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juvenile cast. ‘Why Harry Potter

assortment of feathers. sundry school trophies —— and yet has nothing to do with Harry Potter. So he spends all his time explaining why we‘re here and why all these things are here and how the two things aren't necessarily connected.

And yet. and yet. such is the way of life during Pottertime that it seems only right for reality and fantasy to sit side by side like this. It transpires that Michael and his team spent four days —fimr whole days decorating the house with their Potterphernalia in anticipation of a further five days —_/ir'e whole days of back-to—back visits from the world‘s press. Friday and Saturday for domestic press: Sunday foreign: Monday and Tuesday international (which. dear cosmopolitan reader. includes The List). No day set aside for guests from the other side. but still. five days of muddling up muggles is some undertaking.

Which is why. when the man takes to the podium to introduce Chris Columbus. Robbie Coltrane. Rupert Grint. Daniel Radcliffe. Emma Watson. Richard Harris and producer David Heyman. describing Huny Potter not as a film. but as a ‘phenomenon‘. nobody laughs. Too right it's a phenomenon.

Take the headlines from a single day this month. 'ls Harry Potter the best children’s film of all time'.” shouts The Daily Mirror. ‘Too much too young'." worries The Sun about the

reveals the best and worst of western culture.‘ billows The Times.

No wonder Robbie Coltrane keeps cracking the same joke about not feeling the pressure. ‘My son made it quite clear that ifl didn‘t take the part I would be dead within the week.’ he says. Actually. the real wonder is that Coltrane has anything new to say at all; he‘s done nothing but talk about Harry Potter for weeks. yet here he is clowning around to amuse his young co-stars. valiantly fielding the anodyne questions of the press corps.

‘You can imagine. the guy who turned down Hagrid is a bit like the guy who turned down the Beatles “Guitar bands. they're a thing of the past" so I couldn't possibly refuse.‘ says Coltrane. his hair curling back into a Tutti l’rutti quiff distinguished with hints of grey. though offset by his decision to place a bottle top over each eye to make the kids laugh. ‘I got a letter from this woman just before we started filming. It started off really sweet and complimentary. And then she said. “I‘m really glad you're playing Hagrid because the expectation of millions upon millions of school children throughout the world are resting on your shoulders . . . and I‘m glad it's you." So no pressure then.‘

But the phenomenon stretches further than (‘oltrane‘s fans and children. The bigger it grows. the sillier the reaction. And the reaction has got pretty silly. lf Harry Potter is the apocalypse. we need evidence to prove it. And the press have been only too happy to oblige. It started with claims from white witches that the film had got it wrong and brooms should be flown brush end to the fore. That was countered by an alternative witch coven

12 THE LIST 1:": 2‘} N). (/01

Alan Rickman as Snape

Richard Harris as Dumbledore

Maggie Smith as McGonagall

Zoe Wanamaker as Hooch

Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid

who kept their bristles to the rear. Will we ever know the truth?

So much for the sweeping statements. it was time to up the ante. So as well as the primary school in Chatham. Kent. which chose to ban the books for not fitting in with its ‘church ethos'. we get The Sunday Herald weighing in with a scare story of stunning originality: if we don‘t watch out. our pet shops will suffer a run on real-life owls this Christmas a veritable owl movement as children seek to emulate the Hogwarts lifestyle. Cue concerned voices from the animal welfare lobby. What a hoot.

Meanwhile in the land of the free and the home of the brave. the religious right is mobilising for the end of the world. Leading the crusade is one Caryl Matrisciana. a former occultist turned documentary filmmaker who has released Harry Potter: lll’itehenift Repriekagerl Makng Evil Look Innocent. Citing Rowling's study of ‘mythology' at university as a sign that she was up to no good (it was classical studies. actually. but that wouldn't have sounded so wiccan). Matrisciana alleges that the Potter books have a hidden agenda. “Parents and educators view Harry Potter as the latest tool being used to disciple children into the darkest aspects of black magic.‘ deadpans her video. ‘Through Harry Potter. children as young as kindergarten are being introduced to human sacrifice. the sucking of blood from dead animals and possession by spirit beings.‘

This will be news to Rowling who is a regular Sunday worshipper. But that won't stop those such as Randolph Michaelson. pastor of Torrance Crossroads Church. California. who remains worried that young children are leaving Christianity to become shape-shifting witches. ‘The young people in the occult are experiencing real power.” he warned the New Times. (A. ‘There would be no fascination for it if they weren't.‘

Here in Britain. where the last witch trial was in 1722. Chris Columbus and crew are back on set as this issue of The List hits the shops. filming episode two of a possible seven movies. ‘I don't look at the next film as a sequel.‘ says Columbus. who discovered America before he discovered Britain and has done nothing by halves ever since. ‘I value ~ the quality of each of these books and there are things I love about each of them. I look forward to doing the second movie . . . and the third.’

Now. after a US poll outed Harry Potter as the most famous character in English literature. romping home twenty percentage points ahead of Sherlock Holmes. Oliver Twist. James Bond and Winnie the Pooh. the movie is expected to take more than Sl()()m on its opening weekend. Projected over seven lilrns that would total Slllb in gross revenues and a clear 52b profit for Warner Brothers. Now that‘s a phenomenon.

HanyPotterAndThePhilosopher‘sStoneopens ineverycinemaontheplanetonFri 16Nov.