The latest wave of Harry Potter mania swept across Britain over the weekend, with the premiere of the third film based on J.K. Rowling's famed series. British newspapers chronicled the excitement of seeing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, while American fans will have to make do with the previews until the film opens coast-to-coast on Friday.
In a few days, we'll see U.S. papers running veritable carbon copies of stories like the one that ran in London's Daily Mirror under the headline " Hooray Potter." The article told of huge crowds vying for spots at the premiere screening at London's Leicester Square, where the film's stars turned out for the festivities. "Some fans had arrived at 5 a.m. to gain a place for a glimpse of their heroes," the Mirror reported. "Felisha McArthur, 12, of Cambridge, said: 'It's been amazing to see them close up.' "
The oohing and aahing wasn't limited to the British tabloids. The Daily Telegraph noted precisely which of the film's stars were at the Leicester Square opening, who they arrived with, what they were wearing, and what pearls of wisdom they had to offer. Daniel Radcliffe, the child star who has played Harry in all three of the films, enjoyed the attention lavished on him by the thousands of teenage girls in the crowd. "There's some really pretty girls here today," he told the paper. "It's great—and amazing that so many people turn up for the film." Ever the promoter, he added, "It's definitely the best film but the fourth will be even better."
The London festivities weren't actually the film's world premiere. That honor was reserved for Radio City Music Hall in New York, which hosted a star-studded gala a week ago. In the International Herald Tribune, Radcliffe practically bubbled that the London premiere was "bigger than New York and I didn't think that could be possible."
Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, who joined the Harry Potter juggernaut for this installment in the series, admitted to the Telegraph that he was taken by surprise at the massive popularity enjoyed by the tale of the wizards-in-training at Hogwarts. "When I first went for it I was very casual about the whole thing, but now I can see it is a big deal," he said, adding that he wants to return to his homeland to make a "small budget film."
The media haven't been focused solely on the celebrities involved in Potter mania. The Scotsman's transport correspondent reported that the steam engine train service on which the famed Hogwarts Express is modeled expects record-breaking revenues this season, fueled by the heightened interest in Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Rowling's other characters. Before Pottermania took the world by storm, a tourism official said, people who were vacationing in Scotland might have considered a ride on the steam train as an added attraction. Now, he said, "It is proving to be a reason for them to visit in the first place."
Increased tourism is all fine and good, but some British observers are fretting over the future of the film series' child stars. The Telegraph questioned whether Radcliffe (who will turn 15 next month), Emma Watson (14, who plays Hermione), and Rupert Grint (15, who plays Ron Weasley) will be able to hold on to their roles much longer. "Harry Potter ages one year with each of the books," the paper noted, "but movie-makers have been unable to keep pace, with a two-year gap between the second film, The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban." The onscreen wizardry hasn't helped the actors slow their own aging process, prompting producer David Heyman to acknowledge, "There will come a point when one, two, or all three of them will move on."
Director Cuarón doesn't share Heyman's concern. The Guardian quoted him saying he hopes the three stars will last through the seventh and final film. "So far, they're holding up very good, the way that they are aging. … I don't think Dan is going to get way much taller or suddenly grow another eye. Same with Emma, and Rupert is OK."
Another Guardian article checked in on child stars of yesteryear in an effort to predict what the future may hold for Radcliffe and his colleagues. Adrian Hall, who played Jeremy Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) when he was 8, said his early success dragged him down when he was in his 20s and trying to continue his acting career. "You get categorized as a child star, and that's all," he said. "In the end, your own negativity takes over." Hall, now in his 40s, has been a teacher for the past 15 years.
Correction, June 1, 2004: This article originally described Adrian Hall as "in his 30s." In fact, Hall is now in his 40s.