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Finite incantatem: ‘So many tears’ as Harry Potter casts his last spell

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Updated: October 13, 2011 12:30AM

NEW YORK — From the first moment, he was pure magic.

Except, he was the only one who didn’t know it. The unknown actor walked in the room with his head slightly cocked down, but his eyes bright. He did the usual ramble about how he was so grateful for the opportunity.

“Who knows?” he said. “Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to turn this into my future.”

Instead of being shadowed by his publicist, this actor was holding someone’s hand when he sat down in a hotel suite. He had a death grip on the palm that belonged to his mother.

This was Daniel Radcliffe at age 11. Now his “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” — the final film about the young wizard — opens Friday.

The event marks a rite of passage that actually was defined at Chicago’s AMC River East, during a secret April test screening of the most awaited film of 2011.

“A young woman in that audience had the most important note of all,” says director David Yates. “She wrote, ‘Goodbye, childhood.’

“The circle of a 10-year journey is complete.”

The new film is a $200 million production where Harry continues on his journey to destroy the pieces of Voldemort’s soul. Hogwarts is under attack with people and places blowing up and beloved characters found expired in the rubble.

“There were so many tears,” Radcliffe says of shooting the final scene. “I was very sad. I was inconsolable for two hours the day we wrapped.”

Radcliffe was so young when the franchise started that he didn’t even know how the business worked. “My dad did a fantastic voice of Dumbledore when he first read me the books. After I got the part, I said to the first director [Chris Columbus], ‘Maybe you should hire my dad.’ He said, ‘That’s great, Dan. But we’re going to hire a real actor.’ ”

As much as he loved Harry, Radcliffe didn’t morph into him. “His life sounded like a nightmare. Poor kid,” he says. “I was obsessed with him. I’d charge around my room at night after filming and I’d still be him. In my hotel room, I was still fighting Death Eaters.”

Over the past decade of escalating fame, the young cast never went crazy and became tabloid staples. “They had good parents,” producer David Heyman says. “And we filmed these movies at dank, dark studios that were a little isolated. This wasn’t glamorous.

“We had the same crew working on the films from 2000 to 2010, when we finished shooting the films. There was a great consistency in terms of the people. No one got away with anything. If anyone got high on a horse, you heard about it.

“They were also surrounded by actors at the top of their game and saw how they behaved. They were regular people and not a------s. They were really lovely and retained their humility and decency.”

Radcliffe learned to live with his stardom. “By the time I was 14, I was in the thick of it,” he says. “I learned that you don’t Google yourself. It’s like opening a door to a roomful of people talking about you. I went there hoping to find nice things said about me, but you find horrible things.

“It eats you up. I never do it anymore.”

In the end, Radcliffe is most proud of his fan base, which is so different from the “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” aficionados. “These are fans like no others,” Radcliffe says. “Harry Potter has inspired a generation of literate fans who read. They’re not geeks. They are people who are inspired to expand their reading.”

He says that won’t end now. “The movies might end, but the phenomenon will never end.”

And what about Harry?

“I’m very excited. Hopefully, I’ll be able to honor all of it,” Radcliffe says.

Four hours after “Potter” wrapped, Radcliffe was on a plane “reading a new script for a non-Potter role.” It was for a gothic horror film where he plays a 24-year-old father whose wife had died.

“So, we move on,” he says, sadly.

Big Picture News Inc.

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