Rupert Grint's magic world of hex, drugs and rock'n'roll

The Harry Potter star has grown up and even gets naked for a movie about a hedonistic Belfast youth. But he'll still miss the role that made him famous, he tells James Mottram

It's just before 6pm and Rupert Grint has finished for the day. I feel like saying "Hard day at the office?" But I don't. After all, the red-haired one from Harry Potter must be feeling it right now. He's been filming the final instalment of the hit franchise based on the J K Rowling novels for just over a year now. "We haven't got long left," he says. "Just the final parts of the second part of the film." Not that exhaustion has set in yet. Rather, a feeling of uncertainty has enveloped him. "It'll be strange saying goodbye," he says.

With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows split into two films (the first due out in November, the second in July 2011), it will be some time yet before we bid farewell to Grint's character, Ron Weasley, and all the other Hogwarts pupils. But for the 21-year-old, a life-changing experience that began half his life ago is due to end this June when filming finishes. "It's a weird feeling actually," he admits. "I never really thought it would end. I never really saw this day coming."

In truth, I'm expecting to find a rather nervous figure before me. It can't be easy facing the prospect of unemployment for the first time. While most actors are hardened to it, Grint, and his co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have probably been institutionalised by their time at Leavesden Film Studios, the former Rolls-Royce factory on the outskirts of Watford that has been the home to Harry Potter since shooting began in 2000. "I don't know if I'm good enough to have a long career," he told one interviewer last year. "I've got a bit of an inferiority complex about my acting. My self-esteem is quite low in that sense."

Yet judging by his reaction today – and proving that Radcliffe was correct when he described Grint as "the most totally laid-back person you'll ever meet" – he's changed his tune. Quietly self-assured, while still as modest as the ripped jeans, T-shirt and dirty red- and-white-striped Converse boots he wears suggests, he simply shrugs when asked if he's worried about his post-Potter future. "I've loved every minute of Harry Potter," he says. "Yes, it'll be quite sad to see it go. But I'm also looking forward to being a bit more free and seeing what else comes along."

Admittedly, with estimates putting his wealth in the region of £9 million, such a safety net must help soften the blow. But there's more than money to consider in what must be akin to the feeling of leaving home for good. "It's been such a tight crew since the first film," he says. "Not many people have changed. It's a real family atmosphere. And the place as well... Watford in general really. I've spent more time there than anywhere. I don't know. It'll be weird not going there every day." He considers this for a second, then laughs. "I'll probably get over it."

Like his co-stars, Grint has already started making preparations for his departure. As far back as 2002, he featured in children's tale Thunderpants, and has since appeared alongside his Potter co-star Julie Walters (who plays Ron's mother) in the coming-of-age comedy Driving Lessons, "the first grown-up thing I'd ever really done", as he puts it. But while that saw him portray a shy teenager not a million miles from himself, his latest film, Cherrybomb is something else. "It was quite scary. It felt like a massive step. Filming in a different country, with a different accent, a crew I didn't know... it was a little bit daunting."

Directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn, Cherrybomb is a Belfast-set drama with lashings of sex, drugs and drink that might raise a few eyebrows among the Potter faithful. "It wasn't a conscious thing to do something completely controversial and shock people," argue Grint, who plays Malachy, a straight-A 16-year-old who works on reception at a leisure complex. While it may not be an episode of Skins, it's still a valid attempt to portray teen life realistically, as Malachy and his wild mate Luke (Robert Sheehan) find themselves competing for the affections of new-girl-on-the-block Michelle (Kimberley Nixon).

Playing the nerdy sidekick to the more charismatic hunk may be something he's already used to thanks to Potter, but Cherrybomb does boast it's fair share of sex scenes between Grint and Nixon, who came to prominence in the 2008 Noël Coward adaptation, Easy Virtue. It's certainly a far cry from the rather chaste kiss he shared with Jessie Cave, who played Lavender Brown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. "That was just a kiss, really. It was suggestive more than anything," he says. "This was a lot more intimate. It was quite nerve-wracking. I was quite nervous about it."

