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The Real Reason Matthew Lewis Hated His Neville Costume In Harry Potter

Growing up on camera is always a dicey proposition. Whether it's a long-running television series or a multi-episode film franchise, when you commit that many years of your life to something as a kid, there's no guarantee that you'll come out the other side the same person you were when you went in. There might be few who know this better than actor Matthew Lewis, who was cast as a child as the bumbling, pitiable young wizard Neville Longbottom — a role he grew out of with what turned out to be six films left to make. 

As Lewis explained  in an interview with Metro, there was a larger-than-usual gap between production on the second and third films, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as the franchise shifted its releases from the winter to the summer. During that break he hit a growth spurt, shooting up in height and losing much of his baby fat, including some of the roundness from his face. The filmmakers had to get creative to keep Lewis looking like Neville — and it wasn't always pleasant.

Why Matthew Lewis thought Neville's costume was disgusting

Neville Longbottom is consistently described as round-faced and chubby, and so measures needed to be taken. "It was never a discussion about recasting," Lewis explained, "but they had to do something."

Their first attempt was cotton wool, stuffed into the sides of his cheeks to pad them out, which was about as pleasant as it sounds and didn't prove workable. The next attempt, Lewis says, was "these bits of sponge from creature effects." But a sponge, as anyone who's ever washed dishes knows, doesn't exactly slough off liquids. This created something of a problem for Lewis, who says by the end of the day the pieces they cut for him would be positively sodden with the saliva they had absorbed from his mouth, leaving them utterly disgusting. 

Combine that with the rest of his Neville get-up –– false teeth, inserts behind his ears to make them stick out, shoes that were much too big, and a fat suit –– and it's no wonder Lewis says he felt pretty frustrated with his lot compared to the rest of the cast. None of them had to spend all day on set feeling like they had just sat through an orthodontist appointment. "Back then, aged 14, I was like... 'This is not part of the deal!'"

Why Matthew Lewis appreciates his Neville costume more now.

It was a lot of work for relatively little screen time. To be fair, though, Lewis says he would appreciate all the accoutrements more these days, as a more mature actor. "Now I would probably love that stuff, it's great for getting into character," he said. "Ten, 15 years later, I don't begrudge it at all."

Lewis has worked steadily since the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 2011. He's earned recognition both for playing a part in one of history's biggest blockbuster franchises and for the belated realization on behalf of most of the world that he does not, in fact, look much like Neville Longbottom at all. His most recent work includes appearances in 2020 as a wealthy landowner in the Channel 5/PBS period veterinary series All Creatures Great and Small and as half of a couple dealing with an unexpected pregnancy in the New Zealand comedy Baby Done. With a role like that, Lewis is still growing up on camera, no cheek padding required.