Bonnie Wright rarely gives interviews. It’s understandable: for a decade of her young life, she was famous for playing Ginny Weasley, the young witch who won Harry Potter’s heart. The 25-year-old Londoner grew-up in front of paparazzi cameras, and counted Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and JK Rowling as her family.
Looking back now, as a young director trying to make her mark in Los Angeles, she views it as a wonderful opportunity. “I’m so respectful and understand those 10 years on Harry Potter were the foundation of my life. It was seminal to my growing up.”
But at the same time, the eight film franchise meant she had to deal with puberty and the other trials of adolescence in the public eye. “It’s not fun when you’re a teenager and experiencing those things. You’re growing into yourself and see photos of yourself like, 'oh God!' Especially when you’re changing so much every year.”
Today, she is still scrutinised for her appearance. A quick Google search shows articles centred around her ‘bikini body’, and there are still references to one critic calling her a ‘plain Jane’.
Wright explains that embracing her body took a long time - and it's still ongoing: “You’re always changing and growing. That’s a continual process but as soon as you accept it as that... it’s not something I’ve suddenly got over and means I’m super confident now – definitely not.”
How does she feel about articles on her looks today?
“Whether or not you’re on the internet or your own personal world, that’s a journey every woman goes through – that battle of not caring about your physical body. It’s not great having it across the internet, but it’s a question of how much you want to distance yourself from it - that’s what I’ve really learned.”
She does express her relief that, during her most formative years, she didn't have to deal with the sort of online pressures that young starlets face today.
"I feel very lucky and pleased that when we were filming Harry Potter, social media didn’t really exist," she says. "That was an incredibly lucky thing. I wasn’t a nine-year-old with a Twitter account. I’m thankful."
In the face of global fame, Wright has thrown herself into directing. After Potter, she studied film at university and now has her own company: BonBonLumiere. She is currently working on independent films, as well as taking on an ambassadorial role for FilmAid, a charity that aims to help refugees by using the storytelling power of film.
Directing is clearly a huge passion: “I feel like the minute I really got into my directing work, it became a personal journey. It’s something I do for myself. Of course I want it to become a career - and bigger than that. But for a long time, since I graduated, it’s been very personal. So when things happen, I have my directing stuff that I'm doing for me and not for someone else's opinion.”
There are countless examples of sexism against women in Hollywood, even in 2016. Wright wonders if it's only a matter of time before she'll have her first experience of discrimination in directing.
“I have yet to come up to any sort of discrimination or lack of opportunity, because my work at this moment hasn’t really set foot in a very commercial world. But the minute you leave the independent arena, most of these crazy statistics start to crop up – if you were to direct a studio film that’s when the terrifyingly small of amount of female directors and diversity is a huge issue. For me - not yet.
“I want to make sure we get to the point where your gender doesn’t have to come before your job title. It shouldn’t be a ‘female director’ – it should just be a 'director'. It should transcend gender, race, time and language - all those things. My stories are coming from a female perspective but from the beginning of time men have also told stories with female leads.”
If anything, Wright's biggest barrier is herself. “I had a career at quite a young age; I’ve naturally set myself high expectations for myself in terms of moving forward. It’s having patience and reminding yourself there's no deadline apart from the one I’m setting for myself. In this generation of instant gratification, 'new new new' and our consumer world, you can quickly start getting bowled along. I can find myself rushing ahead.”
She also tells me that her Harry Potter success means some people in the film industry make unfair assumptions: “Some are super excited, others are like 'you must have been handed everything'. I’m incredibly lucky, as certain doors have opened for me. But it’s important that when you are given those connections, you respect them even more. You’re always going to come across people who are going to judge you, but then it’s an issue they have - not yours.”
Lack of diversity is another significant issue in Hollywood, and one that Wright is conscious of, when casting for her own films.
This year saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on the London stage, with black actress Noma Dumezweni playing Hermoine Granger. Wright was pleased and thinks more effort to cast non-white actors would have paid off in the films as well: “There’s always room for it to be more diversely cast. I think it was important and great they did so in the play.”
She has put the Harry Potter films behind her, and is delighted when people associate her with directing first and Ginny Weasley second. That said, she wouldn't rule out playing Ginny again in a future Harry Potter film: “With all things, never say never.”
For now though, she is keen to stay out of the limelight and is working on a project to help young refugee girls in Kukuma Kenya tell their stories. “Film is a very empowering tool. It's main draw, for me, is that basic concept of storytelling. I’ve gone back to basics. Making my films with a small crew was the way I brought it back down to earth.
“That creative process mirrors how I choose to live my life day-to-day, which is pretty quiet and normal. It means I’m relatively free.”
FilmAid is a global development and humanitarian organisation that harnesses the power of storytelling of film to inform, empower and inspire refugees around the world Link de la noticia