Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson (born 15 April 1990) is a British actress, model, and activist. Born in Paris and brought up in Oxfordshire, Watson attended the Dragon School and trained as an actress at the Oxford branch of Stagecoach Theatre Arts. She rose to prominence after landing her first professional acting role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series, having acted only in school plays previously. Watson appeared in all eight Harry Potter films from 2001 to 2011, earning worldwide fame, critical accolades, and more than £10 million.
Watson continued to work outside of the Harry Potter films, lending her voice to The Tale of Despereaux (2008) and appearing in the 2007 television adaptation of the novel Ballet Shoes. Since then, she has taken on starring roles in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and The Bling Ring (2013), made a brief appearance as an exaggerated version of herself in This Is the End (2013), and portrayed the title character’s adopted daughter in Noah (2014). In 2017, she portrayed Belle in a live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.
From 2011 to 2014, Watson split her time between working on film projects and continuing her education, studying at Brown University and Worcester College, Oxford and graduating from Brown with a bachelor’s degree in English literature in May 2014. Her modelling work has included campaigns for Burberry and Lancôme. As a fashion consultant, she helped create a line of clothing for People Tree. She was honoured by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2014, winning for British Artist of the Year. That same year, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and helped launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe, which calls for men to advocate gender equality.
Watson was born in Paris, France, the daughter of English lawyers Jacqueline Luesby and Chris Watson. Watson lived in Paris until the age of five. Her parents separated when she was young; following their divorce, Watson moved back to England to live with her mother in Oxfordshire while spending weekends at her father’s house in London. Watson has stated that she speaks some French, though “not as well” as she used to. After moving to Oxford with her mother and brother, she attended the Dragon School in Oxford, remaining there until 2003. From the age of six, she wanted to become an actress, and trained at the Oxford branch of Stagecoach Theatre Arts, a part-time theatre school where she studied singing, dancing, and acting.
By the age of ten, Watson had performed in various Stagecoach productions and school plays, including Arthur: The Young Years and The Happy Prince, but she had never acted professionally before the Harry Potter series. Following the Dragon School, Watson moved on to Headington School. While on film sets, she and her peers were tutored for up to five hours a day. In June 2006, she took GCSE school examinations in ten subjects, achieving eight A* and two A grades.
1999–2003: Beginnings and breakthrough
In 1999, casting began for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (released as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States), the film adaptation of British author J. K. Rowling‘s best-selling novel. Casting agents found Watson through her Oxford theatre teacher, and producers were impressed by her confidence. After eight auditions, producer David Heyman told Watson and fellow applicants Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint that they had been cast for the roles of the schoolfriends Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, respectively. Rowling supported Watson from her first screen test.
The release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 was Watson’s debut screen performance. The film broke records for opening-day sales and opening-weekend takings and was the highest-grossing film of 2001. Critics praised the performances of the three leads, often singling out Watson for particular acclaim; The Daily Telegraph called her performance “admirable”, and IGN said she “stole the show”. Watson was nominated for five awards for her performance in Philosopher’s Stone, winning the Young Artist Award for Leading Young Actress.
A year later, Watson again starred as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second instalment of the series. Reviewers praised the lead actors’ performances. The Los Angeles Times said Watson and her peers had matured between films, while The Times criticised director Chris Columbus for “under-employing” Watson’s hugely popular character. Watson received an Otto Award from the German magazine Bravo for her performance.
2004–2011: Continued success with Harry Potter and other roles
In 2004, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was released. Watson was appreciative of the more assertive role Hermione played, calling her character “charismatic” and “a fantastic role to play”. Although critics panned Radcliffe’s performance, labelling him “wooden”, they praised Watson; The New York Times lauded her performance, saying “Luckily Mr. Radcliffe’s blandness is offset by Ms. Watson’s spiky impatience. Harry may show off his expanding wizardly skills … but Hermione … earns the loudest applause with a decidedly unmagical punch to Draco Malfoy‘s deserving nose.” Although Prisoner of Azkaban proved to be the lowest-grossing Harry Potter film of the entire series, Watson’s personal performance won her two Otto Awards and the Child Performance of the Year award from Total Film.
With Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), both Watson and the Harry Potter film series reached new milestones. The film set records for a Harry Potter opening weekend, a non-May opening weekend in the US, and an opening weekend in the UK. Critics praised the increasing maturity of Watson and her teenage co-stars; The New York Times called her performance “touchingly earnest”. For Watson, much of the humour of the film sprang from the tension among the three lead characters as they matured. She said, “I loved all the arguing. … I think it’s much more realistic that they would argue and that there would be problems.” Nominated for three awards for Goblet of Fire, Watson won a bronze Otto Award. Later that year, Watson became the youngest person to appear on the cover of Teen Vogue, an appearance she reprised in August 2009. In 2006, Watson played Hermione in The Queen’s Handbag, a special mini-episode of Harry Potter in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II‘s 80th birthday.
The fifth film in the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was released in 2007. A huge financial success, the film set a record worldwide opening-weekend gross of $332.7 million. Watson won the inaugural National Movie Award for Best Female Performance. As the fame of the actress and the series continued, Watson and fellow Harry Potter co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint left imprints of their hands, feet and wands in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on 9 July 2007.
By July 2007, Watson’s work in the Harry Potter series was said to have earned her more than £10 million, and she acknowledged she would never have to work for money again. In March 2009, she was ranked 6th on the Forbes list of “Most Valuable Young Stars”, and in February 2010, she was named as Hollywood’s highest paid female star, having earned an estimated £19 million in 2009.
Despite the success of Order of the Phoenix, the future of the Harry Potter franchise became surrounded in doubt, as all three lead actors were hesitant to sign on to continue their roles for the final two episodes. Radcliffe eventually signed for the final films on 2 March 2007, but Watson was considerably more hesitant. She explained that the decision was significant, as the films represented a further four-year commitment to the role, but eventually conceded that she “could never let [the role of] Hermione go”, signing for the role on 23 March 2007.
Watson’s first non-Potter role was the 2007 BBC film Ballet Shoes, an adaptation of the novel of the same title by Noel Streatfeild. The film’s director, Sandra Goldbacher, commented that Watson was “perfect” for the starring role of aspiring actress Pauline Fossil: “She has a piercing, delicate aura that makes you want to gaze and gaze at her.” Ballet Shoes was broadcast in the UK on Boxing Day 2007 to an audience of 5.7 million viewers, to mixed reviews.
Watson also lent her voice to the role of Princess Pea in the animated film The Tale of Despereaux, a children’s comedy starring Matthew Broderick, with Harry Potter co-star Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid) also starring in the film. The Tale of Despereaux was released in December 2008 and grossed $87 million worldwide.
Principal photography for the sixth Harry Potter film began in late 2007, with Watson’s part being filmed from 18 December to 17 May 2008. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince premiered on 15 July 2009, having been delayed from November 2008. With the lead actors now in their late teens, critics were increasingly willing to review them on the same level as the rest of the film’s all-star cast, which the Los Angeles Times described as “a comprehensive guide to contemporary UK acting”. The Washington Post felt Watson to have given “[her] most charming performance to date”, while The Daily Telegraph described the lead actors as “newly liberated and energised, eager to give all they have to what’s left of the series”. In December 2008, Watson stated she wanted to go to university after she completed the Potter series.
Watson’s filming for the final instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, began on 18 February 2009 and ended on 12 June 2010. For financial and scripting reasons, the original book was divided into two films which were shot consecutively. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 was released in November 2010 while the second film was released in July 2011.
She also appeared in a music video for One Night Only, after meeting lead singer George Craig at the 2010 Winter/Summer Burberry advertising campaign. The video, “Say You Don’t Want It“, was screened on Channel 4 on 26 June 2010 and released on 16 August. In her first post-Harry Potter film, Watson appeared in 2011’s My Week with Marilyn as Lucy, a wardrobe assistant who is flirted with by the main character, Colin Clark, and has a few dates with him.
