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Thursday 22 February 2018

Rupert Grint on 10 years of Potter magic

As the final Harry Potter film opens, Rupert Grint tells Declan Cashin about growing up on the big screen, that kiss, and life after Ron Weasley

Declan Cashin

By a conservative estimate, Rupert Grint reckons he has done 500 interviews per movie over the past 11 years of the Harry Potter franchise.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which opens today, is the eighth and final instalment, so by the time the global promotional junket is done Grint will have sat through nearly 4,000 discussions about JK Rowling's wizarding phenomenon -- and he's probably only been asked 10 different questions.

"Every film has its question that keeps coming up," he explains in an exclusive Irish interview (probably his 3,698th) with Day & Night. "With this one, it's the kiss."

Ah yes. Grint is referring to the snog between his character Ron Weasley and Emma Watson's Hermione Granger, which comes in the middle of the epic battle between Harry's allies and Lord Voldemort's forces at Hogwarts school. So let's just get it over with, shall we?

"It was a tricky one for both of us because we've watched each other grow up," he replies, to his credit, as if he'd never been asked it before. "I knew Em when she was nine. It does seem like a quite unnatural thing to be doing. I remember just leaning in and her face getting closer and closer, and just dreading it. Which is ridiculous because most guys would kill to be in that position. But, yeah, it was fine."

Grint adds that both he and Watson have been steeling themselves for their on-screen peck. "Yeah, deep down I knew it would come to this," he says. "It has slowly become quite an anticipated moment. The whole scene was never in the book. I hope fans will like it."

So there was no performance anxiety on the day? Grint smiles, and deflects with: "Hopefully, people can believe it."

The 23-year-old takes a sip of his Coke. He needs it; he looks exhausted during our chat in Claridge's Hotel in London. He's wearing a double denim combo: black jacket over navy jeans, with American flag-decorated Converse. His distinctive ginger hair looks carefully, and probably expensively, tousled.

Grint has had to shoulder more of the promotional duties this time round as leading man Daniel Radcliffe has been sequestered on Broadway, starring in the musical How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

But aside from that, this movie marks the end of an incredible and intensely demanding filmmaking journey through the world's most successful franchise that has grossed some $6.4bn globally to date.

In person, Grint -- who famously landed the role by sending in a videotape of himself doing a rap to the kids' show Newsround -- comes across as shy, speaking quietly and tentatively, all 'ums' and 'ahs', his sentences often trailing off into nothing. But it's not hard to deduce that this is a man who's only too happy to be on the home stretch.

"When I think about it all being over, it's with a mixture of sadness and relief, really," he says. "It has taken over a little bit. It has been my childhood, and will always be very special to me. I'm going to miss it, but the thought of freedom is very appealing."

Reflecting on the experience from this vantage point, does he regret his involvement with Harry Potter?

"I don't think so," he replies. "I think when you become part of something like this at such a young age there is a degree of sacrifice, like leaving school at 11 basically, and not really going back. Whenever I went back to school briefly it was always really hard to adjust and fit in. You miss out on all the school trips and in-jokes. I found that quite difficult. But I don't think I'd do anything differently. I've had a lot of fun. I never had any doubt that I wasn't going to come back every year."

I mention how at the end of filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the main cast all got tattoos to mark the occasion. Have Grint, Radcliffe and Watson any similar ideas?

"No, we haven't spoken about tattoos," he says, smiling. "I'm not sure how we could mark it. It'd be nice to do something."

A holiday together, perhaps?

"We've spent so much time together over the years that the thought of another few weeks ... " He trails off laughing.

Would they start killing each other?

"I don't know, it'd be very interesting," he says. "I've never been in that kind of environment with them."

The day before we meet, Radcliffe had been in the papers talking about giving up alcohol after becoming too reliant on it to enjoy himself (Grint smiles when I mention that). Watson, meanwhile, has had her love life, college education and career decisions endlessly analysed in the press.

Having grown up in the spotlight, do the three of them ever think they're entitled to a phase where they can just get stupidly drunk, make mistakes, and mess up like everyone else their age? It must be incredibly frustrating to have their every move pored over by the media?

"We've never been so restricted ... " He pauses, before continuing. "I've always felt, personally, that I could do whatever I want. Of course, there is responsibility when you're part of this franchise. You can't go completely crazy -- which was never something I planned to do anyway. We're so busy most of the time that there was never much time to get up to anything."

So he's never felt that he's had to rein in his behaviour on a night out with friends? "No, as long as you're slightly aware and slightly cautious," he replies. "I've had some crazy nights but it's part of growing up."

What about when he meets people, be they potential new friends or possible girlfriends: does he find it hard to trust people, or is he constantly questioning their motives?

"You do analyse everyone, really," he says. "It's hard to entirely trust people. That can be a little weird, but you can't let it get you down or stop meeting new people. I think I can still be quite open with people."

As for what comes next, Grint's IMDB profile says he has four movies coming up over the next year, including the WWII drama Comrade. However, with ¤33m in the bank from his years as Ron, it's not like Grint needs to work ever again. Such a fortune could be seen as either a hugely demotivational force, or a safety net that allows its owner to take a risk. So what does money mean to Grint?

He shifts in his seat. "I have quite a strange relationship with money, really. At age 11, money isn't really a big thing at all. I never thought about being rich. Then suddenly you have all this money, and it doesn't seem like it's real. I've never seen it. I don't know where it is. It's weird, kind of like a fantasy.

"I don't think I'll ever retire. I still have ambitions. I love being on set, and I want to do more movies. I'm very lucky to have that cushion, but I'd like to keep going. I like testing my capabilities."

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 opens today; see review page 8

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