Skip to Content

Book Summary: Beyond the Wand – The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard

Beyond the Wand (2022) offers a backstage pass into the life of Tom Felton, an actor best known for his iconic role as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films. As he recalls the magic of movie-making and struggles of growing up in the spotlight, Felton takes fans on a journey through his life and career so far and the valuable lessons he’s learned along the way.

A fascinating glimpse into the highs and lows of life as a young actor.

What was a typical day like for you as a kid? Going to school? Spending time with family and friends? For actor Tom Felton, things were a bit more complicated.

Tom grew up straddling the line between two completely different worlds. In one, he was a normal teenager trying to navigate school and personal relationships. In the other, he was taking on an iconic role in one of the biggest film franchises in the world.

In this summary to Beyond the Wand, you’ll get a behind the scenes look at Tom Felton’s unique experiences on and off screen. We’ll start by taking a look at his early family life and how he scored the role of Draco Malfoy. Next, we’ll talk about his days on the Harry Potter set and the important friendships he formed there.

Finally, we’ll learn about Tom’s mental health struggles after finishing the series and the critical life lessons that made him the person he is today.

Book Summary: Beyond the Wand - The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard

An Ordinary Muggle Family

Tom Felton’s on-screen character Draco Malfoy was an only child raised in a cold and lonely wizarding household. In real life, Tom’s “Muggle” family was the complete opposite. Tom grew up in a tight-knit, loving, and occasionally chaotic home with his parents and three older brothers.

Tom’s mother worked multiple jobs to give her sons anything they wanted and showed unending support for any hobby they took on – even if it was short-lived.

Tom’s father was a bit more economical. While he would often scoff at the idea of buying the kids brand new things for each new interest, he went to great lengths to build them whatever they needed – whether it was a new hockey net or a skateboard ramp.

Tom credits his oldest brother Jonathan – nicknamed Jink – with introducing him to the arts. Jink was interested in all types of music and performed in musicals as a kid. Watching his brother on stage inspired Tom to develop his love of performing.

Tom’s middle brother Chris often acted as his chaperone while on set. Tom believes that Chris’ matter-of-fact personality was what helped him to stay grounded during his teenage years.

With his third brother, Ash, Tom shared a similar sense of humor and a love of sports. Unfortunately, Ash was often hospitalized due to struggles with mental health – which would affect all four Felton brothers at different times in their lives.

While each person impacted his development in different ways, Tom’s family collectively gave him the chance to experience a normal childhood. The opportunity to feel normal is important for any young actor, but it would prove invaluable to Tom as he took part in one of the most popular film franchises of all time.

Becoming Draco

As strange as it sounds, not preparing for his audition may have been what landed Tom Felton the iconic role of Draco Malfoy. While most kids were already huge fans of the material, twelve-year-old Tom showed up to the Harry Potter auditions without having read a single one of the books.

The first step of the audition process was to have the kids line up along a wall and tell the director what they were most excited to see on screen. As each actor answered the question, Tom began to realize that he had absolutely no idea what they were talking about.

The kid in line before him answered that he was most excited to see Gringotts. Fans of the books would know that Gringotts is a wizarding bank. Tom did not. Assuming that this was some kind of magical flying creature, Tom agreed that he was excited to see “the Gringotts,” and mimed a flying motion with his arms.

The director – Chris Columbus – took a long look at him and nodded. It was obvious to everyone that Tom was lying. At this point, Tom was convinced he wouldn’t get the part, but he stuck around anyway.

Next, Chris told the kids that they needed time to get the set ready, so they should just hang out and talk amongst themselves. Having worked on a set before, Tom could tell that they were already being filmed.

Just then a small nine-year-old girl – who he would later learn was his co-star Emma Watson – walked up to him and asked what the fuzzy thing hanging above them was. Annoyed, Tom answered that it was “a boom mic…obviously,” before walking away.

To this day, Tom is convinced that his lack of preparation and cheeky attitude was what won him the role. Every actor brings a part of themselves to their characters. While Tom admits that he was nowhere near as bad-behaved as Draco, the line between them was sometimes blurred.