While he does get his top off, Grint admits he's uncertain whether he could echo what Radcliffe did on stage for Equus and go full frontal. "I don't think I could. Just being on stage would be quite a scary thing, let alone with no clothes on. It takes a lot of courage." Yet he feels Potter obsessives will accept him in this more mature role. "I suppose, as I'm getting older, the fans are getting older with me." Has he ever fought with a mate over a girl, like Malachy, I wonder? "I never really did. I haven't had the chance!" Comments like this make you realise how curious it must be to experience your formative years growing up on a film set.

But if Grint hasn't spent his youth chasing girls, he's as grounded as they come. Born in Harlow, he still lives in Hertfordshire, where he was raised and began acting in school plays. Preferring a round of golf to a night out on the tiles, he doesn't come across as a movie brat on a path to self-destruction. Frankly, he doesn't have the constitution for it. "I suffer really badly from hangovers," he says. "I need two days to recover." He's even avoided that most distressing of stigmas – playground teasing over being ginger-haired. "When you're at school, people call you 'ginge' and that. But it's never been anything nasty. I know some gingers get a hard time over it. But I'm pretty grateful for it!"

Another reason he's arguably grateful for his red hair is that it hasn't quite turned him into a teen sensation. While his face doubtless adorns many a teenage girl's wall, he doesn't really suffer from the hysteria that greets Twilight star Robert Pattinson – just two years older than Grint – wherever he goes. "I get recognised occasionally but nothing like that," he says. "It's crazy. You just can't really go anywhere. I've got a much more manageable existence. Must be pretty..." He stops for a second, imagining such an intrusion into his life. "It's just come from nowhere [for him]. It's such a quick thing. Good luck to him."

The eldest of five, Grint's equilibrium evidently stems from his upbringing in a strong family unit. "We're quite close," he says, before acknowledging that it's "been a weird few years" for his family. "It's been quite life-changing for everyone really. It's been quite an adjustment." While his father runs his own business dealing in Formula 1 memorabilia, even turning tyres into coffee tables, Grint tells me the whole clan have "been all over the world" with him for the premieres and promotional duties. "There are some good perks," he grins.

Yet it's clear he's not going to spend much time pining for Potter. Already making further provisions for removing the spell its cast over his life, due later in the year is Wild Target, a remake of the 1993 French film Cible Emouvante about an ageing assassin (Bill Nighy) suffering a midlife crisis. He plays Nighy's apprentice. "The character is closer to me than the one I play in Cherrybomb," he says. "I can probably relate more. He's quite laid back." So it's true then? "I suppose, yeah. I am quite relaxed. Not much fazes me. I don't get angry a lot."

Still, if Grint is looking for a role to eclipse Ron Weasley, he may already have found it. He's currently attached to a project to play Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, the British ski-jumping record holder who became a hero of sorts for finishing last in the 1988 Winter Olympics. "Nothing's final yet but I'm quite up for it. It's always been quite a big story in my family. My dad's always told me about the legend of Eddie the Eagle. He was a bit of a joke really. But he did actually jump, and set the British record." For the record, he's never skied in his life. "That might be a good thing!" he winks.

A comic tale of a plucky underdog, it rather sums up Grint's career to date. Maybe he'll never stray too far from this comfort zone. But with Ron on the run with Harry and Hermione in the final Harry Potter instalment, at least we'll get to see Grint in a more action-oriented role in Deathly Hallows. "I have hair extensions for the latter part of the film," he explains. "Ron gets a bushier hairstyle because they're living rough and camping out. Me and Dan have got stubble as well!" Ron Weasley with facial hair? Perhaps it shows Rupert Grint is ready to leave Harry Potter after all.

'Cherrybomb' opens on 23 April. 'Wild Target' and part one of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' will be released later in the year

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker