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With the 2006 MTV Movie Awards on the horizon, we thought we'd bring back some of our favorite interviews and features from the past year to remind us why we got so excited about these films in the first place. So join us as we take a fond look back — and then get on over to the Movie Awards site and cast your votes.

— by Jennifer Vineyard

[Note: This story discusses a few key elements of the plot that, while not news to readers of the "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" book, might nevertheless be considered "spoilers" by moviegoers.]

Someone is out to get Harry Potter. This someone has had it in for our hero from the get-go; he tried to kill Harry as a baby, failed and thus assured Harry's fame as the Boy Who Lived. The killing curse rebounded, of course, on You-Know-Who — Lord Voldemort, the Darth Vader of author J.K. Rowlings' fantasy universe — and while the blowback didn't destroy the Dark Lord, it did turn him into something decidedly less human than he was.

Until now.

Newest "Goblet" Clip: Voldemort Reveals Himself

TV Spot 1

TV Spot 2

Fans of the Potter books and films have been waiting to drink deep from the movie version of "The Goblet of Fire" — the fourth film in the franchise, and the one where everything changes. Not only are Harry and his friends now old enough to notice the opposite sex (and they definitely notice), but there are much darker forces at work, as well. There's a conspiracy afoot, and those who might have helped Harry navigate it in the past cannot help him anymore. And in the midst of all the upheaval, someone is going to die.

"The whole series is about the loss of innocence," says Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry in the films. "In the first one ['The Sorcerer's Stone'], everyone's very wide-eyed, almost naïve. Harry's thinking that because he's entering a magical world, it's got to be better than the world he's come from. But it's not — it's just got further extremes. It can have extreme joy, but there are also the depths that man can sink to."

But where would our hero be if he didn't have something to overcome? And for that matter, where would the series be if there weren't some significant changes in the usual plot pattern: Harry surviving just about everything with the help of his best friends Hermione (with her brains) and the loyal Ron (offering moral support)? While the power of friendship is still an underlying theme this time around, however, "Harry starts to wake up to the fact that if he's going to make it in life, he's going to be making it alone," Daniel says.

In "Goblet," Harry must compete, against his will, in the terrifying Triwizard Tournament ("People die in this tournament," he's warned). And not only must he survive three deadly tasks — making his way past a dragon, managing an underwater rescue in very unfriendly waters and racing his way through a malevolent maze — he must also solve a new riddle: Who entered him in the tournament without his knowledge or consent, and was their motive to kill him?

Only after the tournament is over does he realize the true danger he's in and who the villains really are — and how close they are to gaining (or rather, regaining) the upper hand. This definitely isn't kid stuff anymore, and "Goblet" wears its upgrade to PG-13 like a dark badge of honor.

Photos from "Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire"

Radcliffe, Watson and Grint at the "Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire" World Premiere

Bringing a heightened fear factor to this film, meanwhile, required more of Radcliffe and company than just louder and longer bouts of shrieking. This time they faced some real dangers themselves, courtesy of yet another new director.

"We don't kill them off, though," Daniel notes, jokingly. "That's an important thing to realize."

Mike Newell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Donnie Brasco") follows in the footsteps of previous "Potter" directors Chris Columbus ("Sorcerer's Stone," "Chamber of Secrets") and Alfonso Cuarón ("The Prisoner of Azkaban"). He considers himself the "Mad-Eye" Moody of the bunch, "lurching in and chilling the kids' blood and making it run cold," he says. (Moody, for those unfamiliar with the "Goblet of Fire" tale, is the first Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher to actually teach the students something useful, namely, how to repel "unforgivable curses" that could otherwise control, torture and kill them). Newell didn't lay any curses on his young actors, but he did wrestle with a few of them (literally, to train them for onscreen fights), and he forced the cast to upgrade their acting skills via a two-week improv workshop so that the newcomers could hold their own against the series' stars Radcliffe, Emma Watson (Hermione), and Rupert Grint (Ron).

He wanted them to act, in other words, like young adults this time out.

"He was expecting us to be professional the whole time," Emma says, "whereas before "

Watch Harry as he comes to grips with puberty and dragons, on Overdrive.

"We could get away with more because we were a bit younger," Daniel says.

"There were no excuses," Emma continues. "I'd be doing something really difficult, and I'd say to him, 'I can't get this right — just tell me what you want me to do because I'm going crazy!' And he'd just say, 'I can't tell you how to do it. It's got to come from you.' So while he guided us, we felt responsibility for ourselves, for the parts we were playing."

"When the kids were small, you had to tell them what to do," Newell says. "But now that they're older, you have to challenge them. They have to improvise. They have to bring themselves into it. Otherwise, it doesn't have any life in it. They had to act, and acting is not doing what somebody tells you."

Newell also assigned homework, instructing his cast to watch some classic old movies, like Alfred Hitchcock's masterful mystery "North by Northwest" and political thrillers such as "All the President's Men" and "Three Days of the Condor." It turns out that, after seeing an early print of Cuarón's "Prisoner of Azkaban," Newell decided that "Goblet" would have to be much more of a thriller.

"The only way I could tell the story was to intensify it, and shed anything that didn't serve that," he says. So some elements of the book — like a socially conscious subplot involving Hermione's efforts to free some house elves — are gone. But as Emma says, "It all flows very well, so you kind of forget what is actually missing."

NEXT: While facing real physical dangers on-set, the cast struggles with death and loss in a storyline that forces their characters to grow up — fast.
Photo: Warner Bros./ MTV News

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