For an entire generation of young people, Harry Potter has surely been an integral part of their childhoods. But for a very lucky few, Harry Potter literally was their childhoods. Yes, the actors who played Harry, Ron, Hermione and the other Hogwarts students actually got to grow up on the sets of the blockbuster films. Yet it can be hard looking back on your youth, no matter how magical it was. And the man who portrayed Ron, actor Rupert Grint, doesn’t like watching the old Potter films at all…
The Harry Potter books, written by J.K. Rowling, were a literary phenomenon from the moment the first one was released in 1997. And the series quickly earned itself an army of loyal fans. A movie adaptation was therefore almost inevitable, and in 1999 Warner Bros. nabbed the film rights. Production then started on what would become one of the highest-grossing movie franchises of all time.
Rowling won herself an unusual amount of control over the direction of the movies too. As the author behind a franchise worth tremendous amounts of money, she actually got final say on a lot of different things. And one of her biggest demands was that all of the actors cast were British, except in the rare cases where a character hailed from another country.
So British child actors were naturally needed to play the trio of central roles. And as you probably know, the parts of Harry, Hermione and Ron eventually went to Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, respectively. At the time, however, all three of them were more or less total unknowns. Radcliffe had appeared in the BBC’s adaptation of David Copperfield, sure, but the other two hadn’t acted in anything beyond school productions.
In fact, Grint snagged the role in an unusual, but rather charming, way. After hearing the Potter auditions mentioned on children’s TV, you see, the then-ten-year-old wannabe actor sent in a video featuring himself rapping. It began, “Hello there, my name’s Rupert Grint, I hope you like this and don’t think I stink.” And somehow it worked!
It soon became clear that the casting directors had chosen well, though. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint all, in fact, seemed to bear pretty strong resemblances to the characters as described in the books – and not just in looks. During the filming of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for instance, a homework assignment demonstrated this perfectly.
Interestingly, Alfonso Cuarón, the director of Azkaban, asked his three leading actors to write essays about their characters. Each star then ended up reacting just as the people they were portraying would have done: Watson turned in several pages; Radcliffe turned in a single page; and Grint didn’t finish his at all. Ron would have been proud.
And after the Potter series ended, this particular story became something of an urban legend. So in 2016 HuffPost asked Grint if it had really happened. “Yeah. That is true, yeah,” he answered. “It’s quite Ron-ish not to do it. I think [Cuarón] kind of appreciated that.” However, the young actor did reveal that he had been too busy with his real exams at the time to do the essay. Very un-Ron.
For a whole decade, then, Grint worked alongside Radcliffe and Watson. He did take on other work in between the Potter movies, though. His first non-Hogwarts film was, for instance, 2002’s Thunderpants, a children’s film which received terrible reviews. Then, four years later, he fared a bit better with Driving Lessons, in which he starred alongside Julie Walters, his onscreen mom in Harry Potter.
Meanwhile, as the Potter series hurtled towards its end, Grint spoke about the price of fame. “I do miss it, sometimes, the invisibility. Being able to get round Tesco,” he told The Guardian in 2011. “[And] not meet anyone who wants to take a picture with you. It’s manageable but it’s just, like, constant.”
The final Hogwarts film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, eventually hit theaters in July 2011. Rowling actually gave a touching and funny speech at its premiere, in which she referred to Grint as her “favorite ginger person” and praised all of the cast for the “amazing things they did for my favorite characters.”
Grint also spoke at the event. “This has been such an emotional week,” he said to the audience. “A year ago when we finished, I thought I was kind of coming to terms with it and able to move on, but this really has been such an important part of my life… These last ten years [have] just [been] the best half of my life.”
So, after that, Grint was essentially free to do whatever he liked in the world. This was in large part due to the fact that the actor had made a fortune from the Potter movies. In 2014, for example, his net worth was reported as $36 million. However, this comes with some pitfalls. “It took me a while to figure out whether someone was genuine or they had ulterior motives,” he told the Daily Mirror that year.
