It's a big year at Hogwarts for Draco Malfoy, the Slytherin bully who's been giving Harry Potter and his fellow heroes a hard time ever since they crossed paths as first-year students.
With Draco graduating into a major character in the forthcoming "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," actor Tom Felton has gotten the opportunity to raise his game. Lord Voldemort himself taps the blond ruffian to carry out a dangerous task that could forever alter the world of wizardry.
The 21-year-old British performer, who will make an appearance at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus on Friday, didn't get an advance copy of "Half-Blood Prince." The day of its release in 2005, he spent 12 hours with the novel, stunned to find Draco on page after page.
Felton and his castmates are just starting production on the final Potter installment, "The Deathly Hallows," a two-parter directed by David Yates, who's manned the camera since 2007's "Order of the Phoenix." It's a bittersweet time as everyone prepares for life after Potter.
Felton moonlights as musician and angler. Six years ago, he and his brother, Chris, launched the St. Lawrence International Junior Carp Tournament in New York, an annual catch-and-release event for kids.
We spoke with Felton on the phone about film, music, fishing and life.
Q. How was the experience for you, making such a transition from the last film?
A. I was very nervous because it was really the first time that the director was calling me in for rehearsals, and I had one-to-one talks with Michael Gambon (who plays Dumbledore). I was exceptionally nervous thinking that I'm going to make an absolute fool of myself.
Q. The story has really taken a darker turn since "Goblet of Fire."
A. That's been the main point with a lot of journalists, "The story has gotten so much darker." I agree with that completely, but I equally feel it's evolved in every other aspect as well -- humor, romance.
Q. In a lot of films, the bully character just picks on the protagonist and doesn't really have a lot of back story. That's not the case in the new movie.
A. One of the beautiful bits of the story is that Draco is rather weak; he hasn't got the courage of Harry, he's not as strong as Harry and he's desperate to prove himself. He wants to be the Chosen One and he gets his opportunity to be chosen, but he's chosen by the bad guy. By the end of it, we show a completely different side of him.
Q. With David Yates, you have a director who's been on board for a few of the installments, as opposed to earlier on, when the director was changing from film to film.
A. I saw it as quite exciting to change directors. All of them were very good with young people, so it was never like they were scary. We were blessed with the first ones -- Chris Columbus, you couldn't pick anyone better to direct children. He really knows how to get into the minds of kids, and he never raises his voice. Changing directors was exciting, especially on a cultural level. There's such a big difference from Chris Columbus, who is obviously an American, to Alfonso (Cuaron), and then you had the British input from Mike Newell.
Q. And working consistently with David?
A. David loves to get into the depth of the characters and not just portray what is written on the page, but also to go deeper and talk about feelings that may not necessarily be written in the book but are certainly going through Draco's head. Any actor's dream is to sink your teeth into a character that you know really well.
JONATHAN BRADYTom Felton appears on the red carpet at the world premiere of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" in London.
Q. Making these films for the last decade, has it been difficult to be on this parallel journey with a character? How do you achieve a sense of normalcy when you're so immersed in this world?
A. It's definitely presented some issues, but I've always considered myself lucky that my character looks very different from what I look like in real life. I spend six weeks of a year with long, blond hair and a face as pale as a ghost. I had a group of core friends before I started the films, and they're still my best friends now.
Q. When you make appearances with the bleached blond hair, do the fans give you a hard time?
A. I've had a couple of people shout, "Leave Harry alone." But what can you do?
Q. I've been reading about your carp fishing tournament in New York.
A. Yeah. I haven't been fishing for a few years. That's something that I did a lot more as a child. I'm quite heavy into music at the moment and I have a girlfriend as well, so that doesn't leave much time to get the old rods out.
Q. Your girlfriend doesn't fish?
A. No. She's been begging me to take her.
Q. How would you describe your songwriting?
A. Very one-man bandish. Not very good.
Q. I like one-man bands. There aren't nearly enough of them.
A. My influences are like Beatle-esque or Jack Johnson-y. I record music in my bedroom. It's very mediocre, but I love doing it.
And because I haven't posted this enough today: