Emma Watson on quitting acting: it was hard ‘to sell something I didn’t have control over’

Emma Watson has appeared in a smattering of films since the Harry Potter series wrapped, but not so much in recent years, prompting rumors that she’s retired. Her last film was Little Women in 2019 and she seemed to largely opt out of the press tour for that one. Mostly, stories about her have been about her feminist activism and speculation about her love life. But now Emma has done an actual interview. She spoke to the Financial Times to promote her brother’s gin brand, of which she is a part, and ended up talking about why she stepped away from acting.

Emma Watson opened up about those retirement rumors in a new, rare interview.

The Harry Potter star, who hasn’t appeared in a film since Little Women, is the latest celebrity to enter the spirits industry. While promoting the launch of Renais gin, a brand founded by her brother, Alex, the actress revealed why she needed a break — and whether she’s really done with Hollywood.

“I wasn’t very happy, if I’m being honest,” the 33-year-old told the Financial Times. “I think I felt a bit caged.”

Watson was only 10 when she filmed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The actress played Hermione Granger for a decade leaving little time for other projects. When the franchise ended, she appeared in critically acclaimed films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and My Week With Marilyn. She did another big studio film in 2017 with Beauty and the Beast. Her last time on a film set came the following year when she shot Little Women.

“The thing I found really hard was that I had to go out and sell something that I really didn’t have very much control over,” Watson continued, without mentioning any specific project. “To stand in front of a film and have every journalist be able to say, ‘How does this align with your viewpoint?’ It was very difficult to have to be the face and the spokesperson for things where I didn’t get to be involved in the process.”

The English star continued, “I was held accountable in a way that I began to find really frustrating, because I didn’t have a voice, I didn’t have a say. And I started to realize that I only wanted to stand in front of things where if someone was going to give me flak about it, I could say, in a way that didn’t make me hate myself, ‘Yes, I screwed up, it was my decision, I should have done better.'”

After Little Women, Watson started “impact-investing” with a group of women to “support female entrepreneurs and sustainable ventures.” In 2022, she wrote and directed an advertising campaign for Prada. Now that she’s not on set, the actress has been spending more time at her family-owned vineyards in the Chablis region of France.

Watson is a shareholder in Renais and is acting as a creative partner overseeing the gin’s imagery, design and art direction.

As for acting, Watson said she’ll “absolutely” make another movie.

“But I’m happy to sit and wait for the next right thing. I love what I do. It’s finding a way to do it where I don’t have to fracture myself into different faces and people. And I just don’t want to switch into robot mode any more,” she shared. “Does that make sense?”

It seems the right project came along. Watson confirmed she’ll begin shooting a film in early 2024, but gave no further details.

[From Yahoo! Entertainment]

Emma’s comments make perfect sense. Sometimes a job is just a job, but I guess that’s not a good interview answer. And especially considering Emma’s activism, she probably did get a lot of questions about why she chose certain projects that were not necessarily warranted. For example, maybe she chose Little Women because she liked the book and it wasn’t some profound statement. I don’t know exactly which projects she necessarily meant, but she can afford to be choosy. Emma has the name recognition and I believe she’s the wealthiest of the three Harry Potter stars due to her family money — c’mon, a vineyard — and her brand partnerships. She doesn’t need to work for money or to keep her profile up, so she can wait for the right thing to come along. But it seems like she’s ready to step back into the public eye. She posted a birthday Instagram recently about her past few years and has a movie that will begin shooting early next year.

Photos credit: Cat Morley/Avalon and Backgrid

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19 Responses to “Emma Watson on quitting acting: it was hard ‘to sell something I didn’t have control over’”

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  1. hangonamin says:

    good for her! she’s lucky she was able to have a nice cushion from the HP success to choose projects and even move away from acting to follow her passion. i also think she was pretty scarred as a teenager by the way the press treated her as a woman. she talks about how the min she turned 18, photographers started trying to get shots up her skirt. you do you emma. no explanation needed.

    • SquiddusMaximus says:

      She’s too smart and socially/politically aware to constantly cow to pressures of the game. I have zero opinion on her as an actress, but her social platform (and her eyebrows) have my respect.

  2. tealily says:

    My guess is trying to reconcile being a Disney princess with being a feminist. I didn’t see the live action version, so I don’t know the details, but in a general way I could see that being tiring.

    • Ameerah M says:

      She was actually a producer on that one. And it had a very feminist lean to it. So maybe she just meant in general?

