LONDON – Storm clouds are gathering over the world's most famous wizard in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth film to be adapted from J.K. Rowling's magical saga.
Daniel Radcliffe's teenage Harry has acquired stubble on his chin and angst in his soul, facing a sense of isolation, a showdown with his evil nemesis, Lord Voldemort and -- just as scary -- his first screen kiss.
"He is very troubled," Radcliffe, 17, told The Associated Press recently, a few weeks ahead of the film's opening. "He's troubled by the fact that he doesn't think anybody is believing in him, his friends don't seem to understand him ... He lets that out in various ways. He lashes out."
"Order of the Phoenix," which opens in the United States July 11 and Britain the next day, is directed by David Yates, a Briton best known for the multilayered TV thrillers "State of Play" and "Sex Traffic."
Yates brings a touch of grittiness to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which as the film opens is undergoing a creeping takeover by the bureaucratic Ministry of Magic and its emissary, the deceptively rosy Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton).
That, combined with nightmares that link Harry ever more closely to the dastardly Voldemort, bring a sense of impending doom to the wizarding world as Rowling's saga takes a turn for the darker.
Yates said his goal was "to introduce a real sense of emotional and spiritual angst and danger. The series is ready for that."
"I wanted to push (the actors) -- and they really wanted to push themselves," he added.
The actors, in turn, say they loved the challenge.
"David got us at a time when we were ready to be pushed, we all knew that, and he knew it and he was damn well going to push us," Radcliffe said. "I couldn't thank him enough for that."
The result, Radcliffe says, is a more mature and complex Harry Potter -- a hero with magic powers but human frailties.
"It's nice to know that he's real and he experiences real anger and rage and frustration and loneliness," Radcliffe said. "That's what makes him a proper hero as opposed to the Superman perfect-at-everything sort of hero. Harry's a genuine hero because he's flawed."
Apart from the angst, it's Harry's first kiss with fellow student Cho Chang (Katie Leung) that will likely attract attention from moviegoers.
Radcliffe -- who earlier this year appeared nude onstage in the play "Equus" in London's West End -- admitted to some trepidation about the kiss.
"I was a bit nervous about doing it because I've known the crew and everyone for so long," he said. "It was a little bit strange. But it was Katie, and we were both very professional about it.
"This isn't a particularly sexy or exciting kiss -- it's very sweet and very clumsy, like all first kisses are. "
The Harry Potter books have been translated into 65 languages and sold more than 325 million copies since the first volume, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," was published in 1997. The frenzy that now attends each new book launch is reaching a climax with the publication of the seventh and final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," on July 21.
Radcliffe and co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who play Harry's friends Hermione Grangerand Ron Weasley, have been at the center of the Harry Potter storm for almost half their lives. They seem remarkably levelheaded -- a quality they attribute to the support of their families, and of the Harry Potter filmmaking family.
Asked about the greatest extravagance their wealth has let them indulge in, Watson says an Apple computer, while Radcliffe expresses an interest in collecting art.
"I've never really been into cars, so I'm not going to splash out on a classic-car collection, which I think people expect me to," Radcliffe said.
Grint, at least, has bought the vehicle of his dreams.
"I've recently got an ice-cream van," he said.
All three stars have signed up for the final two Potter films, the first of which -- "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" -- starts shooting in September.
Until "Deathly Hallows" is published, the actors have no more idea than ordinary Muggles about how the series will end, and whether the prophecy Harry discovers in "Order of the Phoenix" -- that neither he nor Voldemort can survive while the other one lives -- means the young wizard will die.
"A couple of years ago I said I would like Harry to die because it's a conclusive ending," Radcliffe said. "The next day the headlines were 'Radcliffe Wants Harry Dead.'
"I think he might (die)," he added, "but that's based on absolutely nothing."
All three young stars have begun to look toward life after Harry Potter. Watson wants to attend university and would like to appear in a costume drama. Grint, too, wants to carry on acting -- "and if it doesn't work out, I've still got the ice cream van."
Radcliffe has already begun to branch out, appearing in the Australian film "December Boys" -- due for release later this year -- and making his stage debut in "Equus."
Radcliffe says he knows some people will always see him as Harry. But he is determined not to be typecast.
"I know it's naive to think that if I do one thing that's different, people will suddenly think, 'Oh, he's not just Harry Potter, he's an actor,"' he said. "It's going to take a hell of a long time. But I will work as hard as I possibly can."