Emily Watson has never been in a Harry Potter movie — you’re thinking of Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the eight ‘Harry Potter’ movies — but that doesn’t stop people from telling Emily Watson just how much they enjoyed her performance as Hermione. In fact, according to Emily Watson, it happens all the time. To make it easier, just remember that it’s Emily Watson who has the two Oscar nominations.
Emily Watson is in ‘War Horse,’ the sure-fire Best Picture nominee about a horse named Joey and its trials and tribulations during World War I. Watson plays Rose Narracott, mother of Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) — a young man who raises a horse that is sold into military service. Watson was also in Brett Ratner’s ‘Red Dragon,’ Charlie Kaufman’s, ‘Synecdoche, New York,’ Lars Von Trier’s ‘Breaking the Waves,’ and Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ — four movies that came up during the course of this interview. Particularly the latter, a film that Watson loves (she’s even seen 30 minutes of Anderson’s next movie, ‘The Master’) and she makes no bones about her desire to work with Adam Sandler again.
So, ‘War Horse’!
Did you know the play or did they have to sell you on a movie about a horse?
I’d seen the play. I saw the play when I was eight months pregnant and virtually had to leave after about ten seconds because I was so emotional.
I didn’t leave. But something just gets to your heartstrings about this boy and his bloody horse.
Did you like the horses? Could you tell them apart?
No. I’m terrified of horses.
What are you doing in a movie called ‘War Horse’?
[Laughs] I’m not a horse person. I don’t ride; I didn’t tell Steven that. But I did have a couple scenes that the horse was in and you just have very great respect for those people and what they do.
Knowing that, I’m amazed that you’re in this movie.
I think it’s fine; it’s too late to fire you. This is a very earnest movie.
I think that’s about it’s a moment in history of a loss in innocence. I think people really believed in something that was about to be crushed.
Is this horse cursed? Bad things seem to happen to the multiple owners. If I were your character…
Get rid of the horse!
That’s the sequel.
Right, ‘Get Rid of the Horse.’
Has anyone ever said to you, “I loved you in Harry Potter”?
All of the time.
Yes. [Laughs] It’s hilarious. I just made a film in Mexico, so there’s a bit of a language barrier. I’m in the lunchroom that the film studio is in — it’s a big studio, it’s where Cameron made ‘Titanic.’ I’m in the lunchroom and these ladies, I don’t know if they’re part of the catering, come up to me and say, “Are you in the movies? What is your name? I know I know you from somewhere.” I say, “I’m Emily Watson.” “Ahh! Great job in ‘Harry Potter’!” I’m like, “Oh, OK, thank you!”
Do you ever say, “No, no, I’m the one with the Oscar nominations?”
[Laughs] No. I’m quite flattered that people think I’m 21.
Your first movie, ‘Breaking the Waves,’ was with Lars Von Trier. That’s a bit insane for a first movie.
That’s exactly the right word, “insane.”
Were you thinking, “I guess this is how all movies are made?”
I didn’t have anything to compare it with, so I really didn’t know what normal was. And I kind of got the feeling that it was a little bit off the deep end. In a way, he used my lack of skills to effect. You know, when you make a film you do take after take and you have to repeat what you did before. In that, we didn’t repeat ourselves. We didn’t have to repeat ourselves. So it didn’t matter that I didn’t have any technical know-how. Very good for actors because you get more and more and more thought into what you’re doing and there’s nothing to distract you.
One of my favorite movies is ‘Punch-Drunk Love.’
[A big smile overcomes her face] Yeah. Me, too.
Were you at all hesitant to take that role? Not with P.T. Anderson, but maybe there was a concern about this being an Adam Sandler wacky comedy?
No, I knew. Paul came to me and said, “I’m doing this film with Adam and I’d like you to be in it.” And the idea of the two of us in a room together tickled me pink. Just particularity where he was at and where I was at — we were from different planets. And I thought, what a delicious idea.
You two should do another movie together.
I’d love to! I would love to do another movie.
I think people do miss the Sandler who pushed himself like that.
Yeah. And he had an incredible work ethic. We did hundreds of takes … Well, not hundreds, but take after take after take. Adam just went at it, went at it, went at it. He completely gave over to being in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie. He gave himself over to it in a very self-effacing way. It’s lovely.
And it’s been so long since we’ve seen a Paul Thomas Anderson movie.
He has made one, I saw the first half an hour.
Of ‘The Master’?
It’s going to be incredible. I’m not going to say anything more on that. He’ll kill me!
So the first half hour already exists?
Oh, yeah. Well … they’re editing.
And you worked with Charlie Kaufman as a director on ‘Synecdoche, New York.’
That … was intense. He was like an actor on set. He led by his own sense of intensity. He had a great intensity and he sort of drew everyone into him with his intensity. He wasn’t like a kind of … [slaps hands together] leader of men directing an army, at all. He’s very intense and he draws people into him.
Was he shy?
He was. He was sort of sweet and shy. Yeah, intense and sweet and shy. You know, he’s not like a sort of big personality where he walks into the room commanding the set. He’s very appreciative of your work.
Was ‘Red Dragon’ a happy shoot?
It kinda was. Yeah. It was.
I’ve always wondered because there were two big personalities on that set: Edward Norton and Brett Ratner.
I only had one scene with Ed, in the hospital. And, yeah, I think that … I mean, Ed’s pretty intense, but Brett is the most happy-go-lucky person I’ve ever encountered in my life. He’s just accommodating in listening and making everybody feel good.
And now you do a movie with Spielberg. How does he compare to your past directors?
He’s very different in his style and his way of doing things. It’s obviously his world: you’re in Spielberg’s world. You’re on Spielberg’s set. He got his crew. He’s one of those people — and I’ve worked with a few — who are utterly compelled to tell stories. It’s like breathing. If they can’t do it, they die. Robert Altman was like that. He was just utterly compelled to get on with the next story. And you get that sense from Spielberg. And he actually hasn’t directed a film in a while. And he would just come in in the morning and he’d been awake all night worrying about how the shot was gong to work. It was just so lovely with a man of his stature.
Our time is up. If they ever make another Harry Potter, I look forward to seeing you in that.
I’m glad that wasn’t a completely stupid question.
No! It happens quite a lot.