As the decade-long saga comes to a close, and after all manner of magical exploits dazzle Muggle moviegoers, the final image on screen in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” is low-key. The trio of young wizards stand silently side-by-side, their expressions revealing exhaustion, relief, triumph and anticipation.
This seems a fitting visual for the actors who have brought J.K. Rowling’s characters of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley to vivid life.
On Friday, the final movie in the eight-film series opens amid much fanfare and some nostalgia.
Daniel Radcliffe, 21, Emma Watson, 21, and Rupert Grint, 22, embarked on the Potter series as children not knowing what magical mystery tour awaited them. They have come out the other end as experienced adult actors with intriguing futures beckoning — though, with the millions each earned for the eight films, they could afford to take a very long sabbatical.
“Emma was 10 and Daniel and Rupert were 11 when I started writing for them,” says “Potter” screenwriter Steve Kloves. “I wrote appropriately for their age group. But by the end, I wrote as challenging material for them as I did for Michael Gambon (who plays Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore) or anybody else. In fact, I think I gave them the most challenging material.”
The series may be named after the bespectacled boy wizard, but his two best buddies have been just as instrumental in keeping record-breaking numbers of fans bewitched by the Potter films, the most financially successful film franchise of all time, having earned $6.4 billion worldwide to date.
“Casting the three was the single most important decision in the history of these movies,” Kloves says. “At the end of the day, the series will live and die on the strength of those three children. It won’t live and die on how cool a dragon looks. I think Jo Rowling would admit the plot is quite secondary to the characters and what they embody and represent.”
Where to from here?
Now that the final film is about to hit theaters, and the globally famous trio of young actors has walked the red carpet in London for the eighth and final time, their adult careers loom. They have morphed from wide-eyed, slightly gawky kids to full-fledged, graceful actors.
When half of your life has been spent making the most popular films in history, where do you go from there?
For Watson, spending a decade on the “Potter” set has been what she’s known best. “I’ve grown up doing this so it doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like part of my identity.”
All three have taken roles while on breaks from shooting Potter, but now the next phase of their lives begins in earnest. “Little did I know when I started that I would be watching the last film while starring in a play on Broadway,” says Radcliffe, who is playing the lead role in the revival of the 1952 musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
“There are so many things I will miss about Harry and playing the part. There are some things I won’t miss, but I will miss playing an action hero. It’s bittersweet, absolutely.”
Grint was struck by sadness on the final day of filming, particularly after Radcliffe made an emotional speech about his production “family.”
“The last day of filming was unexpectedly more emotional than I thought it would be,” he says. “It was a weird feeling when we finished. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt kind of lost, really, without it. But it was a relief, too. I was exhausted and looking forward to having a bit of freedom. I was also quite sad because a huge part of my life had ended.”
Her years spent in the company of her two pals, Ron and Harry, left a deep imprint on Watson. “I’m going to miss it so much,” she says. “There’s a big hole to fill. Dan, Rupert and I have this amazing chemistry because we have years and years of history. David (Yates, the director) kept saying, “Use this bond you really have and bring it to the movie.’ And we really did try.”
Yates says Radcliffe relished being the series emissary.
“He is older than his years,” says Yates. “He would readily enjoy the role, especially when we had guests, because he is Harry Potter, basically.”
But Radcliffe also longs to be other characters.
In order to attempt something far removed from the magical world of Hogwarts, he took the role of ambitious young J. Pierrepont Finch in the musical.
During a break in “Potter” filming in 2007, Radcliffe also played the lead role in “Equus” on London’s West End and later on Broadway.
But “How to Succeed” called upon entirely different skills from riding a broomstick or acting with giant puppet creatures.
“I took a lot of dance lessons,” he says. “It’s not something I had a natural ability for. I just had to take a lot of time and learn it. The musical is a huge amount of fun. It’s not like Equus where it was a physical and mental effort.”
But Radcliffe has always been one for a challenge, according to those who have watched him grow up on set. Still, he recently owned up to drinking rather heavily in his late teens, during the filming of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” in 2007 and 2008.
“I became reliant on (alcohol) to enjoy stuff,” he said in the latest issue of British GQ. “There were a few years there when I was just so enamored with the idea of living some sort of famous person’s lifestyle that really isn’t suited to me.”
He says he hasn’t had a drink since August 2010. Indeed, at the November premiere of the last film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” in London, he told USA TODAY that he signed autographs for fans gathering for days in Leicester Square, then skipped the premiere after-party.
“I came straight home,” he said the day after the London premiere. “I had a bowl of Sugar Puffs. I treated myself. I actually had some Ben & Jerry’s as well. I did not wake up with even a remotely sore head.”
Chris Columbus, who cast the trio and directed the first two “Potter” films (“The Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Chamber of Secrets”), says he saw his job as “making those kids feel like they were in a really welcoming, warm, comfortable environment. They didn’t have a lot of experience, and they needed that to be able to perform.”
Columbus adds: “If we could have looked ahead 10 years and known it would be as successful as it has been, I think we all would have been a little more relaxed.”
But in those early films, Columbus says, he spent a lot of time standing beside the camera, encouraging the kids to focus on their lines.
“On that first film, at any one point any one of those kids would be distracted, so we had three, sometimes four, cameras running all the time,” he says. “The first film was shot a bit like a documentary because the kids were in such awe of being on a set that they’d say a line and then look at each other and smile or look up at the lights and start to laugh.”
Mature films beckon
Those days are long gone. All three are seasoned pros, and their upcoming projects don’t have a whiff of magic about them:
Radcliffe has “Woman in Black,” a horror thriller coming out in January.
Watson made a film called “My Week With Marilyn,” out in November. A young style icon, she recently took a leave from Brown University to create her own fashion line for People Tree and her eco-friendly Pure Threads. She also has modeled in Lancome ads.
Grint just finished shooting the World War II drama “Comrade,” which comes out next year. It’s based on the true story of a pair of British RAF pilots who shoot down a plane with Nazi fighters and then crash on a mountainside in Norway.
After playing a cheeky character known for comic relief, Grint was happy to undertake something weightier.
“To film in a different country where it was minus-25 and snow up to your knees was a real experience,” says Grint. “It was a lot more comfortable working on “Harry Potter’ when you have this big dressing room and there’s a bit more luxury. But it was nice to see a different side.”
Grint can’t imagine what next year might be like, with no Potter to return to. “I think it’ll really hit me next year after the DVD has come out and it’s all kind of faded away and become quiet.”
Watson also felt mixed emotions at the end of the Potter era.
“I felt very privileged to have played Hermione,” Watson says. “She’s someone young girls can look up to because she’s true to herself. She’s smart and an incredibly courageous and loyal friend who keeps a cool head in extremely difficult situations.”
The three on-screen pals have remained in touch since filming their final scene, just as their characters do after leaving Hogwarts. But will they still be friends 20 years down the road, as their characters are?
“Oh, yeah,” says Grint. “We’ll always be in touch because we’ve all shared this unique experience together. That will always keep us friends.”
Original article found here: courierpostonline.com | July 11th, 2011