July 7, 2011 / 5:34 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 4-Fans, stars, Hollywood say farewell to Harry Potter

 * Final Harry Potter movie premieres in London
 * Thousands of fans defy rain to reach red carpet
 * Record-breaking series has earned billions
 (Adds Radcliffe quote, paragraph 20, 21)
 By Mike Collett-White and Alysha Love
 LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) - Thousands of fans braved rain
and battled security restrictions in London's Trafalgar Square
on Thursday to say farewell to the boy wizard Harry Potter at
the world premiere of the final movie in the record-breaking
 "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" is the
eighth installment -- and the first in 3D -- of a franchise
that has generated more public excitement and media hype than
any other in living memory.
 The silver screen adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione
have been a magic pot of gold for Hollywood studio Warner Bros,
with the seven films released so far grossing $6.4 billion in
ticket sales and billions more from DVDs and merchandise.
 For a generation of Potter fans, the movies have extended
the wizarding world created by British author J.K. Rowling in
her seven-book saga which began in 1997 and concluded in 2007.
 More than 400 million copies have been sold around the
globe, making Rowling the first billionaire author and
providing a huge support base upon which the films were built.
 Six-foot-high fences blocked off entrance to Trafalgar
Square for hundreds who arrived too late to get their hands on
the red wristbands, which allowed access to where stars walked
the red carpet among thousands of screaming Pottermaniacs.
 "I'm just going to stand here all night on this little
ledge," said 16-year-old Lauren Kent, who arrived too late to
acquire one of the prized wristbands and was perched at the
base of a column across from the square.
 Thousands of die-hard fans lucky enough to make it into the
packed square -- some in full regalia from the fictional
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry -- screamed out the
names of characters and those of stars such as Daniel Radcliffe
as they walked the red carpet past a giant TV screen to a
raised platform where the main cast spoke to cheering fans.
 "We've grown up in the Harry Potter generation -- I read
the first book when I was five so now it's weird that it's
coming to an end... like the end of childhood," said Rhys, an
18-year-old who braved the rain in the central London square
watched over by the towering statue of British naval hero
Admiral Nelson.
 The young actors strolled among the fans, hundreds of
journalists and cameras and made an emotional appearance on the
platform in front of the throng of admirers.
 "I don't think the end of the story happens tonight,"
Radcliffe said to cheers and later tears from the crowd.
 Rowling joked that Thursday's premiere was the closest
she's come to considering penning another Potter novel.
 The actors told Reuters that -- like their fans -- they too
have struggled to come to grips with a post-Potter world,
despite being A-list stars with huge fortunes.
 "I'll just miss being Hermione and getting to live her life
and in that world and getting to bring to life a set of books
that I myself loved so much," a short-haired Emma Watson told
Reuters television after strolling the red carpet in a
champagne-colored gown with a sheer top.
 The actors who were cast in their roles aged between nine
and 11, have all agonized over breaking with the Potter films.
 The 22-year-old Rupert Grint, who plays Potter's sidekick
Ron Weasley, felt he was stepping into the real world from a
kind of bubble that has enveloped a portion of his life.
 "It's hard for me to remember life before this and for it
to come down to this two-hour and 10 minute film...I don't know
-- it's very strange for me," he told Reuters television.
 Consistent with the gradual trend toward darker content as
the franchise progressed, "Deathly Hallows - Part 2" climaxes
with an intense battle at Hogwarts between good and evil.
 Buildings are flattened, wizards and witches die and Harry
steels himself for the final showdown with his evil nemesis
Lord Voldemort, played by a snake-like Ralph Fiennes who called
his character a "high definition villain."
 Radcliffe, 21, who has played Harry Potter throughout the
last decade and is now working on Broadway, appeared on the red
carpet dressed in a tailored grey suit. He told Reuters TV that
the splashy London  premiere was a "fitting send off. It feels
right. It feels like we're doing justice not only to what is a
fantastic film but a fantastic series.
 "It's like I'm a different actor in it," Radcliffe said of
the movie. "It's the only time I've watched a 'Harry Potter'
film and gone: 'Yes, I'm pleased with my performance'."
 Whether critics agree remains to be seen, with most reviews
coming out after the premiere.
 The Daily Telegraph, however, featured an article by Philip
Womack which described Deathly Hallows - Part 2 as "monumental
cinema, awash with gorgeous tones, and carrying an ultimate
message that will resonate with every viewer, young or old:
there is darkness in all of us, but we can overcome it."
 The movie opens in some countries on July 13, and in the
key British and U.S. markets on July 15.
 Rowling's wizarding world will not disappear altogether,
however. She recently unveiled Pottermore, a website allowing
fans to interact with the characters and storylines, and will
finally retail the stories as ebooks exclusively on the site.
 Perhaps British actor Alan Rickman -- who has played
sneering Professor Severus Snape since the very first film --
summed up the Potter phenomenon best on the night.
 "This thing has a beginning, a middle and an end. That's
why it's a good story and this is the end."
 (Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Paul Casciato)

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