DANIEL RADCLIFFE (13)
When director Chris Columbus was casting a child actor to play Harry Potter, he reviewed thousands of likely prospects, but kept circling back to a tousle-haired kid he saw early in the process: Daniel Radcliffe. He had caught Radcliffe's work in a BBC presentation of "David Copperfield," and knew instinctively that this was his Harry.
But Radcliffe's parents (his dad is an agent) were reluctant to surrender their only son to big-time showbiz. After considerable persuasion, the lengthy winnowing process had ended and Radcliffe stood alone as the sole survivor left at his final audition. A Harry had been found.
Jump ahead many months and Radcliffe finds himself in a New York hotel in a whirlwind of inevitable media attention. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was already preordained as the biggest blockbuster of the year, thanks to an enormous built-in audience of rabid Harry-heads. A black-clad Radcliffe, free of Potter's trademark spectacles, had just come from a mammoth Manhattan toy store where he inspected a mind-boggling assortment of Potter paraphernalia.
He thinks he shares many traits with J.K. Rowling's fictional orphan.
"Everybody can really relate to him in some way," says Radcliffe. "But I'm a lot like Harry. I'm loyal. I'm curious. I like being around lots of people, but I also enjoy being alone. That doesn't make me a loner, though!"
What does Radcliffe make of the all the hoopla?
"Well, I just hope everyone likes the movie," he enthuses. "I don't really mind the reviews because I won't read any of them. Obviously, it's a great thrill to find out that it's really going to do well."
The 12-year-old admits to a peculiar reaction on seeing the film for the first time.
"I cried," he recalls, without embarrassment. "It was surreal, really weird, but a lot of fun. I came out of the cinema shaking because my name is Daniel Radcliffe and there was my name up on the screen. It was cool, but I was speechless."
Radcliffe was a Potter initiate long before he was even considered for the title role. And as fan, he was also a stickler for the film's fidelity to the text.
"Obviously, everybody has his or her own opinion about this," he states. "But for me, personally, this film really lived up to the book. But the film also lived up to the book for the author, J.K. Rowling, and there's really no higher praise than that."
He knows that not everyone will be thrilled with the adaptation.
"I understand that Chris Columbus ran a test screening where the kids said they missed this bit and that bit. But overall, they all loved the film."
He suggests that fans should refrain from nitpicking the script and simply separate the book and movie into distinct entities, adding that Rowling kept a respectful distance from the actual filmmaking and never offered suggestions to the young star.
"She never told me anything face-to-face," he reveals. "But all the characters in the books were described so clearly that it was easy to get inside Harry's head. But the person I felt the most responsible to was J.K., because, in a way, I'm playing her son."
What's surprising about Radcliffe's journey into the acting world is that he says he's basically bashful.
"I am a shy person," he discloses. "But I'm not really shy in front of the camera though because I'm not playing me. I'm playing a different person."
Radcliffe is very much a typical adolescent, with his favorite bands and television shows. He confesses to an obsession with "The Simpsons." His current top groups are U2, R.E.M. and The Divine Comedy. Singer-songwriter Aimee Mann is a recent enthusiasm. And he's very pleased to draw parallels between the present Potter craze and Beatlemania.
Radcliffe appreciates the fact that, while his personal life has perceptibly changed, he can still be a relatively normal guy, at least so far. His friends more-or-less treat him exactly the same as before and he wouldn't want it any other way. He also had a quick lesson in the politics of fame: a teacher who used to be quite mean has suddenly become very accommodating.
Movie making will consume Radcliffe's immediate future as he is currently filming "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the next installment of Master Potter's ongoing adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Chris Columbus is back in the director's chair, once again working off a Steven Kloves script. Most of the cast will return and Kenneth Branagh will also appear.
As for Radcliffe's own affinity for prestidigitation?
"I bought two magic kits recently," he reveals. "Unfortunately, I'm not really any good at it. But I am getting better!"
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