Emma Watson felt vulnerable filming The Circle

Filming the movie made Emma Watson think about the issues of ethics and privacy in an age of prevalent online activities.
Filming the movie made Emma Watson think about the issues of ethics and privacy in an age of prevalent online activities.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Emma Watson said making her new movie The Circle, about a fictitious social media giant, was a tough and vulnerable experience that brought home issues of ethics and the boundaries of privacy in an increasingly public age.

The 27-year-old grew up in the public eye as a child actress in the Harry Potter fantasy movies (2001-2011).

But the British star added that she had not fully considered the implications of real-life mass data collection, online activities - including the posting of hate content - and personal freedom, or lack of, before making The Circle.

"It was a very vulnerable experience for me making this movie... (It) was very hard for me and very meaningful," Watson told the audience after the premiere of the movie at the Tribeca film festival in New York last week.

Based on the book of the same name by Dave Eggers, The Circle is a chilling vision of how social media giants control and monitor personal information - not always for the good. It is slated to be released in Singapore on July 6.

The Circle is a fictitious company that has been likened to Google, Facebook and Twitter, which have drawn criticism over how they do not actively police what is posted on their sites.

Recently, advertisers pulled out their YouTube advertisements when these showed up alongside content that promoted hate and objectionable values.

In the movie, amid a culture of "Dream Fridays" and slogans such as "Sharing is Caring", Watson's character Mae volunteers to become "fully transparent" - wearing a marble-sized camera 24/7 that streams all her activities online.

The experiment leads to the terrifying online hounding, tracking and death of a close friend who had tried to shun social media.

"I didn't think about most of this stuff before," said Watson. "Trust me, I have grilled Dave Eggers. Really, I have taken him to a room and said: 'What do we do?'

"A lot of friendships have a hard time surviving in the pressure cooker of the world that we live in and how public everything is. It's really tough."

Director James Ponsoldt said he was inspired to make the film after reading what he called Eggers' "darkly hilarious" 2013 book, and by the birth of his first child in an age when everything can be documented. "It terrified me," he said. "It was that sort of psychic terror that was the catalyst for the whole thing."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2017, with the headline 'Emma Watson felt vulnerable filming The Circle'. Print Edition | Subscribe