“It was kind of ridiculous what we got. And I must admit I don’t actually know how much I earned – the exact number,” Grint said in the same interview. “I’ve always known it was kinda ‘there,’ and I’ve got quite an active involvement in stuff like that now, but I don’t really know the exact figures. And I’ve never really wanted to. I’m quite a laid-back person and not overly ambitious, really.”
“Laid-back” is actually a good descriptor for him, it seems. Because after the Potter movies finished, co-stars Radcliffe and Watson went on to be A-list actors. Grint, however, seemed content to just drive around in his ice-cream van. Yes, you read that right. The actor bought himself the vehicle in 2007 after he’d gotten his driver’s license.
“For now I am just enjoying being free,” Grint told the Daily Mirror. “It was a bubble world and quite suffocating. A bit like a school, really. Now I’m out, I still feel there are things I want to do.” He later began appearing in smaller TV shows, sometimes as himself, but sometimes as non-Ron-like characters as well.
In 2017, for instance, Grint appeared in Sick Note and Snatch, the former being about a man misdiagnosed with cancer and the latter about a group of hardened criminals. “Harry Potter did wonderful things for me. It was a huge part of my life. And I’m grateful that, thanks to Harry Potter, I’m able to do fantastic projects like Sick Note,” Grint told The Independent in 2017.
And the following year, Grint gave a couple of other revealing interviews about his time in the Potter universe. On December 1, 2018, in fact, he spoke to The Guardian. “My life has a very distinct before-and-after line. Before June 2000, I went to a normal state school and life was ordinary,” he said. “I was very grounded. When I got the part of Ron Weasley, I left school straight away and things have never been the same.”
Then, on December 28, it was the turn of the Radio Times. Grint was promoting his latest TV series, The ABC Murders, but he spoke about Potter as well. “I struggle to remember life before it,” he said. “I think I lost myself a little bit along the way. With the fame, you’re almost being the character even when you’re not in character.”
Grint also offered a surprising revelation: he didn’t like watching the later Potter movies. These are the ones where he appears as a young adult. He is all right with the earlier films, though. He said, “More time has passed [since the first movies]. I can detach myself a bit more from that kid.” However, apparently he can’t bring himself to watch his most recent performances as Ron.
Where is the cut-off point, the Radio Times wondered? “I could probably go up to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Grint answered. Azkaban is the third movie in the series. The young actor was 16 when filming it; the same year he finished school and began concentrating on his acting work.
Grint’s interview with The Guardian gave clues as to why this is the case. “For the first few films, I was living the dream. The reason I auditioned was because I loved the books,” he said. “When I got to film three or four, I started to feel an overwhelming weight of responsibility because they were so phenomenally popular.”
“The whole press and red carpet thing was an attack on the senses. I don’t excel in that kind of environment,” the actor went on. “The line between Ron and me became thinner with each film, and I think we became virtually the same person.” In fact, there was even a time during Harry Potter filming that Grint had considered quitting.
“There were definitely times when I thought about leaving,” Grint told The Guardian. “Filming Harry Potter was a massive sacrifice; working from such a young age for such long periods. I definitely remember thinking during one extended break, ‘This whole thing is so all-consuming, do I really want to go back? Maybe it’s just not for me.’ I guess I was probably just being a teenager.”
Grint had said much the same thing in October 2018 in an interview with The Independent. “I thought, ‘Do I actually want to keep doing this? It’s a bit of a drag,’” he said. “Because, obviously, it’s a big sacrifice. You take for granted anonymity, just doing normal stuff, just going out. Everything was different and a little bit scary. There were times when I was like ‘I’m done.’”
“It’s almost like having a split personality,” Grint went on. “Sometimes it can be quite dehumanizing to have people just taking pictures of you when you’re out. To them, you are just this one thing. It’s a weird existence. But that’s my life. I can’t really remember life before it. In a weird way, you become blasé about it. It becomes normal, and you adapt.”
