Some people might reasonably assume that the Harry Potter kid is an impending train wreck of a former child star, a Ritalin-addled, Humvee-carousing little egomaniac the appearance of whose first mug shot is only a question of time. But aside from random street shots and headline puns about nude wizards, Radcliffe is notably absent from the tabloids. Instead, his image is that of an autodidact with a heavy-duty reading list (Nabokov, Joyce), hipster rock tastes (Arctic Monkeys, the Hold Steady), and modest spending habits.

A scene from My Boy Jack

"The only thing I'm likely to spend on is artwork, 'cause that's the only thing I'm interested in that costs a lot of money," Radcliffe says. His grandest vehicular ambition is, heartbreakingly, a Golf GTI, which he describes as "a good, small German car that zips around." For the multimillionaire teen, wealth's greatest luxury is not material but creative. This means roles in carefully selected films: He was in the Australian coming-of-age movie December Boys and the World War I drama My Boy Jack and has recently been attached to a film about the British photojournalist Dan Eldon, who was killed in Somalia in 1993. I ask him about other dream parts: Super-villain? Terrorist? Sex fiend? "I think part of me would love to play a drag queen," Radcliffe says, "just because it would be an excuse to wear loads of eye makeup."

Since he'll soon be playing psych patient Alan Strang eight times a week, it seems fair to ask if he's spent time on the couch himself.

"No," he says. "Please. No. Never. I've been pretty happy. I've got a great family. We're a very tight-knit group we work very well as a team and as a tribe. I owe it to that."

David Yates, who directed 2007's The Order of the Phoenix as well as The Half-Blood Prince, due out in July (he'll also oversee Deathly Hallows, which will be released as two films in 2009 and 2010), calls his star "one of the most grounded people you'll ever meet." "He's under extraordinary pressure, with all this fame and the success," he says. "But he is just a very down-to-earth, sensible lad."

The son of a literary-agent father and casting-agent mom, Radcliffe made his acting debut at age 10 (in a BBC version of David Copperfield) and was cast as Potter a year later, entering what would become an ongoing alternate reality leaving a private school for on-set tutors and communing almost solely with film folk and fellow wizards.

But while they may have eaten his childhood, Radcliffe says the Potter films have provided significantly more joy than angst. "They've been a laugh," he says. "They've been great. For the most part I've been happy every single day. And all the times I've been unhappy, it's never been anything to do with Potter. It's just been the normal, boring teenage crap. Insecurities, acne all the normal stuff."