One of the charms of the world created by J. K. Rowling in her series of Harry Potter novels is that although the young people featured therein can do all sorts of magic and stuff, most times they must contend with the same sort of miseries that afflict anyone else their age.
That is, their parents are clueless embarrassments, their teachers are fearsome weirdsmobiles, schoolwork is stupid and hard, bullies roam the halls, mindless cliques diminish the strong and destroy the weak, and their bodies start behaving strangely even as their minds decree that they must fall desperately in love with people who don’t even know they’re alive.
Meanwhile, out in the real world, the young people selected to portray the various Potter characters on film have indeed become rich and famous, but they have also found themselves as constrained and constricted as any other youngbloods. Without exception, all greeted the final wrap of the final film with great hosannas of relief.
Tom Felton, better known as the pint-sized villain Draco Malfoy, immediately ran out into the sun: for nearly a decade he had been chained to a Potter contract that prohibited him from absorbing rays from that orb.
Felton also attempted to let his hair return to its natural color, although he is no longer sure what that is:
His hair is no longer shockingly white, but his natural dark-blonde. Or at least, what he thinks is his natural colour. His hair and eyebrows have been dyed so much over the years (at least once a week while he was on each Harry Potter set) he can no longer remember.
“For the past decade we haven’t had much freedom to do other projects. I certainly haven’t had much freedom to keep my own hair colour, or lay in the sun, or do anything remotely dangerous like skiing. It was nice to go on holiday and not have to slap on the SPF50 and sit under an umbrella with three caps on.”
Felton also admitted that when the Potterworld checks started rolling in—in his case, for some $4.75 million—he went totally wild.
“I bought a lot of rubbish things that kids buy: skateboards and clothes and typical teenage stuff,” he says. “And, as soon as I could, I wasted a lot of money on cars—BMWs mostly—for myself and my family.”
This continued until the taxes came due:
“There was a scary two years where it was madness because I was really in trouble with the taxman. I had been working for eight years and all I had to show for it was this horrible debt. At one point we had the bailiff at the door.
“I was so naïve I didn’t even know what he was there for. He pointed at my car and said: ‘This yours?’ and I said: ‘Oh, yes, I bought it two weeks ago and it’s all paid off.’ He said: ‘Brilliant, we’ll take it. Give us the key.’”
Felton, in his role as Draco Malfoy, spent nine months of the year working out as the premiere junior bully in Potterworld. During the remaining three months, Felton was himself bullied mercilessly, as, back in the real world, he was sentenced to “Muggles” school.
He attended his local comprehensive where the Hogwarts bully was bullied himself by older kids, determined to put the young actor in his place.
“I would miss months of school and then return with bright blond hair,” recalls Tom. “Needless to say, there was bullying. I wasn’t beaten up daily, but there was name-calling and jealousy.
“You have to bear in mind that Harry Potter wasn’t cool. I wasn’t part of the Terminator franchise.”
Emma Watson, better known to Potter fans as brainiac witch Hermione Granger, said goodbye to Potterworld by chopping off her hair. Watson may have been named by Vanity Fair as the highest paid actress in Hollywood, but she was not in control of even her own follicles.
Watson told how she decided to experiment with her new elfin hairdo after finally being released from her contract, which banned her from wearing make-up or getting her ears pierced during the shooting schedule.
“For the nine years I was on Harry Potter I was contractually obliged not to cut my hair, not to tan,” she said.
“All the normal things girls do, I couldn’t. So when I got the chance to change my appearance, this is what I did.”
Watson also admitted that when it came time to kiss onscreen Rupert Grint—playing Ron Weasley, who in Potterworld is the love of Hermione’s life, with whom the witch will bounce many bedsprings, producing an alarming number of children—she more or less had to close her eyes and think of England. Same when it came time for her onscreen kiss with Daniel Radcliffe, the actor playing Harry Potter hisself.
Radcliffe, we know, and as soon as he was able, signed up for a role in a stage revival of Equus, where he promptly dropped his drawers; publicly displaying his developing member, well, that was not the sort of wand-waving the Potter people would countenance.
There is the occasional burst of mayhem in the Potter novels, and to close out the series, Rowling elected to kill off more people than die in the final reel of The Wild Bunch, and with less cause. This PG-13 bloodbath will not reach the nation’s screens until next summer; of course, this being the movies, everybody felled in the thing got up and walked away, once the director declared “cut,” and decreed he had enough in the can.
Doesn’t work that way in real life. Would that it did. Thus, when the brother of Afshan Azad, who plays Padma Patil in the Potter films, grabbed her by the hair, threw her across her bedroom, punched her in the back and the head, then dragged her out to be confronted by her mother, who pronounced her a “prostitute,” and her father, who said he’d go ahead and kill her, so his sons wouldn’t “have blood on their hands,” at which point her brother began choking her, then ran downstairs and started going through the knife drawer, all because Azad spoke on the telephone to a young man who was Hindu, rather than Muslim, well, it was for real.