Wizarding Friendships and Working With Legends

Over the next ten years, Tom would have the opportunity to work with hundreds of actors and form some of the most important and lasting friendships of his life.

While they mostly kept their distance in the beginning, Tom’s friendship with Daniel Radcliffe developed significantly during the later films. They played bitter enemies on screen, but Tom has a lot of love for Daniel and a deep respect for the way he conducted himself under such immense pressure.

Harry Potter fans would also be thrilled to learn that the actors who played the Weasley family were everything you could want them to be in real-life – kind, funny, and a bit mischievous. None more so than Ron Weasley himself, Rupert Grint. In fact, Tom says that it is virtually impossible not to like Rupert – he’s just that nice of a guy.

As we learned earlier, Tom’s relationship with Emma Watson did not get off to a great start. That being said, the two young actors later discovered that they were kindred spirits and developed a strong bond and enduring friendship.

Tom’s role in the Harry Potter films would also allow him to work with a host of cinematic legends – including Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, and Dame Maggie Smith, among many others.

Tom remembers Robbie to be very much like his character Hagrid – kind, caring and always good for a laugh. No matter what was happening on set, Robbie always made sure that the kids were comfortable and well taken care of.

Alan Rickman and Dame Maggie Smith – who played Professors Snape and McGonagall – were also kind, but could be a bit more firm if necessary. Often sharing the set with large groups of children, they both knew how to give a stern look that would quickly silence the room.

Tom was also able to work with both Dumbledores – Richard Harris and Michael Gambon. Although they held the same role, the two actors could not have been more different. Harris had the air of a kind grandfather, while Gambon was much more of an eccentric showman.

Ultimately, Tom credits the older, more seasoned veterans with helping him to become the actor he is today. Even now, he is constantly commended for his behavior and attitude on set. Tom believes he owes this to the example that was set for him and the other young actors every day on the Harry Potter set.

A Balancing Act

A typical day of filming the Harry Potter movies would begin at 6 a.m. sharp, when Tom would stumble into a waiting car and sleep through the hour and a half drive to Leavesden studios.

After getting his scripts for the day and dressing in his Hogwarts robes, he would spend an hour in hair and make-up and then head off to set.

Making his way through the studios in a golf cart, Tom remembers the paths being littered with memorable props from previous films – including the Weasleys’ blue Ford Anglia and the giant chess pieces from The Philosopher’s Stone.

The rest of the day would be split between filming his scenes and attending the required three hours of on-set tutoring. During the six-month breaks between films, Tom would also attend regular school.

He admits that the process of trying to go back to a normal life during these periods was not always easy. He found himself struggling to fit in with the other students and often had issues with talking back to his teachers.

For many years, Tom’s life would follow this same pattern.

When it came time to make the final two Harry Potter movies, they were filmed back-to-back, without the usual break in between. According to Tom, this meant that the shoot felt like it went on forever. Although it seemed like it would never come, the end of the series was rapidly approaching.

On the last day, Tom filmed his final scene, quickly said goodbye to the crew, and then hurried to his car. Feeling equal parts relieved and devastated, he began to sob uncontrollably. A huge part of his life had just come to an abrupt end. What would his future look like in the years to come?

Lost in Los Angeles

Tom’s first project after finishing the last Potter film was a lead role in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was offered to him with no audition required.

Since his experience with this film had been so rosy, Tom assumed that everything would continue to be easy. Unfortunately, this was not the case. After moving to Los Angeles, he found himself going on hundreds of auditions – many of which could only be described as cringeworthy.

Eventually things did start to pick up and Tom was signed by a Hollywood agency. As more people around town began to know his name, he found himself getting used to his new life in Hollywood – full of designer clothing, fancy restaurants, and expensive cars.

Many people would assume that this lavish lifestyle would be the ticket to happiness, but Tom found himself feeling quite the opposite. In fact, the more famous he got, the less genuine connections he felt with other people.

