Harry Potter" might lose one of its stars. The fifth film in the series, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," is currently filming at Leavesden Studios north of London. Negotiations to lock in Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) for the final two films are in the preliminary stages, and while the boys are likely to commit, Watson, 16, is unsure. "I don't know yet," she told NEWSWEEK near the set of 12 Grimmauld Place, secret headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. "Every film is such a huge production, and it's a long time." Saying yes would mean she'd be playing the studious Hermione until she's 20. Watson scored near- perfect grades on her national exams. College must be on her mind, not to mention a career, and she's not sure acting is in the cards. "Daniel and Rupert seem so sure," she says, and looks sincerely plagued that she isn't. "I love to perform, but there are so many things I love doing." Pause. "Maybe that sounds ungrateful. I've been given such an amazing opportunity, but I'll just have to go with the flow."
So will Warner Bros. The studio has generated $3.5 billion worldwide with this trio. Recasting Watson, or any of them, would be risky. "It would be a hard thing to change and it would be disrupting," says producer David Heyman, who secured the rights to the "Potter" books from author J. K. Rowling years ago, and has been the franchise's shepherd. "So yes, I would love them all to see it through to the end. I adore them--I feel like an uncle or godfather--but ultimately they have to do what's right for them. This is their lives." He notes that Watson went through this same questioning process before signing on for the third and fourth films. "So I'm cautiously optimistic that it will work itself out," he says.
Meanwhile, girls around the globe will note in these exclusive first-look photos of "Phoenix" that Radcliffe, 17, has short hair again after growing his locks for the last film. "The longer hair made him look boyish," says the film's hair designer, Colin Jamison. "We needed to progress him in age. He's older now, and looks more handsome with the shorter hair." Radcliffe is happy to be done with the mop, too. "It looks great at the end of the fourth film, with sweat and blood matted into it, but we can't have every scene like that," he says, laughing. "And I like to imagine that Harry went home over the summer, angry, and chopped into it himself." In "Phoenix" Harry is coping with a rising rage as he battles the evil new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge (Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton), loses someone he loves and learns the truth of his destiny. "This film is about Harry fighting his inner demons more than dragons," Watson offers. "It's about the emotional journey." Whether her journey will include Hermione, she has yet to decide.