Having now finished shooting all eight Harry Potter films, the three leads, Dan, Emma and Rupert, talk to Paul Byrne about becoming a muggle once again.

Most kids will have their childhood captured for prosperity on their camera-phones or dad’s latest DV gizmo. For Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, their growing pains are frozen in time forever over 8 multi-million-dollar blockbusters that just happen to make up the biggest movie franchise of all time. Which must be nice.

“When we wrapped on The Deathly Hollows this year, the crew had put together these 15-minute short films that just charted each of our lives through the ten years of making the Harry Potter films,” says Radcliffe, who played the boy wizard himself. “It was really moving, and I know that when I do sit down to watch the movies themselves in years to come, it will be like watching a home movie really. These people were like our surrogate family…”

“I think it’s crazy to think that just about everyone else on the planet has seen you growing up,” smiles Grint, who played Harry’s best friend, Ron Weasley. “It feels like everyone out there in the real world is a cousin, or an uncle, or some distant relative.”

“It’s going to be really funny for our children, and our grandchildren,” nods Watson, who played the world’s prettiest bookworm, Hermione Granger. “Don’t think we did anything too naughty, so, you know, it won’t ever be awkward around the dinner table.”

For Dan, Rupert and Emma, this is the long goodbye. JK Rowling’s seven books charting the schoolday adventures of chosen one Harry Potter at the Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft & Wizardry as he prepares for battle with the evil Lord Voldermort have sold over 400 million copies around the world. The last outing, The Deathly Hollows, proved such a foot-crusher that the powers that be decided it would be best to split the big-screen adaptation over two films (the second comes out in July 2011). Which must have made the suits at Warner Bros. – the studio behind this highly lucrative franchise – literally jump for joy. For the actors and crew though, it meant a planned 250-day shoot gradually became a 478-day shoot. A joyful reprieve, or some torturous detention?

“It was great, realising that this most incredible part of our lives wasn’t over as soon as we thought,” says Watson, “but it was also a very gruelling shoot. We all knew that this was a story that needed more than just one two-hour film to capture, so, you know, we marched on…”

“I loved it, because this film is pretty different to all the others,” says Grint. “We got to head out into the big, bad world, and it just felt like we’d done something completely new. It didn’t feel like another day at the office.”

Radcliffe nods in agreement. “I remember when Jo Rowling was writing the final book, she sent me a text where she described what she was writing as a ‘bizarre road movie’. And that’s what it is…”

In regard to being at the centre of perhaps the 21st century’s biggest pop culture phenomenon, do Dan, Emma and Rupert ever mourn the fact that they missed out on a normal childhood? Or are the threesome too busy having money fights to care? In 2009 alone, Emma Watson earned £19million.

“Money fights?!” laughs Radcliffe. “I love the idea. Yeah, to be honest, I don’t think it was a worry that we particularly lost our adolescence, or anything like that. Of course, we didn’t have what people would consider a normal adolescence – we were on a film set for most of that time – but, you know, in my head, it was a much-improved one. Because there’s a lot less bullying and cruelty on a film set than there is in school.”

Tell that to David O. Russell.

“So, I got to miss out, in my mind, all the crap parts of being a teenager. Which is, generally speaking, hanging around with other teenagers, en masse, which I didn’t particularly enjoy during my brief period when I did go back to school. I got to hang out with people who were much older than me, and having people around me who’ve been through puberty and all that rubbish, and are quite balanced about the whole thing, was quite a help.”

“Ditto,” smiles Watson. Grint continues the thread. “I supposed it’s been a unique way of growing up, and not a lot of people will relate to that. It’s been a quite sheltered existence really, with a few restrictions – little things, like not skiing, and stuff like that, not having as much free time as we’d like. But I have no regrets; it’s been an amazing few years. Such a great experience, and I’m very grateful really to be doing it…”

So, what are the trio going to miss most about their respective Hogwarts alter-egos?

Grint: “Loads really. Yeah, I suppose it’s been a long time, being the same character, and over those years, you get quite close. Over the years, I think we’ve blended into the same person. Yeah, I think there’ll always be a bit of him in me, so…”

Watson: “I just miss playing a character that I know like the back of my hand. You know, not having to really think, it just comes to me so naturally at this point. And, she’s just got so much character and strength, and heart. I don’t know, I’m sure I’ll play other characters that I will enjoy just as much, and that will challenge me just as much, but, in terms of playing a character that I love so much, I’m not sure that I ever, ever will. She’s like a sister.”

Radcliffe: “I think I’ll miss the crew a huge amount. To be together as a unit for so very long, I’ll miss that. But also, something that I took for granted over the ten years is that I got to play an action hero as well, and you get to do stuff that you just don’t get to do in any other performance. I got to do a forty-foot freefall down a roof in the fourth film, on the dragon sequence; I got to burst out of the water surrounded by a ring of fire on number six. I got to do some really cool stuff. And I probably won’t get to do too much of that stuff anymore.”

You could always move to Glasgow. Sounds like an average night out there.

“Right,” laughs Radcliffe, before proving his ten years in the spotlight by distancing himself from anything even the least bit controversial. “I, I would be foolish to agree with you.”

Earlier this year, JK Rowling stated on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show that she “definitely could” see herself writing another Potter book. Given that George Lucas proved with the painful Star Wars prequels that some much-loved franchises are best left alone, how would Dan, Emma and Rupert feel about jumpstarting those wands for another big-screen adventure?

“Wow,” says Grint, “I’d really have to think about that.”

Watson, plainly, has thought about it. “Well, as a fan, I would be thrilled, because I would love to read more of these stories. As an actress, you know, I’ve played her for ten years now, more than half my life, and I think that I’ve given her enough, you know. Yeah, I think that’s enough. Never say never, but, that would be like a lifelong commitment. It’s enough.”

Fittingly, Radcliffe seems to have the final word on the matter.

“I can say, I got – I’m hoping she won’t mind me mentioning this – but I got a text from Jo Rowling yesterday, saying something along the lines of, ‘I was so pleased with your performance in this film, as a reward, I promise never to write another book about Harry’. So, you know, I’m going to leave it to her.

“I’m sure she’ll write other books, and they’ll be fantastic, but I doubt very much that they’ll be about Harry. I think she feels, as I do, that we have spent a long enough time with these characters, and newer pastures are waiting for us all.”

Words – Paul Byrne
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hollows: Part One is out November 19th