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Meet the tween 'Harry Potter' stars in USA TODAY's first interview with the cast

Claudia Puig

The first Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," hit U.S. theaters on Nov. 16, 2001. USA TODAY is republishing articles from its archives to mark the movie's 20th anniversary.

HERTFORDSHIRE, England – Even before "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" hit movie theaters, theirs were three of the most photographed young faces on the planet. They look out from billboards, the sides of buses and magazine covers everywhere.

Before the movie's world premiere in London, USA TODAY chatted with Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), who are 12, 13 and 11, respectively. ("I'm the youngest," Watson pouted. "Sounds like I'm doomed.")

The amazingly composed young stars, largely unknown before landing their Potter roles, reveal a special friendship that should carry them through filming the next installment of the franchise, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," already underway.

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Daniel Radcliffe (center) has been named to play Harry Potter in the first film adaptation of the popular J.K. Rowling books, with Rupert Grint (right) and Emma Watson (left) taking on the roles of Ron and Hermione as Harry's best friends at Hogwarts. The young cast was revealed on Aug. 21, 2000.

Q: Why are people, young and old, so taken with Harry Potter?

Daniel Radcliffe: Many people aren't as brave as Harry, and being an orphan is quite scary. He's managed to deal not only with that, but with living with people who probably hated him. Then after that scary, strong powerful stuff, it's just an amazing story about zero to hero.

Q: Daniel, what's it like to see your faces on billboards and know that you are identified with the most popular boy in literature?

Daniel: Surreal is the only word to describe it. It's strange, but it makes me feel really good inside. How many boys of my age have their pictures put on billboards? Not that many at all. So it's amazing to see myself. There are times when I just think, "Is there a luckier boy in the world?" No, I don't think so.

Q: When do you think all this excitement will die down? After the movie comes out?

Daniel: I don't think it'll die down for a while.

Emma Watson: And then the fifth book is coming out soon. When does it come out?

Daniel: I have no idea ...

Emma: With the film and the fifth book put together ...

Daniel: Then when the videos come out ...

Q: So, the hype will never die down?

Daniel: Eternal Harry.

Q: Do you expect that you'll be recognized everywhere?

Daniel: I look quite different without my glasses on.

Rupert Grint: I haven't been recognized yet. I think it would be really cool.

Emma: I have been recognized. In Oxford. It's not a small city, really. But the school that I go to, it kind of gets carried around till the whole city knows. I got noticed on British Airways. That's just scary.

Daniel: I think you've probably been recognized the most of all of us. I think you look quite like your character.

Emma: Yeah, I look like her and act like her. Well, not act like her that much. I look like her, basically.

Q: Are you looking forward to being recognized and asked for autographs?

(An enthusiastic chorus of yeahs and oh, yeahs!)

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Emma Watson (as Hermione Grainger), Rupert Grint (as Ron Weasley) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) shot to fame in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Q: Did you stay in contact after you finished shooting in May?

Emma: No, we're so bad.

Daniel: So bad.

Emma: At the very end, we were like, "I'll call you. See you around."

Q: Let's do lunch?

Emma: And it never happened.

Rupert: Our dads did.

Emma: Our moms and dads are better than we are.

Q: After you have gone through an experience like this movie, do you expect to be friends till you're old?

Emma: I think we'd attempt to. Definitely.

Q: How would you describe each other? What are each of your special characteristics? Emma, go first. Tell us about Rupert.

Emma: Rupert has a very good sense of humor, and he's our teacher on the set. He's also very excited about his mobile phone. He loves his mobile. He picks up the phone like, "Oh, somebody loves me!" And Rupert says, "Bet it's the wrong number." He's so witty and fast.

Q: OK, Rupert, tell me about Emma.

Rupert: She's really clever.

Daniel: Yes!

Rupert: Really clever, and she's got a good sense of humor. If we pull a prank on her, she might cut us off.

Daniel: She'll just hurt us.

(More laughter)

Q: Now who's going to get Daniel?

Daniel: Whoever it is, be really careful.

Rupert: He's really funny, and he's clever.

Daniel: And you're kind.

(They all laugh. As Emma is about to begin, Daniel leans over and bores his eyes into her.)

Daniel: No pressure!

Emma: Dan is the kind of guy you can make run 20 miles and run back again, join the army, stay there for three years.

Daniel: Are you saying I'm stupid?

Emma: Then tell him to climb Mount Everest and he'd come out saying, "Hi, can I do that again?" He's just so enthusiastic. However long the hours were or however school was, he always had a smile on his face.

Daniel: Unless it's math.

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