Dateline: Claridge's Hotel, London, November 12. At 8:30 a.m., still fighting jet lag after having been in England two days, I'm sipping tea and sampling the scones like any good Brit, in this swankiest of swanky London hotels.
However, this Yank was waiting her turn to interview the stars of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. The previous afternoon at the Warner Bros. London headquarters screening room, some two dozen of us were among the first in the world to see the seventh entry in the long-running series about The Boy Who Lived.
I hadn't been to London in 15 years, and I found the city to be much the same, albeit more expensive. This time around, I was excited both to be back in this sophisticated city, as well as being present for Pottermania, Stage One.
At this point, folks, after 10 years and six previous movies, you're either on the Potter bandwagon — or should I say, Hogwarts train — or you're not. Would it really matter what we critics thought? Here's a hint: Uh, no.
Still, pre-release Pottermania covered two weeks: It started with the screenings for the international press (which included me) and the British press in London, along with the London premiere. It continued with the New York and Los Angeles premieres, and into opening weekend, where it grossed a mind-boggling $330 million, the biggest payday for the franchise.
That morning at Claridge's I had been told we were going to meet with the young stars of the movies: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy); producers David Heyman and David Barron; and director David Yates.
I first met with Yates, who told me that the new composer, Alexandre Desplat, would also be scoring Deathly Hallows, Part 2, the final installment of the Potter franchise due in theaters next July.
I think I got a scoop! Rumor has it that John Williams, who scored the first three films and is responsible for "Hedwig's Theme" which has become the main theme for the series, might be coming back for the grand finale. Yates confessed that Williams would only do a score to a rough cut of the movie, and Yates was reluctant to let anyone see his movie in rough-cut state.
So Johnny was out and Alex was in.
When Felton-with-the-light-brown-hair joined our table, the first thing I said to him was "Hey, we're getting you with unbleached hair!" He laughed and admitted that without the bleached hair and white pancake makeup, he's not usually recognized; in fact, sometimes he has to convince people he really does play Draco.
Speaking of hair, Watson looked up-to-date with her new short hairdo. Now that Potter filming is completed, she's been free to adopt whatever look she wants (she was contractually obligated not to cut her hair while playing Hermione).
I asked her about splitting her time between acting and going to college stateside at Brown University. She replied that she was missing two weeks of classes for the Potter press activities, but she had to work hard, in every sense, to prove to professors that she could keep up the classwork and her grades.
More hair: The redheaded Grint, always the most mysterious of the principals, often seemed a bit uncomfortable when I've seen him on talk shows. But he seemed relaxed and friendly, and has a shy smile. (I hear he owns an old ice-cream truck. Wonder if he drives it around his neighborhood, handing out treats to kids?) He even seemed to well up a bit when talking about the emotions on set when it was the last day of shooting the Potter series.
Handsome, and yes, grown-up Daniel Radcliffe joined just as one of the other reporters was having trouble with her recorder. He jumped right in to help her. What a geek!
You don't have to do stuff like that, Dan; surely you have minions to deal with the little people.
Did I mention it was recently reported that Mr. Radcliffe is the richest man in the U.K. under age 30? We're talking personal net worth upwards of $50 million. I already had it mind to propose to him.
It's still a little weird to see him without the Harry glasses, which he only wears for the role. He's heading back to Broadway this winter in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and said he would try to do justice to the leading role of Finch.
Since we had just talked to Watson about her university experience, I asked whether he was planning to finish his college degree anytime. He said no, he thinks he's found that which he wants to do. I should have figured that Mr. Richest Man Under 30 don't need no stinkin' degree.
Before he left, I took a private moment to give him a present: Last year for KUHF's Music From The Movies I produced a show about the last movie, Half-Blood Prince, and I had brought a CD copy of the show. I was thrilled to be able to give it to him...I'd like to think he'll listen to it sometime.
Thus endeth my Potter experience. I forgot to propose to Dan, or even Rupert (he's got a few pounds in the bank, too).
I did get to Harrod's, though. Try the white chocolate martini in the Chocolate Bar.
And next time you're in London, go by O'Neill's Pub in Shepherd's Bush. Ask the house band to play that traditional Irish favorite, "Stuck in the Middle with You." They played it for me.
Regina Scruggs is a Houston writer and former host of "Music From The Movies" on KUHF-FM.