Craving an escape, one day Tom found his way into an old bar called Barney’s Beanery. Although he hadn’t been much of a drinker in the past, Tom soon became a regular, coming into the bar every night for a few pints of beer and shots of whiskey.

Tom’s drinking problems came to a head one day when he was called into his talent management office. Still drunk from the night before, Tom stumbled in expecting to hear about a new project. Instead, he found himself walking into an intervention.

Seated in a circle around the room were twelve people – including his managers, his lawyer, and even his girlfriend. After reading the personal letters they had each written, they told him that he needed to get help.

Tom felt betrayed – he didn’t think that his drinking warranted this kind of harsh treatment, but he reluctantly agreed to check into a rehab center.

Three Acts of Kindness

Almost immediately after arriving at rehab, Tom knew that he was in the wrong place. Although he admits that he did have a drinking problem, most of the other patients at this facility had severe substance abuse issues and required intense psychiatric treatment.

Just twenty-four hours after checking in – while on a walk across the grounds – Tom found himself staging an accidental “escape.”

Without any particular destination in mind, Tom made his way through the woods, along the Pacific Coast Highway, and then out onto a dark, deserted beach. Reaching his breaking point, he waded into the water and began to scream – letting out all of his frustration about what his life had become.

Worst of all, he couldn’t stop thinking about how he had let his loved ones down. As he crawled back up onto the sand, Tom realized he had no phone, no wallet, and no idea where he was. But fortunately, three acts of kindness would save him that night.

The first was from an older man working at a gas station nearby. When Tom walked in – soaking wet and covered in dirt – the man offered him water and his last 20 dollar bill. Tom swore he would pay him back, but the man refused.

He told Tom that – although he didn’t have a lot of money – he was a rich man because he had the love of his family. Tom still thinks about these words to this day.

The next act of kindness was from an Uber driver, who offered to take Tom wherever he needed to go, free of charge. Once again, Tom offered to repay him someday, but the man refused.

Tom found the third kindness when he was dropped off at a familiar location – Barney’s Beanery. Seeing the state that he was in, the bouncer, Nick, brought Tom to his home and listened patiently as he vented for three hours straight.

As the sun rose the next morning, Tom came to the realization that he did need to seek help. This time, however, he was going to choose it for himself.

The Important Things in Life

Tom’s journey to sobriety would bring him to two more rehab facilities over the next few years. Although he was initially against the idea, he now realizes that his stints in rehab helped him to break through the social stigma surrounding mental health treatment.

Today, Tom lives a much simpler life in London with his dog, Willow. He wakes up each morning full of gratitude and takes things one step at a time. He still has his bad days, but he sincerely hopes that his experiences will help others who may be in the same situation.

While filming the Harry Potter movies, Tom found it hard to fully understand their immense popularity. It’s only now – many years removed from them – that he has come to see the special place that these stories hold in people’s hearts.

Looking back on his life, he is eternally grateful that he was given the opportunity to be a part of this incredible wizarding universe. His hope is that these stories will continue to bring people together in a world that is becoming more divided every day.

It may surprise you to learn that Tom has never re-read the Harry Potter books or even watched the films from beginning to end. This is not because he isn’t proud of his work. On the contrary, Tom is simply saving them to share with a family of his own one day.

In the end, he has learned that the most important things in life are family, friendships, and love. This also happens to be the moral behind the story of Harry Potter – an irony that is not lost on Tom.


For ten years, Tom Felton led a life that is hard for most to imagine. By taking on the career-defining role of Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series, Tom had to try to find balance between his two completely different lives on and off set.

Thankfully, Tom’s family and friendships played an important part in helping him become the person he is today. Although he faced his share of challenges, he also learned some valuable lessons along the way. He hopes that his experiences will encourage others to seek help when they need it and discover what truly matters in life.

About the author

Tom Felton is an English actor, best known for playing Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films. He has also appeared in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Belle, The Flash, A United Kingdom, The Forgotten Battle and 2.22 A Ghost Story in London’s West End. He lives in London with his dog Willow.