The actor who played Neville Longbottom grew up to be gorgeous
The world first fell for Matthew Lewis as the nerdy but lovable Neville Longbottom across eight world-conquering Harry Potter movies. As with co-stars Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron), Tom Felton (Draco), and Emma Watson (Hermione), the baby fat slowly melted off over the years and Neville blossomed in front of our eyes into a genuinely handsome young man. His transformation was so fierce, in fact, that an entire term was coined just to describe it.
Far from being just a pretty face, however, the northern England native is an accomplished actor, serious about his craft and intent on branching out in the wake of what will likely be the defining role of his career. From young lad following in his actor brother’s footsteps to a shirtless hunk setting the Internet alight, Lewis has proven he’s more than just the geeky sidekick. But he’s still a Neville nerd at heart, just like the rest of us.
Leeding the pack
Matthew David Lewis was born in Horsforth, a suburb of North Leeds, on June 27, 1989. Although he’s become something of a local celebrity, as he explained to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Lewis has continued to fly under the radar at home in spite of his massive success. “People in Leeds don’t really bother me now. … I still get recognized … in Britain, which I think is a bit strange as my appearance has changed so much, but back home they don’t give me any unusual attention,” he explained.
As his career kicked off, Lewis continued living in his hometown, in a house just a few yards from his parents’ place in the center of town. The Harry Potter star even visited a local high school and, as again reported by the Post, advised the students not to worry about living in a small town if they were looking to pursue stardom. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from … anyone can have a career in the film industry,” he wisely opined.
Keeping it in the family
Although Lewis was quick to advise students in his hometown to chase their dreams regardless of where they came from, he had his own inspiration right on the doorstep. Older brother Anthony (who started acting at just 8 years old) was a regular on popular Yorkshire soap opera Emmerdale and, as Lewis told Interview magazine, his initial inspiration to get into the business.
With Matthew still a toddler, he was taken along on jobs and soon got a taste for acting. “My mother had to chaperone [Anthony] … So I sort of grew up being around it and I just wanted to copy my brother and carry on,” he admitted. The younger Lewis began working at age 5, attending a local drama group/talent agency in Leeds and appearing in bit parts in Northern TV shows.
Meanwhile, their other older brother, Christopher, works as an editor. The three Lewis lads have never all worked together, though Anthony and Matthew both starred in 2012 BBC series The Syndicate.
Some Kind of Life
The very first major role for young Lewis before his big break as Neville, at just six years of age, was in British TV movie Some Kind of Life. Written by Kay Mellor and starring the high-profile likes of Jane Horrocks (who played Lewis’ mother in the show) and Ray Stevenson, the role was a massive deal. As he admitted to The Guardian, however, “At the time I was too young to appreciate it, but I look back now and go: “What an opportunity!”
It was his agency in Leeds that got him spotted for the job, as Lewis told The Yorkshire Evening Post, and what eventually got him noticed for a little film adaptation called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “Some Kind of Life… was an absolutely amazing part to get as your first role,” he gushed. It didn’t take long for Hollywood to come calling, with Lewis entering the big leagues just a few years later at the ripe old age of 11.
Headed for Hogwarts
There’s no break bigger than the most successful kids’ fantasy series in the world (with a combined box office gross of nearly 3 billion, according to Box Office Mojo). But, as a kid, it can be difficult to wrap your head around that kind of success. As Lewis admitted to The Telegraph, he had no idea how big a deal it was — even when he attended the first premiere in London’s Leicester Square. “As far as I was aware, nobody knew who I was. But there were all these people shouting, “Matthew! Matthew!” I was an 11-year-old kid, and I was thinking, “How do they know who I am?” It really scared me,” he admitted.
The youngster continued attending school in Leeds throughout filming the movies, doing six months on set and six months in school. Due to the volume of child actors on set, they studied during filming too, as Lewis explained, “They had a whole floor of classrooms. We had to do three to five hours of lessons every day.”
Stunting his growth
Neville might have remained a lovable dork in the Harry Potter universe but, in real life, Lewis was maturing into a handsome young man. To keep in character, drastic measures were taken, as he explained to The Independent. “When we got to film three, and I’d got quite tall and slimmed out a bit, they decided that they were uncomfortable with that, and thought, ‘No, we need to make him a bit geeky looking’, or geekier, I should say, so they put me in a fat suit and false teeth,” the actor revealed.
