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On set of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

NEWS FLASH: On August 14, the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was moved to summer 2009. But here’s the early word. For more on the postponement, see this.

The tears have dried. The goose bumps have faded. The books, a complete set now, are lined on the shelf, gathering dust. In our imagination, Harry Potter lives happily ever after, his work as a global pop icon and publishing profit center now finished.

At Leavesden Film Studios outside London, under a leaky roof dripping rain from an April downpour, Daniel Radcliffe stands on a crumbling stairwell that descends into a derelict corner of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, thumbing out a text message on his cell phone. At the call to ”Action!” the young star slips the phone into his trousers and spirals down the stairs to find costar Emma Watson sitting on a step, stifling tears. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, adapted from J.K. Rowling’s penultimate Potter novel, Harry’s pal Hermione Granger (Watson) is realizing that her heart belongs to Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). The problem: Ron has just hooked up with Lavender Brown (newcomer Jessie Cave). In this scene, Harry tries to console his friend, but the job becomes infinitely harder when Ron and Lavender come bumbling into this dark corner of Hogwarts looking for a place to snog. Hermione shoos them away with a magical gust of wind, then weeps harder. Even after ”Cut!” Watson continues to tear up, and Radcliffe offers comfort with a lingering side hug and whispered praise. ”Bloody f—ing brilliant, Emma. Just top-notch.”– interview by EW

The future weighs on all of them, none more so than Radcliffe. Committed to making acting his profession, he’s taken a spate of work recently that’s decidedly outside the Potter universe — most notably his emotionally and physically naked West End theater debut in Equus, which earned him admiring reviews during its blockbuster London run last year. (He’ll be reprising the role in New York on Broadway beginning Sept. 5.) ”If I had just done these films without doing anything else, I would have become very frustrated, and would have started worrying more about the pressure of life after Potter,” Radcliffe says. He hopes that his extracurricular acting will ”ease the public into the idea that I am going to be doing other things.Hmmm—yeah, like the all the ball action in your plays.

Still, it will be a while before Radcliffe knows whether his exit strategy has succeeded. At the very least, he can say that his stage work has prepared him for Hallows, which begins shooting next spring. The young actor says he’s most looking forward to the haunting, emotional sequence in which Harry walks through a forest toward his final confrontation with Voldemort, accompanied by the ghosts of Sirius Black, his parents, and others. He’s also excited to shoot Harry’s last, dreamy encounter with Dumbledore, although he recently reread the sequence in the book and made the surprising discovery that Harry is naked during the scene. ”At first, I thought I had pants on,” Radcliffe says. ”Apparently not.” Is he nervous? ”Bah, I’ve sort of done that,” he says, with mock bravado. ”It’s all old hat now, really.’

Really, Mr. Potter? Some people find that extremely difficult to put in the past.

Like this photo for example.

The superimposed image of the horse on
his abdomen scares the hell outta me.

More Pictures. Click to Enlarge:

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