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With each movie, Rowling seems to be stepping back; Columbus says she did not visit the set of Chamber of Secrets. "I think she was busy writing the fifth novel," he says. "She's there if we need her, but she trusts us now." The author did give her blessing when it came time to find a new director for Prisoner of Azkaban. Says Columbus, who will shift to executive producer on the next movie: "I really thought halfway through the second one, 'It's been almost two years since I've had dinner with my family during the week.'"
His replacement is Alfonso Cuaron, a surprising choice, since his most recent film was Y Tu Mama Tambien, this year's racy, critically hailed Mexican road movie about two teenage boys and an older woman. But Cuaron also has experience adapting the works of esteemed British authors Frances Hodgson Burnett (1995's A Little Princess) and Charles Dickens (1998's Great Expectations). Prisoner of Azkaban isn't scheduled until summer 2004, so there will be no new Potter film next year. This will allow Radcliffe to spend time in a normal school rather than with tutors on the set. Though the world is watching Radcliffe grow up onscreen, he insists, "not much has changed." Except that his world is becoming scarier.