Young star of 'Harry Potter' has cramming to do for magical role

For someone who has tangled with Lord Voldemort, the master of the dark arts, and won, Harry Potter was remarkably shy when confronted by a roomful of the Muggle press yesterday.

For someone who has tangled with Lord Voldemort, the master of the dark arts, and won, Harry Potter was remarkably shy when confronted by a roomful of the Muggle press yesterday.

Moments before his alter ego, Daniel Radcliffe and co-stars Emma Watson (who will play Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron) arrived, a Warner Brothers executive gently lowered all the microphones to 11-year-old height and provided cushions for the stars of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to sit on.

Daniel was momentarily struck dumb when asked what his favourite subject was ("science", he said eventually) but was on surer ground when it came to his reaction about landing one of the most coveted film roles in recent years.

"I cried, actually. I cried and then I was really excited," he said, before admitting sheepishly that he had only read two of the four books in the series by J K Rowling. "It was quite strange because the first person who phoned me up was in the other class and we do not really get on that well - well I do, but less than with the other people in my class, if you're still following. But a lot of the other boys in my class know that I have only read the first two books and these boys are total fanatics and they have read all four and they are a bit angry because I am the least Harry Potter in my class but I managed to get the part somehow."

He is now rereading the books with his father, Alan. Despite his lack of intimate knowledge of Hogwart's School for Wizards and Witches, Daniel said he was a bit like Harry because he, too, would like an owl.

Emma and Rupert were both eerily like their counterparts. Like Hermione, Emma remained completely composed in front of the cameras and journalists, saying she would put all her earnings in the bank until she was 21. "I am not like Hermione 'top of the form goody-two-shoes' but I would like to be top of the form," she said. "I hope I look like her, though." Like Ron, Rupert is from a large family of redheads, and said he was "scarily" like his character.

The film's director, Chris Columbus, stressed that the children would be protected from the more intrusive aspects of the fame game. Mr Columbus, director of the Home Alone films starring Macaulay Culkin, who became the subject of a bitter custody battle, said: "I was concerned when I got this job that when we dealt with the kids... we would make sure the parents were wonderful as well, because I felt a need to protect these kids against the onslaught of publicity and what can go wrong if you star in a film of this magnitude."

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