The Bling Ring - Emma Watson
The Bling Ring - Nicki (Emma Watson) ©2013 A24
The Bling Ring - Emma Watson
The Bling Ring – Nicki (Emma Watson) ©2013 A24

For Emma Watson, the role of Nicki in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring couldn’t be further from her character of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise.

Based on a true story, The Bling Ring spotlights a group of teenagers obsessed with fashion and celebrities, who burglarize stars’ homes in Los Angeles. Watson portrays Nicki, a fictionalized version of Alexis Neiers, who starred on the reality show Pretty Wild.

Emma spoke of the movie at the press day for the film at the Cannes Film Festival.

What research did you do for Nicki?

The Bling Ring - Taissa Farmiga and Emma Watson
Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Nicki (Emma Watson) ©2013 A24

I had a lot of work to do to try and get into character for Nicki. A watched a lot of the Kardashians, Paris Hilton and The Hills, and then really it was just trying to understand her psychology more than anything.

It would be very easy for Nicki to feel like a parody, not real, and somehow I had to understand and empathize with her. That was really my biggest challenge, second to getting the accent down. It’s quite a specific dialect, so that took a bit of time.

I read that you watched the whole season of Pretty Wild. Did that help you prepare for the role?

The Bling Ring - Emma Watson
Nicki (Emma Watson) ©2013 A24

It was important to me that I said things that Alexis actually said but, at the same time, she was being fed things because she was on a reality TV show.

A lot of people are aware now that reality TV isn’t really real. These women (on Pretty Wild) are actresses of themselves and they have scripts and story lines written for them.

My character is technically based on a real person, but it’s a person who was acting and reading lines. So Nicki is like two levels of separation from reality.

How did Nicki’s costumes inform your performance?

The Bling Ring - Leslie Mann, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson and Claire Julien
Laurie (Leslie Mann), Rebecca (Katie Chang), Marc (Israel Broussard), Nicki (Emma Watson) and Chloe (Claire Julien) ©2013 A24

The costumes, hair and makeup really helped me get into character. All of those things

really put Nicki and her environment into perspective for me.

Nicki is interested in things being ‘hot’ or ‘sexy.’ The trashier and tighter the better. All of my usual fashion rules just went out the window.  Nicki was all about visible panty lines, bras, cleavage, very short skirts, lots of high heels, big hoop earrings. A lot of bling, basically.

Why do you think they broke into celebrities’ homes?

It wasn’t so much about the stealing, it wasn’t about the heist aspect, it was actually about the fact that they wanted to pretend for two hours that they were Paris Hilton, or that they were living that kind of lifestyle for real.

Sometimes they would go to the house just to party.

The film seems to be a very perceptive comment on celebrity. Do you think the UK has become too celebrity obsessed?

The Bling Ring - Taissa Farmiga, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Katie Chang and Claire Julien
Sam (Taissa Farmiga), Marc (Israel Broussard), Nicki (Emma Watson), Rebecca (Katie Chang) and Chloe (Claire Julien) ©2013 A24

I certainly think London is catching up with Hollywood. But there are celebrities who create a brand and create a business, a whole life  out of other people’s interest in their lives, and there are celebrities who don’t, who have a craft and a trade and I think as long as people understand the difference then it’s okay.

I think technology is playing a really big part, in the sense that everything’s moving so much quicker and we’re becoming saturated by images. And what is really interesting about a still image is that you can caption it any way you like.

These images really capture the imagination of young people and, to an extent, they embody whatever they project onto that image. People really feel invested and connected to whatever that person, world or story that the paparazzi shot is telling, and it very often has very little to do with the reality.

Emma was asked if she feels that she has finally left Harry Potter behind? Click here to listen to her reply.

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.