So the end really is now in sight. Nine years, seven films and one more due out next year, cinema audiences have followed the exploits of Harry Potter since 2001, watching him and sidekicks Ron and Hermione battle basilisks, dark wizards, giant spiders, dementors, dragons and Severus Snape, amongst the many obstacles that have faced The Boy who Lived.
There is sadness in seeing such a successful and much-loved franchise ending, a series which has always remained thoroughly grounded in its British roots and showcased the talents of some of our greatest thespians in a variety of cameo roles.
But surely no one can more anxious about post-Potter life than the young stars of the films. The cherubic, cute kids presented to the world’s media many years ago are now all adults and facing the tricky prospect of forging a career outside the cosy world of Hogwarts. The path ahead is a tricky one; finding fame as a child and finding fame through a successful franchise are two of the quickest ways towards career suicide. The path to Hollywood fame is littered with the corpses of those who floundered and crashed into obscurity when childhood fame turned sour. Just ask Macaulay Culkin if you need further proof. So which of the Potter stars will successfully make the transition to the serious world of acting, and which will next be seen in the grim world of reality TV?
Daniel Radcliffe needs a giant dollop of good fortune and some mighty acting talent if he is to ever shake off his spectacle wearing, lightening scarred alter-ego, Harry Potter. As the face of the franchise itself, Radcliffe is instantly recognisable as Potter and faces a lifetime of always being linked back to his most famous character. The problem facing Radcliffe is that his acting in the Harry Potter franchise has always remained patchy and inconsistent. At times his performances have felt forced and clenched, never quite flowing with the spontaneous ease of a good, naturally gifted actor.
The darker plot twists of the later books have given him a chance to shine, tackling the moody Potter with a giant chip on his shoulder in The Order of the Phoenix. However, the Potter series has never quite allowed Radcliffe the opportunity to truly excel and he is constantly drowned when squaring up to some of the supreme talents amongst the adult acting cast. His scenes opposite Professor Snape exemplify this perfectly, the acerbic and effortless talents of Alan Rickman wiping the floor with Radcliffe.
Radcliffe still has a fighting chance of making a career for himself as he is blessed with either a very astute brain or advisors who know what they are talking about. Radcliffe has made some extremely smart choices in terms of his post-Potter projects, and even had the good sense to start changing his image from schoolboy wizard to serious actor before the franchise has finished.
He made his stage debut in Equus, a gritty and tough drama that required him to strip naked on stage; a tough role for any actor, and even more so for an 18 year old in his first stage role. Radcliffe’s immediate future looks promising, sticking to his British roots for an adaptation of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, for Hammer, and he is preparing to play the lead in the Broadway revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. The future looks bright for Radcliffe, but he needs a few more years of these well chosen roles to fully establish himself as a talent worth watching.
Many media sources in recent months have been citing Emma Watson as the one to keep an eye on. Her transformation from student-of-the-year Hermione Granger to tabloid favourite has been remarkable. With her long curly locks replaced with a daring crop and an increased effort to appear in designer gowns, Watson has already severed ties with the Potter series. Even her recent red carpet appearance suggest a young woman keen to walk away from Potter, Watson standing alongside Radcliffe and Rupert Grint like a star on a different level.
Even the two boys looked slightly intimidated by the lofty sophistication of Watson’s presence. Watson appears to possesses a touch of ruthless self-preservation and shows considerable less affection for the Potter series than her co-stars. She has spoken openly about the joy of being released from the controlling schedule, how she almost quit the series half-way through and the symbolic importance of shedding her Hermione Granger hair. Watson is already a tabloid favourite, her pretty looks landing her modelling contracts and countless male admirers.
Watson’s future depends primarily on what career she intends to build for herself. If she intends to pursue further acting, then her actions to date raise the question as to how successful she will be. Whilst Watson has not yet plumbed the depths of the lad’s mags, her obvious employment of her looks both on the red carpet and as a model will not win many fans looking for serious actresses. Her cool attitude towards Potter and her over-enthusiastic ramblings about the series ending have provoked vague and pointless mutterings of ungratefulness and a standoffish attitude.
Watson has the skill to launch herself as a proper actress, her acting talents often being the strongest of the three main stars. She also faces a harder battle compared to Radcliffe because, sadly, meaty roles for pretty 21 year old actresses are thin on the ground. What will see Watson through is her dogged determination to bury to Hermione once and for all in the past and never look back. In the tough world of Hollywood, her fierce sense of ambition might just see her succeed.
Poor Rupert Grint. Like his Potter character Ron Weasley, Grint has always been the most overlooked of the three stars. To put it bluntly, Grint just doesn’t have the photogenic appeal of Emma Watson or the infectiously likeable presence of Daniel Radcliffe. Unlike his co-stars, Grint has to date displayed little urgency about wanting to sever ties with his role as Harry Potter’s ginger-haired best mate. His alternate projects aside from Potter have not exactly been inspiring, consisting of low-budget British films which received lacklustre reviews.
His attempts to ‘do a Radcliffe’ and shed some clothing in Cherrybomb was met with considerable less enthusiasm. The problem with Grint is trying to imagine exactly what roles he will be able to secure in the future; unlike Radcliffe, he does not possess the gravitas and charisma required for a leading man. Perhaps Grint’s future lies in nothing more than emulating the ghost of Ron Weasley, namely playing the gawky sidekick who chimes in with the odd funny line.
However, a careful viewing of Grint’s performance in The Deathly Hallows suggests that he could be the one to surprise us all. Ron Weasley is no longer Harry Potter’s doggedly devoted pal. Ron has fears and demons to battle, finally confronting his feelings for Hermione and facing up to his private insecurities about how others must compare him to Harry. In tackling these scenes, Grint proves that he has a more than impressive acting ability. For once, it is him rather than Radcliffe or Watson who has the chance to dominate a scene. Being the Potter actor to garner the least attention, Grint might find that this lack of interest pays off in terms of giving him the opportunity to firmly detach himself from the Potter franchise. If his acting skills are anything to go by, Grint has a brighter future than many would have predicted.
To try and dissect and predict the future of the many other young actors who make up the Harry Potter cast is virtually impossible, with the films giving them barely enough time to fully showcase their talents. But if there was ever a young actor to watch, it would undoubtedly be Tom Felton. As Harry Potter’s nemesis Draco Malfoy, Felton has effortlessly gone from strength to strength as each new film has appeared. Even in The Philosopher’s Stone, when Felton had little to do except sneer and strut around with attitude, he possessed a screen presence which was highly impressive for a child.
There is a wonderful moment in The Chamber of Secrets where Malfoy asks why his friend Goyle is wearing suspiciously Harry Potter-esque glasses, to which Goyle replies that he needs them for reading. “I didn’t know you could read”, replies Felton with the deadpan skilfully line delivery of a true pro. Felton reached the pinnacle of his ability in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, playing the now confused and fearful Malfoy who is sinking deeper into the dark side and finding himself thoroughly unprepared for the consequences. Anyone wishing to sample a taste of Felton’s talents only needs to watch the shaky, sick desperation on his face as he finally faces up to the monumental prospect of killing Albus Dumbledore. The fact that Felton has an impressive four post-Potter titles to his name is testimony to the fact that he is the one to watch.
Shaking off childhood stardom is hard work. The Jodie Foster’s and Drew Barrymore’s of the world are rare, with the majority of young actors heading down the road to obscurity. Ultimately, a young star with acting talent has the opportunity to succeed and all the Harry Potter stars have proven their worth when it comes to ability. Let’s hope they use it wisely and next appear on our screens in worthy and exciting roles.
Written by Natalie Holmes.