x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

What next for the Harry Potter stars?

Will the careers of the star cast from the world's most successful film franchise move on after 11 years and eight movies?

From left, Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II in New York.
From left, Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II in New York.

Daniel Radcliffe was a wide-eyed 10-year-old when he was cast in the most famous film role of the 21st century. Eleven years and eight movies later, the Harry Potter actor is, incredibly, the highest-earning male actor in the world.

Like his co-stars Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, he enjoys a portfolio of multi-million dollar houses dotted around the planet. Unlike Grint, however - who somewhat bizarrely spent some of his fortune on an ice-cream van and a hovercraft - Radcliffe sensibly dabbles in modern art.

Mansions, a few eccentric spending habits and armies of fans: such by-products of fame are usually the preserve of film stars with long-established careers, rather than actors not long out of their teens. Uniquely, as the franchise comes to an end with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II this week, it's not so much a case of what Radcliffe, Watson and Grint will do next as whether they actually need to bother doing anything at all.

One thing's for certain, it'll take them a long time to live down their most famous roles. In fact, they may never do so. Typecasting is one of the downsides of a career in film that all actors have to deal with — be they action heroes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger or heart-throbs such as George Clooney.

But "moving on" is particularly difficult for child actors who grew up in public - not least because we want them to remain as fresh-faced as they were when we first fell for their innocent charms.

It came as something of a shock to the system, for example, when Home Alone's child star Macaulay Culkin not only played a nasty murderer in 2003's Party Monster, but also went to jail for misdemeanours in real life. Culkin's family life was difficult, he was badly advised and he starred in some terrible, terrible films as he tried to persuade moviegoers that he had a bigger range than artfully setting traps for burglars.

His failure to follow up the success of Home Alone wasn't all his fault. But there was something rather depressing about his recent appearance in a commercial for an insurance company undergoing a rebranding exercise. Somewhat desperately, he uttered the line, "remember me?".

Happily, the Harry Potter alumni appear to be significantly better adjusted. Indeed, both Radcliffe and Grint have taken on roles outside of wizardry where they've had to strip off. There was much tittering when Radcliffe played the stable boy in the stage play Equus - "look, Harry Potter's naked!" - but it was a canny move.

The beefcake promotional shots did their job: they intimated that Radcliffe was no longer a boy, but a man who could take on serious roles. His next film is The Woman in Black - a supernatural thriller adapted from the Susan Hill book by the Kick-Ass screenwriter Jane Goldman.

Radcliffe is the lead, so it'll be fascinating to see how his first film outing post-Potter is received. Because in the end, there's a pretty easy way to make the tricky transition from child star to respected adult actor: act well in good films. Leonardo DiCaprio didn't have to contend with repeat performances in a multi-billion dollar film franchise, but the move from teenage stardom in This Boy's Life and What's Eating Gilbert Grape (for which he earned an Oscar nomination) to the likes of Romeo + Juliet and Titanic seemed effortless.

What's often overlooked is that DiCaprio steadily built his reputation through appearances in art house films such as Total Eclipse, rather than jumping into whichever blockbuster was interested in his services.

The likes of Hayley Joel Osment (the boy in The Sixth Sense), and the late Corey Haim (The Lost Boys) weren't so fortunate. But the experience of Christian Bale (so memorable in Empire of the Sun as a 13-year-old) and Reece Witherspoon (the 14-year-old in The Man in the Moon) proves that it's not so much about chasing the parts, but chasing the right parts. One can only hope that Hailee Steinfeld - so watchable as the young girl in True Grit - is similarly well-advised.

It's certainly cheering to find Radcliffe's co-stars also playing the long game. Grint's next project is Comrade, a small Norwegian film set during the Second World War and directed by the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Petter Naess. Emma Watson, meanwhile, will next be seen in My Week With Marilyn, a British drama based on a distinctly odd episode in Marilyn Monroe's life. The cast is suitably star-studded - Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Williams, Derek Jacobi - but Watson's role is tiny and she's returning to her university studies in October.

My, how sensible they seem. Apart from the predilection for ice-cream vans and hovercraft, of course.