Emma Watson Reveals Why She (Temporarily) Quit Acting: ‘I Felt a Bit Caged’
One of the most famously recognizable figures in Hollywood has become one of its most famously reclusive; in the past five years, she’s all but turned away from the institution that made her a commodity. But Emma Watson—the Harry Potter child actress turned activist, advocate, and model—has as good a reason as any for stepping away: She was tired of forfeiting creative control.
Watson has not acted since December 2018, when she wrapped filming on Greta Gerwig’s widely celebrated adaptation of Little Women. Her biggest camera-facing operation in the years since has been a 2022 self-directed ad campaign for Prada Beauty’s fragrance, Paradox. So when a reporter for the Financial Times asked, as part of an April 2023 feature, why she’d left acting behind, Watson’s response was surprisingly candid.
“I think I felt a bit caged,” she told the reporter, Alex Bilmes. “The thing I found really hard was that I had to go out and sell something that I really didn’t have very much control over. To stand in front of a film and have every journalist be able to say, ‘How does this align with your viewpoint?’ It was very difficult to have to be the face and the spokesperson for things where I didn’t get to be involved in the process.”
She continued, “I was held accountable in a way that I began to find really frustrating, because I didn’t have a voice, I didn’t have a say. And I started to realize that I only wanted to stand in front of things where if someone was going to give me flak about it, I could say, in a way that didn’t make me hate myself, ‘Yes, I screwed up. It was my decision; I should have done better.’”
It’s unclear from the interview to which specific projects Watson is referring, though it’s possible she’s referencing the Potter films themselves: After Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s numerous anti-trans remarks, Watson has spoken out in support of the trans community on multiple occasions. In an April 2022 cover story with British Vogue, she also referenced her frustration with how her role as Hermione Granger has chased her into adulthood. “I played a symbol,” she told reporter Paris Lees. “I know this, because she’s a symbol for me. I’m not [Hermione]. And I’m also not what, weirdly, my name has come to mean. Even people that are really close to me sometimes can’t let it go. Or see just me. And then sometimes I have to go, ‘No, no—I need exactly what you need. I’m just as human as you are. I’m just as insecure as you are. I struggle just as much as you struggle.’”
To be clear, Watson is not quitting acting altogether. As she told the Financial Times, she has every intention of returning to the screen, even as she pursues a master’s degree in creative writing at Oxford University. (In fact, she has plans to star in a film currently scheduled to begin production early next year.) She’s also directing a secretive music video for an undisclosed musician, about whom Watson teased, “You will definitely have heard of him.”
“I’m happy to sit and wait for the next right thing,” she told the Times. “I love what I do. It’s finding a way to do it where I don’t have to fracture myself into different faces and people. And I just don’t want to switch into robot mode any more.”
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