A Day With Jamie Waylett
BEATING THE ODDS
"I'm going to be in Harry Potter."
When Jamie Waylett came home from school one day and uttered those words, neither his mother nor his family friend (now manager) John Inniss thought that Jamie's odds of being cast were very good. But Jamie had beaten the odds once already - and so spectacularly that perhaps the adults in his life should have seen destiny coming.
At nine, Jamie was hit by a car and given almost no chance to live. If he lived, the doctors said, then he would be brain-damaged beyond repair. When his mother was informed of the accident, she was told only that Jamie's legs were broken.
"I drove to hospital thinking, ooh, when I get my hands on him," she said, gesturing as if to strangle. "I was going to kill him. Because I was thinking broken legs. I wasn't thinking, you know..." She shook her head.
Upon arrival at the hospital, Teresa Waylett found her son unconscious. Jamie stayed in intensive care for three days, not waking for more than a few incoherent moments. During that time, doctors put pins in his broken legs, which is unusual in England.
"But it would have been difficult to move a brain-dead child if he was wearing plasters, so they used the pins." At the end of three days, Jamie had shown no improvement, and hope was running out - but John demanded that the doctors check Jamie's blood. Jamie was given a blood transfusion that night.
The next day, he woke. "I told him, Jamie, you've been in a car accident, which means no school," said Teresa. "I didn't know what to say to him, so I said, 'No school.' And he couldn't speak, but he put his arm out and just did this."
She raised her fist and pulled it down hard - a triumphant gesture - and started laughing. She and the doctors asked him the same question again, just to be sure he was giving a cognizant answer - and again, the triumphant fist. "And nine months later, these casting directors came to his school. So he's been... a very lucky boy."
Jamie first auditioned for the role of Dudley Dursley, but it was quickly decided that he should be considered instead for the part of Vincent Crabbe, one of villain Draco Malfoy's pair of bully bodyguards. John drove Jamie to Leavesden Studios, where he auditioned for the role and was sent home without much encouragment.
"They said, We'll let you know," said Teresa and John at the same time, clearly exasperated. "We'll let you know?" added Teresa. "What's that supposed to mean?"
It meant that, weeks later, they would receive a phone call. "We haven't forgotten about Jamie," they were told. "We'll let you know."
Finally they were asked to bring Jamie back for another audition, and he was sent in to speak with Chris Columbus. "And they said, 'Act sad, act happy, do this, do that.' And Chris said, 'Just give us a nice shout and you've got the part!'" said John.
Jamie had no problem giving Columbus a nice shout - so he was hired, at age eleven, to play a significant role in the film adaptations of a literary phenomenon. But he didn't realize just how popular the books were, and had no real idea, at the time, of what he had gotten himself into.
"I'd seen the book. It looked kind of boring with this kid on the front," Jamie said.
The part of Gregory Goyle (Malfoy's other heavy) was then cast, a process that involved prospective Goyles being marched in to sit with Jamie and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), who sat together happily playing PlayStation games and not paying much attention to the fact that, all around them, a blockbuster film was being organized. The adults in his life could hardly believe that such good fortune had struck twice in Jamie's life.
"I thought, what's happened?" said John, who thought perhaps he was imagining such luck. "But no, there was Jamie, sitting and playing video games in a room with Chris Columbus."
"I always sign the pictures," he said. "Cause if that were me wanting an autograph, I'd be upset if someone said no."
But he covered his face with both hands and moaned a bit, when remembering Scotland. "Eight or nine kids with bikes followed me everywhere I went," he said. "I was fishing, and they were throwing crabs at me, saying 'Here's a crab for Crabbe!'"
One would think such attention might swell a boy's head. Not Jamie's. When asked how it feels to be a teenaged celebrity, he only scuffed his feet and shrugged.
"It'll all go, won't it? The movies will end, and the money will run out. When I go home, I'm just me. I act like where I'm from."
The credit for Jamie's remarkably level head goes to his mother and his manager.
He said that every under-sixteen principal actor on the set of Harry Potter must have a chaperone, and that they are not afforded the kind of freedom that can breed ego and wildness in child stars.
"We don't let our kids wander off through the film studios. We don't let our kids smoke, we don't let them drink, and we don't let them alone with the girls."
