Saturday, November 29, 2008

'Harry Potter' actor Tom Felton

Tom Felton is a gentleman: he is definitely intelligent and wonderful to speak to; he will gamely put up with an extremely poor computer-to-phone connection; and, when the money in your Skype account runs out, disconnecting the two of you, and you must scramble hysterically to add more money to the account so that you can then call him back, he will answer the phone and resume the conversation without a fuss. Here we discuss his reprisal of the role of Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, his performance in an independent film called The Disappeared, and his music. Yes, his music. Confused? Intrigued? Read the interview.

Hey, Tom?
Hello! How—I can’t hear you that well.

I’m sorry, say again?
I can’t hear you that well. We’ll do our best!

Oh, okay—can you hear me now?
Yes, I can hear you.

Okay, let’s get started. First of all, I wanted to talk about your music before anything else.
Okay, sure.

So, recently you’ve been putting up songs on YouTube, on iTunes, under the handle Feltbeats—
Yeah, yeah.

Just—how did that come about?
Well the long and short of it is, I’ve been trying these out for a couple of years now, and a few of my friends moved away and to keep them in the loop of new songs, I posted them on YouTube under a different name, and once people started hearing it, people I knew started distributing it in their own fashion and it became relatively successful after a girl I know put it on iTunes and a portion of it—we put the money toward [unintelligible]. Nothing’s been set at the moment, but…

I noticed that the first song you put on YouTube, “Time Isn’t Healing”, now has backing tracks on iTunes. So you’ve been developing your music as you go along, I assume.
Yeah, I have.

So, is this entirely a solo project, or have you been collaborating with other people, or…?
Do I collaborate, did you say?

Yeah, have you been collaborating, or is this all based on you?
At the moment it’s pretty much a one-man band, but I’d like to collaborate, and I’d like to develop the songs further. But at the moment I’m doing it as a hobby, I’m not doing it as a financial venture. I’m not looking to make a pop career out of it or anything like that. At the moment it’s just a bit of fun, and hopefully in years to come it can be something that I can contribute back into music somehow, but just a bit of fun at the moment.

Well, you’re very talented, and it’s great to see you embarking on another sort of endeavor.
Well, sure, thank you very much, I appreciate the comment. It’s something that I do for fun. I wouldn’t want my rent being paid to be relied on me writing a good song, because that’s not the way that it should be done.

So, you said before that even before you started with Feltbeats you’d been playing guitar for a couple of years, right? How did you first get into music to begin with?
Um, I have to really think about this one, actually. You know, I was really interested in some different contents of music, and I went to Africa for my 18th birthday, and there was a little girl out there that we met and we played Jack Johnson for her in the car and pretty much ever since I heard that CD I’ve been playing guitar.

You went to Africa for your eighteenth birthday? …Hello?

Hi. Can you hear me?
No, sorry, go on.

No, you mentioned that you went to Africa for your 18th birthday?
Yeah, that’s right. It was amazing. It was just me and my brother for ten days just looking at animals and visiting different towns and having a real experience in the country. It was a great trip.

Yeah, and you get to travel all sorts of places, especially with Harry Potter, I’m sure—
Yeah, sure.

So are there any other places in particular that have just blown you away? Or, I guess, that you would like to go to?
Sure. I’d like to go to France, or a lot of Europe in general. I went to Venice not so long ago, and Venice is a town like I’ve never been to, like no other. I think every person has to go to Venice at least once.

What about… well, I imagine that you’ve been to New York, and the big cities in the States, as well.
Yeah, I’ve been to New York City, once, anyway—the premiere, the first one, and it was very nice. I plan on going back there in November, as well.

You should definitely come and check out Brooklyn next time you’re in New York. As a Brooklyn resident, I felt obliged to say that.
Okay, fair enough!

So, by the way, you also have a new movie coming out that’s not Harry Potter or anything. It’s called The Disappeared, right?
Yeah, that’s right. It’s a very small British film in between this and the last Harry Potter film. I don’t think it’s got a major release just yet, and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to make it to the States, but it was just fun filming it, and nice to see the other end of the finance world when it comes to filming.

