— by Shawn Adler, with additional reporting by SuChin Pak
As Ronald Weasley in the Harry Potter films, Rupert Grint has faced giant spiders, fire-breathing dragons and a three-headed dog.
He even stole a flying car and drove it to Hogwarts — he just didn't do it legally.
"I failed the first time [I went to get my driver's license]," Rupert admitted. "I failed one thing. I was reversing, doing a three-point turn, and I didn't look over my shoulder."
And why should he? Buoyed by a supporting role in what will ultimately be the most successful movie franchise in history, Rupert has a devoted fanbase and a meal ticket for life. In an industry that so often asks, "What have you done for me lately?," Rupert doesn't have to look over his shoulder, but can instead focus on finding new and different projects knowing "Potter" will be there when he gets back.
Enter "Driving Lessons." Directed by "Mrs. Brown" scribe Jeremy Brock, the flick is a coming-of-age story about a teenager raised by domineering parents who finds relief, and friendship, while working weekends for a retired actress (played by frequent co-star Julie Walters, Ron's mother Molly Weasley in the "Potter" films). It's Rupert's first leading role.
"I play a character called Ben. He's a bit of a loner, I suppose, [since] he hasn't got any friends, and he's from a religious family," Rupert explained. "His dad's a vicar and his mom's really strict and doesn't let him do anything. He has to get a Saturday job and learns a lot of important life lessons along the way from someone that maybe isn't a normal 17-year-old's best friend."
For Rupert, starring in "Driving Lessons" was not only a welcome change of pace after four straight stints as Ron Weasley, but also a chance to branch out into more adult-oriented fare.
"I was doing ['Goblet of Fire'] during the time I got this script and just really liked it," Rupert said. "It's a different character to play. These 'Harry Potter' films, they take, like, nine months to make and they take up most of your time. I wanted to do something different, and this was it, really.
"It's a bigger part and more of a grown-up film," he added. "There's swearing in it and stuff like that, so it is kind of scary — a new experience — but I enjoyed it."
Laura Linney, who co-stars as Rupert's mother in the film, described "Driving Lessons" as "a balance between the theatrical person who turns out to be the spiritual person and the spiritual person who turns out to be the theatrical person." To Linney, understanding and embracing that difference is part of growing up.
"When you grow up, you're led to believe 'This is what spirituality really is.' And then you get to a point where you go, 'No, no, it's not.' Or 'This is good parenting. I have a good parent,' " Linney said. "You get to a certain age and make [your] own decisions. Things start to shift in ways, and you don't have any control over it. It's just a part of growing up, becoming mature."
Linney relished the opportunity to work with Brock, whom she called "the best first-time director I've ever worked with," as well as the chance to act in Britain.
"I just love the Brits. I love being there, I love working with them," grinned Linney, who was one of the only Americans in the 2003 British romantic comedy "Love Actually." "You have to earn things there, and that's not so bad. You really have to earn things and prove things, and I don't think that is so bad."
Rupert has proven himself in the "Harry Potter" films and beyond and now he's earned something too — he finally got that driver's license on his second try.