It’s the beginning of the end. The seventh and final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, has been split into two films, and the first installment will hit screens Nov. 19. (Part 2 will open on July 15, 2011). After a decade of playing the three young wizards waging a battle against Voldemort and the forces of evil, the three stars of the $5.4 billion franchise, all in their 20s now, spoke with Entertainment Weekly for this week’s cover story, reflecting on their childhoods inside Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy and discussing their plans for the future. EW’s Los Angeles Bureau Chief, Sean Smith, has been interviewing these actors — Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) — since the very first film, The Sorcerer’s Stone, and mines his 10 years of access and observations for this in-depth portrait of the three most famous kids in the world as they transition into adulthood and life outside of Potter.
Emma Watson, 20
At 11, Watson was chatty, precocious and thrilled to be cast as brainy Hermione (“I reckon she’s very, very bossy,” she said at the time), but as the years went on Watson became increasingly conflicted about whether she wanted to keep playing the role, or to even act at all. “Dan and Rupert seem so sure,” she said on the set of the fifth film, The Order of the Phoenix. “I love to make people laugh, and I love being creative, but there are so many other things I love doing, too. I’ve been given such amazing opportunities with this, but … I don’t know.” This summer, she had finished shooting Hallows and was headed back to school for her sophomore year at Brown University. She’d just gotten a new pixie haircut — the first time in 10 years she’d been able to choose her own hairstyle — and was elated by her life on campus. “I have such a structure when I’m working on Potter,” she said. “I get told what time I get picked up. I get told what time I can eat, when I have time to go to the bathroom. Being at college, I took pleasure in the smallest things. Like, ‘I’m going to wake up at 10 o’clock if I want to.’ Or, ‘I’m going to eat a sandwich now.’ It feels wonderful.”
Rupert Grint, 22
Grint has always been the least verbal of the three stars. From about age 12, when he made Sorcerer‘s, through Phoenix, his two (perhaps only) adjectives for everything were “wicked” and “cool.” But his near-silence has earned him a certain mystique — after he got his driver’s license he bought an ice cream truck to drive around instead of, say, a Ferrari — and he’s built a fan base who seem to get his offbeat sensibilities. His screaming female fans don’t mail him underwear in the mail, he says, but he gets “a lot of pajamas. And origami.” Shooting Hallows, though, he finally began to open up, and a few weeks ago he reflected on what it had all meant to him. “The alternative, of just going to college and school never really appealed to me,” he said. “On set there were times when it was really quite slow, but I’ve always loved it. There was never a doubt that I was going to do this.”
Daniel Radcliffe, 21
Radcliffe has always been pretty fearless. At 11, when most boys are afraid of being vulnerable, he talked about how he found out that he’d been cast as the boy wizard, after months of auditions. “I was in the bath at the time,” he said then. “My dad came running in and said, ‘Guess who they want to play Harry Potter?’ and I started to cry. It was probably the best moment of my life.” In the years since, Radcliffe has proved he isn’t afraid to reveal himself. He famously appeared naked on stage in Equus, both in London’s West End and on Broadway. (There’s even a reference to it in Hallows-Part 1. In one scene, Ron, Hermione and Harry, on the run in London, enter a café. On the wall in one corner is a poster for Equus.) Radcliffe is still taking risks. He’s currently rehearsing to star in a stage musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and trying to not think about saying goodbye to Harry after all these years. “It’s key for me to keep working,” he says. “Focusing on other things rather than moping around the house.”
To read more about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, including what happened on the final day of shooting that made them all cry, the story behind an intense kiss between two of them, and details about what happens in Part 1, pick up the new copy of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now. Check out the morphing videos below to see the three stars transform through the years, then relive the Deathly Hallows trailer at the end.