Could Potter go pothead?

By Lulu Dillion

Unless you have spent the last few weeks with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, you will know that last week saw the release of the first of the final two Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films. As someone who’s about as “muggle” as you can get (witchcraft and wizardry ain’t my bag), I have found the fact that you can barely visit the toilet without seeing an interview with one of the film’s actors irritating and, now I’ve reached saturation, pretty dull. What I do find interesting is trying to predict the future of the child actors who have spent the childhood as part of history’s biggest film franchise. Will Radcliffe, Watson and Grint manage carve stable showbiz careers? Or will they do a Maculay Culkin or a LiLo and wind-up as drug-addled brats spending their twenties going into and out of rehab?

Before looking into the the future, it is worth quickly exploring past and particularly the tale of Macaulay Culkin, star of films including Home Alone and Richie Rich, who is widely lauded as the most successful child star ever.

In 1980 Culkin was born in New York and by the age of four was already acting. Prior to his landing the infamous role of Kevin McCallister in the first two Home Alone movies, he enjoyed various film and broadway performances. It was, however, in Home Alone (directed by Chris Columbus of Harry Potter) when Culkin found international fame (not least because of his close friendship with Michael Jackson) as well as unrivalled fortune – Culkin’s fee for the New York based Home Alone sequel, which he played aged eleven, is reported to have been a jaw-dropping $5 million. This huge earning capacity left Culkin with a fortune reputed to be worth $30 million aged 15.

Wow. But, just as his Home Alone character had to fight-off house burglars using clever contraptions and cunning trickery; in real life Culkin found himself battling the demons arising from his parents’ divorce (caused as his mother and father fought for control of his fortune). The only difference being that in real life Culkin chose to battle these demons with several controlled substances such as marijuana, Xanax and Clonazepam for which he was arrested and fined in 2004. Following this, apart various other cameos, he pretty much drew a line under his acting career. However, to say that Culkin is complete car crash of a child actor isn’t quite fair because, unlike Lindsay Lohan, and despite his penchant for narcotics, Culkin is still estimated to be worth $35 million and with that kind of money could you really be bothered to get-out of bed?

On one hand Culkin and Lohan’s downfall is quite similar in that it is supposedly rooted in their parents shenanigans, however, the sheer scale of Lohan’s demise makes it quite different. Her career started at the tender age of three when she appeared in television adverts and was first noticed following a stint on David Letterman’s show. In 1998 she rose to fame with the film Parent Trap for which she won MTV’s Breakthrough Act Award. Now followed the golden years which included films such as Mean Girls and Freaky Friday (still her most lucrative film with worldwide earning of $160 million), as well as her highly successful singing career (her first album, Speak, is certified double platinum). But then, just like Culkin, it all started to unravel – her investment banker father was jailed for misdealing, her parents separated and a long and bitter feud between mother and father over their shares in Lindsay’s success ensued. Couple these issues with the multiple drug and driving related arrests, eating disorders, self-harm, public lesbian flings, trips to rehab and almost constant media attention and you have full-scale career Armageddon – in 2008 Lohan’s wealth was estimated at $35 million, now she is widely rumoured to be in debt.
What is it then that makes some child idols flop and burnout? While others soar and soar afgain? And, more importantly, which way will the Potter gang go?

Early signs and industry predictions (as well as the vast multitude of recent interviews mentioned earlier) suggest that the leading threesome of Hogwarts will probably be alright. Emma Watson has buried her head in books studying in the US and, if her impressive school records are anything to go by, shouldn’t struggle either to cope with adjusting to adult life or, with a career hotly anticipated to rival Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, to add to her burgeoning coffers valued at £22 million. Rupert Grint, whose future is probably most unsure, is promising to take some time out of the acting world to enjoy the extreme sports he has missed due to filming obligations and is close to signing-on to play Eddie “the eagle” in a remake of the skiers life.
Daniel Radcliffe, worth £36 million, is booked-up well into 2013 with films including The Woman in Black but, if rumours are to be believed, has the biggest potential to crash – people often draw on his excitable temperament as a sign of possible instability.

Either way, with a combined wealth of nearly £100 million it’s safe to say that whatever happens they are unlikely to suffer the humiliation of their laser card getting rejected when trying to buy a roll in Spar (which definitely did not happen to me yesterday).