What Is Emma Watson Doing in My Week with Marilyn?

By , Contributor

Emma Watson in My Week with Marilyn

When you figure out who gets cast in which movies—and why—you get insights into the movie business, and the all-important star-making machinery. That’s why in the past I’ve wondered why Owen Wilson was in Midnight in Paris, and why Sarah Silverman was in The Muppet Movie.

Now I’m wondering why Emma Watson is in My Week with Marilyn. Let’s remember that after the last Harry Potter movie came out, she was the #1 star in the world. When you’re the #1 star in the world, directors and producers fall all over themselves to cast you in whatever movie you’d like to be in. You get dozens of scripts per week, with guaranteed financing, choice of director and co-star, and all the rest of the perks that you might like.

And yet here we have Emma Watson, a major star with proven box office appeal, in My Week with Marilyn, and not even in a supporting role. She plays the sometime love interest of the star, and she is predictably and quickly pushed aside by Marilyn. Emma has maybe 20 lines, and is never called upon to do any serious acting.

When Emma let Alex Irwin, her agent at Markham, Froggart and Irwin in London, cast her in such a minor part, it was in effect an admission that she hasn’t yet found herself. After all, she and Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint became very rich and very famous when they were still in their early teens. Millions and millions of people watched them grow up on screen, and formed close attachments to them both as performers and as people. Only the Beatles experienced anything comparable, and now that the Harry Potter series is complete, Emma, Daniel, and Rupert are in the situation of John, Paul, George, and Ringo in the early '70s. They are rich and famous, and always will be. Yet they don’t have an answer to the question: Now what?

Emma’s first response to that question was to cut her hair, so that she would look like Twiggy, and not Hermione. In her short hair, she made some breathtaking posters for Burberry, and although modeling surely brought her a lot of money, it did not bring her answer to that nagging question: Now what?

So she took a minor role in an award-worthy movie with some terrific British performers (Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench) and she probably learned a lot from watching them on the set. (A grande dame of the British theater like Judi Dench could be a wonderful mentor for her.)

And what about the future? Well, she’ll always be Hermione, and she can’t do anything about that. So it may take a while before she figures out who else she can be. And although Emma surely doesn’t need our sympathy, she will have the tough job of figuring out who else she can beside Hermione while everybody is watching

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