Book Reviews

Book Review – Beyond the Wand: The Magic & Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard by Tom Felton – Draco Malfoy Unleashed

One thing that’s nice about social media is the ability to interact with celebrities and see a little behind the public mask they wear. One of those I’ve come to really like is Tom Felton, who portrayed Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series of films. He’s not at all like the character he portrayed. He’s actually quite nice and down-to-earth. Prior to Ncuti Gatwa being announced as the next Doctor in Doctor Who, I argued that I’d love to see Tom Felton in the role and many people agreed with me. If you’ve only seen him in Harry Potter, you’re doing yourself, and him, a disservice.

In his book about his early life and growing up on the set of the Harry Potter films, Felton is very honest. He doesn’t try to paint himself as something more than he is. He always puts himself behind “the big three” of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson. He is deeply appreciative of everything he experienced and the people he met. There really isn’t a bad word about anyone in the book, unless you count when he is hard on himself. At times this is warranted, at others it isn’t. He’s obviously one of those who is harder on himself than anyone else is.

That’s not to say he was a saint, and Tom acknowledges all of the bad things along with the good. He made stupid mistakes that many kids make. Where one of his Slytherin compatriots ended up getting bounced from the films, Tom acknowledges that it could have been him as well. His behavior wasn’t all it should have been. Rather than being sheltered entirely on the film set like “the big three” Tom faced pressures from other people his age when he returned to a regular school. Peer pressure abounded, and in trying to prove he was just like his friends, he did some dumb things. He doesn’t downplay these events or excuse them, but owns up to the bad decisions he made.

It’s refreshing to read an autobiography that doesn’t try to sugarcoat, blame, or excuse things. After the Harry Potter films were over, Tom moved to California with his girlfriend, thinking that would be where his career would take off. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case as the environment out there seemed to encourage the “bad boy” behavior and sent him off on a bad trajectory. Fortunately, enough people really cared about him to push him to get help. It took a while, but eventually he straightened out and found himself; his true self.

There are lots of details along the way. Tom is honest about filming the movies. It’s not all fun; there’s a lot of work that goes into it and sometimes it was tiresome. He talks about having to stand there for “blocking” which is where the actors are on the set and technicians are seeing how to light them as well as camera placement. Sometimes they would stand there for hours. The young actors were on a schedule. They were only allowed to be on the set for 3 hours at a time and they needed to be in schooling with tutors for a time each day as well.

Tom’s family life helped. He was the youngest of four boys. His grandfather and one older brother occasionally served as his chaperone when his mother couldn’t leave her job. Chris, the older brother, didn’t do what he was supposed to do in this regard. His grandfather got to be an extra in a scene with the Hogwarts professors as he looked the part.

There are some great anecdotes in Beyond the Wand about various actors on the set, and not just the child actors. It seemed that everyone Tom encountered helped him and the other young actors in developing their talents. One of my favorite anecdotes was how Matthew Lewis, who portrayed Neville Longbottom, started getting much better looking as the years went on and didn’t look like the dorky teenager they had cast him as. Tom states they had to do things to make him look, well, less *hot* because he was truly the swan of the cast. I enjoyed this part of the book the most, although the stories Tom told of his life in California was one I could relate to more. I could relate to a young adult who went on a path that wasn’t good for them, and I was relieved when he found his way back from it.

The book is well-written and entertaining. Anyone who saw the recent Harry Potter special will know of the warm, close relationship between Tom and Emma Watson. She wrote the introduction to the book and it’s very obvious that the two share a deep affection and friendship. I highly recommend it to people who are fans of the movies. There’s a lot of insight into how they were made without destroying the magic of the movies. At the same time, Felton shares his unique perspective on what it meant to his life to be in them; the good, the bad, and the ugly. He doesn’t come off as a whiner or complainer but is honest about the way he was affected by taking the role. I highly recommend it.

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