Throwback Thursday: U.N. Ambassador Emma Watson First Made Waves at Hogwarts

Courtesy of Warner Bros./Newsmakers
From left: Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint

The actress recently gave a passionate speech to the General Assembly about gender equality: "What she did was use her immense celebrity ... to shine a light on the enduring injustices against women," feminist author Naomi Wolf says

This story first appeared in the Oct. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

When The Hollywood Reporter reviewed 2001's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, it said "a beautiful young girl named Emma Watson nails precocious Hermione Granger. She makes scholarly ambitions and determination admirable virtues." Since the end of the eight-film franchise, which grossed a total of $7.7 billion worldwide, Watson's ambition and determination have taken a different course from battling the likes of Potter villain Lord Voldemort.

On Sept. 21, the 24-year-old British actress, now a United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador, addressed the General Assembly to mark the launch of the HeforShe campaign for gender equality, saying: "I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. … I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men." Her speech received a standing ovation. "We need many Emma Watsons," says feminist author Naomi Wolf. "What she did was use her immense celebrity, which is power in our culture, to shine a light on the enduring injustices against women."

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When Watson, who received a bachelor's degree in English literature from Brown University in May, was cast as Hermione at age 9, her only previous acting experience had been in school plays. "I just knew, from the moment I read it, that I was meant to play that role," she once said. She wasn't alone in that opinion. In 2012, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn told THR that as president of Warner Bros., he was presented with three possible Harrys, four Ron Weasleys and just one Hermione. "There are 60 million people in the United Kingdom and you only found one girl that could possibly be Hermione Granger?" Horn remembered saying to Sorcerer's Stone director Chris Columbus. "He said, 'Just watch this kid!' And we did and thought, 'Oh my God!' " Watson, last seen in Noah, next stars opposite Ethan Hawke in The Weinstein Co. thriller Regression, set for an August 2015 release.