So far, the greatest threat to the ''Harry Potter'' film franchise hasn't been evil wizards or errant Quidditch bludgers, but rather, the race against puberty. As Warner Bros. scurries to film the J.K. Rowling books before the young stars outgrow their characters, there have been rumors that some of the actors would be replaced with other youngsters. But Daniel Radcliffe confirmed, in a chat with fans this week at the official Potter website, that he'll continue to star as Harry Potter in the yet-to-be-filmed fourth movie, ''Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.''
''I will certainly make 'Goblet of Fire,''' said the 14-year-old actor. ''After that? Who knows?'' He didn't say whether Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione) would continue as well, but he said of working with them on the in-production ''Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'': ''It always feels good working with Emma, Rupert, Tom [Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy] and Matthew [Lewis, Neville Longbottom]. We have become very good friends, and as this is now the third film we have made together, our relationships just get stronger.''
It would surely be daunting for the studio to have to replace Radcliffe and Company; to fans, they have become familiar faces. So familiar, in fact, that one chatter asked Radcliffe if he misses his anonymity. ''As far as I am concerned I am a normal person,'' the actor replied. ''I go back to school when I am not filming, I go out with my friends, I go to the cinema -- all the normal things that teenagers do. There is an assumption that I cannot leave my house without being hounded -- that is not the case. I am able to do many more things than people think I can.'' (Well yeah, but you probably still have that invisibility cloak from the Potter prop department...)
Director Mike Newell is expected to start shooting ''Goblet'' next April for a late 2005 release, while ''Azkaban'' is due in theaters in June 2004. No word yet on a start date for the fifth Potter adaptation, to be drawn from this year's novel ''Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,'' the fifth of Rowling's projected series of seven books. By the time she finishes the series, Radcliffe could well be in graduate school.