Right. And the Harry Potter series wasn’t your very start, it was—
No, I’d done a couple of films before that.

So this was sort of a return to branching out and doing other films, I would imagine.
Sure, it was really nice to sort of see how the real world works, if that makes sense, because Warner Brothers has extensive time and extensive money, while this other company doesn’t, and it’s quite contrasting to see the style of filming between the two, and it was great fun and it was a nice contrast from Harry Potter.

So, could you talk about what the film is about and about your character in the film?
Yeah, his name is Simon and he’s best friends with one of the main characters, with the central role, and, again, it’s quite contrasting from Harry Potter, he’s very normal, really, and there’s not a lot of acting involved, it was more or less just being yourself, so again, that was very different to Harry Potter.

Yeah. It’s certainly quite a departure from the Harry Potter series, although I guess pretty much anything would be, because it’s such a singular experience.
Yeah, yeah. Very true. Anything would really be a bit of a contrast to Draco, though, because he’s quite unique character.

So, actually, let’s talk about Harry Potter now. The sixth one is coming out, and in this one Draco is a lot more important to the plot than he has been in previous books.
Sure, yeah, he’s quite a central role to the plot in this one, I think.

And I think what’s interesting is that we get to kind of see another side of him.
Sure, completely, completely. I think in the previous he’s been quite two dimensional. In this film another dimension really comes out. I think he’s very keen to play sort of the evil Harry, if that makes sense, the Chosen One, if you will, but you see it unfold, and he doesn’t quite have the courage and strength to become Harry.

Yeah, I actually think that Draco is one of the more complex characters in the series—because Harry views him so negatively, we only really see one side of him in the books until Harry himself sees more.
Sure, sure. The long and short of it, from my point of view, is that there’s—

Hello? [various obscenities are uttered; we have been disconnected]

* * *

[After ten frantic, hysterical minutes spent obtaining more Skype funds, I dial Tom again; he answers]

Hi, Tom. I’m so sorry. We got disconnected!
Oh, no, it’s fine, it’s fine! Not to worry, not to worry.

So I’d like to continue with what you were—oh, and now the connection sounds better! This is great!
Yeah, it sounds a lot better! Thank god for that!

I know!
The first time it was sort of like a strange blur! I couldn’t really hear anything, but this sounds much better. Now we can have a decent conversation.

Yes, yes. Finally.
Good, good, good. Finally, yeah. I think I was rambling on about… oh, yes, [Draco's] vulnerability, and how there’s a completely different side of him [in Half-Blood Prince] that hasn’t really been exposed in years previous. Obviously, he’s been given an actual chance for depth, say, whereas before he was always sort of an annoying, slimy git, but in the back of the classroom. But in that respect I had to take a lot more sort of gentle and soft approach to how he might deal with his task.

We also get to see that he’s not doing what he is doing for Voldemort so much as for his family.
Completely, yeah. Sure. But it’s all in the eyes of his father, isn’t it, really? Normally it’s locked away, but now he feels like he’s the man of the house and he needs to sort of represent the Malfoy Manor to the fullest, really, and, yeah, he’s not built from the same stuff as young Harry is. He’s not cut from the same cloth, by any means, and he certainly can’t hold his nerve when he needs to.

Yeah. What sort of relationship do you think he has with his father?
A very interesting one, actually! I mean, mostly he idolizes his father to every last degree, and equally, I’m sure, he’s terrified of his father! He’s absolutely petrified, and I think most things are done maybe 20% fully from the fear that he might get another clock around the ear! I’d be intrigued to hear what Joanne Rowling would have to say about that.

