Emma Watson has insisted that she does not let ongoing press attention for being a ‘child star’ affect her career choices. The British actor will next be seen alongside Daniel Bruhl in The Colony, a gripping drama about a young woman who, in a desperate bid to find and rescue her abducted boyfriend, enters the notorious and inescapable Colonia Dignidad sect in Chile.
It didn’t take long after the first trailer was released before tabloid papers ran stories in response to scenes showing her kissing Bruhl. “It was all ‘Emma Watson! Scandalous! Really trying to push the envelope and step away from Hermione and Harry Potter!’ I’m just kissing someone, but it’s this huge deal,” she says. “I’m aware of it, but I don’t like to let the noise affect my choices because ultimately, living like that would close me off to a lot of opportunities and experiences. I’d never do anything.”
The Colony is set against the backdrop of the 1973 Chilean military coup and draws on stories from the real life Colonia Dignidad, led by child sex abuser Paul Schafer (Michael Nyqvist) and used as a torture centre under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Watson flew out to Chile to meet with members of the sect, now known as Villa Baviera. “It didn’t happen that long ago but so little is known about it. It’s crazy and definitely disturbing,” she says. “There was a strong, pervasive atmosphere. Even if I’d spoken to no-one, just being around the buildings and knowing what the functions of the rooms were was a pretty intense experience.”
Watson was drawn to the lead role of Lena after finding her relatable and her bravery compelling. “She’s an air hostess, an everyday woman,” she says, explaining that it was the women in her life who inspired her while filming for the part. “I drew on the women I’ve met personally in my life, in whom I’ve seen her kind of resolve and strength, a belief in themselves and what they’re doing which allows them to do extraordinary things.”
The Colony features plenty of nail-biting moments, with some of the most harrowing involving violence against women, an issue close to Watson’s heart in her role as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. “I think it’s one in four women who will experience a form of violence in their lifetime,” she says. “It’s not talked about enough how pervasive it is. It’s become the norm that women feel afraid walking alone, whether that’s at night or whenever. I think it’s sad that we live in a society where women don’t feel safe.”
Next year will see Watson take the lead role as Belle in Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. She knew all the words to the songs as a child and now gets to fulfil every girl’s dream in a surefire box office smash, judging by the recent success of Cinderella and The Jungle Book. “I loved that she was this feisty heroine whose whole life wasn’t about marrying the most handsome guy in the village,” Watson says of her character. “Belle wants to read, she wants to go on adventures and be her own woman, her own person. She was one of my first tastes of feminism, so it’s pretty cool to play her now.”