Japanese teens in wizard costumes went into a frenzy at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, cheering actor Daniel Radcliffe whose coming of age is a big story on- and off-screen.
Dressed in a white suit, Radcliffe -- who will turn 18 next month and has played boy wizard Harry since 2001 -- looked distinctly grown-up at the red carpet event in Tokyo.
The Order of the Phoenix sees Harry reach greater maturity as he takes a leading role in the fight against the evil Voldemort and experiences his first kiss at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Radcliffe's own rite of passage has not been quite as dramatic: he recently took the role of a disturbed stablehand in the play "Equus" in a break with his child actor image.
Speaking to reporters before a crowd of screaming Japanese fans holding "We love Harry" signs, Radcliffe shrugged off suggestions that the Potter saga defined his adolescence.
"I don't see myself as having grown up on screen. I simply see myself as having grown up. So it's probably stranger for people who have watched all the films," he told Reuters.
The success of the Potter film franchise is one reason why Radcliffe's growing up is a big deal, at least for the movie industry and millions of fans.
<b1>The first four Potter films grossed around $3.5 billion, and Radcliffe along with co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint will stick with their parts until the series ends with the seventh film, slated for 2010.
The continuing popularity of J.K. Rowling's book series may help The Order of the Phoenix repeat that box office success, and Potter producer David Heyman said the actors' personal development also adds a new dimension to the film.
"They really grow up as actors," he told Reuters at the premiere.
"In the first film, Christopher Columbus had to do things like 'chin up' all through the takes if he was not focused, 'come on, don't look away', 'Oh, you are scared'.
"Now they are able to collaborate with the director and create the parts you will see in the film."
Columbus directed the first two Potter films, followed by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron and Britain's Mike Newell.
David Yates directed the fifth and latest film, in which Harry fends off a gang of dementors with a spell and risks expulsion from school for engaging in "underage magic."
The young wizard then has to defend himself at a court hearing in London before starting another action-packed year at Hogwarts boarding school.
The sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, is set for U.S. release in November 2008, while the last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will hit bookstores on July 21.