Yeah. Certainly, he’s not the most decent person, but he has a reason, because he’s had a very different sort of upbringing.
Sure. I mean, one thing for sure is he’s not the way he is out of chance. He’s well and truly been brought up that way, if that makes sense. In this film coming up, I think the ultimate goal that David Yates [the director] and I sat down and spoke earlier on is that we want to make him to do some of these horrible things and to instigate some terrible notions but at the same time—for the audience to hate him, as they always have done, naturally, but also to feel terrifically sorry for him and to empathize with the situation that he’s in, because, in modern terms, you’ve been given a gun and told to shoot the Prime Minister or the President. He’s been given a task that, really, he’s not up for.

It’s like, “Do this or we’ll kill your family.” Essentially.
Completely. Completely, and that’s a tough time for anyone to be in, especially a child.

Yeah, absolutely. And with the progression of the films the director’s chair has been passed along to different people, so I’m sure that also affected not only your portrayal but also the understanding of the role.
Sure, completely. I mean, one thing that was quite important for me was to not think of book number seven and not think—he almost goes slightly back in number seven, back into his old sort of gittish ways—

Yeah, I know there’s sort of a lovely sort of odd scene in the Malfoy Manor in which he chooses not to rat them out—I think he chooses not to recognize young Harry, which is quite a big thing!

Nor to recognize Hermione.
Yeah, there’s quite a bit of mystery about his character from this one onward, really! I think that he definitely had a sort of revelation inside where he doesn’t quite know where he is or who he is or what he’s doing. And there’s a great scene in this one where he runs into the bathroom after hearing that he’s hurt someone and he breaks down and he can’t handle it any more, which is, again, a really interesting side to see of someone who’s such a slimy git! [laughs]

Yeah! So… [laughs] now that we have such a clear connection, I want to go back and talk about some of the things we were talking about before, back when we couldn’t hear each other.
Yeah, sure. Fire away.

So could you talk again about The Disappeared?
Yeah, The Disappeared being a small British film that we did in between this and the last Harry Potter. It’s very different from Harry Potter; it’s a bit of a sci-fi/horror, I think, or something along those lines. It’s got quite a solid script, and we shot the whole thing in around 26 days in London, which was very contrasting from the shooting experience of Harry Potter. Simon is not a central role, not too central, slightly similar to Draco’s, if that makes sense, and it was very fun shooting it. It was very interesting to see the different styles of filming, and when you only have very limited money and very limited time it adds a whole ‘nother layer to the film. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when the film is going to make major distribution or when it will go to DVD; I don’t think it’s going to be released outside the UK, unfortunately, but I’ve seen it, I saw it about three weeks ago, and it’s a good film—it’s a good film period, but considering that they made it on what they made it on—and if you compare that Harry Potter will be made for $200 million or something crazy like that, well, this film was made for under a million dollars, which is hardly anything, really, in the scheme of things. So I think what they’ve achieved for the money was amazing, but how well it will do I’m not too sure.

Right. Well, definitely also Harry Potter and a smaller film have different things that are very unique. I mean, Harry Potter is sort of a singular experience, but that is a project that by the end will have encompassed ten years!
Yeah, it’s crazy. I mean… yeah, I know for a fact you won’t ever find a job like it, without a shadow of a doubt.

I think that’s because you won’t ever find another phenomenon that’s fully like the books were.
Yeah. Well, that’s the other side of it, is that you’ll never find another story like it, you know what I mean? Even if you do find another chain of films that goes on for ten years and all the rest of it, you’ll never find—I personally don’t think you’ll find a set of stories that generally get better as they go along. I mean, usually that’s a cliché, and usually they make them worse every year, but going along with the stories, I can only hope that the films are getting better as well. So, yeah, I am pretty intrigued to see what this one will be like, because I haven’t actually watched any of the stuff while we were filming it. I mean, I would see bits of it while we were doing some sound dubbing, but other than that, I’m as much of a virgin to it as you are. So I’m looking forward to that.

Right. You know, also J.K. Rowling has created not only a brilliant set of stories but also this incredible, great, big world into which fans can just go and be fully engaged.
I know! It’s crazy. I think the fan base is one of the most unique things about the books and about the films. The one thing that always, always amazes me is the very range of age. You know, there really isn’t “an age” where Harry Potter is cool—you can be five years old—I’ve seen little kids coming up to the premieres and coming up to the studios, and I’ve seen 78-year-old-men come up to the studios and they’ve been over the moon to meet Daniel [Radcliffe] and so forth. It’s very bizarre, because usually there’s a quite clear divide as to whether it’s sort of a kid’s film or not. We really don’t fall into any category. It’s actually a film for everyone, and it seems to bring out a really fanatical side of moviegoers. I mean, not talking from too much experience, but, of the premieres I’ve been to, the Harry Potter ones have been the craziest without a doubt. [laughs] Especially in America!

Oh, yeah. And there are so many different ways to get engaged as a fan—there’s the stories, and then there’s the world…
Yeah, you can really lose yourself as a fan.

In other fandoms for other works you see fanfiction and other things, but not nearly to the extent you see it for Harry Potter.
No, by any means. No, no, exactly that. It’s a whole ‘nother world, like you say. [laughs] I think it can be quite easy for people to lose themselves.

I’ve seen people write stories pairing Draco with Hermione.
[laughs] Sort of worrying.

[laughs] Well, I’ve also seen stories where Draco’s paired with Harry. There’s everything.
[laughs] Even more worrying! [laughter] No, again, I really think it opened people’s imaginations on a whole ‘nother level, really. And it’s great, because a lot of kids now who might not have been into books and reading so much are now thinking about becoming authors themselves.

Right. Absolutely.
[Rowling]’s a great role model, and I can’t help but think that great things will come from it, and she’s inspired so many people.

It’s absolutely great that there’s been a series that has engaged so much of the world, especially when reading seems to be dying out.
Yeah, sure. No, exactly that. It’s nice to have some fresh stories, really, some fresh ideas, if that makes sense.

Yeah, absolutely. And, sure, I feel like post-Harry Potter there are more mini-phenomena in the literary world than there were before because people are getting more into books.
That’s it! The long and short of it is, they read the seven Harry Potter books and they’re looking for something else to read! I think single-handedly Jo Rowling has inspired the reading world to get reading again. I mean, obviously there are people who were reading before, but I can’t imagine the number of children who are now heavily into reading thanks to Harry Potter.

And now there’s Artemis Fowl, there’s Twilight, there are all these series that are getting a lot of attention, and they probably wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for Harry Potter.
Sure. Yeah, sure. Well, I’ve read that a lot of books and series—call it what you want to call it, “jumping on the bandwagon” or whatever—but it’s a very popular genre now and people are noticing that. And, I mean, it’s great to see any ideas that are new, and especially ones that sort of unlock kids’ imaginations. It’s a good thing.

Okay, we totally got sidetracked—which is great. I love getting sidetracked. But I wanted to ask you about your reaction to working on such a more intimate set than the Harry Potter set.
Well, time was one thing. I remember the first day on Disappeared they did a little line up to make sure we were all sorted in the camera, and we sort of did a rehearsal, or what I thought was a rehearsal, and at the end of that—and I was shocked, we hadn’t even… they did just about anything they could to save time, which was not completely different from Harry Potter, but with Harry Potter you have all the time in the world to learn your lines and so forth, and at the end of the day if you mess it up you can just redo it. That’s not a problem. Whereas all these smaller films, they’re very keen to get it right the first time. Which adds another layer of energy to the set, if you know what I mean.

Okay. So, taking advantage again of the new clear connection, I want you to talk again about FeltBeats.
Yeah, well, I think you actually asked me, “Why ‘Feltbeats’?” [laughs] That was just a nickname that was given to me about five years ago by some friends, and that’s what my friends know me as online.

[laughs] That’s great.
It was supposed to be an alias where people don’t know that it’s me, but somehow on YouTube that didn’t go down too well. I think I got fairly recognized fairly quickly up there. And then I got outed. But, other than that, it’s not really… I don’t mind. People have been very complimentary, and honestly, I’m only doing it for fun. It’s nice to be able to share it and to hear comments back, whether positive or negative. It’s nice to hear other people’s thoughts.

And it’s a different medium, which can be good, because it’s a break from acting but a different way to be engaged creatively.
Yeah, completely. I mean, I like to think I’m quite a creative person; it’s just one way of releasing it, really! I mean, even more so than anything else, because when I’m given six strings and a pen and pad it’s a completely open palate, because you can do anything you like. There are no lines to follow, or directions. You can do as you like. There’s something I like about that.

I know that you write your own songs, so it’s so much more a product of yourself than your acting is because you create it all organically.
Yeah. Well, that’s the scary side of it, because I find that if you’re acting and somebody says, “I don’t like that,” you can always say, “Well… I was told to do that!” [laughs] Whereas if it’s something that’s completely your idea, you really have to face the flames if other people don’t like it. But, like I say, I’m not trying to get signed or trying to get a record deal. It’s just for fun, and it was originally so my friends abroad could keep up with my music and keep up with what I’ve been writing and so forth, and obviously it’s turned into something a bit more than that. But I’m happy to share if people are friendly enough to listen, so no complaints!

Right. And you did say that the reason you put your music on iTunes was to—to save up for a more professional recording? Is that what you said earlier?
No, no, no! I was talking about making it a charitable donation, really. I’d like to give back to where I came from, if that makes sense?

Okay. Yeah. It was impossible to hear!
Nothing’s set in stone yet, so I don’t want to advertise it too much or anything, but actually a charity in America. Colorado. In Boulder. A couple of people—I went out there last year and they helped me a lot musically, and they own a charity, and I’d be happy to help them along their way.

What kind of charity is it?
It’s called There with Care, and it’s a foundation that helps terminally ill children and their families. And the lady who owns it was the executive producer on the first three Harry Potter films, and she gave up her life as sort of a high executive to start her own charity up, and she’s been tremendously happy since, and it’s a really genuine cause.

All right, I think we’re coming to the end. Thanks so much for doing the interview; it was great talking to you.
Yeah, great talking to you too. And good luck with everything else.

Bye, Keely! Bye.

This is the end of our interview with Tom Felton! Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince comes out in July; be sure to keep your eye out for information regarding the release of The Disappeared.


liza said...

wonderful! he sounds like a great person. an excellent songwriter too.

Anonymous said...


I love Tom

Can't WAIT for HBP.

Draco is the thing I'm most looking forward to. XD

trishia said...

sounds like he's a very great person.. hey.. how'd you contact him?

terry-evy-moon said...

Very interesting interview.

It was refeshing to read something other than his role in HP, though his opinion about Draco and the whole HP's world was really cool. To me, it is always good to know what do the actors who portray a character think of it.

He DOES sound like a nice person and ready for new challenges. I hope life has good things in store for him.

Great work!

Mary(lovelandlady69) said...

That was a great interview. Tom seems to be a very genuine kind of gentleman. I agree with him that the charity in Colorado is a good cause and he is a sweet guy for helping them. My 2 sons are special needs and they hope to someday meet him. I am a full time medical student and single mom so first thing I want to do out of med school is find out where his next premiere is and get my boys there to meet their favorite charictor. My youngest son goes to sleep when he hears Tom sing because it is soothing. Keep up the good work. and God Bless.

Lisbeth said...

Those were very interesting and intelligent questions, a very nice change from the usual small talk-interviews. Well done.

Celine Rondeaux said...

Tom IS a real gentlman isn't he! It's amazing how he is helping others! Sometimes, when actors get a taste of fame, they turn so shallow and selfish... whereas Tom and the rest of the HP cast are just as deep, amazing and simply admirable as they ever could be! I think Tom will go on to be a VERY big person in the acting industry! I haven't yet seen HP6 but will do soon... And I intend to comfort Draco when cries in it! LOL Anyway... Tom Felton is a fabulous actor and person... His singing and guitar skills continue to impress me!
Tom Felton is a sexy person with a sexy accent (especially in his singing) with even sexier hair! This is an interesting interview, thank you for it! xxx kisses xxx (To Tom aswell!)