magazine covers and appearing in campaigns for brands such as Burberry. She also served as creative adviser for People Tree, a fair trade clothing line.

In 2011, Watson appeared as a young wardrobe assistant in "My Week with Marilyn." This was her first major film role since completing "Harry Potter." Watson soon built on this relatively small role, starring as the enigmatic and kind-hearted Sam in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." She earned a slew of nominations and awards for her role as Sam, including a People's Choice Award and a Teen Choice Award.

Watson worked with director Sofia Coppola in the 2013 flick "The Bling Ring," a role showing Watson's continuing evolution as an edgier, more serious actress. Watson has also worked with director Darren Aronofsky in "Noah," a Biblical epic.

Unlike her most famous character, Emma Watson does not have magical powers, but she has undoubtedly enjoyed a charmed career so far. As an unknown child actress, Watson's talent and charisma landed her a decades-long role that breathed life into one of the most beloved book series of all time. As she continues her career, Watson's combination of charisma, talent and ambition will surely guide her far beyond the walls of Hogwarts.