Sunday, November 21, 2010

Backstory,Casting the Harry Potter Kids,

Assuming you ignore the annoying financial detail that is inflation, the "Harry Potter" movies constitute the highest-grossing film series of all time. (Adjusting for inflation, we believe first place is "Rock One" and "Rock Two: The Boulder," produced in 47 B.C. and grossing three fish and half a puma's claw.) Much of that is because of the quality of the source material of course, but it's difficult to argue the producers didn't make the most important decision when they chose their Harry,Hermoine and Ron.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint weren't even 11 when the producers cast them. Think about how wrong that could have gone. They could have found cute kid actors who aged into dull, inexpressive adults. One of the kids could have sprouted a foot taller than the other ones. One could have developed a drug habit. The good fortune of having three mature, decent, relatively normal kids, who then
developed into quality actors, seems like cosmic kismet. So how were they cast?

Grint was the most random story. He was not a professional actor, in any capacity; he was a bellring at his church and had only been in school plays, most "notably" as a fish in a reenactment of Noah's Ark. He was a fan of the "Potter" books and had red hair, so on a whim he sent a video to an open casting call of himself "rapping about how much [he] wanted the part." Somehow, it worked. This is not how
Wallace Shawn's career started.

Emma Watson had a bit more acting experience. She'd never been in a film before, after spending the first five years of her life in Paris, but she spent the next five years in Oxfordshire studying with a theater teacher. That teacher recommended her to casting agents, and they were impressed, which makes sense: Watson has the wise eyes of an elderly woman. Watson has always said she has loved the experience of being in the "Potter" films, but that if she had known just how massive they were when she was a kid, she might not have done them. To be fair: Everything is massive when you're 10.

The most widely told -- and most apocryphal -- involves Radcliffe's casting as Potter himself. Producer David Heyman had been looking for his Potter for months and, with just a month before filming was set to begin, he hadn't found one. He then went to go see a play in London and, at intermission, ran into an old friend, a casting agent named Alan Radcliffe. He was introduced to his son, and whammo, then he knew: He had his Harry Potter.

This is only partly true. Yes, Heyman did meet Radcliffe then, but the boy was already acting; he'd appeared in two films by that point. Heyman's telling implies that he "discovered" Radcliffe, but the 10-year-old had earned plaudits from critics and other producers alike. The only reason Radcliffe hadn't auditioned yet to play Potter -- whom he clearly resembled -- was because his parents didn't want him to sign on for a (then)-six-film series. But once he decided to do it, the role was his. Like the rest of them, he was a perfect fit.

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