America’s last taste of Matthew Lewis was as Neville Longbottom, the beloved, bumbling Gryffindor of the Harry Potter world. But in his new movie Wasteland, in limited release today, he pulls a Daniel Radcliffe — code for "taking on a role vastly different than the one you're known for" — as Dobb, a somewhat brutish Yorkshire lad who helps his friend get back at an evil drug lord. Their elaborate scheme involves bows, arrows, and safe cracking. We spoke to Lewis about the project, bonding with his new castmates, and Longbottom, the verb.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but fans have taken to using Neville Longbottom, your Harry Potter character’s name, as a verb, to describe when a character grows up and transforms into an attractive adult.
I was not until you just told me, but that makes me very proud. That’s not something I ever expected. We’ve entered the vernacular! It’s very humbling. The fan base of Harry Potter is so fantastic; even now, a few years since the final one coming out, they’re still going strong. They’re really a great bunch of fans. You think once the film is finished people will disappear, but they’re keeping it going.
Did you and your new castmates get together before you filmed to build a camaraderie?
We absolutely did. It was one of the first things Rowen [Athale, the writer-director] said to me in our first meeting. He said he’d written the script, but from his own perspective — there is only so much dialogue you can write, especially when it comes to that kind of banter [in the movie], which comes really naturally. So there was a lot of ad-libbing we did together. Rowen was very keen on us improvising some scenes and wanted us all to be good pals. I think a lot of the budget went to us drinking before shooting. We went around Leeds, I had a few of the lads over to my house to play poker and have a few beers. Just becoming familiar with each other, really, so when we had these scenes we could take the piss out of each other and be as comfortable and funny as possible.
Are you a poker shark? Did you bring them over and take all their money?
I wish! I play until the end and lose all my money.
You’ve also done stage work since Potter ended (Our Boys on the West End). Any plans to return to the stage?
I really enjoyed that. Unfortunately, I just had to turn another show down because I’ve got another project that is going to clash.
You tweeted very mysteriously recently about lending your voice to a new documentary, Knight’s Club. What more can you say about that?
It’s going to be on BBC, it’s about the medieval reenactments in France every year. But it’s not just dressing up and having a bit of fun — it’s full combat with swords and shields and full armor. There’s broken bones and blood and it’s insane. This year, Team U.K. entered for the first time. It’s about these four guys from very different backgrounds and parts of the U.K. who come together to make this first-ever team. They get a bit of a battering, but it’s very fun.
Can anyone actually take part in the reenactments? Can you do it as a novice or do you have to train forever?
These guys were all supposed to go to training, but one of the guys spent all his time in the pub. As soon as he got there, he really regretted it. They hired this guy from Lithuania who’s one of the best fighters in the world to train them, and one guy got his arm broken in the first fight and was out of the team. So, yes, you could have a go, but you’d want to train. It’s pretty much a bloodsport.