I would say that trouble is coming in the stable world of "Harry Potter," Warner Bros.’ sorcerer that laid the golden egg.
Yesterday my friend Baz Bamigboye, gossip columnist supreme of London’s Daily Mail, advanced a story he broke late last year: Harry’s portrayer, 17-year-old Daniel Radcliffe, has signed to star in Peter Shaffer’s famous play “Equus” in the West End. Richard Griffiths, who plays Harry’s uncle in the movie series, has also signed on for the theatrical experience.
Maybe you don’t know this play. The main character blinds six horses with a spike. Later he rides one, naked, and pleasures himself sexually. Yes, you read that correctly: The star of a billion-dollar movie series wildly popular with children all over the world is going to do this not after the movies are done, but before the release of episodes five, six and seven.
To make matters worse, “Equus” will premiere in the West on Feb. 27, 2007 — two days after the Academy Awards. You can just close your eyes and imagine the jokes Billy Crystal — or whoever the Oscar host is next year — will make about the sorcerer’s apprentice and the magic act he’s going to perform.
Compounding this Oscar scenario is the very real chance that Griffiths — Harry’s big screen uncle and the troubled psychiatrist in “Equus” — will be on the red carpet for a possible nomination in the movie version of “The History Boys.” Griffiths just won the Tony Award for that role, and the movie version of “History Boys” will be released this fall. I’m sure Joan Rivers is already getting her comments ready.
Radcliffe’s decision to appear in such a controversial play comes at a crucial turning point in the Harry Potter saga. After all, if he really just wanted to “stretch his dramatic wings,” Radcliffe could have played Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast,” or a half-dozen different characters in classic comedies.
But I told you in this column about a year ago that the three principal children from the Harry Potter series never signed contracts for the last three films. As of last year, they were each free to do whatever they wanted. If new contracts were indeed hammered out, they obviously didn’t carry a clause prohibiting the kids from appearing in anything this unusual.
Of course, if “Equus” is a hit — and there’s no doubt it will be — the temptation on the part of producers will be to bring it to Broadway. In the U.S., the last person to play the part Radcliffe will undertake was Randy Harrison, the young blond star of Showtime’s “Queer as Folk.” That production was staged last summer at the Berkshire Theater Festival.
The big question now is if Radcliffe and Griffiths have a big hit with "Equus," will they each magically disappear from the sixth and seventh episodes of the movie series?” That’s one raised hoof for yes, and two for no.
This might be the best time to see stars in London, and not just because the sky is clear.
Last night, we ran into none other than Elvis Costello, his pregnant wife Diana Krall, and Costello’s mum at a performance of the extraordinary musical version of “Billy Elliott” at the Victoria Palace Theater.
Costello (real name Declan McManus) and Krall were celebrating Mrs. McManus’ birthday. Diana, who’s “showing,” as they say, was also radiant. The couple is expecting their first child before the end of the year. Elvis has a grown son from his first marriage.
On Thursday night, Clive Owen caught one of the last performances of movie director Mike Leigh’s hit play, called “Two Thousand Years.” Owen is just finishing the sequel to "Elizabeth" with Cate Blanchett reprising her Oscar-nominated role as the first Queen Liz, directed again by Skekar Kapur.
Clive told me that he’s taking a break now with Elizabeth wrapped, and considering his options for his next film role.
Elizabeth — either I or II — is a very popular name right now for royalty and movies. Helen Mirren is a certainty for an Emmy for her role in HBO’s recent “Elizabeth I.” She’s also said to be brilliant as the current Queen Elizabeth in an upcoming film about the death of Princess Diana.
“Billy Elliott,” by the way, remains quite the theatre-going event in London — a real masterpiece, and something about which Elton John can be proud after the miserable debacle this season of “Lestat,” the "Brokeback Mountain" of vampire musicals. But there’s a delay it seems in bringing Billy to Broadway. One reason, it’s said, is that producers are worried about American audiences not getting obscure English references.
The plot significantly hinges on Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government and the plight of mine workers in the United Kingdom. But changing any of that will alter the musical’s dramatic structure and gravity in a way that would ruin it. The solution is just to bring it in, and depend on the audience to be smart enough to get it. The story is universal enough that I think they will, I think.