This introspection on Felton’s recent struggles with drugs and alcohol elevates an interesting but one-off book of Harry Potter trivia. If you don’t know the Hippogriff’s Horcruxes, though, feel free to go ahead – “Beyond the Wand” should only be read for finishers at Hogwarts.
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That’s partly because Felton has drawn heavily from the magic lexicon, referring to his parents and three older brothers as his “Muggle family” and recalling how Harry Potter props “appeared miraculously” In a naughty sibling’s bag. But that’s mostly because Felton’s on-site observations feel orchestrated. Although he has little to say about the Harry Potter filmmakers (besides original director Chris Columbus) and dances around more sensitive matters (such as co-star Jamie Willett’s arrest and franchise rights) quit), but Felton did drop a cute tidbit about the movie British Parade acting royalty.
Michael Gambon was the subject of a fascinating story during the filming of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” when he and Felton took a puff while filming Dumbledore’s death scene. Felton also addresses Hagrid actor Robbie Coltrane’s playful personality and marvels at Jason Isaac’s ability to transform from the outrageous Lucius Malfoy to his gentler real-life counterpart Role. The anecdote of Felton causing Alan Rickman’s ire by trampling on his flowing robes is interesting, as is the idea of disarming Snape actors lining up for lunch on set. “From day one, I was intimidated by Alan,” Felton wrote. “But seeing him wait patiently, in full Snape mode, with his sausage sandwiches takes his edge off a little bit.”
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Speaking of being cast as Draco and quickly gaining global fame, Felton recognizes his good fortune and warns that he was “born with passion rather than talent”. He was more generous with his younger accomplices, praising Daniel Radcliffe’s dedication to his craft when he played Harry, and portraying Rupert Grint as a big-hearted and easy-going fool – with Ron Way Sly is different. But he has the most to say about Hermione Granger actress Emma Watson, who admits that in a world that unfairly sexualizes female stars, Emma Watson has had to navigate completely different territory. Dutifully, if vaguely, he addressed their long-standing dating rumors: “I’ve always had a secret love for Emma, though maybe not in a way that people might want to hear.”
For a book so Harry Potter-dominated — full of Easter eggs right down to the chapter titles — it’s Felton’s experience outside the wizarding world that makes Beyond the Wand worth reading. His brothers come across as colorful characters, and their taunts go a long way in keeping Felton on the ground. (The story of a brother overindulging in champagne at the premiere of Felton’s first film, “The Borrower,” was a riot.) Felton joined Anthony Hopkins for the 2012 film “The Borrower.” The catastrophic audition of “Churkirk” was very daunting.
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When Felton finally opened up about his personal struggle, the change in tone wasn’t entirely unexpected. Earlier, he mentioned the unsettling burdens of being a teen star – including receiving death threats when he was 15 – along with his problems with tutoring and some illegal behavior. As Felton details his post-Harry Potter life in Southern California, honed on the audition circuit, he paints a striking picture: a well-adjusted actor beaten by Hollywood superficiality .
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“Beyond the Wand” found a larger purpose when Felton explained how he developed his drinking habit and documented the intervention that shook his world.His experience of sneaking out Recovering and lingering on the Pacific Coast Highway trying to walk back to a nearby bar was especially distressing. “Just as we have all experienced physical ill health at some point in our lives, we have all experienced mental ill health,” he wrote. “There’s nothing shameful about it. It’s not a sign of weakness. Part of the reason I decided to write these pages was in the hope that by sharing my experience, I could help others who are struggling.”
Ultimately, the appeal of Felton’s memoirs is his take on living in the one-in-a-billion experience. However, “Beyond the Wand” is most insightful when Felton translates his story into something more general. Of course, “Living Boy” was never Draco’s nickname – but given his eventful presence, it fit Felton well.
Thomas Floyd is a writer and editor for The Washington Post.
The Magic and Chaos of Growing Wizards
Grand Central Publishing House. 304 pages. $28.
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