In The Bling Ring (2013), Watson stars as Nicki. The film is based on the real-life Bling Ring robberies, with Watson playing a fictionalised version of Alexis Neiers, a television personality who was one of seven teenagers involved in the robberies. While the film mostly received mixed reviews, critics gave almost unanimous praise for Watson’s portrayal of Nicki in the film. Watson also had a supporting role in the apocalyptic comedy This Is the End (2013), in which she, Seth Rogen, James Franco and many others played “exaggerated versions of themselves” and Watson memorably dropped the “f-bomb“. She said she could not pass up the opportunity to make her first comedy and “work with some of the best comedians … in the world right now”.
In June 2012, Watson was confirmed for the role as Ila in Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah, which began filming the following month, and was released in March 2014. In March 2013, it was reported that Watson was in negotiations to star as the title character in a live-action Disney adaptation of Cinderella. Kenneth Branagh was attached to direct the adaptation, while Cate Blanchett had reportedly agreed to play the evil stepmother. Watson was offered the role, but turned it down because she did not resonate with the character.
Watson was attached in 2012 to the role of Emma Forrest in a film adaptation of her memoir Your Voice in My Head. At the time, Harry Potter director David Yates was attached. In a May 2013 interview, it appeared that Watson was no longer attached as the film’s star. Stanley Tucci stated that the role would instead be played by Emily Blunt. However, by September 2013, it was confirmed that Watson was once again involved in the production in the role of Forrest and that filming would begin in November that year with a new director, Francesca Gregorini.
As of June 2013, Watson is set to work with Harry Potter producer David Heyman for her next film Queen of the Tearling, based on a yet-to-be-released book trilogy. She will lead the film as heroine Kelsea Glynn as well as being an executive producer. Warner Bros. will distribute the film. It was reported in September 2013 that Watson would star in While We’re Young, the film adaptation of Adena Halpern‘s 2010 novel 29, which focuses on a young-at-heart grandmother who would rather spend time with her granddaughter (Watson) than her daughter. The film was directed by Stephen Chbosky, with whom Watson had collaborated on The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
In October 2013, Watson was chosen as the Woman of the Year by British GQ. That same month she was one of two British actors to land atop a readers’ poll of the sexiest movie stars of 2013, beating Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Lawrence for the actresses’ title in an online poll of more than 50,000 film fans. Benedict Cumberbatch took the men’s vote.
Watson joined Judi Dench, Robert Downey Jr., Mike Leigh, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Mark Ruffalo as recipients of the 2014 Britannia Awards, presented on 30 October in Los Angeles. Watson won for British Artist of the Year and dedicated her award to Millie, her pet hamster who died as Watson filmed Philosopher’s Stone. 2015 releases in which Watson starred include two thriller films; first Colonia, co-starring Daniel Brühl and Michael Nyqvist; and second Regression by Alejandro Amenábar, alongside Ethan Hawke and her Harry Potter colleague David Thewlis. Both received generally negative reviews.
She played Belle in the 2017 live-action Disney adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, opposite Dan Stevens as the Beast. She sang in the film for the first time, which she has called “terrifying in and of itself”. In 2015, she signed up to star opposite Tom Hanks in the film adaptation of David Eggers‘s novel The Circle as Mae Holland, a young tech worker who takes a job at a powerful Internet corporation only to find herself in a perilous situation concerning privacy, surveillance and freedom. The film, directed by James Ponsoldt, is scheduled for release on April 28, 2017.
In February 2016, Watson announced she was taking a year-long break from acting. She planned to spend the time on her “personal development” and her women’s rights work.
Modelling and fashion
In 2005, Watson began her modelling career with a photo shoot for Teen Vogue and was the youngest star to grace its cover. Three years later, the British press reported that Watson was to replace Keira Knightley as the face of the fashion house Chanel, but this was denied by both parties. In June 2009, following several months of rumours, Watson confirmed that she would be partnering with Burberry as the face of their Autumn/Winter 2009 campaign, for which she received an estimated six-figure fee. She also appeared in Burberry’s 2010 Spring/Summer campaign alongside her brother Alex, musicians George Craig and Matt Gilmour, and model Max Hurd. In February 2011, Watson was awarded the Style Icon award from British Elle by Dame Vivienne Westwood. Watson continued her involvement in fashion advertising when she announced she had been chosen as the face of Lancôme in March 2011.