The young Grint had also disliked the rules that he’d had to follow as a member of the Potter cast. He hadn’t even been allowed to have his tonsils taken out, he told the Radio Times, because “it was too much recovery time, and there was the fear that it would change [his] voice.” He therefore apparently began to rebel against the producers “around midway” through making the movies.
Grint isn’t the only Potter cast member who doesn’t like looking back on his performances, though. Daniel Radcliffe has in fact come out and said the same thing. “I never liked watching myself on film, but I do make myself sit through it,” he told the Daily Mail in 2014. “It’s hard to watch a film like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because I’m just not very good in it. I hate it.”
Radcliffe has also never seen the franchise’s sequel play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. “I’ve been asked this a lot, and I always give a boring, terrible answer,” he told Seth Meyers in November 2018. “I’m probably not going to see it, I don’t have plans to… It would not be a relaxing evening at the theater.”
Yet the problem is not the quality of the play, but rather the presence of so many fans. “I feel like I would be being watched for my reaction,” Radcliffe said. “And maybe that is completely conceited and egotistical and people wouldn’t care, but I do feel if I was just surrounded by Harry Potter fans, it would be a little odd.”
There’s even talk of a movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. However, if it ever happens, Rupert Grint for one probably won’t be interested. “Never say never, but, for me, I closed the book on that. It was a huge and amazing part of my life that I feel ended at the right time,” he told The Independent.
“The interesting thing is, I saw the play a couple of years ago, and it’s based 30 years on. It was very strange seeing someone else play Ron,” Grint continued. “A character I really thought I was. We merged into the same person. To see someone else’s portrayal of it, it was like an out-of-body experience. It was very strange. I loved it.”
So though Grint probably won’t play Ron again and may not watch himself in the movies for a long time, he definitely appears to bear no grudge whatsoever towards the franchise that made him famous. When he saw Cursed Child, for instance, he met the actors backstage with a massive smile on his face.
In fact, the whole Harry Potter cast continues to support one another even though the movies are long finished. In 2017, while promoting Beauty and the Beast, Emma Watson even revealed to Entertainment Tonight that all the Potter actors are together online. “We actually have a group WhatsApp,” she explained.
The close friendships formed on the Potter sets are something that Grint seems to cherish a lot too. In fact, he spoke about that in his Radio Times interview. “We have those chats. Definitely. Because we’re all carving out very different journeys. And we have this shared experience that connects us all,” he said.
“They are the only people that really understand,” Grint went on. “I think David Yates [the director of every Potter film since 2007] once said we’re all like astronauts. Only astronauts really know what it’s like to go to space.” It is a good way of putting it; being a child star can certainly be an emotionally draining experience.
Radcliffe has also talked in the past about how the pressures of his job once led him to a dark place. It was hard being the face of a mega-franchise at such a young age, it seems. “What’s the easiest way to escape being self-conscious? Alcohol is a quick way of doing that,” he told Playboy magazine in 2015.
“I change when I’m drunk. I’m one of those people who changes,” Radcliffe told The Telegraph the following year. “There is something in any person who drinks in a way that’s clearly not good for them, something that is attracted to that chaos.” The actor also told the newspaper that he’d been sober for three years.
So although the Harry Potter movies defined a generation, it’s clear that there have been plenty of difficulties for the young actors who brought the characters to life. Yet their experiences evidently shaped them in many ways. “I often feel like people were waiting for it to happen, they were ready for us to step out of line,” Grint told the Radio Times.
Everything appears to have turned out all right in the end, though. Grint, in fact, got good reviews for The ABC Murders, an Agatha Christie adaptation which aired over Christmas 2018. He’s still got a long acting career ahead of him, if he wants it, too. And if he ever does decide to watch the Harry Potter movies again, he might be surprised at how good he is in them.