HOLLYWOOD — Muggles, magicians and movie stars alike converged on Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Sunday to be among the first to see "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth film in what could be the most popular film series of all time. Despite a merciless sun pounding down on their pale English complexions, stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint greeted thousands of screaming fans and insisted that their darkest movie yet indicates a bright future for the franchise.
"This is my first L.A. premiere, although I have been to New York before," gushed Daniel Radcliffe, dressed in a suit and tie and gazing out at the half-dozen bleachers filled with screaming fans (see "Daniel Radcliffe Dishes On Harry Potter's First Kiss, 'Deathly Hallows' Theories"). "L.A., you're a very different town to anywhere I've been in my life. It's just different and slightly strange. It's much cleaner than London — but I like the dirt of London."
Walking down a red carpet appropriately long enough for a source novel with 896 pages, the "Potter" crew premiered their movie to a crowd that included "Heroes" star Masi Oka, Ashley Tisdale from "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana" chart-topper Miley Cyrus (see "Kelly Clarkson Loses Billboard #1 To Hannah Montana").
"It's really long, this red carpet, and there are tons of fans out here," Tisdale marveled, admitting that "Potter" fans may even outnumber all those "High School Musical" addicts.
"You'd think by number five, people would be like, 'Another Harry Potter movie? Who cares?' " grinned Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the series. "But this is just bigger. There are more people here than there were when we came here for 'Chamber of Secrets,' and these movies just keep getting bigger and bigger!"
"This one is a little darker, really," said Grint, who plays Harry's pal Ron Weasley. "There's not many light moments in it. From the beginning, you've got Dementors and Voldemort is back and he's pretty nasty. It's more grown-up as well — which is really good."
Grint was welcomed to L.A. like a conquering hero, walking past fans with signs featuring hand-drawn versions of the red-headed heartthrob — many even breaking out in a deafening chant. "It was 'Weasley Is Our King!' It's in the book," he said of the chant, used both sarcastically and then lovingly in the pages of "Phoenix" but ultimately edited out of the flick. "It's pretty cool, actually [to hear that]. It doesn't happen all the time — just in small spurts."
"I have no idea why people like me," laughed Radcliffe, laughing off his own deafening "Daniel! Daniel!" chants. "It's just my association with the books. But it's great that they do, and the reason they love the books is because it's such brilliant storytelling."
"This universe is so rich, and there are so many things to play with," said director David Yates, a newcomer to the "Potter" franchise. "For me, this story was about intensity and emotion, and it was about growing the world up. This is a world that everybody feels they know, but it was time to grow it up a little bit. ... I think the audience is ready for that, because they've gotten older as the movies have gotten older."
Yates revealed that he'll begin filming "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" in September (see "MTV News Exclusive: David Yates To Direct 'Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince' ") and that he's planted some breadcrumbs in "Phoenix" to pick back up with the sixth flick. "The relationship between Ginny and Harry, there's a little smidgeon of that in this movie in tiny little moments, and there are some threads the fans should enjoy, a few little gifts that hopefully they'll spot."
Adding that he'd also direct the seventh Potter flick "if I'm still standing in a year's time," the director revealed that he'll soon announce the casting of the most pivotal role for the sixth movie. "In 'Half-Blood Prince,' which we're preparing right now, we have Horace Slughorn, and we're just doing the deal for that actor right now. He's going to be absolutely delightful." Revealing that the actor is a recognizable face, Yates added: "I don't want to say his name yet, because we haven't quite concluded the deal — but I'm almost certain we're going to get him."
While on the topic of casting decisions, a few "Potter" stars let their imaginations run wild with us, revealing the role they'd most love to play had they not landed their now-iconic characters.
"There are so many really good ones," Grint said. "I really like Alan Rickman's Snape. ... He does it pretty perfectly, so I don't how I'd do it [any differently]."
"If I was older? Sirius Black," Radcliffe said without missing a beat. "I'd do everything Gary Oldman has. I'd never do as well as him, though."
Judging by the crazed fans crowding Hollywood Boulevard, nobody could be doing better than these young stars either. And come Friday, the box-office results are likely to reinforce that once again.
"I've seen all the movies," enthused Cyrus, anxiously eyeing the entrance to the theater. "Just the magic of it all — anytime you get to see [a movie] where it's something you wouldn't experience yourself, but you watch the movie and feel like you are experiencing it with the rest of the characters? That's really exciting."
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