In September 2009, Watson announced her involvement with People Tree, a Fair Trade fashion brand. Watson worked as a creative advisor for the company to create a spring line of clothing, which was released in February 2010; the range featured styles inspired by southern France and London. The collection, described by The Times as “very clever” despite their “quiet hope that [she] would become tangled at the first hemp-woven hurdle”, was widely publicised in magazines such as Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and People. Watson, who was not paid for the collaboration, admitted that competition for the range was minimal, but argued that “Fashion is a great way to empower people and give them skills; rather than give cash to charity you can help people by buying the clothes they make and supporting things they take pride in”; adding, “I think young people like me are becoming increasingly aware of the humanitarian issues surrounding fast fashion and want to make good choices but there aren’t many options out there.” Watson continued her involvement with People Tree, resulting in the release of a 2010 Autumn/Winter collection.
After leaving school, Watson took a gap year to film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows beginning in February 2009, but said she intended to continue her studies and later confirmed that she had chosen Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. In March 2011, after 18 months at the university, Watson announced that she was deferring her course for “a semester or two”, though she attended Worcester College, Oxford during the 2011–12 academic year as a “visiting student”.
Watson told Ellen DeGeneres just before graduation that it took five years to finish instead of four because, due to her acting work, she “ended up taking two full semesters off”. On 25 May 2014, she graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. In 2013, she became certified to teach yoga and meditation. As part of this certification, she attended a week-long meditation course at a Canadian facility, in which residents are not allowed to speak, in order “to figure out how to be at home with myself”. She told Elle Australia that an uncertain future meant finding “a way to always feel safe and at home within myself. Because I can never rely on a physical place.”
Women’s rights work
Watson has promoted education for girls, visiting Bangladesh and Zambia to do so. In July 2014, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. In September that year, an admittedly nervous Watson delivered an address at UN Headquarters in New York City to launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe, which calls for men to advocate for gender equality. In that speech she said she began questioning gender-based assumptions at age eight when she was called “bossy” (a trait she has attributed to her being a “perfectionist”) whilst boys were not, and at 14 when she was “sexualised by certain elements of the media”. Watson’s speech also called feminism “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” and declared that the perception of “man-hating” is something that “has to stop”. Watson later said she received threats within 12 hours of making the speech, which left her “raging. … If they were trying to put me off [of doing this work], it did the opposite”. In 2015, Malala Yousafzai told Watson she decided to call herself a feminist after hearing Watson’s speech.
Also in September, Watson made her first country visit as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador to Uruguay where she gave a speech highlighting the need for women’s political participation. In December, the Ms. Foundation for Women named Watson its Feminist Celebrity of 2014 following an online poll. Watson also gave a speech about gender equality in January 2015, at the World Economic Forum‘s annual winter meeting.
Watson took the top spot on the AskMen “Top 99 Outstanding Women 2015” list on the strength of having “thrown her back” into women’s rights issues. The day after she turned 25, Watson placed number 26 on the TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people; her first-ever appearance on the list. For its recap, former New York Times editor Jill Abramson noted Watson’s “gutsy, smart take on feminism” and called the effort to get men involved “refreshing”.
In January 2016, Emma Watson started a feminist Goodreads book club: Our Shared Shelf. The goal of the club is to share feminist ideas and encourage discussion on the topic. One book is selected per month and is discussed in the last week of that month. The first book to be selected was My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, who Emma Watson would later interview on 24 February at the How to: Academy in London.
Watson was criticised in March 2017 for a photograph published by Vanity Fair in which her breasts are partly visible; some in the news media accused Watson of hypocrisy. Watson was confused by the backlash, arguing that feminism “is not a stick with which to beat other women”, but is instead about freedom, liberation and equality. “I really don’t see what my tits have to do with it”.