Acting casts its spell early on Daniel Radcliffe, the son of Alan, a literary agent, and Marcia, a casting director. At 10, he clinches the lead role in a BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, alongside veteran costars Bob Hoskins (left) and Maggie Smith. "My mum sent in a Polaroid of me to the BBC, because I've always wanted to act since I was five," he tells the Press Association in 2000. "My mum and dad never thought it was a very good idea. So I went for about five auditions and then I got the part."
Chris Columbus, who's signed on to direct Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (based on author J.K. Rowling's book about a boy wizard named Harry Potter), sees Radcliffe in the Dickens film. "This is what I want," Columbus (right) recalls to the Independent on Sunday in 2007. "This is Harry Potter." Radcliffe is in the bath when he hears he'd been cast. "I just cried – it was so cool," he tells the Ottawa Sun.
Radcliffe spends the next several years on Potter sets with Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, and Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger (left). British acting veterans, including Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith and Emma Thompson, portray various Hogwarts professors or stalwarts. "If childhood is being surrounded by people who you love being around and being incredibly happy, then I absolutely have had that," he tells the Hartford Courant.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone hits theaters, eventually earning $976 million worldwide. The New York Times likens it to "a covers act by an extremely competent tribute band." By September 2007, according to Warner Brothers, the first five films tally a worldwide box office total of more than $4.47 billion. Becoming Harry, Radcliffe tells Vanity Fair in 2001, "was probably the single most exciting thing that's ever happened to me."
Radcliffe has some seriously crazed fans. One tried leaping into his car from her car window while stopped at a traffic light in New York. Another time, when he was 12, Radcliffe "was walking down the street next to this girl in France, and she started screaming," he recalls to Rolling Stone. "And I was really frightened, so I started screaming."
Radcliffe appears nude on the London stage in Equus. The 17-year-old, who plays a troubled stable boy (left), tells Details, "It's the least arousing process...when you get naked in front of 900 people, quite the opposite happens." As Radcliffe grows up, so does Harry, who shares his first kiss with fellow Hogwarts student Cho Chang (played by Katie Leung) in the fifth Potter film. In 2008, he takes his nude Equus role to Broadway.
The British press estimates 18-year-old Radcliffe's total net worth at $35 million or more, as he appears front and center on PEOPLE's Richest Teens cover. Radcliffe credits his parents with keeping his ego out of the sky: "I might be arrogant and big-headed, but they kept me really grounded, and I can't thank them enough for that," he says.
Swapping Harry's school robes for leather, Radcliffe sports a hip makeover on the cover of Details. In September, he's on the big screen again, starring in December Boys, where he has a seduction scene with costar Teresa Palmer. "It's a sex scene that's not sexy. It's clumsy and sweet," Radcliffe tells The Guardian.
Two years since the last Potter film, Radcliffe and costars Watson and Grint reunite on the cover of EW. The sixth installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, marks the end of the young wizards' days at Hogwarts. In its first week at the box office, the film rakes in a worldwide total of $396.7 million.
As the first in the final two installments of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hits theaters, Radcliffe tells MTV he's sad to see the saga come to an end – but proud of the story's epic climax. "To sustain this level of quality for 10 years is a very rare thing in a big franchise," he says. "I think we've done amazingly. I'm thrilled." The film rakes in $125.1 million over opening weekend, setting a franchise record.
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): amazon.com; Dave Caulkin/AP; Avik Gilboa/WireImage; Peter Mountain/WireImage; Matt Sayles/AP; Uli Weber; Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News/Landov; Matt Sayles/AP; Courtesy of EW; Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros