Whatever "boring teenage crap" means in the world of older girlfriends, A-list costars, and $25 million paychecks, the theme of adolescent turbulence will play an increasing role in Harry Potter's life, at least, as the franchise enters its final chapters. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince promises to be darker and raunchier than its predecessors. As Potter's nemesis, Lord Voldemort, marshals his forces for the series' two-part Götterdämmerung, "the students," according to the Warners Bros. plot summary, "are under attack from a very different adversary as teenage hormones rage across the ramparts."

To wit: Harry falls for pal Ron Weasley's sister, Ginny in a romance Radcliffe describes as "timid and shy and clumsy" while Ron and Lavender Brown have an amour fou Radcliffe calls "carnal."

The trailer for December Boys

Although he opted against college in favor of his career, Radcliffe seems to have absorbed a Ph.D.'s worth of cultural material on his own. A Radcliffe fan site includes three pages of Dan-approved books ranging from Rushdie's Midnight's Children to Zola's La Débâcle to nine different editions of Moby Dick while his music tastes suggest a 35-year-old critic for the NME.

But for an admirer of Sid Vicious (whose onscreen portrayer, Gary Oldman, taught Radcliffe how to play bass making Harry Potter, technically, a fourth-degree-separated Sex Pistol), the poet, bookworm, and cricket fan does seem just a tad . . . well-behaved. No?

"I don't pretend to do anything particularly wild," Radcliffe says. "People talk about rebellion and they say, 'Where is the teenage angst?' But I say I try to do it simply by the choices I make in the work I do. I just like wrong-footing people. I write poetry and I love it. I like being different from most other people in my generation."

Radcliffe isn't just different from his peers; it's like he's of another generation. As he walks along Fifth Avenue, he describes the rush of playing a character as thrillingly alive as Alan Strang. "It's because he's absolutely living in the present," he says. "He can only live in the moment, to use a horrible, clichéd, boring phrase. 'In the moment.' It's like 'carpe diem.' After Dead Poets Society, everyone was like, 'Oh, carpe diem.' Shut up!"

I nod at the memory of everyone saying "carpe diem" until I realize something: Dead Poets Society came out in 1989. That was the year of Radcliffe's birth. Just whose memory implants is he using?

As we walk into Bryant Park, I mention that they often show movies here on summer nights one recent screening was of the '68 action pic Bullitt. "Okay, who's cooler," Radcliffe says, "Steve McQueen in Bullitt or Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke?" A moment later, I note that the nearby merry-go-round is playing "The Band Played On," just like the runaway carousel in the 1951 Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train. "Oh, fantastic," Radcliffe says. "Where the guy is crawling under to stop it and it keeps picking up speed?" Um, yeah, that one.