'Perks of Being a Wallflower' stars just enjoyed 'hanging out'



In case you were a little bleary eyed over your Breakfast Smile platter, that really was Emma Watson at the Eat'n Park, winding down after a long day of filming.

It was one of her haunts -- along with the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Bethel Park, which she called home -- for part of the spring and summer while filming "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" in Pittsburgh.

"The shooting schedule's been kind of crazy. It's such a great group of people, and we all got so close that we mainly just hang out at the Crowne Plaza -- I'm serious -- and we play music," she said in late June in Peters Township.

(Summit Entertainment just released the first photos from the movie set to arrive in theaters in 2012.)

"Pretty much everyone that's part of the cast is musically talented in some way, so we spent most of our evenings playing music and just talking and just being silly. I've been to Eat'n Park a few times. A bunch of times, actually."

She would usually go after filming when it was late and the place was quiet. "I haven't had too much time to do anything but everyone's been so friendly," she said.

The 21-year-old plays high school senior Sam in the movie version of the novel about Charlie, a brilliant but sensitive 15-year-old who pours into letters his feelings about first-time emotions and experiences, perceptive observations about the people around him and, eventually, heartrending memories that surface.

Logan Lerman stars as Charlie and the cast also features Nina Dobrev as Charlie's overachieving older sister; Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh as their parents; Ezra Miller as Sam's stepbrother, also a senior; Mae Whitman as a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" enthusiast who asks Charlie to a Sadie Hawkins' dance; Johnny Simmons as a closeted jock; and Paul Rudd as an English teacher.

Author Stephen Chbosky, an Upper St. Clair native, is directing the film and wrote the screenplay.

As Hermione Granger in the "Harry Potter" series, Ms. Watson may have anchored a successful, beloved movie franchise, but she had the jitters about playing a suburban Pittsburgh teen.

"I was very nervous before we started shooting. I was very nervous about the American accent," she told a handful of reporters outside Peters Township High School. It doubles as Mill Grove High School in the story set largely in 1991-92.

Some of her cast mates, after all, had life experiences much like their movie characters -- dances, football games, pep rallies and even graduation in white gowns (for the girls) and black gowns (for the boys) and matching mortarboards.

"They went to an American high school, they know what prom looks like, all these little details that I had no idea about. So I was a little neurotic.

"My script was covered in notes about all these American words, American slang. I was quizzing my friends about high school and prom and everything, and then Steve was just like, 'Emma, this is great and everything, but you just really need to let all of that go' because he said he saw me as Sam, and it was kind of as simple as that."

In fact, before she even met with Mr. Chbosky, he had put together a bible of what he wanted the movie's visuals to look like and he used her photos for Sam.

She acknowledges an element of paranoia that a director might hire her only because of her "Harry Potter" following or some other reason, "so it really meant a lot to me that there was no one else for this role."

In fact, later that afternoon during an interview in the school library that would double as a set the next day, the director-writer spelled out why he cast Ms. Watson.

"She's luminous but she's also incredibly approachable, she's very down to earth, she's very fragile but in this very beautiful way. For me, that's all the qualities I always saw in Sam. Plus, she can dance. The girl can dance."

To hear her tell it, however, she and co-star Miller had a homecoming dance that terrified her. She had to do a "crazy, full-on dance" for 30 seconds that felt like two minutes in front of 300 extras.

On this day, Ms. Watson was dressed as Sam in a scoop-necked, sleeveless short blue dress with a floral pattern, small golden anchor earrings, a necklace with a single gold star and crocheted-fabric espadrilles with a jute platform wedge.

Her hair, which she famously cut after finishing the final Potter movie, was still short but parted on the side and growing in. She isn't the lead of "Perks" but has gotten the lion's share of fan attention and makes an enthusiastic, charming ambassador for it.

When she first told her then-roommates at Brown University that she had just read an amazing script for "Perks," her friends gasped at how that had been a favorite book. She initially didn't realize the cult following the novel had, much like the Potter series.

Being able to work with the book author turned writer-director fed Ms. Watson's compulsive nature or "a little bit OCD" when it comes to her material. As Hermione, she was such a big fan of the books that she became "a Harry Potter dictionary."

So any time she wanted to ask Mr. Chbosky anything, he was right there.

"He can create new dialogue with me on the spot and we can adapt and that's been the great thing about him, too, is that he realized he is making something new. Obviously he wants to be true to the spirit of the book, [but] he understands it's a movie, it's different. He's created something new with different actors."

The book and movie pay homage to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and cast and crew attended a screening at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont before shooting the real thing there.

"Steve got us all together one night and we all went to the Pittsburgh floor show, and it was hysterical. We had so much fun. It was great." The newbies were hiding in the balcony so they weren't "initiated," but they did throw toilet paper into the audience (as a character utters the line "Great Scott!")

Moving from a blockbuster franchise to a small movie brings a far faster pace.

"The hours and the days, it's full on. I mean, I have no time to do anything else other than basically go home, sleep, eat, shower and get ready for the next day. ... Everyone gets so close because we're on location together."

Being on location also meant Ms. Watson could beg to participate in a key scene in the movie that she calls "hands down, one of the best moments of my life. Definitely."

"Summit [Entertainment] didn't want me to do the stunt. I was not meant to do it at all, and I begged Stephen. I said, 'I really, really want to do this.' "

So that's how the world-famous actress found herself standing as a car traveled at 50 to 60 miles per hour, and she was tethered with a single cord and proved that not all magic comes at the hands of a wand from Ollivanders Wand Shop.

"I had one string but hands in the air, all the way through the tunnel coming out the other end. The first time I did it, I was so emotional I cried. It was really special and beautiful, and seeing the shot of what it's going to look like, it's going to blow your mind. ... It's stunning and Steve knew when he conceptualized it that it would be amazing, but I think it exceeded even his expectations.

"What a great moment."


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her Mad About the Movies blog at www.post-gazette.com/movies . First Published October 10, 2011 4:00 AM


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