The adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes out this Fall, and I took a trip to the set last year to observe a day of filming and interview the cast. The movie tells the story of a teen, Charlie (Logan Lerman), who has a hard time fitting in until he finds a special group of friends. Emma Watson plays Sam, a high school senior who gets close to Charlie but struggles with her own issues. When I and a few reporters chatted with Watson about the film, she talked about why she wanted to play Sam so much, moving on after Harry Potter, and how director Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the book, envisioned her as Sam before she signed on.
What attracted you to this role and this story?
Emma Watson: I'd been reading scripts after the fourth Harry Potter movie around the age of 15, 16 and just didn't read anything that I really loved instantly . . . it's almost not that I had lost interest, but my agent was starting to get stressed. I wasn't really into anything and then I read Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it's so beautifully written and so funny. I was incredibly moved by it and just instantly knew A) that the movie had to be made and B) that I had to play Sam. I really wanted to play Sam, and was just really drawn to her, so when I met with Stephen, we just instantly clicked and it felt like I was meeting an old friend. Then I met with Logan, and I knew he was the perfect Charlie, and it was just a really obvious, obvious choice for me.
How did you get your American accent to play Sam?
EW: I worked with a dialect coach before the movie. I'd rather give a really good performance — obviously I'm hoping that my accent is going to be perfect — but I kind of didn't want that to take over too much. My other castmates have been incredibly supportive; if I ever need to check anything, I'm just like, "Say this," and then they'll say it and I'll be like, "OK, thanks," and that will be it. So, it's been easy.
Find out what else Watson had to say about Perks, like her favorite scenes and the '90s fashion, after the jump.
What scene did you enjoy filming the most?
EW: There's a scene where Patrick and Sam dance at homecoming, and I would say that, but I was too terrified really to enjoy it, because I had to get up in front of 300 extras and do a two-minute — well actually, it wasn't two minutes, more like 30 seconds, I think it just felt that long — crazy, full-on dance, which was fun, but also terrifying.
What about the scene going through the tunnel?
EW: [It was] hands down one of the best moments of my life, definitely. Summit [the movie studio] really didn't want me to do the stunt. I was not meant to do it at all and I begged Stephen. I said, "I really, really want to do this." He was like, "Alright." I ended up doing it seven or eight times. The car was going 50 or 60 miles per hour. I had one string, but it was hands-in-the-air all the way through the tunnel coming out the other end. The first time I did it I was so emotional I cried. It was really special and beautiful, and seeing the shot of what it's going to look like, it's going to blow your mind. I don't want to "big" it up too much, but it's stunning, and Steve knew when he conceptualized it that it would be amazing, but I think it exceeded even his expectations of what a great movie moment it is.
How does your fashion style relate to Sam's, since she's a character in the 1990s?
EW: The cool thing about Sam is that she walks that line between a little bit rock-y, but then also she is a bit preppy, and she also is kind of humorous with her style a little bit as well. She kind of does a little bit of everything, she's quite eclectic. That was one of Steve's first notes, he's like, "She has great style, great attitude, great taste." So, I mean, no pressure! When I walked into costume, I was like, "Alright guys, this has got to be amazing." A lot of the clothes actually are my clothes that I brought in, so I'm actually wearing one of my grandmother's dresses, which I got altered from the '80s.
Have you read the book, and do you feel pressure to live up to it?
EW: I read the script first and then I read the book. It was so funny because I read the script and I came back to Brown and I told my roommates that I've just read this amazing script, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and my friends were like, "Oh, that's my favorite book. So jealous that you get to play Sam. If I was ever going to be in a movie, if I was ever going to play any character ever, it would be Sam." I didn't realize, but similarly to Harry Potter, the books really have this cult following, so that was really interesting, but the response that I get from people who have read the book and really identify with it is pretty intense. It's kind of amazing to be part of another movie product again that has so much love for it in the same way that Harry Potter does.
Do you feel any pressure because there is such a cult following for the book?
EW: Absolutely. I was very nervous before we started shooting. I was very nervous about the American accent, I was very nervous about the fact that the kids on this movie have had a lot of the experiences that pertained to their characters' journey and story. They grew up [here], they went to American high school, they know what prom looks like, all these little details that I had no idea about, so I was a little neurotic and my script was covered in notes about all of these American words, American slang. I was quizzing my friends about high school and prom and everything, and then Steve was just like, "Emma, this is great and everything, but you really just need to let all of that go," because he said that he saw me as Sam, and it was kind of as simple as that. I don't know what it was that he saw in me that made him so think that it was me, but when I met with him he had a book — he made a bible of what he wanted all the visuals to look like and everything. And this was before I had even met with him, before I'd accepted, and he had photographs of me all the way through this book with ideas of Sam, [so] I knew he wasn’t bullsh*tting. I knew that I was really the only person he could see as Sam, so that was a big deal for me. I guess [there's] an element of paranoia for me that directors would maybe bring me on because of the huge following Harry Potter has, or for some other reason like that, so it really meant a lot for me to know that there was no one else for this role. That was really nice to know.
What was it like going from a huge franchise like Harry Potter to a smaller film like this?
EW: It's different, but I love it. The pace is much faster, the hours and the days, it's full on. I have no time to do anything else other than basically go home, sleep, eat, shower, get ready for the next day . . . I see no differences really apart from that, just that you have to fit more into a day. I've loved it. I don't know if I want to go back. I'm pretty happy with a smaller cast and crew.