Lewis told fans gathered at a panel during Universal Orlando’s Celebration of Harry Potter that it really affected his self esteem, as reported by People. “Being 15 years old in the middle of puberty, having to wear a fat suit. There’s girls around; I’ve got this fat suit on every day. No one knows I’m wearing this damn thing, they all just think I’m fat,” he admitted, reflecting on the process.
Gryffindor for life
Given they spent the majority of their formative years together, it’s no surprise the HP kids formed a lifelong bond. Nowadays, each time a couple of cast-members reunite, social media goes into meltdown — like when Lewis, Watson, and Felton all got together and shared the evidence on Felton’s Instagram. “School mates #hogwartsalumni,” he captioned the shot, racking up over 1.3 million likes.
Then, sworn onscreen enemies Lewis and Felton subsequently met up, in L.A., both sharing their catch-up on social media. Lewis even joked about the Slytherin memorabilia in his pic, captioning it, “Take your Slytherin paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” (also referencing Felton’s role in Rise of the Planet of the Apes).
Elsewhere, in a joint interview with The Independent, Lewis and Grint shared stories from the set and waxed lyrical about how much love they had for each other. Lewis gushed about all the cool stuff Grint buys with his blockbuster fortune, while Grint noted, “I always knew Matt and I would stay in touch. It’s great that I’ll always have him to talk to about it all.”
Moving on from Neville
In their joint Independent interview, Grint notes how proud he was watching his co-star branch out. In particular, he noted how great it was to see Lewis play “a different role in The Syndicate — a real thug, hardcore, but he added vulnerability to it and he was very good.” The lottery-themed anthology TV series was one of many roles Lewis took post-Potter to ensure he wasn’t typecast as Neville.
As he explained to The Standard, “Having played the same character for 10 years, I jump at every opportunity I have to mix it up.” The young actor also admitted that, after taking a stage play to hone his craft and waiting four months for a good review, he was left flummoxed, admitting, “I hadn’t appreciated there would be paying customers and it was a f***ing job. Suddenly I was out of my depth.”
He soon landed high-profile roles in the varied likes of serial killer drama Ripper Street, cop show Happy Valley, and even opposite Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke in romantic weepie Me Before You.
Marrying a muggle
Although he claimed not to get too much attention from the ladies, Lewis married his lady love — a Muggle, no less! — in May 2018. The two actually met at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where she was working at the time, beginning their courtship in July 2016. According to People, the couple got engaged in Paris in November of that same year.
Just a few short months later, Lewis took to Twitter to reveal they’d tied the knot. Sharing a shot of the happy couple walking down the aisle in their finery, in Italy, where the ceremony took place, the HP alum joked about missing his favorite band for the occasion. “Not only did I miss @ArcticMonkeys in LA but they were performing in Italy at the same time we were there and my wife made me get married instead. Fuming,” he deadpanned in the Tweet.
By the time the final Potter movie was released, it was clear Neville Longbottom wasn’t nearly as dorky off-screen as on. A few years later, while posing for Attitude magazine in just his skivvies (and less), Lewis admitted how it felt to finally be himself at the premiere for Deathly Hallows Part 2. “I was excited… not to have the fat suit under my t-shirt. …And then obviously a lot of attention focused on it, which I didn’t expect. …I’ve never considered myself to be good-looking at all. Just average,” he shrugged.
The shoot caused quite a frenzy online, inspiring the term “Longbottoming” (which has its own Urban Dictionary definition). Lewis isn’t ashamed of his association with a term used to refer to an ugly duckling transformation, telling Hello Giggles, “I never thought in my wildest dreams that one day I would have coined a phrase …I’m quite proud. …I wish it was for my linguistics rather than my chest. But, it’s still something to tell the grand-kids, I suppose.” He even designed a T-shirt for children’s charities that hilariously plays off the idea of Longbottoming.
Growing up with Girlfriends
After breaking the Internet with his super-raunchy Attitude shoot (which even J.K. Rowling herself commented on), the new and improved Neville Longbottom once again sent fans’ hearts into a tizzy when the trailer for his latest role dropped. Girlfriends, which reunited Lewis with Kay Mellor, isn’t even really about his character, but that didn’t stop female-focused sites like Bustle going into meltdown over it.
However, Lewis was quick to set EW straight about taking on roles that played off his new heartthrob status. “It certainly is something I think about when I take roles. …You don’t want to get known for one thing,” he argued. The actor further elaborated in an interview with Hello Giggles, advising, “This is only the second time I’ve taken my shirt off in my entire career on a TV show. …It’s not what I set out to achieve with the Attitude shoot. It’s not what I ever envisioned for myself. …It’s not what I want to do. …It’s all about context.”
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