Emma Watson--Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies--was very prepared not to talk about them. But she did want to tout her newest non-Potter project, this week's animated The Tale of Despereaux, in which she voices Princess Pea.
In the movie, based on on the book by Kate DiCamillo, Watson plays a princess in the Land of Dor, who has been sequestered in her room by her father, the king, after the queen dies from eating rat-infested soup.
The king has also banned both rodents and soup. A mouse named Despereaux (voiced by Matthew Broderick), meanwhile, is exiled from mouseworld for not learning to cower. He teams up with Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman), the rat who accidentally killed the queen, to restore the kingdom.
At a press conference for Despereaux on Dec. 4 in Santa Monica, Calif., Watson sidestepped Potter inquiries to talk about the animated movie. Following the jump is an edited version of that news conference. Despereaux opens Dec. 19.
What do you think this magical fairy tale has in common with your other one, the Harry Potter series?
Watson: Well, the Land of Dor feels quite magical, so I guess it has that in common with Harry Potter. Also, The Tale of Despereaux is based on a book (by Kate DiCamillo), so it has that in common. Apart from that, I think they're very different stories, and they have very different messages. Despereaux has such a strong character and identity of its own, so there are mainly differences. It was also so fun for me to work in a completely different medium, doing an animated feature. I'd never done that before, and it was a lot of fun. I'm massively proud of it.
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What did you like about Princess Pea? What did you relate to about her?
Watson: Well she's basically quite a generic princess. You know, she's very beautiful, and she lives in the Land of Dor, and everything's great. But then she loses her mother, and what makes it worse is not only losing her mother, she also loses her father, because he goes into this state of grieving. He just kind of locks himself away from his people and his responsibilities and also from his role as a father. So she's pretty lonely, and she?s pretty isolated, and she's literally locked up in this tower. She can't really be part of the real world. Anyway, I thought it was interesting, and I felt very sad for her. I thought that the conversations that she had with Despereaux were really charming, and I just really fell in love. I really fell in love with the script and the book, more than the character.
Where are you guys in Harry Potter land right now?
Watson: We begin filming the seventh one [Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows] in February, and the sixth one [Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince] will be released in July next year. We're a long way off a film being released or a film being made, so to be honest, I don't have a huge amount to talk about.
Was it hard to make sure Princess Pea didn't sound like Hermione?
Watson: I don't think so. I guess I have paranoid moments where I will hear something in my voice, or I'll go, "Gosh, do I sound like Hermione then?" I definitely have an awareness of it, because I've been playing her for so long. She is so distinctive and she is so much a part of me. So, yes, I definitely have an awareness of it. But Pea was more gentle. I instantly felt a different person, a different character, playing her. I definitely had a sense that it worked out OK. I was worried about it, but it worked out OK, I think.
What sort of messages would you like fans to take away from this movie?
Watson: There are so many good ones. I've watched a lot of animated films. I love animated films, so I feel like I can speak with a bit of knowledge. It felt really different to anything that I've ever seen before, because it felt like it wasn't patronizing to children. The messages that are in the film feel really profound and philosophical, and I loved the ending about forgiveness. I thought that was incredible. This kind of chain reaction happens where the King was hurt, so he hurt his daughter, and Pea was hurting, so she hurt the servant girl and then hurt Roscuro. The whole thing just kind of took off and just by one person saying sorry and really meaning it, then everything could be restored. My other favorite message was that every girl is a princess, and I thought that was such a beautiful message. I think it works on lots and lots of different levels. I don't think it's just a children's film. I think anyone could go and see it and get something from it.