BEHIND THE SCENES
The result is that Jamie is as normal a fourteen-year-old boy as one can imagine - perhaps even a little more good-natured than most. He is candid, funny, and attitude-free. He spent the day with us discussing work and school, eating pizza, rapping, wandering around in New York shops, playing every video game he could get his hands on, and doing cheeky impressions of his Harry Potter peers (his takes on Matthew Lewis, Rupert Grint, Chris Columbus and Alfonso Cuaron are priceless). He also made up a few speeches in imaginary German, which had us in stitches, and he admitted to us that though he hasn't really read the Harry Potter books, he sometimes wishes there were a real Hogwarts, wands and all. The longer we spent with him, the more we liked him - even if he does have a penchant for evil.
"I want to keep acting, after Harry Potter," he told us. "I want to play a villain. A proper one. Because when you're evil, you get a really dramatic ending, like you die or something. I'd want to get shot up by a machine gun." He made pattering machine gun noises and then rolled back his eyes and slumped back in his chair.
John suggested that Jamie might want to direct some day, but Jamie shook his head. "Not direct. Act, act," he said - though John might have the measure of him better than Jamie knows. Jamie gave us the most complete feedback yet heard about the differences in Cuaron and Columbus' directing styles.
"With Chris Columbus, it was more that he'd give you a line to say and you'd do it, and then cut. With Alfonso, he sort of lets it roll free, and he doesn't cut straightaway, so it lets you do more with the character. I find it easier to act, more fluid," Jamie said.
"Alfonso makes them practice 20 times, and then expects to get the shot like that," John said, snapping his fingers. "Different styles."
Jamie also gave us a little technical background on some of the movies' "magic".
"You can't see it," he said, pointing to the picture of an "enchanted" origami crane that Malfoy sends flying over to Harry during a Defense Against the Dark Arts class.
"But there's a fishing pole just over there, holding that up." (Jamie told us that when unfolded the crane is actually an illustration by Malfoy - actually drawn by Tom Felton - of Harry getting electrocuted by a big lightning bolt.)
He also revealed that the floor of the Chamber of Secrets set was the former floor of the cool blue, subterranean Slytherin Common Room, on which he, Felton and Joshua Herdman (Goyle) were the last to film.
And recall the scene in Chamber of Secrets where Crabbe and Goyle greedily feast on cupcakes floating in the corridor. Buried in those cakes was more than Hermione's sleeping draught; holding them aloft were tiny little hooks on fishing wires.
"Chris said 'Action,' and Jamie's face stayed with John. Chris said, 'ACTION! Jamie, what's wrong? Jamie, action! What's wrong?' He said, 'He cut his mouth!'"
But Josh wasn't the only injured party. "I bit it and I took it out," said Jamie, "I took out half the cake, and there was a big hook caught in my mouth for the line."
And that's not the only difficulty Jamie has had with eating food in the films. During the scene in which Hermione hands Harry and Ron the laced cupcakes, very careful viewers may observe Crabbe and Goyle stuffing their faces full of trifle at the Slytherin table.
"And I hate trifle, I can't stand it," said Jamie. "They gave us a big bowl, and we had to be proper greedy. ... It would get me sick, and I was getting big spoonfuls, all overflowing out of my mouth. Two weeks, eating trifle."
He shook his head and took a big bite of pizza, as if to drive out the memory.
They eventually gave him a bowl of jelly to take the trifle's place, but Jamie still talks about those weeks as if he's sick to his stomach. All for a bit that is a blurry shot of mostly Goyle, in the background.
While shooting those scenes, however, Jamie took advantage of the opportunity to play with Crabbe's personality, and made like he was going to be sick- all over Draco. Felton jumped up, disgusted, and it made for a great comedic moment, which was ultimately cut, only to be seen at the DVD party.
"That should have been in there," said John like a proud dad. "I know they have to cut and cut, but there were all these really funny bits."
But some Slytherin improvisations have made the final cut. Since they are on camera less often, the "bad Trio" have a bit more freedom to create the kinds of moments that fans go home talking about. Felton's famous line, "I didn't know you could read," was his own invention, which he tried on a lark; Columbus liked it. And when, at the end of Chamber of Secrets, Crabbe tried to stand up and applaud Hagrid with the Gryffindors and was stopped by Malfoy, that move was Jamie's own character choice.
PROS AND CONS
Perhaps it's because he's a joker himself, and claims that he would want to play Ron if he could play anyone else in the films, but Jamie decided to give his character a little depth, in the form of Gryffindor sympathy. Pay close watch in Prisoner of Azkaban, though there's no guarantee it will be there; when the Boggart turns into a cha-cha dancer, and an impromptu conga line starts up among the non-Slytherins, Crabbe tries to join in the fun.
As long as Malfoy's there, however, he won't be allowed.
"Lucius is the bully of the Ministry, and Malfoy is the bully of the school," Jamie said.
