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Schoolboy Heartthrob Harry Potter Comes Of Age

by drcomJul 10, 2008
By Lucy Mangan for The Guardian, 7th November 2006

His fame, of course, derives almost wholly from the Harry Potter films. It looked dicey at the beginning. Anyone over the age of reason who sat through the first two might have taken bets on whether the franchise was going to kill Daniel Radcliffe and his two child co-stars or the other way around.

But now, five years and four films on, Radcliffe, 17, has not only survived but prospered. In fact, he is currently having, as they say, a bit of a moment.

He has undoubtedly improved as an actor – anyone can sit through Harry Potter 4 without praying for Haley Joel Osment to be parachuted in, and Radcliffe’s turn in Extras last month, as a pathologically gauche, priapic, would-be womanising version of himself, was hilarious.

He has been chosen as one of the 20 young people featured in the Exceptional Youth Exhibition (alongside the likes of the 17-year-old Arsenal striker Theo Walcott, and the 2012 Olympic cycling medal hope Shanaze Reade) at the National Gallery, and he has signed up for the lead in a revival of Equus. This has sent his legions of nage female fans into paroxysms of delight – Equus, of course, being Latin for “stripping off and straddling a horse in Peter Shaffer plays and affording the artistically justified, but nevertheless always remarkable, sight of full-frontal actorly nudity”.

Although some would say he was an unlikely heartthrob, Radcliffe’s appeal to a certain type of teenage girl is not hard to fathom. He is a slightly geeky-but-nice-looking, well-brought up, supremely unthreatening boy – perfect for those who are not yet ready to deal with testosterone too closely.

As one fan puts it: “The distance suites me well.” Those who see past his “gorgeous” blue eyes also cite his “sweetness”, “maturity” and “respectfulness” as reasons to love their “angel without wings”.

Radcliffe’s wider appeal – the fan websites harbour a number of older, more emotionally and orthographically restrained fans, and he has never suffered from negative press – lies perhaps in his quintessential Englishness. The US finds him quaintly self-deprecating (“This kid seems great – interested in improving as a professional, not too stuck on himself. You can’t find non-actors with those qualities here in LA!”) and he will remain clutched to the national bosom here for as long as he keeps working hard and staying true to his middle-class, unassuming roots.

Things may, of course, change when Harry kisses Cho Chang on film next year. One woman scorned is bad enough. Millions of pubertal girls betrayed will be quite something else. He should keep the equus handy.

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