  3. P says:

    I love Emma. She’s actually just a month younger than me and has the same birthday of one of my oldest friends, so I relate to her strongly. Just getting my unapologetic bias out there!

    I think her comments are fascinating in the context of the writer’s strike. The studios and producers are radicalizing a new generation of guild members for basically no reason. I expect we’ll see more of this creative control talk among actors, especially high-profile and powerful ones like Emma. It’s their faces on their projects, and if they feel utterly divorced from the final project, how are they expected to sell something they didn’t really sign on to promote? I would love to see her use her influence a la Taylor Swift and the streamers. Hopefully the writer’s strike empowers the other guilds. It would be great for the guilds to align further to advocate for the working class actors too, and that’s when A-listers most need to stand in solidarity. It benefits everyone.

    I also want to connect her comments to the move toward intimacy coordination and more frank talk about safetyfor actors on set. That’s another area where the guilds should join forces (bring in the crew guild).

    • WiththeAmericann says:

      Agree 100% as someone who worked in film for years and benefited from my union membership. When a listers take a stand to help unions it benefits everyone working in the industry in a union.

      There’s no insurance so good as our film union insurance; it really shows how important unions are. agree with bringing the crew unions along, too.

  4. Sid says:

    I suspect one reason for her seeming disappearance is that the offers for good roles weren’t exactly rolling in. She is a mediocre actor and the Potter glow can go only so far.

    • Snuffles says:

      She’s a very bright woman. She can live off of her HP money for the rest of her life and be as picky as she wants to be with her projects.

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      Yeah I agree she’s was never that great of an actor but she seems like a nice person who has found her passion in life – good for her.

  5. Kitten says:

    Wonder how she feels about that transphobic POS JK Rowling ruining the franchise that made her famous with her bigoted comments.

    Honestly though good for Emma. Seems like she has her sh*t together and is in a great place in her life.

    • R says:

      She’s been pretty open about her support of the transgender community, even before JK Rowling made her bigotry widely known. She made similar comments that Daniel Radcliffe has made about his support for the transgender community. And then JK Rowling made some vague comments about betrayal or something after Emma, Daniel and Rupert denounced transphobia.

  6. R says:

    My guess would be Disney as well, all her other movies didn’t do well as expected, but she really got raked over the coals for her beauty and the beast movie. I think she would fit more behind the scenes as a writer/producer/director than as an actress, tbh. But she can do whatever she wants.

  7. girl_ninja says:

    It’s nice that she has that option. I put her in the same category as Blake Lively…attractive and just there.

  8. HeyKay says:

    She has money to support herself.
    She can do as she pleases.
    Lots of people change careers/jobs when they get the chance.

    If I was Emma, I’d go into producing and out of the spotlight completely.
    Or buy a bit of land in the country and live a simple life.

    The money she earned gives her many options. Be happy.

  9. Normades says:

    The bling ring. IRL the ring leader and central character was an Asian young woman but Sophia Copala made it about the white girl.

    • girl_ninja says:

      I don’t like Sophia Coppola for some of her choices in her films, but she did keep the ring leader in the film Asia. Rachel Lee was the ring leader IRL and she was played by Katie Chang.

      And for all of Miss Emma’s activism it feels/seems a bit performative. Hiding feminist books all over the world in conjunction with International Woman’s Day seem extra. Maybe highlight women’s needs, shelters, charities. I know she’s given money before but she should keep doing that. Women who are desperately disadvantaged need money and resources and hiding books doesn’t cut it IMO.

      • BRobertson says:

        The book thing was cute and it was part of her book club. She’s done a lot of great work and she’s put in the effort to educate and improve herself. She’s actually putting in the work and is absolutely not performative

  10. Sugarhere says:

    Emma Watson is an introvert thinker who was conditioned from an early age into a career of glitter and exhibition. Acting clashes with the modesty of her inner self, and I commend her for being so clear-sighted on the discrepancy.

    However, her completely retiring from acting sounds too radical for me. She could pursue a successful theater career like Emma Thompson, which would grant her more creative freedom, be less demanding in terms of immediate bankability, and spare her the sex scenes that have probably made her turn down lots of roles.

  11. Abby says:

    Well she’s lucky she’s filthy rich and can retire in her youth. Most people hate their jobs but are forced to do them anyway.
    And to top it off, she was never really a stellar talented actress to begin with.
    She seems like a nice person but seriously, she just got hugely lucky in life landing that role as a child. She’d have never made it in the film industry otherwise.
    But good for her.