Entertainment

The Harry Potter gang - where are they now?

DANIEL Radcliffe is back in the West End in The Cripple of Inishmaan, Emma Watson is the cream of LA in The Bling Ring and Rupert Grint's first Hollywood turn, in CBGB, is released later this year.

Harry, Hermione and Ron are adjusting to life post-Potter rather well - but what of the hundreds of other child actors who came from open auditions and stage schools to star in the eight films that became the highest-grossing series of all time, earning $7.7bn at the box office?

Some, like Robert Pattinson (Cedric Diggory) and TomFelton (Draco Malfoy) have already moved on to other blockbusters. Others, like Jamie Waylett (Vincent Crabbe), jailed for two years for his part in the London riots, have sunk without trace. What is it really like to go from a decade working on the biggest film franchise in the world to finding work as young adults? Here, some former Hogwarts pupils share their stories.

HARRY MELLING

Harry Melling, 24, is the grandson of Patrick Troughton (who played Doctor Who), and grew up in a family of actors. He played Harry Potter's spoiled cousin Dudley Dursley in five of the films. After finishing, he lost five stone and trained at Lamda. He has appeared in numerous plays at the National, including Mother Courage and Her Children opposite his on-screen mother, Fiona Shaw, and is currently starring with Simon Russell Beale and John Simm in The Hothouse in the West End.

"Harry Potter took 11 years of my life, from 10 to 21. I loved it, but transitioning from primary to secondary school while shooting the first film meant that I had to catch up with the social stuff later than most people. Afterwards, I went to Lamda. The films were a great learning experience, but I wanted to do theatre, get better, to have a process.

"Changing my image might have been an unconscious move, but I knew I didn't want to be stuck as Dudley. It's lovely that people don't recognise me now. Especially after playing such a vulgar, fat, hated person, I felt like I wanted to move on - maybe play Hamlet one day, or have a career like Benedict Cumberbatch's. I think every actor has the fear of being typecast. My dream is to be in an independent British film, directed by Steve McQueen, John Crowley or Rufus Norris. Something serious that really stretches you, makes people sit up and take you seriously. Another big movie franchise wouldn't do that - although at the moment I'm not in a position to be picky."

KATIE LEUNG

Katie Leung, 25, was 16 when she became globally famous as Harry Potter's first girlfriend, Cho Chang. She made her theatre debut in Wild Swans at the Young Vic in 2012 and recently starred opposite Olivia Colman in Run, a Channel 4 drama set in Brixton. She is currently studying drama at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.

"People say there was a lot of hate mail after I kissed Harry, but I wasn't affected by it. Now and again I'll be recognised, get the occasional 'Are you the girl from Harry Potter?' Sometimes I say 'yes', sometimes 'no'. I still find the whole thing very strange.

"Before Harry Potter, I didn't have any ambitions. I was just enjoying painting. I'm quite an introvert, really. After doing Wild Swans I realised I needed training. It was very challenging. You have to be so much bigger in your gestures. I just didn't have it. In Run (below) I played an illegal immigrant. It's different from Cho Chang, kind of grim, but I can't limit myself as an actor. I wouldn't mind being in a zombie film, you know."

MATTHEW LEWIS

Matthew Lewis began his career aged five and was 11 when he won the part of Neville Longbottom. He starred in all eight Harry Potter films. He has since appeared in Kay Mellor's The Syndicate on BBC1 and in Our Boys in the West End. In September, he will star in the heist movie The Rise (below) with Luke Treadaway and Timothy Spall. He lives in Leeds.

"I led two lives while I was working on the films. I had one life where I could meet famous people, go on red carpets - and then I'd come back to Leeds and hang out with my mates. It was just a thing I did outside of school. Other people played rugby or football, it was never a big deal. I still go to the pub quiz at my local with my brothers and my dad.

"In the last few years, I've been trying to get away from Harry Potter, but I'm under no illusion that many of the auditions I get are off the back of it. It was quite difficult when I first finished, because before I could convince people I could play a character, I had to convince them that I wasn't Neville Longbottom. People might expect me to do another Hollywood film, something bigger than Harry Potter. But that's impossible: it was the biggest series of all time.

"I saw Daniel [Radcliffe] a couple of weeks ago. When we first started filming, [Harry Potter producer] David Heyman had tickets for the wrestling in Sheffield and invited me, Dan and Rupert. We sat ringside and my dad still has pictures of us at McDonald's afterwards. Dan has French fries up his nose, and no one's batting an eyelid because they don't know who we are. Then you fast forward to the premiere of the last film with all those thousands of fans going crazy… I love the fact that we're still really good friends."

EVANNA LYNCH

Evanna Lynch, 21, played Luna Lovegood in four Harry Potter films. She has since appeared in Sinbad on Sky1 and the short film GBF, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. She lives in LA and from September will tour the UK in Houdini, playing the escapologist's wife.

"I've always been a big fan of Harry Potter. I'd dress up and queue for hours to buy the books on the day they came out. When I was 11, I was ill with an eating disorder and Harry Potter seemed to be the only thing that was there for me. It was my whole life. So I wrote to tell J K Rowling and she wrote back. We sent letters for a while and she was really supportive.

