January 2022 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Harry Potter films and the HBO special took us behind the magic of the films as we journeyed back in time to a childhood rife with magic and possibility. Reading Tom Felton’s memoir Beyond the Wand was like watching the special all over again.
For those of you who don’t know, Tom Felton played Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter’s school rival. As someone who doesn’t read celebrity memoirs, I was expecting a simple recounting of Felton’s Harry Potter days, but what I got was something deeper: an autobiography with a lot of self-reflection and depth.
In the beginning chapters, Felton takes us through his early years as a child actor as he got into acting itself, and how often he got mistaken for another blond child actor at the time (Macauley Culkin). It was fascinating to see how casual he was about the whole thing and how long it took him to become passionate about acting. As he says, he was never as famous as the golden trio, and even after he got cast in the films, it was easy for him to go back to his normal life when he wasn’t filming, a fact that was impossible for Dan, Emma, and Rupert.
The fact that he kept in touch with his school friends and family are things that he attributes to staying grounded throughout his whole experience. As he loves to repeat in the book, his family, and especially his older brothers, never let him get too big for his boots and always kept him in check.
The real magic begins when Felton gets into the stories that took place on the set of the Potter films. The stories include smoking behind scenes with Michael Gambon aka Dumbledore, all the times he started laughing right before a take in the first two films, that awkward hug from Voldemort, and how he managed to convey the depth of Draco’s character in the final three films – a task he struggled with immensely.
It was fun to read about his relationship with world-renowned actors, including his on-screen family, with whom he’s still close to today. His relationship with Emma Watson aka Hermione has been much talked about, but he very sweetly describes her as his best friend, finally putting those relationship rumours to rest.
As enjoyable as all the stories of Felton’s time in the Potter films, the true depth of the memoir is displayed toward the end, when Felton recounts his life after the films. It’s easy to imagine all manner of doors opening for the stars of a worldwide phenomenon, but Felton’s experiences are the opposite. They really showcase the magnitude of influence these films had on their child stars. However, Felton demonstrates a real power for self-reflection and self-awareness as he tells us about his life in LA, time in rehab, breaking out of rehab, breakup with his long-time girlfriend, and how he chooses to live his life every day.
Draco Malfoy grew up in a toxic home environment and was a Slytherin, but Tom Felton couldn’t be further from his onscreen counterpart and is a Gryffindor, through and through.