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British child actor 'a splendid Harry Potter'
LONDON (CNN) -- British child actor Daniel Radcliffe may be facing the role of his young life when he begins work this October as the lead in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
Radcliffe, who will be introduced to reporters at a news conference Wednesday in London, is the son of Marcia Gresham, a casting agent, and Alan Radcliffe, a literary agent with International Creative Management (ICM). He lives in Fulham in west London.
The young Radcliffe has just finished making a film, "The Tailor of Panama," with veteran director John Boorman. Before that, his only professional acting experience was as the young David Copperfield in the recent BBC production of Charles Dickens' popular novel.
Those who have worked with him believe he is a natural screen actor, and perfect for the role of Harry Potter.
Kate Harwood, who produced "David Copperfield" and gave Radcliffe his first big break, said: "He has a particular quality of naturalness and innocence. The camera really loves him, and other children don't feel threatened by him.
"One normally dreads working with child actors, but in his case he was wonderful. I think he'll make a splendid Harry Potter."
Actor Ian McNeice, who worked alongside Radcliffe in "David Copperfield" and is in contention for the role of Harry's dreadful uncle Vernon in the first Potter film, agreed: "He has a magical quality about him. He takes direction very well, and is very expressive with his eyes. The scenes I had with him were a joy.
"Every now and then you find someone who is completely natural, and he is one of those. I wasn't at all surprised when he got the job, and am absolutely thrilled to bits for him."
Most talked-about film for years
Since Harry Potter first appeared in print in 1997, author J.K. (Joanna Kathleen) Rowling's teenage wizard has become a literary phenomenon.
The first book in the Potter series -- "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (retitled "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in the United States) -- was an overnight bestseller.
Its sequels -- "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (1998), "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (1999), and "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2000) -- sold millions worldwide, and last year earned Rowling an estimated £20.5 million ($30.6 million), making her the highest-paid woman in Britain.
Warner Brothers, owned by Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, snapped up film rights on all four books -- as well as an option on the next three -- and the first Harry Potter movie became one of the most talked about projects in Hollywood.
Chris Columbus, director of "Home Alone" and "Mrs. Doubtfire," was signed up as director -- Steven Spielberg backed off after creative differences with Rowling -- and Dame Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane came on board to play, respectively, the roles of Professor Minerva McGonagall and Hagrid the Gamekeeper.
Finding the right person to play Harry, however, proved more difficult. More than 300 screen tests were held, with an Internet casting call for the role attracting more than 40,000 responses.
Americans Haley Joel Osment, 12, the Oscar-nominated actor from "The Sixth Sense," 9-year-old Eric Sullivan, who appeared in "Jerry Maguire" and Liam Aitken from "Stepmom" all expressed an interest in the part. Rowling, however, was adamant that the role should be played by an English actor.
"The process was very intense," admitted Columbus, "There were times when we felt we would never find an individual who embodied the complex spirit and depth of Harry Potter."
Finally, however, after almost a year of auditioning, Radcliffe was found and the search was at an end.
"The moment he walked into the room we knew we'd found Harry," said Columbus.
Rowling was equally enthusiastic: "Having seen Dan Radcliffe's screen test I don't think Chris Columbus could have found a better Harry."
Radcliffe's, however, is not the only name that will be announced Wednesday. He will be joined by fellow English actors Emma Watson, 10, and Rupert Grint, 11, who have been chosen to fill the pivotal roles of Harry's best friends, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.
"These are tremendously talented kids who will bring so much to the film," said producer David Heyman. "We have always been and continue to be devoted to remaining true and faithful to the book."
CNN.com can also confirm that actors Richard Harris and Alan Rickman, long rumoured to be about to join the project, have signed to play the parts of, respectively, Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Severus Snape, Hogwarts' malevolent potions master.
Filming, due to start at the beginning of October, is expected to last until the spring of 2001. Warner Brothers will not reveal the film's budget, although it is estimated by industry insiders to be in the region of $100 million.
The special effects will by all accounts be breathtaking.
"When I was testing for the role of Vernon Dursley I met Chris Columbus," said McNeice, "And he told me there will be more special effects in this film than anything he has ever done before. He said it would be 500 times bigger than the effects used on the 'Home Alone' series."
The film is due for release in November 2001, and expectation is already building.
"Our intention is to make movies of all the Harry Potter books," said Warner Brothers spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti. "We're obviously very excited about the whole project."
The wonderful world of Harry Potter
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