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Harry casts magic spell.

Byline: By Emma Pomfret

For the past six years the world has watched Daniel Radcliffe's transformation from cute young boy to teen acting sensation, but loyal Harry Potter fans may still be in for a bit of a shock when they see their favourite wizard getting stuck into his first on-screen kiss.

"My first kiss is a moment that has stayed very fresh in my mind so it wasn't particularly difficult for me," says Daniel, star of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, the long-anticipated fifth film adapted from JK Rowling's magical books.

"I was 14 when I had my own first kiss and no, it wasn't on the Harry Potter set! I don't think that mixing business with pleasure is a good idea ... is it?" he jokes.

However, 17-year-old Daniel's much-hyped smooch with pretty Katie Leung, who plays Harry's girlfriend Cho Chang, pales into insignificance when compared to his naked stage appearance in the West End revival of Peter Shaffer's play, Equus.

"Kissing Katie was a very, very comfortable experience, especially when compared to being naked on stage and blinding horses - and Katie will be relieved to know that I much preferred kissing her!" Daniel admits.

"I would never, ever want to step away from Harry Potter completely because I'm immensely proud of the series and of this film in particular, but any 16-year-old who has aspirations to act in the future and gets offered the part of Alan Strang in Equus would be really stupid to turn that fantastic opportunity down," he explains.

"I did a lot of training to be able to go on stage, and I'd say that it's a much tougher discipline than film, but you do feel like you can do anything after that, I have to say. It gives you a real sense of real confidence in terms of shaking up your own inhibitions."

And, of course, tales of the Harry Potter idol's imminent coming of age, both on and off screen, is exactly the kind of splash the world's paparazzi are praying for on a daily basis, but Daniel insists that he's simply not going to play ball.

"Since day one the press have been, on the whole, really, really nice and supportive, but you get the sense that half of them are always wishing for the story about kid stars spectacularly going off the rails," Daniel adds.

"But I think we've all been pretty set on the idea of just not giving them that - that would be too easy.

"Our culture is very much centred around this celebrity thing and, personally, I define a celebrity as somebody who is famous but the things they enjoy most about the fame are the parties and all the glamorous stuff.

"That's fine and it's fun, but the thing that I love doing is the work and the acting, rather than the peripheral stuff that goes with it," adds Daniel.

Tipped as the darkest and most sinister film in the series so far, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix sees Harry, Ron and Hermione getting involved in the deadliest battle between good and evil that Hogwarts has ever seen.

Already ostracised by the wizarding community for claiming evil Lord Voldemort has returned to wreak havoc after a 14-year absence, Harry and Albus Dumbledore are also thwarted at every turn by the duplicitous new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, who steadily begins to take over Hogwarts.

In a bid to learn how to defend themselves from the Dark Arts, Dumbledore's Army is founded in secret, with Harry coaching 27 of his courageous young schoolmates in preparation for the inevitable clash with Voldemort.

"What Harry realises is that Voldemort may have the followers and the power, but, ultimately, he will never have what Harry has, which is the true and unconditional loyalty of his friends," Daniel explains.

"Harry is a flawed character - that's what makes him an incredibly human character. He is a really good person, but one who is mired in self-doubt a great deal of the time, and I think most people can relate to that."

But as well as JK Rowling's superb written portrayal of the young wizard, Daniel says that his "fantastic" relationship with award-winning director David Yates also played a huge part in making Harry's transition from boy to young man as convincing as possible.

"I loved working with David. He is a delightful man, very soft-spoken, and yet I have never been pushed as hard as I was on this film, partly because of the nature of the story and partly because of his directing," he adds.

"He never settled for less; he always wanted me to go deeper, which was exactly what I felt I needed, he's a brilliant director."

Set for worldwide release just weeks after Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix hits the big screen in the UK, Daniel admits that he feels a mixture of sadness and anticipation about reading the seventh, and final, JK Rowling book, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.

"I'm going to savour every word and I'm going to really drag out how long I can read that book for," he says.

"It's been part of my life for so long - probably all of my teenage years by the end - so I'll be very sad and I'm going to try to treasure every moment of the book as well as finding out what happens to me."

Of course, the fate of the planet's most famous young wizard is the literary world's most fiercely guarded secret, but in the interim Daniel can look forward to being immortalised on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside his co-stars Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.

"It's a great honour and I'm proud," he says, "but it's one of those things that I can get very English about, and I start thinking, 'Do I really deserve that yet?' It's hard to tell."

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe tells EMMA POMFRET how his first on-screen kiss compares to his naked stage appearance in the West End...

best friends: Harry Potter stars Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 8, 2007
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