The mother of all Tom Felton interviews:
The snarling young villain in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Draco Malfoy, has a most befitting first name: It means both "snake" and "dragon" in Latin. He also resides in the wizardly equivalent of a prep school fraternity house aptly named Slytherin. So it comes as no real surprise when Tom Felton, the 14-year-old actor playing Draco, reveals that of all the animals on the Potter set, his favorite was a boa constrictor.
"I really liked the snake that breaks out of the cage in the beginning of the movie," Felton says. "I saw it in real life, and it was really cool. Really big and fat."
He was drawn to the most mysterious animals on a set with plenty of creatures both real and computer generated. "The owls are cool as well, but you can't really pet them," he says.
It's hard to imagine Draco Malfoy (which means bad faith in French) befriending a bird. From the way his menacing character is described in J.K. Rowling's four books, he would be more likely to pluck its feathers out or cast a spell on it.
And it's just that malicious spirit that Felton relishes about playing Draco.
"It's definitely more fun playing a bad guy," says the actor. It's just as well that he didn't get the Harry Potter role, for which he auditioned. "It feels a lot better than playing one of the good guys."
Felton fell right into "the sneering and snarling. I'd never really done that sort of stuff before. I got my 20-year-old brother to get me angry, and we sort of practiced that."
Director Chris Columbus decided to alter Felton's appearance a bit to complete the transformation. "Slicking back my hair was Chris' idea," he says. "It was meant to be kind of waved back and kind of browny-blondy."
But the filmmakers ultimately decided to make him a towhead. And with his severe blond 'do and his character's emphasis on bloodline, some on the set mischievously tagged him "Hitler's Chosen Youth."
For the record, he doesn't sport the look of the ultra-slimy Draco off-camera. "Well, my hair is that length but not slicked back," he says. "I wear it forward. 'Course the face is the same."
He nailed the persona by studying the passages in the book that involved his character. "Draco's not really a bully," he says. "He's not exactly the biggest, strongest guy in the world. He's more a rich, snobby person. He thinks of himself as really cool."
And though he plays a cruel character, in real life he and the other kids on the set got along famously. "The moment we met, we just clicked together perfectly," he says.
Having been bitten by the acting bug at age 7 when he starred in community plays, Felton doesn't intend to make acting his profession of choice. Instead, he plans to "take time off to go to college, get a degree and a good job," he says.
What's his idea of a good career?
"Professional fisherman," he says. He goes fishing near his home in Surrey, England, and is planning a fishing trip in Manitoba, Canada, next summer.
He's an unusual kid in another respect: Except for the parts featuring Draco, Felton has not read any of the four Harry Potter books. "I'll probably read the first soon and won't read the second till after the movie comes out," he explains.
Felton agrees that the name Draco Malfoy rolled trippingly and malevolently off his tongue. "It's almost like James Bond," he says.
Of the four young actors with the main parts, Felton has had the most extensive film experience. He played Jodie Foster's son in Anna and the King and Peagreen in The Borrowers.
But Draco has been Felton's biggest and most exciting role. He has seen the film twice and plans on a third trip to the movies this weekend.
Meanwhile, he's already filming Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, having just shot a scene in which he plays the aerial sport of Quidditch. For the legions of fans of the first Potter movie, he has something for them to anticipate.
"I reckon this film will be a lot better," Felton says. "There will be a lot more comedy and a lot more action, and it'll be a lot scarier."
And since Draco is the boy kids love to hate, he has more good news for Potterheads. "Draco hurts himself in the next movie and that pleases some people," he says. "He falls off his broom."