'Harry Potter' producer looks ahead

For some, the best thing about the “Harry Potter” films has been watching the parade of notable British thesps pass through its soon-to-be seven installments. Indeed, with the likes of Richard Harris and Maggie Smith, it’s easy to forget that there are a lot of other actors on the screen as well. And the vast majority of them are below the drinking age.

But David Heyman, who’s produced the five “Potter” films to date and expects to finish the series by 2010, is quite aware of the budding talent populating the franchise — and he doesn’t just mean Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. He’s just as proud of Sean Biggerstaff, Tom Felton and Devon Murray.

“The smallest part is treated with the same attention and care as the lead roles,” he says. “Not just in the casting, but also the directing.”

But Heyman is reluctant to don the mantle of starmaker, insisting that the “Potter” series is not about minting new talent. “If they become that,” Heyman says, “it’s because of their commitment and curiosity to develop their craft. We’ve given them the platform, but they’re here because they’re good.”

Good actors will seek out challenging projects, something not always consistent with wholesome family fare. But Heyman insists that he doesn’t stand in the way of such ventures. “You don’t put a stranglehold on an ambitious young actor who wants to stretch,” he says, talking of Radcliffe and his headline-making turn on the London stage earlier this year. “Everybody talks about him being naked in ‘Equus’ but not that his character blinded six horses. There seems to be more concern about Dan’s willy than the substance of the play. But I respect him and his choices.”

One reason Heyman’s young actors are so good is the master class that results from tyro thesps playing opposite past masters. “They’re learning by doing and also by watching,” acknowledges Heyman. “Dan, for instance, has talked about what he’s learned from Gary Oldman. The older actors are quite generous.”

Recent breakthrough: “Harry Potter” recently pulled ahead as the top -grossing franchise of all time.

Role model: As former kid stars go, he admires Jodie Foster. “Also, the young cast of ‘Harry Potter.'”

What’s next: “Producing films other than ‘Harry Potter,’ specifically ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas,’ ‘Is There Anybody There?’ and ‘Yes Man.'”

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