Being Daniel Radcliffe means learning to cope with hysteria on a daily basis. Comes with the job of being the cinematic manifestation of a certain literary sensation. Here on the vast and drafty soundstages outside London that house Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the 16-year-old mop-topped star again finds himself bigger than a Beatle. A redheaded girl is squealing. Check that: squealing while jumping up and down like a jackrabbit on Pop Rocks. She wanted to meet Harry Potter, and here she is, meeting Harry Potter in the flesh, black glasses, lightning-bolt scar and all. Between shooting scenes inside the cavernous, candlelit Trophy Room of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Radcliffe cheerfully bounds over to the girl. She greets him by hiding behind the skirt of her chaperone. He peeks around to say hello; she shrieks. Radcliffe turns to the crowd of chuckling onlookers and gives one of those whaddyagonnado? shrugs. ''At least she didn't cry,'' Radcliffe says later. ''I really hate it when they cry.''
It's been four years, three films, and $2.6 billion since Harry Potter first made the page-to-screen transfiguration. Judging from the histrionics of one redheaded lass not to mention the millions who made J.K. Rowling's sixth book a record-shattering smash last summer kids are still wild about Harry. But with Goblet of Fire, change is in the air and it's scary. Puberty hits. Hard. So does death. Almighty Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) suddenly shows weakness, while the malevolent Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) finally shows his (freaky) mug. For the first time in the series but certainly not the last Harry the all-conquering hero is rendered not-so-conquering. ''His life is taken out of his hands,'' says Radcliffe. ''Hogwarts isn't a safe place for him anymore.''
''This is the hinge,'' says franchise scribe Steve Kloves of Goblet's significance. ''This one closes the door on everything that came before, and sets the stage for a new kind of Potter experience altogether.''
For Warner Bros., fielding its first PG-13 Potter picture, the encouraging news is that Rowling's fans made this segue into Harry's angry young manhood en masse back in 2000, thanks to a novel that marked a bravura leap in ambition (and size, nearly twice as long as any preceding installment). Yet the worrisome news for Potterphiles is that adapting Rowling's fat, beloved opus has made for the greatest challenge Hollywood's Pottermakers have ever faced. Director Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), the man at the epicenter of Goblet's transition, understands the stakes. ''Of course I'm worried! We're talking about a passionate fan base. I won't know if I've pleased them until I put the movie in front of them,'' says Newell. ''Now that will be a very freaky occasion.''
In 1999, as producer David Heyman was considering who might be the ideal director to launch the Potter film franchise, he had the following thought: Harry Potter's British; perhaps the artistic sensibility translating him should be British too. Heyman then thought of Mike Newell. His Englishness aside, Heyman felt Newell's diverse oeuvre the thriller-drama Donnie Brasco, the dark fable Into the West suggested that he could navigate Potter's mix of drama, horror, comedy, and heart. Newell was intrigued. Terrified, too. Conjuring a rich, authentic fantasy world? All those special effects? He declined. An American, Chris Columbus, ultimately became series paterfamilias (of course, after Steven Spielberg had turned down the opportunity), and after two films was succeeded by Mexican auteur Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También), whose acclaimed work on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban earned him an offer to direct Goblet. But Cuarón was ready for a new challenge. And so Heyman and Warner Bros. went back to Newell, even though his résumé still didn't include any fantastical digitalpaloozas. ''I had no reservations,'' says Jeff Robinov, Warner Bros.' president of production. ''David established a system that runs very well and can support any director that comes in.''