In real life, Jamie and Felton are good friends. They spend so much time together in ensemble scenes that they have time to goof, inadvertently strengthening their inter-character relationships.
Not that they really are "baddies." Jamie can't stop grinning, even when he does his menacing "Crabbe face." And when he first started showing his Chris Columbus imitation around set, David Heyman stopped filming so everyone could watch him mimic the director.
The other kids are just as vibrant and fun-loving. Tom Felton has been known to dump ice cream down unsuspecting friends' shirts. Emma Watson can rough-and-tumble with the best of them; she's been found wrestling, John says.
Even the adults are in on the fun. When dressed as Neville's grandmother for the Boggart scene, Alan Rickman got right into character, calling out, 'Hello, love!' to all who passed him in his dress - as did his body double.
"Oh yeah, I was there when he filmed it," says Jamie. "It was funny. Hairy legs."
Alan Rickman isn't the only adult on set with a sense of humor; David Heyman, they told us, is not above hunkering down on the floor and grabbing someone's leg to get a scream out of them.
In fact, being in the Harry Potter cast sounds like an almost perfect gig for a kid, but Jamie revealed that it does have its downsides. He's dealt with jealousy among his peers at his regular school, and sometimes finds it difficult adjusting to returning to thirty-student classes after the luxury of one-on-one tutors. His tutors fax his lessons back and forth to his school and keep in touch with his head of year so that he doesn't fall behind and so that on the weeks that he's not filming he's on the same lessons as the kids in his regular school - on top of which, this year he has begun to prepare for his GCSEs (O.W.L.s).
And in the midst of school woes, let us not forget the pain of being forced to line up with a dozen other boys, while a "bum double" is chosen.
"There is a bit where I get kicked in the snow and [Malfoy] gets thrown round, we all get beaten up," Jamie told us, speaking about the scene in Hogsmeade when Harry, hidden beneath the Invisibility Cloak, takes revenge on the Slytherins. "I'm just going up to my feet, and my trousers are down, [Malfoy] comes, throws me on the floor, starts running in the snow and I've got to chase him. I kept falling down with my trousers down. It's funny, if they keep it in."
Funny or not, it required Jamie to take part in a very unusual audition.
"I have a bum double as well," he told us. "Because where I get kicked... the camera goes up to it, and they didn't want to hurt me in case something went wrong with the camera, so they got a double..."
"They had to pick a bum that looked just like his," John informed us, explaining that Jamie and several other boys were asked to line up, turn around and show their boxer shorts (the ones provided to Crabbe are apparently appropriately hideous - green with brown hearts).
"I was like 'bum double'?" Jamie said. "And they went 'bend over' and this is in front of the whole set, and I'm like uh, okay. It embarrassed me a little bit."
But the perks of being in Harry Potter are worth a little embarrassment. Jamie told us that the Hogsmeade scene was his favorite one to film. He also went on to praise David Thewlis as Lupin, calling him "really great," because of the mischievous streak he supposedly has carried from the books into the movie. And as for Michael Gambon:
"Richard Harris was more peaceful. Michael Gambon has a bit more energy, if you know what I mean. I think Michael Gambon, his character is a bit more..."
"He's trying to make it his own," John finished.
Rather like Jamie, who has an opinion on everything, and who - once he warms up - is much chattier than one might expect from Crabbe. "He's thick," said Jamie of his character. Jamie is just the opposite, making astute observations on directing styles one minute, and laughing at absurdity of fame the next.
The stupidest question he has been asked in an interview, he told us, is: "What brand of toothpaste do I use?" (It's Crest, for those who wonder.) Jamie finds it strange that people want to know those personal details about him. "[It's] weird," he said. "Surprising. Why anyone wants to know what toothpaste I use... are they going to go out and buy me toothpaste?" All in all, he seems able to shrug it off. "I'm sort of used to it now," he said.
Even meeting George W. Bush, the President of the United States during a recent trip to Washington didn't seem to faze Jamie, who had little more to say except that the President was very nice, and that he did know who Jamie was.
"I got to go in the Oval Office," Jamie said, grinning.
More impressive, perhaps, is that when shooting starts for Goblet of Fire in March, Jamie will get to go back to Hogwarts.
If normal means eating sundaes, hanging out at ESPN Zone, and laughing at a couple of reporters who don't know how to ride jet skis or play basketball, then yes, he is. If normal means having a nice, loud opinion on everything except the girls on the set, then yes, he really is. If it's normal for actors to turn their interviews into all-day video game parties, then Jamie Waylett is as normal - and delightful- as they come.
In fact, after just one day with him, we're finding it difficult not to side with Crabbe and the baddies.