This happened last May 21; Azad managed to get out of the house through a window, and went to the police the next day. Today her brother, Ashraf Azad, was sentenced to six months in prison. “This is a sentence that is designed to punish you for what you did and also to send out a clear message to others that domestic violence involving circumstances such as have arisen here cannot be tolerated,” the sentencing judge said.
Azad was not present in court.
[The prosecutor] said that despite time-consuming attempts to find Afshan, she couldn’t be located. However, he insisted that she was safe and that her absence wasn’t evidence of foul play. The lawyer added that he has been in regular contact with her through a legal firm.
Azad had petitioned the court not to sentence her brother to prison, saying she had forgiven him.
Charges involving the threats to kill her, brought against both her brother and her father, Abdul Azad, were dismissed in December when Azad declined to testify against them. At that time, as a result of her failure to testify, more serious charges against her brother were reduced to a single count of assault, to which he pled guilty. Too, her father, while maintaining he was guilty of nothing, agreed to post a bond of $1500 against his word to “keep the peace” for the next 12 months.
[A]fter contacting police on May 22, Afshan “made it plain” to officers that she didn’t want any action taken against her family, as it would put her in “genuine danger.” She later attempted to retract her statement and suggested she had misunderstood her father, who speaks with a strong Bengali accent. She made it clear that she didn’t want to give evidence against her brother or father, saying, “I love them dearly.”
In Azad’s absence, her initial statement to the police was read into the record by prosecutor Richard Vardon.
Azad overheard his sister talking on her mobile phone in her bedroom on May 21 last year. The court heard he believed she was talking to the man she was in a relationship with, a Hindu. The Azad family are “devout Muslims” . . . .
Azad heard his sister talking as he was in the bathroom then swore at her, saying: “Watch what I will do.”
He burst into her bedroom as she ended the call and attempted to hide the mobile phone and its sim card. Azad began to shout at her then grabbed her by the hair and threw her across the bedroom. The court heard Ms. Azad was crying and begging him to stop.
Azad, the court heard, then punched her in the back and to the head as she cowered in a ball on the floor. He punched her several times more before his wife came in and told him to stop.
Mr. Vardon said: “He told his wife to stay out of it because he would do what he wanted to do with his little sister.”
The court heard Azad pulled her up by the hair and dragged her downstairs to his father Abul Azad’s room. Azad then told his father to “sort your daughter out” and called her a “slag.”
Ms Azad, the court heard, was then pushed head-first onto her father’s bed, where she heard the words “just kill her.”
Azad, who had been drinking, then attempted to strangle her, Mr. Vardon said.
He added: “She was struggling to breathe and was scared for her life.”
The court heard Ms Azad’s mother and Azad’s wife then entered the bedroom and she was told that she would have to be sent to Bangladesh to marry.
Mr. Vardon added: “Her mother called her a prostitute and asked why she was obsessed with sex.”
Azad then ran downstairs, where the court was told Ms. Azad heard knives rattling in a drawer after threats were made to kill her. Mr. Vardon said: “She was told that she had to marry a Muslim or die. She was feeling very scared.”
Prosecutor Richard Vardon said the motive behind the brother’s “wholly unnecessary and unpleasant assault” was [her] “association with a Hindu man[.]” Vardon said Abul was woken up on the day of the attack by his son, who was shouting, “Sort out your daughter! She’s a slag.”
He continued the beating in front of his father, said Vardon, and shouted in Bengali, “Just kill her.”
Reading from the victim’s statement, Vardon added, “‘My father began saying he would do it,’ a reference to kill her, as he did not want his sons to have her blood on their hands and he would do time for it. Then she began to feel very scared.”
Afshan Azad is at least alive. Robert Knox is not. Knox portrayed Marcus Belby in Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, and would have portrayed Belby again in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows. Except that he was stabbed to death, at age 18, outside a pub in May 2008, over what seems to have been a cellphone.
Knox died at the hands of “habitual knife-carrier” Karl Bishop, a 22-year-old unemployed window cleaner.
[He]had been expelled from primary school and already had a criminal record for causing actual bodily harm, and had been reported to the police in the months before the attack for two attempted robberies at knifepoint. Bishop had described himself as a “very angry” child.
He was said to have been furious with Robert Knox, a 6ft rugby player, after he had stood up to him a week earlier over a missing mobile phone. Bishop told the group: “I’m going to come back next week and someone’s going to die.”
When he visited the Metro bar in Sidcup he was initially refused entry. He went home, arming himself with two kitchen knives, 11in and 12in long, and returned to the bar. Bystanders saw Bishop’s face “screwed up in rage” as he lashed out with the knives, stabbing his [five] victims at least ten times in less than two minutes.
A police officer said that after his arrest he showed no remorse, saying: “Yeah, sweet” when told that Mr. Knox had died.
Bishop refused to attend his own sentencing, which was for life in prison.