Is Daniel Radcliffe too old to play Harry Potter?

RT's film editor points out that the actor is ageing faster than the character he plays

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With the terrestrial premiere of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire upon us, in which the 14-year-old wizard is mysteriously entered in the 17s-and-over Triwizard Tournament, I think it’s worth considering the problematic age difference between Harry in the multi-million-selling books and how he’s perceived in the films.

There are seven Harry Potter books, each one representing a year in the young wizard’s life at Hogwarts School.

He is 11 when the first book, The Philosopher’s Stone, whisks him for the first time to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, there to begin his epic quest against the evil Voldemort. He is 12 for the second book, The Chamber of Secrets, and so on.

By the time author JK Rowling’s cycle reaches its conclusion with Deathly Hallows, seven years have passed.

No problem. In fiction, characters exist only in the imagination. But not so with films.

Daniel Radcliffe was 11 when he was chosen to star in the first Potter film, 12 when it was released in November 2001. Had Warner Bros released one film a year, Radcliffe would only have been one year older than the boy he was playing. Easy.

However, there was a two-year gap between Chamber of Secrets (2002) and Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), making him a ripe old 16 when Goblet of Fire was released in November 2005. In the story, Potter is 14. OK, suspension of disbelief, we can live with that.

Except that things went a bit wonky last year, when, aged 17, Radcliffe appeared naked in the adult-themed play Equus on the London stage.

With good reviews, it was a boost for his acting reputation, and has now transferred to Broadway.

This has led commentators to wonder if the studio has put back the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to next summer so that his racy run will have ended.

They say not, but if nothing else, this conflict of interests reminds us that Radcliffe is growing up – much faster than his broomstick-riding counterpart.

The final part of the movie franchise, The Deathly Hallows, is due in cinemas in May 2011, when Radcliffe will be a man of 21, and graduate Potter will be . . . were you paying attention? . . . 17.

Although Goblet of Fire is the first film to feature the unspeakably horrible Voldemort and the death of one character (as in the book), it’s still aimed at kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all the films. But come 2011, will the tone have to be even darker to keep the young adults (who were children when they saw the first film) buying tickets?

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In other words, will Harry Potter be too old to go and see a Harry Potter film?