Before you see Harry Potter on screen next summer, you'll be able to see him naked onstage in London. Daniel Radcliffe, 17-year-old star of the "Potter" franchise, will make his West End debut next year in the Tony-winning drama "Equus." The role--a troubled young man with a religious-erotic obsession with horses--requires Radcliffe to be nude for one scene. What was he thinking? "Part of me wants to shake up people's perception of me, just shove me in a blender," Radcliffe told NEWSWEEK in an exclusive interview on the set of the fifth film, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." "It's a really challenging play, and if I can pull it off--we don't know if I can yet--I hope people will stop and think, 'Maybe he can do something other than Harry'."
Not that Harry's been bad to him. The films have grossed more than $3.5 billion worldwide and made Radcliffe a rich teen. Still, you can't blame a young actor for wanting to reveal another part of himself, so to speak. What's remarkable is that the studio, Warner Bros., didn't freak out about it. "Well, I'm sure there were some people in Burbank who may have taken a breath, but I wasn't worried," says "Potter" producer David Heyman, who discovered Radcliffe seven years ago in the audience of a London theater. "I think it shows a young man who is pushing boundaries," he says. "Besides, what's the worst that can happen? Someone takes a picture of his willy?" Well, yeah. "So what," he says. "We've all got one--or have seen one."
Since he began playing Harry at the age of 10, Radcliffe has grown from a polite, almost shy boy into a chatty young man bursting with energy and ideas. "I definitely want to be an actor; I love it so much," he says, "but I want to write as well. And I'd love to direct a short film, just to see what that's like." An only child, Radcliffe has always seemed older than his age, Heyman says. "There is something about Dan that is very much a teenager--discovering music, girls, literature--but at the same time he's very disciplined, he reads voraciously and he's an intensely curious young man."
He has also matured as an actor. Radcliffe credits age and a new director, David Yates, for that. "He pushes me farther and more often than I ever have been," he says. "That's nothing detrimental to the previous directors, because I wouldn't have been able to do this before, but David has caught me at just the right moment." In this film, Radcliffe has to tap into Harry's rising anger, sense of isolation anddeep grief. Not easy--but "if it doesn't scare you, there's no point in doing it, because you won't learn anything," he says. "Knowledge is the thing that inspires growth. You have to know more before you can grow more." He instantly grimaces. "That's horrible! It rhymes!" he says, and laughs. "Awful." But true.