Since she finished filming Harry Potter three years ago, Emma Watson has been experimenting. She's got two movies opening this week: In This is the End, she plays an axe-wielding, foul-mouthed version of herself; in The Bling Ring, she plays a celebrity-robbing, stuck-up Southern California teen. Not exactly what we've come to expect from the English girl who charmed the world as the frizzy-haired, ambitious Hermione. But Emma Watson is impossible to pin down—now 23, she's growing up by going back to her fantasy roots, with a new project billed as a female Game of Thrones.
Variety's Justin Kroll reports that Watson is re-teaming with Potter producer David Heyman for a Warner Bros. franchise—Warner Bros. really likes its franchises these days—called Queen of the Tearling, based on a yet to be released series of books inspired by, of all things, a speech by then-candidate Obama in 2007. The writer of Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen, a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, made headlines back in February when HarperCollins gave her a seven-figure deal for the trilogy, which is set to be released starting next year. Per Variety's Kroll, the story focuses on Watson's 19-year-old heroine and is set "three centuries after an environmental catastrophe when a malevolent Red Queen holds considerable power." For Watson, the project brings her back to the studio and the genre that catapulted her to fame, and after straying into an experimental phase, Tearling might just make her even more famous—and, you know, rich.
The $7 billion Harry Potter film franchise came to a close in 2011, and Watson has quite notably stayed away from any lands of magic, with roles in smaller films that have allowed her to broaden her range. She had a small part in My Week With Marilyn, and then returned as a leading lady, as a Rocky Horror-loving, beautifully eccentric American teen in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
The Bling Ring, it seems, is the biggest step away from her image—and it's done well for her, in glowing reviews. Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly said: "Emma Watson does a remarkable job of demonstrating that glassy-eyed insensitivity need not be stupid." Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter said that it's "fun to see Watson departing so decisively from her smartypants Hermione identity." And that departure was a conscious choice: In an interview with Tavi Gevinson of Rookie, Watson said, "[S]ometimes I've felt a little constrained by that idea of who I'm meant to be. Every article that's published about me has some reference to Hogwarts or Hermione or magic or 'What would Harry and Ron say?'" (Sorry about this one, Emma!)
Now, as she's growing up, in a way only this young millionaire with legitimate range can, Watson appears to be allowing herself back into the mysterious and bankable world of large-scale endeavors, stretching the meaning of fantasy in even more directions. She'll be in Darren Aronofsky's Noah, and a Guillermo Del Toro Beauty and the Beast project. Now, this Tearling franchise—a cool sounding project that may have a Y.A.-ish bent. We have one question, though: What will happen to her post-Brown theater career?