When the lead children's roles in the 'Harry Potter' franchise were handed to four acting naifs between the ages of 10 and 13 after a massive casting call, it was not remotely clear whether Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe would grow to be compelling adult actors, let alone prove themselves capable of handling the increasing complexities of their characters. Yet somehow they've made it through six movies, collecting almost nothing but acclaim.
With 'The Deathly Hallows Part 1' arriving in theaters next week and its 2011 conclusion already filmed, the 'Harry Potter' kids have effectively graduated -- financially secure but with an uncertain future in the business. Crafting a successful career is notoriously difficult for any former child star, but it just might happen with the right mix of hard work, good fortune and reliable counsel. Moviefone can't help the Quidditch-loving quartet with those first two, but here's our free advice for each of them.
When none other than Martin Scorsese spontaneously praises your talent, declaring that you could become "one of the greatest actors of all time," things are looking promising. Scorsese further suggested that Grint get out of his comfort zone -- "play a gangster, play a dirty cop, play a kid with learning difficulties." But Grint's impish grin and dead-on timing (remember the wonderful love potion sequence in 'Half-Blood Prince'?) lead us to think that he's better suited for quirky, scene-stealing supporting parts and leading roles that don't take themselves too seriously. It's a good sign that he'll star in the underdog comedy 'Eddie the Eagle,' a biopic about an Olympic ski jumper with bottlecap glasses.
Career Role Model: Paul Rudd
Yes, Watson has heard her share of "Hermione is hot!" catcalls as she's gotten older, even meriting an admittedly funny 'Saturday Night Live' skit in which Lindsay Lohan played a particularly buxom Hermione. But overshadowed by her beauty is the fact that she's a terrific actress -- her Yule Ball scene with Radcliffe in 'Goblet of Fire' rates among the series' most affecting moments. To showcase her talent, Watson needs to stay out of the tabloids and get a few good -- genuinely good -- non-'Potter' movies under her belt. She was wise to take a small part in the interesting-looking 'My Week With Marilyn' with Michelle Williams (as Marilyn Monroe), Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench.
Career Role Model: Scarlett Johansson
Felton could have taken the easy way out and played the dastardly Draco Malfoy as a straight-up, one-dimensional villain -- and he did, for a while. That all changed in 'Half-Blood Prince.' Working with little screen time and not much in the way of dialogue, Felton somehow imbued the character with an inner life and emotional depth, making him at least pitiable, and maybe even sympathetic. His nuanced performance is why we feel that it is Felton, not Grint, who needs to take Scorsese's advice to find challenging roles -- serious, varied, uncommercial roles that will allow him to become an indie darling, build a reputation and earn the industry's respect.
Career Role Model: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Competent, good-looking and willing to take risks (see his controversial turn in 'Equus' on London's West End), Radcliffe is the only one of the four who is within arm's reach of legitimate, all-around superstardom. He should go for it by surrounding himself with trustworthy professionals and tackling a more adult role. Working with a stud director -- like Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard or, yeah, Martin Scorsese -- is what he needs to be doing next. Rinse, repeat.
Career Role Model: Matt Damon