Child actors withdrawn from Harry Potter film in protest at pay

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The Independent Culture

The maker of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the most eagerly awaited children's film in a decade, has been accused of paying the lowest possible rates to many child actors and being "heavy handed" in negotiations.

The maker of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the most eagerly awaited children's film in a decade, has been accused of paying the lowest possible rates to many child actors and being "heavy handed" in negotiations.

The Independent has spoken to at least four leading agents who are unhappy with Warner Brothers' treatment of their charges. Two are known to have withdrawn children from the £90m film, which is due to hit British screens late next year.

They say that the film giant is capitalising on the fact that children are desperate to appear in the adaptation of the best-selling books by J K Rowling, offering "the least possible" for speaking parts, andrates of as low as £35 a day for background parts. Because of changes to the regulations for child performers, introduced last month, children may also end up working longer hours.

Warner Brothers' bargaining position has been strengthened by the almost hysterical level of interest in the film, especially from children. Some 40,000 besieged the Harry Potter website when Warner Brothers announced that it was to conduct a worldwide search for the cast.

Parents and agents who have complained about the rates say that Warner Brothers replied that if they were not happy "there are 5,000 children waiting to do it for nothing", and one agent, whose client was trying for a lead part, said Warner Brothers refused to consider negotiations on either percentages (a share of the profits) or merchandising.

"These kids' faces are going to be on coffee mugs and theme parks, and you would expect a merchandising clause," the agent said.

Another, who also had a client up for a lead part, was told that they had to sign the deal before the child would be allowed to screen test. "In the end we weren't nearly happy with the money and said my client wouldn't screen test... it all got very nasty," she said, adding that the "horrible" negotiation period proved "very distressing" for her charge.

Equity, the union for adult actors, says that its guidelines suggest children receive half of the adult fee. But a spokesman said if a child was "an identifiable part of the action", they could be paid a leading actor's rate. Warner Brothers declined to comment on the allegations, and a spokeswoman said: "Any contractual agreement is strictly confidential.''

The casting process for the film proved lengthy and contentious. After more than a year of searching Daniel Radcliffe, 11, was signed, for an estimated £200,000 two-film deal. His mother is an experienced casting director.

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