Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t need any hocus-pocus to transform himself into a normal teen: The “Harry Potter” actor simply takes off the boy wizard’s signature glasses and dons a baseball cap.
The 14-year-old has devoted most of the past four years to the movies based on J.K. Rowling’s fantasy books. The third installment, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” hits theaters June 4, and Dan is already busy working on No. 4.
When “The Sorcerer’s Stone” came out in November 2001, Dan (who turns 15 in July) had previously done a TV version of “David Copperfield” in his native England and played Geoffrey Rush’s son in “The Tailor of Panama.”
Neither prepared him for the instant fame “Harry Potter” would bring. Children sporting wizard capes and round glasses flocked to theaters; at a recent premiere here, many were replaced with screaming teenage girls, some holding signs saying, “Marry us, Dan!”
But Dan downplays his celebrity. He’s already sat through several interviews this day, yet still manages to be sweet and polite. His eyes, which are strikingly blue without Potter’s glasses, light up as he talks about his career, his influences and his hopes for the future.
AP: Are you the next teen heartthrob?
Dan: (Laughs and blushes) I don’t think of myself as the next teen heartthrob. It’s flattering, it’s really nice, but I can’t understand it.
AP: Is this movie too scary for children?
Dan: This one is scarier...It’s more a psychological thriller, which eight-year-old kids don’t really connect with in the same way adults do. When I watch the film with adults, many of the adults get more scared than their kids.
AP: What has been your reaction to all the hype surrounding the movie? Can you go out of your house without being recognized?
Dan: You never really get used to it, but it’s really not that bad at all. I get recognized sometimes, but I just wear a baseball cap and it’s a lot less. Of course, now people are going to be going out looking for a kid wearing a baseball cap.
AP: Harry is a little awkward, dare I say a bit dorky. Do you see any of yourself in him?
Dan: Absolutely. I’ve never been one of the cool people at school, but then again, I don’t get the people who are cool. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that they don’t interest me.
AP: Harry grows up a lot during the three movies, especially in this one, with the internal conflicts over his parents’ death. Was that difficult for you?
Dan: It was difficult, because I’ve obviously never experienced any of the situations Harry’s been in. It was interesting to play...but it was good. I tend to be really bad at anything that doesn’t challenge me. Anything that should be easy, I don’t do particularly well.
AP: Not only has Harry grown up, you’ve been growing up, too. What was it like to grow up before the world’s eyes?
Dan: I don’t pay that much attention to what the rest of the world is saying. I never read the articles or read what people are saying about me on the Internet. If you read all that you just become so self-conscious.
AP: Have you gone back and watched the past films?
Dan: No, never. I don’t ever want to do that. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch the first ones again. Give it two years and I’ll never be able to watch this one again.
AP: You don’t want to see how much you’ve grown as an actor?
Dan: I don’t ever see the point of looking back at it. I tend to focus on what’s happening now. If I ever have kids, I might watch it with them one day.
AP: Speaking of kids, has there been any pressure on you to be a role model?
Dan: Somebody said to me the other day that I was a role model for kids, and I thought, “Oh my God! These poor children!” I don’t know if I’m a suitable role model.
AP: Did you do anything special to prepare for this movie?
Dan: I had to write an essay on Harry’s state of mind before the beginning of the third film. That was interesting because...it allowed me to organize my thoughts about him.
AP: I’ve heard you’re a film buff. Are there any particular actors who influenced you?
Dan: One of them would definitely be Gary Oldman. That was amazing to be able to work with him (on this movie). I think people like Tobey Maguire and Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood, actually, because they were all child actors. When you say child actors, everyone thinks Macaulay Culkin. Macaulay Culkin has actually now come back as well, he’s been great. They were all child actors and they all turned out to be some of the most amazing actors of their generation. Christina Ricci is unbelievable. I think I kind of look up to them.
AP: Any idea what’s going to happen with the series in the future?
Dan: There are all these jokes made on the set about Harry Potter being 35. There’s supposed to be a sixth and a seventh, goodness knows when...As far as the future, I don’t know how many I’ll be able to do. I think I’ll wait until after the fourth and then I’ll have another think, ’cause it’s far too far away for me to think about.
AP: If you were writing the sixth and seventh books, what would you want to happen?
Dan: I definitely think Alfonso (Cuaron, the director) correctly interpreted that Ron and Hermione have a thing going on. And I think Harry’s going to die. I think there’s got to be a reason other than in the finale of the fourth book that Harry and Voldemort’s wands connect...there’s got to be a thing that Voldemort can only die if Harry dies. That’s my theory on it. I think Harry might have to make a sacrifice.