When he auditioned for BBC’s adaptation of David Copperfield in 1999, he did so as a lark, just to say he’d tried out for a television show. Nailed it. Then, about a year later, he was asked to audition for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Landed that one too. He was 11 and already well on his way to becoming a franchise. Who needs wands and spells when you’ve got the look — and luck?
Oh, he knows now, if he didn’t then, that he was the luckiest little boy in all the land. Because no matter who’d snagged the Golden Snitch, that person would have been adored, beloved, fussed over and screamed about by mobs of Muggles. J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard, introduced to British bookshelves in the summer of 1997 in the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the title was changed for American publication), was famous long before Radcliffe went in for his first audition. All he had to do was pencil a zigzag scar across his forehead and pop on some round spectacles. Harry had already cast his spell.
Radcliffe was reminded of as much one day when talking with Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the first film in the Twilight franchise. She told him girls would begin screaming at the mere mention of Edward Cullen, that teen-beat bloodsucker. And this, Hardwicke told Radcliffe, was long before Robert Pattinson was ever cast in the role.
“So it didn’t matter who came into that part, just as it didn’t matter who played Harry,” Radcliffe says. “Whoever got into that role would then be getting these reactions — because of the character, because of the phenomenon you’re stepping into. And that’s how I kind of keep it in perspective.”
To the outsider, that would seem the near-impossible task. How does one keep it in perspective when, long before you were even of legal drinking age, you were an action figure and a Halloween costume and a LEGO video game character? When you’ve grown up in public, which means you’re forever stalled out at the ripe age of “boy wizard”? When your jean pockets are lined with money, as Potter castmate Gary Oldman pointed out in an interview with MTV?
Radcliffe is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. He’s already said his goodbyes to Harry — first in July 2010, when shooting officially wrapped on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, then again at the end of the year, when some of the cast members were brought back to reshoot the epilogue. While Harry’s chatting up his dead headmaster in purgatory in three dimensions beginning July 15, J. Pierrepont Finch will be singing “I Believe in You” into a men’s room mirror moments before his climactic fall and subsequent rise.
Then, next January, he will star in The Woman in Black, an old-fashioned ghost story intended not only to resurrect the late legendary U.K. scare great Hammer Films but also to convince audiences that Daniel Radcliffe can now play … a father. You read that right: Radcliffe plays an attorney called to a small town to settle a matter that eventually comes back to haunt him and his family.