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Radcliffe opens Harry Potter theme park

By the CNN Wire Staff
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'Harry Potter' attraction opens
  • Attraction re-creates locations, scenes, other elements from book and movie series
  • Park-within-a-park is at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida
  • Final movie in the series finished filming Saturday
  • With Potter nearly behind him, Radcliffe says he'll continue acting, be selective about roles

(CNN) -- Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe said Friday he is already enjoying the new Harry Potter attraction at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Florida -- and he's already ridden the thrilling dragon roller coaster five times.

The star spoke to CNN on the opening of the park-within-a-park in Orlando, with Hogwarts Castle towering behind him.

It's "pretty amazing, I have to say," Radcliffe said of the castle. "It does appear to be kind of 700 (feet) of rock and castle. My personal favorite thing here is the Dragon Challenge. ... It's been a while since I've been on a roller coaster that terrifying, but I've done it five times in the last two days, and I plan to go a couple more times today."

Another ride, called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, features Radcliffe and other stars from the cast and simulates parts of the movie, he said.

The park is perfect for any fans who want to live parts of the fantastical world of Harry Potter, he said. Radcliffe described seeing "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" when he was 10 and trying to simulate the movie's surreal martial arts by running off walls up and down his street.

At the park, he said, "you are just kind of immersed in the world of Hogsmeade, the village from the movies. For any kids out there who were like me when I was a kid ... you can now just come here and live the movie, pretty much, but without all the danger involved."

The attraction re-creates various locations, scenes and other elements from the wildly popular book and movie series. Harry Potter has now beaten out fellow Brit celluloid character James Bond as the top-grossing film series in history.

Widespread industry speculation has it that Universal shelled out about $265 million for this Potter project, although officials are not confirming that number.

Radcliffe, who turns 21 next month, has played the boy wizard since he was 11 years old -- about half his life. The final movie in the series finished filming last Saturday, and the opening of the park less than a week later is a nice way to punctuate his time in the role, he said.

"Suddenly, at the end of that, we get to come to an amazing park," he said. "And it is amazing. When I was first told it was going to be a Harry Potter theme park, I was kind of thinking, well, that can go one of two ways. I was slightly trepidacious, because when you have been with something for 10 years, you are desperate -- you don't want anything to take that legacy.

"And I promise you that I would not be here today if I did not think this place was absolutely phenomenal, which it really, really is."

The Harry Potter books have been credited with getting children to start reading again. Radcliffe said that they have "produced a generation of incredibly thorough, analytical, literate kids" and that the books -- written by J.K. Rowling -- will have that as a legacy for decades.

Radcliffe confessed he wasn't one of those young fans of the books at first.

"I wasn't a big reader when I was young," he said. "When I got the part, there was a little bit of a deal made of the fact that the part hadn't gone to an avid Harry Potter fan."

After he got the part, however, Radcliffe said he started "dutifully" reading the books, and that's when he "got completely sucked in and obsessed," like so many other fans.

"It's given me a love of literature and books," he said.

With Harry Potter nearly behind him, Radcliffe said he plans to continue acting, but he'll be selective about the roles he takes.

"I'm in a very, very fortunate position where I've got a job that I absolutely love, and I get paid incredibly well for it," he said. "I'm kind of amazingly lucky. ... And I think if you are in a position where you can afford to pick and choose very carefully what other parts you take and what other films or plays you do, I think you kind of have a duty to, because I'm in a lucky position where I don't have to do things just for the money. So I'm going to enjoy being selective for the next few years of my career."