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The Harry Potter series has run parallel to the yearly evolution of school children growing up. Beginning as naïve, idealistic children in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, they started going through puberty in Prisoner of Azkaban and an angry, rebellious phase in Order of the Phoenix.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince marks the series’ entrée into real dating territory. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley both get girlfriends, leaving Hermione heartbroken. Though the characters are 16 in this entry, and actor Daniel Radcliffe is already 19, he’ll still pass for 17 when he turns 20 while filming the final movie. But he’s probably had more dating experience by now than Harry. “You know, I’m not really doing the dating thing,” Radcliffe admitted. “I don’t feel like I’m in the world of dating. I don’t have that sort of life. I’m working. I’m happy to be working.”
 
It’s not that there’s no time for love in his life. Radcliffe had been dating his Equus co-star Laura O’Toole while they were on Broadway together. They have split, but Radcliffe mentioned a secret girlfriend, whose name he would not reveal. “It’s not that I don’t have time to have a girlfriend. I do. It’s just like everyone else I suppose. It’s weird, you know, because people sometimes ask, ‘Does being Harry Potter help you get girls?’ I was nine before I did Harry Potter so I don't know what it’s like to get girls without having been. So I don't know.”

The cast and crew of the current Harry Potter films took a break from filming the two-part finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to discuss The Half-Blood Prince in New York. Though some might find The Waldorf Astoria hotel magical, it was no Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Perhaps it was Radcliffe’s intention to demystify the Hollywood magic of the films. Recalling his own romantic performance in the sixth film, he could only be self-deprecating.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince“Poor Bonnie [Wright] who obviously has the kiss with me, I saw the film again a couple nights ago at the premiere and I really watched it. My God, my lips are like the lips of a horse, distending independently away from my face, trying to encompass the lower half of hers. So I apologize.”
 
So even Harry Potter feels self-conscious about girls, but he has love spells and confidence potions to help him out. As the film shows, being an expert in your craft rarely translates to skill with the opposite sex. “I think it’s kind of a wonderful thing in the film. Particularly, I find it very endearing with Harry, the fact that he’s this kind of very, very acclaimed wizard and he’s crap with women. I think it’s a wonderful, rather endearing quality that he has. I think that is probably quite true of teenagers, a complete inability to control hormones or desire. No different with wizardry.”

Kids who grew up reading the J.K. Rowling books may be discovering their first loves. As awkward as that time is for everyone, maybe seeing their favorite characters struggle with it can give them a positive example. “I think this film does address basically two types of teenage relationships. One, which is mine and Bonnie’s, which is that kind of teenage thing where you’re just in love and it’s pure and innocent and it’s all that matters in your life when you’re 14 or 15 and you fall in love. That’s all there is. And the other kind which is kind of much more carnal and energetic which is the one [we hope] we’re all lucky enough to have.”
 
Radcliffe still seemed nervous just talking to reporters, spastically stammering to get the words out. If this is his job, it could only be more nerve wracking when he’s interested in a lady. At least he got a chance to let this side of himself out in the new film. When Harry takes a memory potion, he goes a little crazy. “To be honest, I just let the more manic side of myself, that I suppress for 23 hours of every day, loose on set and just become a kind of uncontrollable, vaguely irritating but sort of vaguely amusing person that I sort of keep hidden. I just let him out and run mad for a few days and it was great fun to be able to. It is a side to the character that hadn’t really been seen before. Maybe I should have really been playing him slightly more manic all along.”
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceThe fact that Radcliffe can appear calm and introspective as Harry is, as Jon Lovitz used to say, “Acting!” In real life, he’s a handful. “If you spent a proper amount of time with me, you would probably wonder if I was on drugs. I’m not. I’m just incredibly hyperactive, manic. I can be quiet and serious at the same time, but when I get like that, at the premiere, my God, I was just this kind of beast that had been unleashed onto the red carpet.”
 
Even reading the Harry Potter books became a stressful experience. Of course, when you know you’re going to eventually have to play whatever Rowling wrote, it’s not like reading for fun. “My reading of the books was always one of sort of, ‘Oh God, another one’s dead. It’s another death scene. Oh God. I would always very much enjoy them when they came out, but I would also get nervous when I’d read them about whether I would be able to do justice to certain aspects, which is probably not the healthiest mindset to be in when you read them, but I don't know, I couldn’t help it.”

Rowling herself sometimes visited the set. At first, Radcliffe expected high pressure to live up to the creator’s vision, but she actually put him at ease. “She’s always been very, very good about letting go. The films of ours are a totally separate entity from the books. She’s not been precious about anything. She realizes things have to be cut in order to make them doable. So she’s always been very good and when she comes out to the set, it’s a pleasure. It’s a rarity because she doesn’t want us to feel she was kind of prying, but she’s always been wonderful. She’s incredibly gracious and a lovely woman.”

There haven’t been many complaints from Potter fans about the five films so far. Of course, everyone has favorite scenes that did not make the cut, but they continue to flock back to the theaters and buy the DVDs. Everyone, except for Radcliffe himself.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince“I haven’t watched any of the films after they’re done. I think it would be an entirely disruptive experience for me if  I was actually to watch them. It’s far too close. I remember we were having a conversation on the fourth film. I remember I said something like, ‘God, I saw a clip from the first film the other day. God, I can’t believe how bad I am in it.’ Or whatever. I said something to the effect of why did they cast me. The only reason I remember it was on the fourth film that we had this conversation was because Mike Newell’s massive booming voice on the other side of the set came back, ‘Because you’re absolutely bloody charming!’ In answer to your original question, I have not watched any of them.”

Works in progress are a different story. Midway through the two-part Deathly Hallows, Radcliffe is singing its praises. With Parts 1 and 2 described as different sorts of films, a road movie and epic opera respectively, Radcliffe is excited about things still to come.

“I couldn’t be happier because I am so excited about the seventh film. I don't know if anybody else had the same experience as me over the last couple days, but seeing the sixth film again, I started to realize we’re doing something very, very different. We’re not at Hogwarts. It’s a different dynamic.”

Five months into filming, it’s just another day at work for Radcliffe. The only reminder he has that he’s in the home stretch are people pestering him about the finale. “Everybody seems to be telling me that it’s almost over. I was actually kind of getting along quite nicely until people said, ‘Well, so, your dream’s coming to an end.’ To be honest, I think I speak for most people when I say we’ve got a year left on seven. It’s a long way to go. We’ve got to do lots of publicity, so there’s a long way to go, to be honest, for us. I’m not contemplating the end too much too soon.”

It certainly won’t be the end of Radcliffe’s career. He’s already proven himself on stage, in the Broadway run of Equus, and in independent dramas, like December Boys. “Certainly from my point of view, I’ll go on acting for as long as I can find employment. To be honest, I’m never happier than when I’m on a film set. So long may that continue. I just want to keep working on this to be honest. Not [only] on Potter, just acting.”

Hollywood will surely keep Radcliffe busy fielding offers to capitalize on his Harry Potter fame. A return to Broadway could hold some appeal also. “I would love to be back on the stage sometime, maybe in the next two or three years, but there’s nothing planned at all. Obviously, I’d love to do it and if Broadway would have me back, then that would be incredible because I had an amazing time.”

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opens July 15.
 
www.Dishmag.com / Issue 97 - September 2492
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