Second-banana roles seem the most thankless. They also don't necessarily help an actor get the girls. But 14-year-old Rupert Grint, handsome and charming in person, is for now relegated to be known the world over as the rather ungainly, rather unlucky, but heart-of-gold Ron Weasley, best friend and young fellow wizard in the Harry Potter film series, based on the J.K. Rowling best-selling novels. In 2001 the first episode, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, shattered numerous box-office records and became the second-highest grossing film of all time. The sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, opened last week to audience and critical raves. And it's all due in large part to the vibrant intensity, innate naturalness, and comedic energy of Grint, who, with co-stars Daniel Radcliffe as the heroic Harry and Emma Watson as the studious Hermione, carries much of the movie on his young shoulders.
The Hertfordshire, England, native had acted only in school productions and with the local theatre drama group, in notoriously character roles, including Rooster in Annie and Rumplestiltskin in the Grimm Tales. But his determination—and an uncanny physical and expressive resemblance to the character penned by Rowling—won him the role.
In Los Angeles last week with his family for the premiere of Chamber of Secrets, he spoke with Back Stage West about creating his character, maintaining continuity over the course of filming, flying a car, belching those slimy slugs, and the luck it took to win the role. And, by the way, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
Back Stage West: How did you land the role of Ron Weasley?
Rupert Grint: I saw this news program called Newsround, the BBC news program for kids in England. I went on the website, and they tell you how to get a part. I had read the [Harry Potter] books, and I really wanted to be in the films. To audition, I dressed like a girl and my drama teacher made a video. I did a rap song. I wrote a script for Ron. I waited about three weeks but I didn't hear anything, so I thought I didn't get it. Then we were called to [director] Chris Columbus' office. I was there with Emma [Watson]. We didn't know why we were there. They told us we got the parts.
BSW: What was your rehearsal process before filming?
Grint: We had a rehearsal with Chris—me, Dan, and Emma. We had a script reading, and that's where we met J.K. Rowling, which was really exciting. We had a rehearsal—in Chris' office, just reading the lines. That's all the preparation we had. But we knew the characters pretty well because we were all big fans of the books.
BSW: Did Chris give you specific directions on line readings?
Grint: No, it was really relaxed. We did what we felt was right. Ron was my favorite character, so that was helpful. We just started filming, and after every scene was shot, we had a rehearsal for the next one.
BSW: How hard is it working with special effects?
Grint: That was quite hard, really, reacting to quite nothing. We had a cardboard with a head on it. That was for the troll. But when we had just the blue screens or the green screens, it was harder, because all we saw was just a cross on the screen—especially for Quidditch [the flying sport], which was really hard for us. We didn't actually see the flying brooms. We just watched numbers—looking at 1, 2, 3, in quick order.
BSW: What were you doing to get your reactions?
Grint: Reacting was the hardest part. It was all new to us. It was hard to get used to all the takes.
BSW: Typically how many takes were there?
Grint: Well, for me it was like 15. Especially on the second film [Chamber of Secrets], because I laughed quite a lot. I giggled while they were filming, which was a bit annoying. I got a nickname: Go-Again Grint.
BSW: How about continuity? Did you think about the same thing on each take?
Grint: Yes, and that was mainly because of Chris. He would always come up and talk to us after each take and tell us all the adventures we should be thinking about at the time. He made it really easy for us.
BSW: Which aspects of Ron are very much you and which did you have to reach for?
Grint: When I was reading the books I felt I could relate to Ron, because we're kind of similar. We've both got red hair, we come from quite a big family [Grint has four siblings], we're scared of spiders, we both like sweets, we both don't really like school. The only difference was that I actually liked the slugs when I was filming, but Ron didn't like the slugs. And in the second one, the hardest was working with spiders, but I got through that.
BSW: How awful was it to belch up those slugs?
Grint: They were my favorites, because they flavored the slime: peppermint, orange, lemon, chocolate, cherry. They kept asking me which ones were my favorite. They were about this big [indicates a good 8 inches], and they felt really real. But the slime tasted really nice.
BSW: So, you don't like school. What about tutoring on the set?
Grint: I liked that, because we didn't get any homework, and it was only three hours. And I learned more because it was one-to-one, so that was quite good, as well. But I've been back to school lately. It's been all right. The kids have been great and have treated me normally, but the teachers, some of them suck up a bit, [though] they gave me detention. I've had to clear out the sports shed. I've tried to have a really normal life, and I have because my family treats me normal, and my friends treat me just the same.
BSW: OK, we have to ask. When Ron was interacting with Hermione, was there any, well, romantic subtext?
Grint: Not really. In the first film, Ron didn't get on with Hermione. They got off to a bad start. In this one he sticks up for her a lot more. It's not really a big thing. But I don't want anything to happen. I'm hoping Ron gets killed off before they can do anything major.
BSW: Did you have any acting coaches on the set?
Grint: We had a dialogue coach. She helped us with our T's.
BSW: Are there differences between the American and English versions of the films?
Grint: Yes. For the Americans it's "the Sorcerer's Stone," and for the English it's "the Philosopher's Stone." So we had to shoot double scenes. Also, Americans say "boogers" and the English say "bogies."
BSW: You didn't do your own stunts, of course.
Grint: Yes, almost all of them. Like the car scene. That was my favorite, that was really cool.
BSW: You weren't up in the air that high, though?
Grint: Oh, yes, we were.
BSW: What did they do to keep you safe?
Grint: It was all safe. Well, that's what they told us.
BSW: And now, do you want to pursue a career in acting?
Grint: Definitely. I like this part of it, talking to people