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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 17:37 GMT
Faces of the week
Daniel Radcliffe

Our regular look at some of the names which have made the news this week. Above are DANIEL RADCLIFFE (main picture), with RICHARD WAGNER, MAYA WITH DOLL, JODIE GIBSON and JANE AUSTEN.

DANIEL RADCLIFFE

There's no doubt about it - the reviews of Daniel Radcliffe in the West End revival of Equus have been pretty good.

"He really can act" - enthused the Guardian critic - his performances as Harry Potter were "no flash in the magic pan." According to the Daily Mail, "a raw talent has come of age" while Charles Spencer, writing in the Daily Telegraph, described him as "thrilling".

But what does 17-year-old Daniel Radcliffe's decision to take to the stage mean for Harry Potter and his legions of young fans around the world?

For his role in Peter Shaffer's controversial play, first staged in 1973, could hardly be further from the magical world of Hogwarts. Radcliffe plays Alan Strang - a boy his own age - who inexplicably blinds six horses in a story of religious fanaticism and sexual repression.

Daniel Radcliffe
As he was: Radcliffe when he scored the part of playing Potter
And as every Harry Potter fan must know by now - he and his female co-star appear naked in a sex scene. Many Potter fans have queued for hours outside the Gielgud Theatre in London to catch a glimpse of their hero.

But there have also been negative comments on the web - and some of the American film executives involved in the Potter movies are said to be "utterly dismayed" about his decision to bare all.

Radcliffe's motives seem pretty clear. In a recent newspaper interview, he insisted that he was proud of his work in the first five Potter films - the latest of which is due out in July. And he's also signed up for the last two.

But he also admits that although some people will only ever see him as the boy with the owlish glasses, he is keen to demonstrate that he's an actor rather than a wizard.

Daniel Radcliffe was five when he first decided it was what he wanted to do. At the age of 10, he used to act out scenes from James Bond movies at his home in south London.

But his parents - a literary agent and a casting director - were not so sold on the idea of their son becoming an actor. Eventually they agreed to put his name forward for a BBC production of David Copperfield. After five auditions he got the part and won praise for his acting.

Daniel Radcliffe
The middle years: Radcliffe in 2001
Along with thousands of other young boys, the 11-year-old then tried for Harry Potter - and admits to crying when told by his dad that he'd been chosen.

Casting the orphaned wizard took more than a year and is said to have led to at least one resignation among those involved in the process. But Christopher Columbus, the film's director, said that when Radcliffe walked into the room everyone involved knew they had found the perfect Potter.

JK Rowling, who was adamant she wanted a British rather than an American boy to play her creation, was also convinced.

Since winning the role seven years ago, he's become world famous and reputedly earned more than 20m along the way.

But there are many child actors whose star has shone very brightly, only to fade away because they could not find adult roles. Tatum O'Neal, who won an Oscar at the age of 11, is just one name which springs to mind.

So whatever the view of the film executives keen to maintain Harry Potter's image, Radcliffe's decision to move on must surely be a good one for an ambitious actor.

Daniel Radcliffe
Growing up in public: Daniel Radcliffe aged 17
Equus is not his first attempt to break out of the mould. Last year he appeared in Ricky Gervais' BBC comedy Extras as a chain smoking womaniser.

He also stripped off before - this time in December Boys, a movie about a group of orphans in Australia.

Despite Radcliffe obviously wanting to go in other directions he's also admitted he'll be very sad when he steps off the Potter set for the last time.

But he is keen for J K Rowling to make good on her hints that Harry will die. "I have a melodramatic yearning for a death scene" he told one interviewer recently.

It's probably a wise instinct for an actor who so obviously wants to prove that there's more life than Quidditch, Centaurs and Dragons.


Wagner
RICHARD WAGNER

Forget all the blood and gore of the Ring cycle, the composer, Richard Wagner, appears to have had a feminine side. A letter published this week has suggested that the creator of the Neibelung was not averse to donning a frock in the evenings. The letter, from 1874 and addressed to a Milanese dress shop, asks for something "graceful for evenings at home" with "a high collar and trimmed with puffed flounces".

Maya with Doll
MAYA WITH DOLL

A picture of a little girl with an eye where her ear should be is exercising the finest sleuths in the French detective force. It was painted by Picasso in 1928 and portrays his daughter Maya, a result of one of his many extra marital liaisons. The painting was one of two stolen from his granddaughter's flat in Paris although police say there was no sign of any forced entry.

Jodie Gibson
JODIE GIBSON

Consternation in Hollywood as a former madam names a string of stars who she claims were clients. Jodie "Babydol" Gibson was convicted in 2000 of running an escort agency to service the rich and famous. At the time details of her alleged clients were kept secret but now the documents have been released by the Supreme Court. The actor Bruce Willis is one star named but he claims he has never spoken to her. However former Sex Pistol Steve Jones told the Los Angeles Times that he "may have used her services"

Jane Austen
JANE AUSTEN

The British public's love affair with Jane Austen shows no sign of abating. "Pride & Prejudice" has topped a new list of the books people say they could not do without. This daughter of a country parson published only six novels, none of which were well received at the time. Since her death in 1817 her books have received wide acclaim. Pride & Prejudice alone has been filmed no less than six times and adapted for TV on five occasions.


Written by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy





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