The ''Harry Potter'' cast

By Jeff Jensen
Updated December 23, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

The ”Harry Potter” cast made our 2005 Entertainers of the Year list

If there were ever a moment when the magical carriage that is the Harry Potter franchise could have turned into a big lumpy pumpkin, this was it. For the first time, author J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. combined to give global pop culture a double shot of Hogwarty hocus-pocus — a new book, the sixth, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; and a new film, an adaptation of the fourth, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Just imagine if both had stunk. The fan outcry. The investor outrage. The headlines filled with ugly words like overexposed, overblown, and simply, It’s over.

Fortunately, the enchantment endures. In fact, 2005 saw Harry’s magic-carpet ride reach new creative heights. With Prince, the second-to-last installment in her seven-volume series, Rowling plunged into the background of that phantom menace Voldemort, and delivered a nuanced tick-tock of evolving evil that proved to be her most lauded literary feat to date. With mysterious twists and heartbreaking turns, Prince sold tons of books (6.9 million the first day, more than 11 million total) and did what a penultimate chapter should: left us wanting that final installment in our sweaty mitts right now.

That Potter should continue to flourish as a publishing phenomenon is no shocker. What is surprising, however, is Harry’s ongoing vitality as a movie star: Goblet — which posted the fourth-biggest weekend of all time with $102 million — has already surpassed the $249 million gross of the third film. Building on the bold nerve of predecessor Alfonso Cuarón, director Mike Newell conjured a vision of a hormonally charged teen wizard that engaged all demos. (Could it be? A Movie Harry actually deemed cool?!) For Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves, the secret is simple: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. The stars’ on-screen maturation, he believes, has become a compelling story unto itself. ”People are fascinated with seeing them grow up and change,” he says. ”They are the heartbeat of this franchise.” And this year, that pulse has never been stronger.