When Dave Eggers published The Circle ― about a young upstart employee in a Google-esque, all-knowing tech company ― in 2013, the idea of being constantly connected, of having all one’s private data in one place, seemed safely in the realms of fiction.
Just four years later, with “The Circle” film adaptation hitting theaters Friday and Congress rolling back protections against ISPs selling users’ web histories, his darkly humorous vision of the future doesn’t seem so far off.
When asked if the relentless march of technological progress should be seen as good or bad for humanity at a Tribeca Film Festival screening Wednesday, Emma Watson, who plays new Circle employee Mae in the film, felt the answer was complicated.
“There’s no right answer,” she said. “Trust me, I grilled Dave Eggers. Really, I’ve taken him to a room and have been like, ‘Tell me what we do! How do we stop it? What do we do?’ And you know, it’s much more complicated than that, unfortunately, as is life.”
“I guess the big thing for me having been involved in this is just taking back the idea that this information that belongs to us, or belongs to me,” she continued, “and just being mindful and much more aware of what’s unveiling before our very eyes, oftentimes without us even realizing.”
The all-eyes-on-you feeling that Mae experiences in the film — the result of participating in a radical new form of transparency — isn’t dissimilar to the microscope of celebrity.
“It was a very vulnerable experience for me to be in this movie,” Watson explained earlier in the Q&A session. “I felt very vulnerable watching it. And I think it’s just ‘cause it really went to the bone, a lot, just in terms of experiences where you know you have to walk out to a stage and there are things going on behind the scenes that no one knows about, and you just have to turn on and kind of be this thing. Getting to play Mae and put that on screen was really hard for me, and really meaningful.”
Watson elaborated on the rules she has in place to protect her privacy in a chat with Jessica Chastain for Interview magazine this month. Having been thrust into the spotlight at a young age as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” franchise, Watson explained, “The story of my life has been of public interest, which is why I’ve been so passionate about having a private identity.”
The actress sees keeping her private life under wraps as a part of her job. “When I step into a character, people have to be able to suspend their disbelief; they have to be able to divorce me from that girl,” she said. “And not having everyone know every single intimate detail of my entire life is part of me trying to protect my ability to do my job well.”