Despite sweltering heat and parking garage chaos, Muggles came out in force on Sunday to celebrate the West Coast arrival of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and its three very charming wiz kids. The Jumbotron announced the day’s events. A closed Hollywood Blvd. was lined with bleachers filled with screaming fans clad in Potter paraphernalia and character costumes, and armed with homemade portraits of the stars, posters, and Sharpies. Mobs formed between the bleachers as well. One elderly woman even passed out from the anticipation (well, from that or the heat) and required ambulance assistance that was later the target of a ”Move that truck!” chant campaign.
Why all the fuss for a fifth installment in a franchise? Phoenix is the first Potter film to have a premiere in Hollywood. The significance of debuting at the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre didn’t escape the U.K.-based cast.
”This is the coolest cinema I have ever been in,” said Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), who would return to the site a day later to cement his hand- and footprints alongside those of screen legends like Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Stewart, and Cary Grant. ”The Chinese Theatre is iconic. It is pretty cool to have your movie premiered here because a lot of the great movies have been. If I had come [to L.A.] when I was 11, I think it would have been far too overwhelming. It’s still a bit overwhelming now, but at 11 I don’t think I would have been able to handle myself. It is surreal. I never get used to total strangers screaming my name, but to have all these people come out to support you is like a big thank you for working for 10 months on the film.”
Rupert Grint (Ron), who was wearing a Harry T-shirt he bought at Universal Studios the day before (”for a laugh”), echoed the sentiment. ”To have a premiere in Hollywood…it’s an actor’s goal [because] Hollywood is the home of movies. But I didn’t expect so many people. Just getting out of the car I was shaking a bit. One girl drew a portrait of me. It’s only at premieres that this kind of thing happens. I do get recognized quite a lot in the streets but usually people don’t have my portrait with them.”
The stars were also not used to the heat, and handlers were rushing around to buy umbrellas, fetch cold water, and wipe sweat from their brows. ”There was torrential rainfall in London for the premiere last week and I thought that was as bad as it could get, but now I am so hot I can hardly breathe,” said Emma Watson (Hermione). ”I hope my sunscreen doesn’t melt off. I feel really bad for Rupert. He’s ginger, so he burns easily. I hope he remembered sunscreen.”
Potter newcomer Imelda Staunton, on break from shooting a BBC miniseries called Cranford Chronicles with Judi Dench, welcomed the change in temperature. ”I needed a bit of bloody sunshine,” she said. ”I’m boiled, but I’ll survive.” Unlike if she had turned down the role of Ministry of Magic lackey Dolores Umbridge. ”My daughter would’ve killed me if I hadn’t agreed to be in this film. It is fantastic to be a part of the lore. The Harry Potter series is like a who’s who of British acting. We just need to get Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, and Judi Dench in one and we’ll have it covered.”
With filming of the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, set to begin in September, Staunton may get her wish, although producers at the premiere were mum on the subject of new cast additions.
Before the screening, there were introductions and speeches. After thanking people for coming, Radcliffe chastised an audience member for not checking a cell phone at the door. ”In between introductions, I heard a mobile phone ring. Whoever you are, make sure to turn it off during the film.”
Post-screening, double-decker buses delivered guests — including Heroes‘ Greg Grunberg and Masi Oka, Hannah Montana‘s Miley Cyrus, High School Musical‘s Ashley Tisdale, Seth Green, and Jeff Foxworthy — to the Jim Henson Studios lot (formerly Charlie Chaplin’s base) for the after-party. After passing through a sheet of fog, they could frolic in the Forbidden Forest; dine on freshly sliced prime rib or kid-friendly sliders in the Department of Mysteries, amid the spherical prophecy orbs; dig in at the Fred and George Weasley candy bar; take a photo with a live owl; play games for Potter prizes like chocolate frogs or light-up wands; and talk with a fortune teller. Even the bathroom got a magical makeover: It was converted into Umbridge’s cat-acular office complete with feline collector plates and pet sounds.
”This is so cool because I am a huge Harry Potter fan. It’s probably the closest most of us will get to Harry’s world,” said actress AnnaSophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia). ”I’m still holding out hope that there will be a part I could audition for in the last book. But that’s probably a long shot. I’ll have to just stay here for a few hours to make up for it.”