When Harry Meets SCARY

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PETER MOUNTAIN/WARNER BROTHERS

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Some things in Potter's world, though, haven't changed. Production designer Stuart Craig's Diagon Alley — the teetering jumble of Tudor and Georgian magic shops — is still standing. The original cast is intact, including Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall, Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid and, as the wise Professor Dumbledore, Richard Harris. The Irish actor, who suffered from Hodgkin's disease, died at age 72 on Oct. 25. No word yet on who might replace him, but the character does appear in the third Potter flick, The Prisoner of Azkaban, which will go into production in spring of 2003.

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.

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