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At 17, Irish actress Evanna Lynch is already famous for two things -- for starring in the epic Harry Potter films, and for being such a huge fan of the original books that the casting directors almost had no choice but to pick her for the role of Luna Lovegood.
Since being cast in the Warner Bros. blockbuster films, her life has been a rollercoaster ride of filming and red carpet openings. This month she left her hometown of Drogheda, County Louth to promote the latest Potter film (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which opens around the world next month) across all the main hotspots of Europe. Is she anxious?
Wise beyond her years
Stardom, when it comes early, can turn a young person’s head, but Lynch sounds remarkably collected and wise beyond her years.
“My life really hasn’t changed as much as you’d imagine. I mean, more people recognize you, and in Ireland that’s especially true because it’s so small. Over there everyone knows you,” she says.
“But people in Ireland enjoy their famous actors, their claims to fame, but I don’t think they get too fazed by it, you know? My family and friends are exactly the same as they were, and life is normal. I’m still working away, still doing my Leaving Cert (high school finals) and all that, you know?”
In case anyone’s under the impression that filming the biggest movie of the summer is just an endless lark, Lynch has news.
“We have school tutors on the set and we have to do three hours a day minimum with them. Everyone in my school thinks that makes me lucky but it’s not true at all,” she says.
“It’s one to one tutoring, so it’s quite intense, and they really make sure we get our tutoring in. It’s kind of hard to combine the tutoring with the film work. It’s hard to focus on both sometimes.”
A natural as Luna
In the role of Luna Lovegood, one of the most beloved characters in the whole Harry Potter universe, Lynch is a natural. Her slightly otherworldly face and manner are the perfect compliment to the eccentric character she plays.
“Luna doesn’t change but her position changes in this new film. Most people are aware of her reputation for being crazy. She’s certainly picked on by the other students,” Lynch says.
“As in any school people are reluctant to be close to that kind of person. Or to be seen to be close to her. But Harry is a lot more comfortable with himself in this film. He’s not as conscious of what people think of him or he just doesn’t care now.
“He accepts Luna and he calls her a friend and she’s thrilled. She helps Harry to see sense when he gets caught up in his struggles. She reminds him who he is.”
The darkest chapter of "Harry Potter"
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is without doubt the darkest chapter of the whole J.K. Rowling series, and in it Luna remains steadfast as both a defender of the wizarding world and as a comfort to Harry in his darkest hour. Lynch says the new film remains faithful to the book and her character.
“Luna seems small and young and not noted for being brave, and yet she is. She’s really calm though, she doesn’t get surprised by anything, and she accepts people’s differences,” Lynch says.
“In fact J.K. Rowling told me as a character she’s the most adjusted to the idea of death in the whole series. That cuts out a lot of fear for her. She tries to impress it on Harry. She’ll take it as it comes.”
As for her own future post-Harry Potter, Lynch is resolved she wants to continue to act.
“I’m completely fascinated by the theater. I love going to the West End to see the shows. It’s acting without all the hype attached to it. Actors are given more fee reign, you know?” she says.
“I just love watching one person on a stage holding the whole audience captivated. Whereas in film you’re very protected, you can mess up, you have that freedom and you can always ask to do it again.”
Between Potter films Lynch returns to her normal life in Drogheda and a hint of normality before the process starts all over again.
“I like Ireland and I have loads of friends there, but I think I want to move to London when I’m older because there’s a lot more to do and I do find it more freeing,” she says.
“I think in Ireland a lot of the time I feel boxed in. In Ireland you really have to break out to do acting, but in England -- and in London in particular -- it’s more accepted. Anything can happen there. You can never be bored.
“But Ireland is nice to come back to, too. We live in the country here and you feel so detached from the world, and that’s quite nice.”
The process of filming and the role she plays have taught Lynch some surprising lessons, too.
“I think Luna is very sure of herself and comfortable with who she is, whereas I am more like most people in that I can get preoccupied with what people think of me. I worry about that when really it doesn’t matter because that’s just someone else’s perception, you know? Luna inspires me to not let it affect me as much,” Lynch says.
“The best part of this experience has been meeting the people who were idols. That has been great because they are amazing people and they do achieve so much though working so hard. But they’re so normal as well and they don’t have airs and you see all sides of them.
“I used to be afraid to appear on the film set because I felt I was not ready and what would I do, you know? But I learned that they don’t expect you to be perfect, and that was a great thing to learn. Just to be a part of the film is thrilling, because I’ve always been a huge fan of the books, and now I can say I did my part for it.”
Luna and Dumbledore: Meant for each other?
Asked is there any part of the whole experience she has never told anyone about before, Lynch demurs before confessing.
“Maybe I shouldn’t say this, because it might get me in trouble. But there’s this big thing among people who are fans of the books. It’s a thing they do as fans called ‘shipping,’ which is short for relationship.
“The fans create ideal pair-ups based on the books. There are some really crazy ones. I don’t know if I should say.
“But some people think Luna and Professor Dumbledore would make a great pair in another universe. I mean obviously he’s far too old for her, but their personalities completely match. They’re calm and accepting and quirky and I think they’re both really creative. I’d say they’d be fun together.”