This was one time Tom Felton, one of the stars of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” could have really used a spell of protection.
Chauffeured to a recent appearance at a store opening, the 21-year-old actor found a throng of jubilant admirers waiting for him.
“We felt like the Beatles because there were people cheering,” says Felton, who is still sporting his dyed blond locks from his turn as the dastardly Draco Malfoy. “We thought we would put the window down and be like, ‘Hi, it’s nice to see you.’
“We put the window down, this woman reached right in and grabbed my hair,” he says, reenacting his squirming under the fan’s grasp. “‘Pull the window up, pull the window up!'”
Welcome to life for a student of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where the young actors are learning the pressures of a franchise that has earned almost $4.5 billion at the box office worldwide.
But with the sixth installment of the franchise hitting theaters and the last two movies currently being filmed simultaneously, a major crossroads is looming for the franchise’s young actors. Will there be enough magic left in their careers after Harry Potter?
“The success that they’ve had in the eight years would make an entire career for most people, but they’ve turned into really good actors over the course of the last few years and hopefully that ability will help them transcend these roles,” says Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst for Hollywood.com.
But the movie industry is littered with the wreckage of the careers of former child actors that couldn’t make the transition into adult roles. For every Jodie Foster, there are a dozen Lindsay Lohans and Macaulay Culkins.
“They’re waiting for you to become the stereotypical child actor and go off the wheels a bit,” says “Potter” veteran Rupert Grint, 20. “But I’m not planning on it. We’re too busy to go too crazy, anyway, because we’re filming most of the year.”
The films’ young stars also have one major advantage over child actors past: They’re working with a cast heavy on award-winning British veterans like Alan Rickman and Dame Maggie Smith. Harry himself, Daniel Radcliffe, said he agreed to take on his gutsy role in “Equus” on castmate Kenneth Branagh‘s recommendation.
“Can you imagine how intimidating that must have been for them when they were starting out,” says director David Yates. “By osmosis, they’ve probably been picking up so much, because the only actors they’ve ever worked with are these incredible veterans who are the best at what they do.”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind being Bond,” says Felton, “then it would be see you later, Potter.”
But it will be hard for them to let Potter go.
At a press conference in New York last week, Radcliffe reminisced about filming a scene from “Half-Blood Prince” that he’s sure will be one of the highlights of his career. It’s an action-packed sequence when he emerges from the water, encircled by both flames and an army of “Inferi,” to witness Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) unleashing hell from his wand to vanquish the computer-generated creatures.
“And then I get to climb up onto the central island and I see Michael Gambon there looking like God or Moses just swirling fire around his head,” says Radcliffe. “It was one of those moments where I went… ‘It does not matter how many more films I do, I will never have this scene or anything like it again.'”
Both Radcliffe and Felton say they see inspiration in an older, former co-star who worked on “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” Hollywood‘s newest hunk Robert Pattinson is currently filming “Twilight: New Moon,” the second movie in the upstart vampire franchise that leads the industry in screaming, hair-grabbing fans.
Just because it’s now “Twilight” time, however, doesn’t mean the sun is setting on the world of Harry Potter.
“It probably will be quite devastating when it ends, because our lives have literally revolved around it since we were 9 or 10,” says Emma Watson. “God knows how I’ll feel, but I still have got a while left for filming. I’ve still got two films to promote, so I don’t have to worry just yet.
“I just don’t feel like this will ever really be over for us. … I think Harry Potter’s too big.”
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