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After a long delay that drove some fans to the brink of madness, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince finally hits the screen. What new charms are in store? Are the stars dreading the end of the franchise as much as we are? And what's next for their careers? EW solves these riddles and more in the magazine cover story, on sale now. Here, a taste of what they had to say, and a look at photos shot exclusively for EW.
(From left) Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, and Bonnie Wright photographed on April 25, 2009, in London.
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It'll be interesting to see how Half-Blood Prince's brand of innocent young romance will play with youngsters smitten by the neo-goth sexiness of Potter's apparent successor, Twilight.
''What I love about the movie is that it has many different parts — comedy, romance, suspense, good versus evil — but it also sets up the final chapter than is Deathly Hallows,'' says producer David Heyman. ''It really is the beginning of the end.''
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(SPOILER ALERT IF YOU'VE NEVER READ THE BOOKS!)
For Rupert Grint (pictured) and Emma Watson, their hardest scene was a kiss between Ron and Hermione. ''I remember being inches away from her lips and thinking, 'Good lord, this is going to be strange''' says Grint.
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Emma Watson — possessed of a keen fashion sense — wasn't sentimental about wearing the Hogwarts uniform for the last time in Half-Blood Prince: ''I was like, 'Burn it!' Oh, my God, to be done with those shoes and that uniform — that was an exciting day.''
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Half-Blood Prince finds Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, pictured) juggling his usual homework while investigating a sinister scheme involving bully Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and playing spy for Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon).
Radcliffe won't miss his Hogwarts uniform, either: ''When you're 18, one of the worst things to be wearing while trying to chat up a girl on the set is a school uniform. You look like a kid! You're not going to score dressed like that!''
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Audience reaction may rise and fall on Half-Blood Prince's portrayal of teen romance (which increasingly involves the blossoming Ginny Weasley, played by Bonnie Wright, 18, pictured). ''It's not an intense exploration of the love life of teenagers. It's more playful,'' explains director David Yates.
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All of the stars are aware that pursuing acting will be tricky, post-Potter. Watson isn't even sure she wants to try. She's decided to go to college (at Columbia University, reportedly), but still has about a year of work on Deathly Hallows to finish first. ''My world is still all about Harry Potter,'' she says. ''I really can't see anything beyond it.''
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This gallery is excerpted from the July 17, 2009, issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine (on sale now). Check the magazine for answers to all the burning questions about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Are the filmmakers worried its brand of innocent young romance might not connect with young audiences smitten by the neo-goth sexiness of Twilight? Any concerns about a backlash over the long delay from the film's original 2008 release date? How is production for Deathly Hallows going? Are the young actors ready for life after Potter? Are you? Get the scoop on this and lots more, only in Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now!