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The kids are alright

The kids are alright

By Glen Schaefer

You’ve come a long way Harry . . . and Ron and Hermione.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who play the main characters in the Harry Potter films, have matured into seasoned pros over the course of six films, says the director who first cast them.

“When we cast the Potter kids it was because of their charm and their looks, never having any idea of how far they could go as actors,” says Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Potter films back-to-back, and then stayed on to produce the third.

He says the first two films with the then pre-teen cast were marathons of 150 shooting days each, partly because the kids were legally allowed to work no more than six hours a day, and partly because the neophyte actors needed patience.

“Basically the first Potter film was acting school every day, trying not to get the kids to look into the camera or up at the lights every time they said a line, or smile,” says Columbus on the Vancouver set of his latest fantasy film Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. “You watch the first film, it’s a series of cuts because we couldn’t hold on one kid for longer than 20 seconds without them either forgetting a line or drifting off. By the time we got to the second film we were able to do a few longer takes. Not as a complete master (shot), we couldn’t do many scenes in one shot.

“By the time we got to the third film, Prisoner of Azkaban, we were able to actually do entire sequences in one shot and we realized these kids had been through 300 days of an intense acting school.”

Columbus has watched the later Potter films as a fan of his proteges. “They pushed themselves in subsequent films further than I ever expected them to — Daniel and Rupert and Emma have grown into just marvellous actors.”

For Percy Jackson, also based on a best-selling series of teen fantasy novels, Columbus was once again facing the prospect of casting actors to play characters who start out as 11-year-olds. Instead, he opted to rewrite the starting ages to 17 years old, and cast veteran actors Logan Lerman (3:10 to Yuma), Brandon T. Jackson (Tropic Thunder) and Alexandra Daddario (All My Children).

Percy Jackson is a modern-day American kid who discovers he’s descended from the Greek gods, and that a magical world exists in tandem with our own. An epic battle between supernatural good and evil ensues.

“I felt when we got into this process, that the types of scenes we were getting into, really it was necessary to cast slightly older actors,” says Columbus. “The physicality of some of these battle sequences, the action sequences were very demanding, so we’ve changed that.”

And, he admits, it’s just easier directing an experienced older cast. “My level of exhaustion is not anywhere near,” he says. “Those (Potter) pictures were like running double marathons.”

Original article found here: TheReelMan | July 20, 2009

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