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It’s a king of magic

Written by John Hiscock

As the fifth film is released and the last chapter of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series is unveiled, will the future spell success for its young stars, asks John Hiscock

They have spent almost half their lives on Harry Potter film sets, growing up in the magical world of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But now, as the final book of JK Rowling’s seven-part series is about to be released and the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, arrives in cinemas next week, a world without Harry Potter is looming for the films’ three young stars.

Just 17, Daniel Radcliffe has already briefly shed his Harry Potter wizard robes for a well-received West End stint as the troubled young man who blinds

horses in Equus. He has a film, The December Boys,
awaiting release and is due to begin work on My Boy
Jack soon.

His height – 5ft 6in – means that he’ll probably never be an action hero, but then his ambitions lie elsewhere. He has a keen sense of humour and a quick wit and has his sights on dramatic and light-comedy parts.

“It was fantastic to do Equus but I’m not under the false impression that doing one different role will make people suddenly see me as an actor in my own right rather than the actor who plays Harry Potter,” he said.

“I think if I continue to do other interesting roles, hopefully people will start to see me differently.”

Despite having been in the eye of the Harry Potter storm for most of their childhoods, Radcliffe and his two co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint seem remarkably well-adjusted and down to earth.

“People ask me if I think I’ve had a normal childhood – and if a normal childhood is being healthy and happy, then I have,” says Daniel.

“The other day, somebody said the last Harry Potter film will probably be released in 2010. If that’s the case then that will have been 10 years of my life and that’s a huge chunk, so I’ll be sad because it will be the end of an era in a way. But I equally imagine it will be quite exciting to be out of that world.”

Daniel is as interested as any of the millions of Harry Potter fans in finding out Harry’s fate when the seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is out on July 21.

“I have no idea what will happen,” he says. “There’s certainly a possibility that Harry might die. I’ve been told that people in Las Vegas are placing bets over whether he’ll live or die, which is hilarious. Will it make me sad? No. I think if Harry dies in a heroic way, it’s a good way for him to go.”

At 16, Emma Watson is the youngest of the trio. While she sees a lot of her Hermione Granger character in herself – “We’re both very stubborn, determined, loyal, academic feminists” – she believes any acting talent she has is instinctive and is unsure whether it will be enough to carry her on after Harry.

“I’ll feel a bit lost when it all finishes, I guess,” she says. “It’s hard to imagine life without Harry Potter. It’s made up such a big part of my life and dominated so much time.

“Never having done an audition before and never having done any professional acting and going into the biggest film franchise of all time, I’ve kind of come from nowhere and gone straight in at the top.

“I feel like I need to backtrack and work my way through again. I’d be really interested to kind of train properly because I feel I shouldn’t be here. I should have done so much more.

“I got thrown in the deep end on the first one, but the Harry Potter films have been a pretty amazing acting school,” she says.

Watson is being paid a reported £2m (€3m) for each of the final two films in the series, but insists that her drawn-out contractual negotiations were not money-motivated.

“It was more about juggling my A-level exams, going to university and doing the movies,” she says.

Apart from clothes, her biggest expense so far has been a laptop, although she will be buying a car as soon as she has passed her driving test.

“I’m taking lessons, but it’s so hard,” she groans. “I had no idea.”

She, too, is eagerly awaiting the final book. “It feels as if I’ve been waiting for ever.

“I really want to know what happens. There’s a guy who claims he’s been able to hack into J K Rowling’s account, and he’s saying that Hermione’s gong to die, and I found myself getting sad. I had-n’t contemplated her dying.”

Watson plans to take a gap year, to go to university. And then, if things go as planned, with Hermione Granger behind her, she will return to acting.

“I’m still growing up, changing all the time, and I hope I’m talented enough to take on another character. I guess that will be a test of whether I can really act.”

Of the trio, 18-year-old Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, appears the least concerned about the end of the franchise.

He has appeared in two other films – Thunderpants and Driving Lessons – and, since leaving school at 16, he has spent much of his time on the golf course when not on the Harry Potter set.

“Cool” is his favourite adjective; it applies particularly to the ice cream truck he has bought and drives around Hertfordshire,”I don’t know why I bought it, but it’s really cool,” he says. “It’s got a bell that plays a tune. It’s really cool.

“If I can, I’d like to sort of carry on with acting.”

For the happy-go-lucky Grint, a death scene for Ron Weasley in the final film would also be “cool”, but it is not something that he has thought too much about. It’s going to be really sad when it all ends, and it’s going to be weird because it’s been a big part of my life.

“But I’ve got to do other things after Harry Potter so I’ll just see what happens. I’ve still got my ice cream van if it doesn’t all work out, so I’ll be all right.”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is released nationwide on July 12

‘It was hard not to laugh all the time because it was such fun’

When actress Imelda Staunton was invited to join the cast of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixas Dolores Umbridge, Hogwarts’ latest sadistic Defence of the Dark Arts teacher, she did not know whether to be flattered or offended.

“In the book, she is said to be very ugly and toad-like, so when people would tell me, ‘You’d be great in the part,’ I’d say: ‘Well, thanks very much’,” she laughs.

Her Dolores Umbridge is a pink-wearing control freak who, with a sing-song voice and honeyed smile, terrifies the students and staff at Hogwarts, as she carries out her mission as Inquisitor for the Ministry of Magic.

Imelda worked closely with the film’s costume desighers. “We had a lot of fun creating this sort of little round person. It was important for her to appear soft and warm because, of course, she is neither.”

One of the film’s creepiest scenes involves her torturing Harry, whom she forces to write lines which appear etched in blood on the back of his hand.

It may be unusual for an Oscar-nominated, Olivier Award-winning actress to make such a memorable exit from a film as Staunton, who is last seen being carried off by a horde of angry centaurs, but she enjoyed every second of it. “It was very hard not to laugh all the time because it was such fun,” she says.


Original article found at Independent.ie I July 3, 2007

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