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Radcliffe, Watson prepare to graduate from Hogwarts

Actors ready for life as Daniel and Emma — not Harry and Hermione

by George Hadley-Garcia

HOLLYWOOD, California — W hen asked about longtime “Harry Potter” costar Emma Watson, with whom he stars in the penultimate film of the blockbuster movie franchise, actor Daniel Radcliffe says: “She’s great. She’ll go far, professionally and educationally.”

Radcliffe is referring to Watson’s current studies at Ivy League Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “In a way, we’re a classic, too,” he adds. “I mean the characters in the movies, of course. But also, in a way, ourselves. It’s a case of ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ ”

Radcliffe, 21, was born in London, while Watson, 20, was born in Paris. She moved to England when she was 5 years old. The pair have grown up on the big screen in front of tens of millions of fans and their latest outing, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” which is directed by David Yates, has just opened in theaters worldwide.

Despite being a fully legal adult, Radcliffe maintains a boyish enthusiasm in his voice when he talks about his future. It doesn’t seem so long ago that he burst onto the screen as the titular character in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” in 2001. He was only 12 years old at the time. Radcliffe was chosen from around 40,000 aspirants to take on the role of Harry, the young orphan sorcerer, and sacrificed his teenage years making the seven “Harry Potter” films. (The eighth and final movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” is due for release next summer.) The series has been tremendously profitable and is expected to soon surpass the $1.9 billion “Star Wars” saga to become the highest-grossing film franchise ever.

The son of a literary agent (his father, Alan) and a casting agent (his mother, Marcia), Radcliffe says he knew he wanted to act from the age of 5. He got involved in school productions and earned praise for a 1999 television remake of “David Copperfield.”

But it was the on-screen adaptations of British author J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series that ultimately changed Radcliffe’s life.

“(There was) work, I mean, other than schoolwork,” he says. “Money, lots of it — but . . . for later. Publicity, being recognized just anywhere and everywhere.”

Radcliffe is also quick to note that despite the added responsibilities, his childhood wasn’t bad.

“(I met) all kinds of people — colorful, exciting — from all walks of life,” he says. “(I became) friends with people I worked with. Many of us became like a family. But also, when I started dating, it was almost always girls I met on the set. It’s only fairly recently that I’ve gone out on dates with, you know, civilians.”

Radcliffe has made several successful attempts to leave the “Harry Potter” bubble. Such an iconic character could result in typecasting, which can be the kiss of death for actors looking for a long-term career in Hollywood.

“What’s gratifying is something I’ve noticed in the last year or two, or maybe more,” Radcliffe explains. “People used to call me ‘Harry’ or ‘Harry Potter.’ I can understand that. But increasingly, they’re using my (real) name. I like that.”

“By the time I’m 40 — and presuming I’m still in the acting game — Harry will probably be a distant memory to most people. But I don’t resent Harry one bit. I don’t feel held back by him. And it’s not like I’m trying to create an opposite image for myself, which is something I’ve read (in the press) and isn’t at all true.”

Though he suggests it wasn’t a tactical move to combat any typecasting, Radcliffe generated significant controversy when he acted in the Broadway restaging of “Equus,” appearing completely nude. Did he do it partly to shock people into awareness that he’s older and isn’t really Harry Potter?

“Perhaps in part,” he laughs. “But not primarily.”

Radcliffe has also grabbed attention from the tabloids over a friendship with transgender singer Our Lady J. The actor is heterosexual and strongly supports gay rights. One of his pet charities — for which he’s also done public-service announcements — is The Trevor Project, dedicated to helping teens deal with homophobia and the associated bullying that can lead to suicide.

“Daniel is very genuine,” says costar Watson. “He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s secure and confident enough to do what he thinks is right without giving it a second thought.”

Watson, who says she wanted to act from the age of 6, has appeared in all the “Harry Potter” films alongside Radcliffe. Perhaps not as iconic as Radcliffe’s Harry, many still know her as Hermione Granger, Harry’s classmate at the films’ Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Watson says it has been a “marvelous opportunity” to play Hermione.