"In January 2006, they held an open audition for Luna, so I got my dad to take me to London, from Ireland. Luna was my favourite character; I wouldn't have played anyone else. She speaks to young people who have been bullied or have self-esteem issues. I had an audition and got called back the next week for a screen test. It all happened so fast, I didn't have a chance to write to J K Rowling to tell her. When the producers told her they'd cast me, she couldn't believe it.

"I had such fun filming - it never felt like work. The only difficult part for me was the fame thing. Joining on the fifth film, I was starstruck by the other actors. It was difficult to see myself as the same as them, when I'd written them fan letters. When the films ended, I struggled. Did I want to continue acting? What should I do with my life? I had to grow up a second time. The good thing was that there were so many others on set going through the same thing.

I saw J K Rowling a few weeks ago; she's very supportive of everything I do. I thought The Casual Vacancy was very brave. She has amazing compassion and her style is unique - but I have to say that book made me miserable."

BONNIE WRIGHT

Bonnie Wright, 22, is the daughter of jewellers Sheila Teague and Gary Wright and appeared in all eight Harry Potter films as Ginny Weasley. Subsequently, she studied directing and writing at London's University of the Arts and took her short film, Separate We Come, Separate We Go, starring David Thewlis (Hogwarts' Professor Lupin), to Cannes last year. As an actress, she has several films upcoming, including an adaptation of John Banville's The Sea, The Philosophers and Before I Sleep. She has just made her theatre debut in The Moment of Truth at London's Southwark Playhouse.

"My brother had read the first two Harry Potter books and said I would suit the role of Ginny, so I asked my mum to get me an audition. My family had nothing to do with entertainment, but she phoned the publishers, then the casting directors - and we sent off a few pictures and a little note. I can't remember what I wrote in it.

"I was such a curious person on set, asking 'what does that button do?' and wandering into the costume or prop room. I learnt about film-making, and that had a huge impact. I didn't keep any of my costumes. They all went into the WB archive. Hopefully I can get something back one day - like a Hogwarts jumper.

"Seeing everyone progress is lovely. We're all acting because we enjoy it, rather than because we fell into it. It's a weird experience, so the moment you meet up with a cast member it's an unspoken thing you share - like having gone to the same school."

FRANK DILLANE

Frank Dillane, 22, son of actors Stephen Dillane and Naomi Wirthner, played Tom Riddle in the last three Harry Potter films. Last year, he starred opposite his father in the British film Papadopoulos and Sons. He has just graduated from Rada and recently made his theatre debut in Candida at Theatre Royal Bath.

"Harry Potter was my first job. I went along and auditioned with everyone else. Although I grew up around movies, I don't know that I assumed I was going to be an actor. But back in the day, if your father was a tailor then you would usually be a tailor, too.

I only appeared from the sixth film, so I wasn't too attached to it in the way Daniel Radcliffe was. I could do it, then leave, unburdened by all the other stuff. I've been recognised once, I think, but I look a lot different in the film. I was mainly locked away with Jim Broadbent [Professor Slughorn] while filming - an absolutely great person to be locked away with, but I didn't have scenes with anyone else and I don't keep up with any of them.

After the films, I took a gap year, during which I sat in a caravan in my back garden and did absolutely nothing. Then I went to Rada. Arriving in an establishment where everyone is better than you, you can't uphold any kind of arrogance for very long. My favourite part so far has been playing Peter Pan at Rada. I did a bit of flying and I loved it. Theatre's a whole different beast to film. It requires a lot more of you. Candida was difficult, stimulating but very wordy."

JESSIE CAVE

Jessie Cave, 26, won the part of Lavender Brown from an open audition of 7,000 people. Since the films she has appeared in Great Expectations and Simon Amstell's Grandma's House. She is now a comedian and will perform a new stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. Her debut show, Bookworm, transferred from the Fringe to the Soho Theatre. Her current television projects include The Cariad Show, Give Out Girls and Burger Van Champion for Channel 4's Coming Up. She is writing a sitcom for Big Talk and makes short films on her website pindippy.com.

"When I was 19, I dropped out of art school and didn't know what the hell I was doing with my life. My mum suggested I could be a model and I got into a kids' agency because I looked young. I wore pink jeans to all my auditions and got a Nokia advert and a part in Inkheart. My third audition was for Harry Potter. I had to do a screen test with Rupert Grint and make him laugh. We really got on. It felt like winning the Lottery.

"Playing Lavender was a catalyst. It made me realise that I needed to work out what I have to offer and that jobs weren't just going to come to me. I still have to audition. Your life doesn't change because you get one amazing job. I've worked in coffee shops, and I've earned money from drawings and videos, but now my job is writing - and writing for money is incredible.

"I saw Daniel in Soho a couple of months ago, but he was surrounded by three bodyguards. He didn't recognise me to start with and thought I was a crazy fan, which was awkward, but then he did. I'm still really close friends with Evanna Lynch and Katie Leung. Katie helped me to flyer in Edinburgh last year and came to my show. There were some Potter fans in who freaked out. I'm constantly stunned by the love for Harry Potter. It's an escape for people. That interests me and it's why I love acting, writing and comedy. It helps me to key into something that isn't real. It's really OK to live in a fantasy world for a little bit of the day."

Topics:  actors, celebrity, editors picks



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