It has been perhaps the most obsessively scrutinized college decision process ever endured.
Emma Watson, the British actress who plays the bookish but valiant Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, has confirmed, after months of speculation and rumor, that she will attend Brown this fall.
Watson's decision became public when ‘Potter' star Daniel Radcliffe told the U.K.'s The Guardian newspaper about his co-star's college plans in a July 4 interview. The actress herself verified her impending matriculation at Brown in recent interviews with MTV, Paste magazine and other media outlets.
As early as August 2008, The Daily Telegraph, one of Britain's biggest papers, was reporting on the high results of Watson's A-level exams.With such stellar grades, Watson was expected to attend Oxford or Cambridge, following in the footsteps of her parents, not to mention generations of talented English teens. But in September, the Telegraph quoted Watson as saying she had applied to a few American universities as well.
"I never thought that I would want to go to America for university," Watson told Interview magazine this April. "As a child, I aspired to go to Oxbridge, because that's where my parents went. When my dad talks about his time there, he says it was the most incredible experience."
Watson's interest in exploring her American options was confirmed in October when she swung through the northeast on a college tour that took her to Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Brown, leaving a trail of excited buzz in her wake.
"‘Hermione' Enchants Campus With Visit," the Harvard Crimson reported, quoting one sophomore who was "distraught" because he absentmindedly missed a chance to give Watson a tour of his dorm room.
In New Haven, Watson's visit caused an "uproar," the Yale Daily News wrote. "Everyone just got out their phones and started calling people," sophomore John Song told the Daily News. "There was kind of a … little buzz around, everyone was like, ‘Oh my God, it's Emma Watson,' but no one went up to her."
Watson was spotted at Yale again in December, leading the Daily News to speculate, "She just can't get enough of Yale … perhaps this is good news for Yale's future class of 2013?"
Misdirection And Muddle
By the end of January, though, it looked like Yale's hopes had been in vain. The Telegraph's gossip blogger, "Mandrake," revealed that Watson would not be crossing the pond at all. Rather, she would be studying English literature at Cambridge University's Trinity College.
The Telegraph quoted a friend of Watson's mother who said the young actress had balked at the prospect of moving so far away from home.
But then, in early March, Twitter user "mwtsnx" — an account registered under the name "Emma Watson" — produced the terse, blase tweet, "Did I tell you I got accepted to Yale," hinting perhaps that the actress was New Haven-bound. E! Online picked up the story, which quickly oozed out into the blogosphere.
Within a day, the story had been completely debunked. An announcement on Watson's Web site read, "We would like to inform you that Emma does not have a Twitter account and that these rumours are false. Emma is still trying to decide whether she wants to attend university in the U,K. or the U.S.A. and hasn't accepted any placements at this time." Nevertheless, the pseudo-story that Watson was headed to Yale continued to ricochet around the Internet echo chamber for weeks. One Scottish culture site was still repeating it at the end of April.
In the meantime, an April 13 article appearing in the popular British tabloid News of the World had it that Watson had settled on Brown. But the actress stayed mum, neither confirming nor denying the rumors.
As if the situation weren't already complicated enough, in June, multiple celebrity blogs picked up the story that Watson was going to Columbia. The proof? A "Charlotte E. Watson" was listed in Columbia's student directory — meaning, of course, that Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson (the actress' full name) had enrolled under a pseudonym! Never mind the fact that the Charlotte Watson in question had a corresponding LinkedIn profile, or the fact that she was clearly listed as attending the Columbia's School of Continuing Education, not its college.
By early July, then, Watson had been pegged as a member of the class of 2013 at Cambridge, Yale, Brown and Columbia.
The Frenzied Farce's Finale
On July 4, it started to look like Brown had won out.
In an interview with The Guardian, Radcliffe — in between dispelling rumors about his sexuality and discussing his love of the BBC Parliament channel, the British C-SPAN — mentioned the Potter cast members' respective academic achievements.
Watson was "incredibly academic, it's frightening," he said. "Me and Rupert (Grint, who plays Ron Weasley) to all intents and purposes dropped out of school. And she's going to Brown."
Watson herself had still not confirmed the story when the Providence Journal picked it up on July 7.
In July 8 and July 9 interviews with David Letterman and the U.K.'s Jonathan Ross, respectively, Watson said she had settled on a school in the states, feeling that, for someone who hasn't had a ‘normal' educational life since she was nine years old, a broader American university curriculum would be better than a more specialized English one. She still avoided naming the school she had chosen — though she did drop the word "concentration" in the Letterman interview.
On July 12, Potter producer David Heyman also let slip to the Chicago Sun-Times that Watson was headed to Brown. And then, on July 14, Watson finally revealed, in Paste magazine, that Brown was in fact her choice. Two days later, she told MTV the same thing.
With the months of wild speculation now at an end, all that remains is Watson's actual matriculation at her chosen school, and she'd like her future roommate to keep things low-key, please.
"As long as there are no Harry Potter posters on the wall, I will be fine and happy," she told People.
Watson has worked her filming schedule for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — which will be split in half to form the seventh and yes, eighth installments of the epic franchise — around the fall semester. "I'll be doing bits and bobs at Christmas, but September feels like my cut-off point, when I'll really stop," she told Elle U.K.
After that, she's not planning to forswear film acting entirely, but she would like to balance her career and her education.
Watson told Paste she's excited to be leaving home for a new environment, where she might get to experience "a bit of ‘normality' for a while."
"I do hope that it will be only a short time before I am known as ‘Emma Watson, the student from the U.K.' rather than ‘Emma Watson who starred in those Harry Potter films,'" she said.