“I could say everything about the ‘Harry Potter’ experience has been magical, but it would sound like a pun,” she says.

Watson is excited for next year’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” but doesn’t reveal too much about the plot.

“Of course everyone knows by now that the book’s sort of been divided in two, for two films from it,” she says. “The fans know the plot, and the movies can’t stray too much from the books, since they’re so successful and have such devoted, even sometimes fanatical readers — people who are sure to go and see the screen version.

“But I think (this) ‘Deathly Hallows’ will be a highlight of the series, and not just because it’s the next to last of them. The last one, of course, people will go to see regardless, simply because it is the end of the line. But the quality level of these films has remained consistent, fortunately, and the excitement hasn’t died down, has it?”

When the excitement does die down, however, Watson doesn’t fear the risk of typecasting any more than Radcliffe. Rather, she is thankful for the experience.

“I don’t think any of us are relieved it will be behind us. It’s been fun and hard work too. But in a way, it’s also something to get through, and yet to be proud that you’ve done. Then it’s behind you, and you’re ready for the next stage of your life, eager to see what comes next.”

She also says that she hopes to work with Radcliffe again, “later, doing more grown-up characterizations.”

A bit reticent about her own future plans, Watson gushes over Radcliffe’s moves toward musicals and Broadway.

“I think he can do it all,” she says. “He has a natural gift and he’s very theatrical. He seems to want to do it all, to sample everything. I think most of his fans will follow him wherever he goes, in whatever medium he chooses.”

“I love Broadway,” Radcliffe says. “I always heard so much about it. I always wanted to go there, but I was afraid I’d be disappointed. But I wasn’t!

“It’s wonderful — the work, the energy, the creativity, the support, the family feeling of being different nationalities and types, yet all belonging together.”

Radcliffe has been taking dance lessons for more than 18 months and singing lessons for more than two years.

“I love music,” he says. “I want to sing properly and doing a musical is a challenge I’ve set for myself. It’s a lot more challenging than ‘Equus.’ “

Radcliffe’s future projects include another stint on Broadway in the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He’s also slotted for a remake of the antiwar film classic “All Quiet on the Western Front” and a ghost story titled “The Woman in Black,” via Britain’s resuscitated Hammer studios.

These projects, however, don’t include his costars Watson and Rupert Grint, who plays Hogwarts classmate Ron Weasley. After a decade of working together, will Radcliffe miss his teenage friends?

“It’s like graduating from school,” he says. “Except, you get more attached working with fellow actors than you do with most of your schoolmates. Some schoolmates you don’t care about never seeing again, let’s face it. But in movies it’s different. You do want to keep in touch. And work together again, even.”

The latest “Harry Potter” movie features a much-talked-about scene featuring Harry and Hermione, locked in an embrace and completely nude. A remark about Watson kissing “like an animal” also generated a lot of buzz among the tabloid press. But the question on every fan’s lips may be if Radcliffe could envision teaming up again with his costar, perhaps in a love story?

“It would depend (on) the project,” he chuckles. “But of course I’d want to see Emma again and work with her. She’s very talented — she was to begin with. We’ve all really grown, in creative and emotional terms, through each of the films. It’s been like an incredible and elite and . . . tremendously rewarding school to go through and learn from. I could say it’s Hogwarts and then some.”

Radcliffe says that in another 10 years the Hogwarts Class of 2011 will probably remain a big part of who he is as an actor — even after he has hit his 30s.

“It’s Harry that has made this career possible, and that’ll be responsible for a lot of my opportunities for some time,” he says. “It’s like he’s given them to me, but then it is up to me to prove that I can handle them and get away from Harry — not just in terms of time, but in proving I have other colors and aspects to offer.”

Radcliffe may only be 21, but he sounds wise beyond his years.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1″ is now playing at theaters across Japan.