Thousands lined the streets of Radio City Music Hall in New York City - some looked on with piqued curiosity, but many were stalwart fans waiting in the 90 degree heat to glimpse the cast of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." It's a lot for the film's principle actors like 14-year-olds Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, who – aside from the pressures of promoting a film – face the rather unenviable task of growing up in the public eye.
"It hasn't affected me," Radcliffe says of stardom. "I'm kind of just going through what every other teenager is going through... It's not as different as people would expect I think - for me anyway." Still, there must be some perks to being a celebrity. With all the attention from starry-eyed teenagers – one girl at the New York premiere traveled all the way from Ontario in hopes of meeting the heartthrob - it must be a bit easier in the dating department. Is he seeing anyone?
"Not really," Radcliffe says with a wry smile. "Honestly, I'm sure both of us notice members of the opposite sex because we're… I'm 14, so we're just kind of going through what any person goes through at 14." Surely the attention must help though.
"Maybe a bit yeah," he says. "I'm not complaining!" Watson, sitting next to him, giggles.
What's refreshing about Radcliffe and Watson is – in the face of an ongoing media blitz - both remain down-to-earth. They're extremely polite and sweet-natured, alarmingly normal, and though they've starred in two high-profile films already ("Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in 2001 and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" in 2002), the actors appear to have avoided the pitfalls of child stardom thus far. Those chomping for any news of wild parties, drug addictions, or prima donna complexes, will have to look elsewhere - no Drew Barrymore-esque rehab stories need apply here.
"I think Daniel and I have very supportive families and I suppose, I'm trying to do exactly what I did before I started the film," Watson comments. "Between every single film, I always go back to school and see my friends. I do everything I used to. I play sports. I go to teenage parties. All my money is locked away in a bank until I'm 25. I won't see it until then. I have good friends and family who keep my feet on the ground and keep it real."
In "Prisoner of Azkaban," Watson and Radcliffe step outside the bounds of reality and steep themselves in J.K. Rowling's world of wizards, charms, and teen angst once again. In his third year, Harry finds himself to be the target of Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), an escaped murderer from Azkaban. With dementors roaming Hogwarts for his protection, Harry faces his biggest challenges to date, challenges Radcliffe readily admits he can identify with.
"Harry being a teenager feels the same and has the same feelings as every other teenager, but because of his past, he also has feelings of anger and loneliness," Radcliffe says. "I think that was kind of hard for me, but because I'm obviously feeling the same things as him, I kind of took what I was feeling, basically exaggerated them, and listened to music to get me in the right stage of mind when filming and hoped for the best."
In one intense scene, Harry and Sirius find themselves at the lake near Hogwarts. What audiences witness when viewing the final cut is a chilling moment where Harry must fend off hordes of oncoming dementors. Of course the dementors come courtesy of CGI, so Radcliffe found himself imagining the sight and reacting accordingly.
"Daniel focused so hard… he was so into it he almost fainted," Watson says.
With three films under their belt, the actors are already at work on "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," currently in pre-production. The question on the minds of many muggles and even the child actors themselves is whether they'll be around to finish the series.
Many are concerned that, come the sixth and seventh books, Radcliffe, Watson, and Rupert Grint will have outgrown their roles and other actors - younger actors - will be needed to replace them. How would they feel to see someone else in their role?
"It would be really very hard to watch someone else play the part I think," says Radcliffe uneasily. "I don't know. We are getting older than the characters because there was a longer gap between the third and fourth. I'm now 14, turning 15 in a couple of months. I am getting older now. I'm trying to take it one film at a time. If they do want me to do it after five well, we'll have to see I suppose." Though both he and Watson realize it's a real possibility, they remain thankful.
"I feel incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to be in such a fantastic film with so many talented people," says Watson. "I couldn't have even dreamed of the scale and the greatness that Harry Potter is and I feel really lucky about that."
Regardless of what happens after "Goblet of Fire," Radcliffe and Watson remain extremely enthusiastic - they realize that it would not be the end, but the beginning of another chapter in two promising careers. For Watson and Radcliffe, there is life post-Potter.
"There's so many different aspects in the film world that even if I don't see acting, then, definitely something," says Watson. "I'm just going to go with the flow and see what happens."
-- J.P. Mangalindan
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