'Harry Potter' stars grow up, so do films

Posted: Thursday, May 27, 2004

NEW YORK The boy wizard of ''Harry Potter'' is growing up and so are his fans, many of whom have replaced their old capes and wands with declarations of undying love.

Daniel Radcliffe appeared stunned by the enthusiastic reception he received Sunday from hundreds of shrieking fans who lined up outside the U.S. premiere of ''Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.''

''It's really amazing,'' the 14-year-old said, trembling a bit as he paused to wave at swooning teenage girls.

Even singer Rob Thomas of matchbox twenty himself no stranger to screaming women was taken aback.

''When Harry Potter got out I think you could actually see his hair blow back from the screams,'' Thomas said. ''They're very excited.''

It was a happy development for Rupert Grint, who plays Harry's friend Ron Weasley at the Hogwarts school and arrived at the premiere looking distinctively adolescent with a shaggy mop-top haircut.

''It's quite cool,'' the 14-year-old said with a grin.

Audiences can expect a more mature film this time, too. The third installment of the ''Harry Potter'' series takes a dark turn as the young sorcerer is sought by a murderous wizard who escapes from a prison for conjurers.

''It's more dark. A bit more edge of your seat,'' said 16-year-old Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the film. ''You might want to go with your mum.''

Plenty of kids dragged their famous mums to the New York premiere. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins rushed past photographers with their kids, as did ABC's Meredith Vieira.

Fans lined up as early as 4 a.m., 12 hours before the start of the film, to angle for an autograph or glimpse of their favorite star.

''They're amazing!'' 14-year-olds Danielle Lopez and Kristin Hauser shrieked in unison. The teens from upstate New York arrived at 9 a.m. with a poster proclaiming ''Every muggle deserves a hug.'' (That's Potter slang for nonwizards.)

Even Alan Rickman, 58, who plays sullen Hogwarts professor Severus Snape, was greeted by a marriage proposal from a somewhat older fan. ''She must be desperate,'' he responded dryly.

As they grow into their roles as heartthrobs, the teenage ''Harry Potter'' also are giving performances with new depth, said Chris Columbus, who directed the first two ''Harry Potter'' movies and remained a producer on the third.

''It's much more personal, this one,'' said 14-year-old Emma Watson, who said her character, Hermione, also has evolved. ''She's still the know-it-all and everything, but you see more depth to her and there's a different side to her.''

Alfonso Cuaron director of the Mexican hit ''Y Tu Mama Tambien'' took over as director for ''Prisoner of Azkaban.'' The result, the stars said, is a darker and more sophisticated movie than its predecessors.

Cuaron assured parents it's still the ''Harry Potter'' kids love.

''It's not violent. It can be spooky at points, but good spooky,'' he said. ''Kids like to be spooked a little.''

Adds Radcliffe, ''I've seen it a couple of times, and the only ones scared were the adults.''

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