The time I was nearly Hermione Granger

19 Feb

When I was ten, I heard that Warner Bros were running an open casting call for the part of Hermione Granger in what was set to become the biggest movie franchise basically ever.

I had big front teeth, absurdly bushy hair, a ginger cat and an unshakeable belief that not only was I right for the part, I was always right. About everything.


Me at 10. Big hair. It’s actually in a ponytail there. You can’t quite see how big it is, I’m afraid. Pictures don’t do it justice.

Imagine my despair and woe, then, when not I, but Emma Watson, was actually cast.

Now I don’t want you to think it was a neck and neck race, or a stiff competition, or I lost out due to dirty tricks or anything like that. My dad made an audition tape and I found it, years later. Apparently it never got sent off. I’m pretty sure the photos did, but to be honest, my hair probably didn’t even look real. I had, after all, brushed it. And my hair is difficult to believe even when in its physical presence.

So. I was sad. I was a bit happier, I think, to discover – at least in the early films – that EW wasn’t actually that phenomenal an actress (is any twelve year old?) Maybe it is all about the sympathetic director, as argued in a recent Times article about whether Quevenzhane Wallis deserved her Oscar nomination. Later, of course, she did get better. And she also got prettier, and did stonkingly well at her exams. It was a happy moment when my dad opened the newspaper after I got my GCSE results and reported I had done better than Hermione. But EW was a star; clever; pretty; a model; fabulously wealthy and apparently, also, quite normal and well – nice. An A* here or there doesn’t really count when you’re up against that much love. And man, I wish I could rock a pixie cut like she does. But I can’t. On account of my stupid hair.

There was a moment in my first year at Oxford – first term, actually – when a bunch of people (all of whom now have jobs, or are starting PhDs, or are married – jeez, when did I get this old?) – went out for a friend’s birthday. We went to the now- renamed Kukui, which was new, then, and characterised by the blowfish lamps and the shark tank. Oh, and the rum punch. Yeah. Anyway, we were loitering near the not-quite-dancefloor when it became known that *OMG* Emma Watson was there. In the club. Present. Like, right there. She had a private table with her friends. Occasionally she got up to dance. I think she was probably trying quite hard not to appear self-conscious and to just have a good night out. After all, if you’re Emma Watson, it’s probably quite hard to sneak in somewhere underage. And we were the same age. Clubbing must still have been new and exciting. I don’t know; I’m speculating here. But for that evening, our two worlds, which had almost (in my head) been so very different, converged on one point. I felt like if we’d touched, we would have caused a universe-splitting paradox, like that episode of Doctor Who when Rose touches baby Rose and the monsters burst in through the church roof.

I used to pretend I really was Hermione. I convinced my sister for at least the summer I turned eleven that I had received a letter from Hogwarts and would be leaving home that September. In her defence, she was four. And she did work it out once I conspicuously failed to leave home. I would daydream about the magic I’d be able to do, and the books I’d read, and the conversations I’d have with Ron and Harry, and whether I’d really date Viktor Krum. Not so much that one, in fairness. Later, ‘Hermione’ became so synonymous with Emma Watson that it was difficult to remember that when I’d read her for the first time, she had looked like what I saw in the mirror every day. I’m glad I got a shot at creating my own Hermione before EW became the definitive one. I even went to a party at sixth form dressed as Hermione. I made a robe and everything (my friend Jen went as Harry. It was all in jest. But it was AWESOME). By the time the last film came out, though, EW had basically become Hermione. And I liked her for it. I would feel bad about reading articles critical of her appearance or her talent. I wanted the best for her, in a sort of vague, distant-niece-type way.

Emma Watson hasn’t replaced Hermione for me after all. She gave me the opportunity to be Hermione as I think Hermione really is. Not famous, not glamorous, not pretty. Clever, bolshy, afraid of disobeying the authorities, ultimately concerned for things beyond what the average person can be bothered to care about. K, so I didn’t get the lovable ginger into the bargain. But in the wise words of Caitlin Moran, mehwhevs.

I do sometimes like to imagine, though, what life would be like if our situations had been reversed.

EW is from Oxford, or thereabouts. I’m from Cambridge. EW went off to the US to study, but came back to Oxford for a term or so. Maybe I’d have done the same at Cambridge. I wouldn’t have gone to school where I did, though, so the chances I would have learned – eg – Latin – are probably not high. So I wouldn’t have studied Classics. Maybe I’d have done English, or Art History… and so on. I think I would have been disappointingly not-flawlessly-attractive, not elfin or svelte or any of the things that EW manages to be. I’m fairly sure filming schedules would have been rocked – and I might have been dropped entirely – when my sister was very ill, when I was around fourteen, and again when I was seventeen. Maybe I’d have been the girl who used to play Hermione Granger. The one who left before they got famous.

I still think I’m more like HG than EW ever was, though. So props to EW for having to do more of this whole ‘acting’ malarkey.

I’ll never be Emma Watson. But, equally, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being Hermione Granger.


One Response to “The time I was nearly Hermione Granger”

  1. Jeyna Grace February 20, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    HP characters are very relatable, thats why the series connects so well with readers.

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