For ten years Tom Felton was best known as Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter franchise, and despite growing up on the big screen, this British-born actor still maintains a humble spirit. He’s passionate about his work, carries his guitar with him, and takes time to engage in conversation. This now 28-year-old has left Hogwarts behind and traveled back in history to help explain the epic biblical story of the Resurrection. In the new film RISEN, hitting theatres this January, Felton plays a Roman soldier trying to solve the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following His crucifixion. Risen sat down with Felton to learn more.
interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Beverly Hills, California
Risen Magazine: You spent a decade of your life as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter franchise and several of those years with Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort… ironically in Risen you team up with his brother Joseph as Roman soldiers. What has your experience been with each of the Fiennes brothers?
Tom Felton: It’s quite bizarre I suppose. I didn’t get to work that closely with Ralph [in Harry Potter films]. Draco [Malfoy] and Lord Voldemort didn’t spend that much screen time together. Also the only time I ever saw him was in full costume so you can imagine he wasn’t the most approachable man in the world. He gave me a very awkward hug during the filming of the last movie – which was not scripted and keep everyone on edge but I think that was intentional. So Joseph was really the first Fiennes that I was able to hang out with and spend some time with and obviously we were together for quite a lot of the shoot for Risen. I was intimidated at first because I looked up to him a lot. He is a very intelligent guy but also fiercely approachable, and very relaxed with a great sense of humor so we got on very well.
RM: Becoming this Roman soldier in Risen, how did stepping into the role confirm or shift what you knew about the Bible and faith?
TF: I wouldn’t say my religious beliefs were shifted, but certainly the context in which I saw the material, and religion as a whole, was in a completely different light. I don’t think I ever really learned about it in a religious medium, and never through historical references, and this film really put a massive emphasis to me on the history that was going on at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. I found it fascinating to actually know what would’ve been the reaction of the Roman soldiers.
RM: Ambition was talked about as a motivating factor for both Clavius and Lucius, from acting and singing at such a young age. When would you say the passion developed for the arts and how has it morphed over the years?
TF: I don’t think any of those qualities come from a place of ambition. I never did any of those things, and I still don’t do any of them, with the hope of accolades or applause. It’s just something I enjoy doing. Something I always tell kids now that like to sing, paint, color, draw, dance or whatever, slowly but surely you become more self-conscious and aware that people are watching you or judging you over the years so it tends to stilt a lot of people’s flow of creativity. I’ve always enjoyed the environment where it is impossible to feel stupid.
RM: What was more challenging than you originally expected when it came to shooting Risen?
TF: The horse riding was somewhat harder than I first envisioned. It’s embarrassing because of course I told our fearless director at the beginning when he asked me if I could ride a horse, I said, “I was born on a horse. I am from South England. Of course!” But naturally no matter how good of a horse rider you are when you are in the middle of a mob of a thousand people screaming and throwing rocks, horses get a bit skiddish to say the least.
RM: I imagine each role an actor takes on makes a certain permanent impression, so what from this film will you remember most?
TF: There are so many great memories for me to take away but I suppose on the spiritual side of things, there is greater power in saying, “I don’t know” versus saying, “I’m certain” of something. As a person I am certainly more open than I was before going into the film.
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