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PRESS ARCHIVE (2007)

What Katie did next
(June 26, 2007)
Source: The Scotsman

HE HAS faced giant snakes, life-sucking Dementors, and Lord Voldemort. But teen love? Now there's a menace to challenge Harry Potter's mighty wand. Before Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter fans were angsting over who would land the pivotal role of Cho Chang, Harry's first love in the wizardly series. After an audition of Gone With The Wind proportions, Scottish-born Katie Leung nabbed the honour, and in Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix she raises Harry's game a notch by finally giving the teen wizard the chance to wrap his lips around something other than butter beer.

There hasn't been such a fuss about a kiss since Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty. "It didn't help that everyone kept reminding me every five minutes that it was coming up," says Leung. Advert for scotsman.com's football briefing

One of the worst kept secrets of the series is that love finally blooms for Harry and Cho under the mistletoe; an adolescent moment that even Leung admits is "not a particularly sexy or exciting kiss - it's very sweet and very clumsy, like all first kisses are. Especially since in reality, Daniel and I were a bit nervous and got a little giggly having to do it again and again".

Thirty takes is what we've been told. "Oh not as many as that," she says.

An interview with a Hogwarts pupil tends to be like the Potter stars themselves; polite, serene and a bit short. In the background hovers Leung's publicist, who seems far less at ease than Leung herself as she negotiates the diplomatic minefield that is kissing Harry Potter. "Daniel was a very good kisser - he pays me to say that," she says cheerfully, and the PR shifts and coughs a bit more behind her.

The experience of the two films - not just acting but touring the world to promote the movies - has boosted Leung's confidence, and facing the press and meeting fans has made her more outgoing. "If you'd met me before, I was unbelievably shy at school," she says. "You always get that one person who can go through a whole week without talking to anyone and that was me, sitting in the corner all by myself. It's pretty sad really. It got to the extent where I would be too scared to ask for help if I was stuck in class. I was that kind of girl. But doing this film has definitely brought out my confidence."

Later, she adds: "My favourite thing about playing Cho was being able to be popular. She's popular among the boys and the girls and, um, that's not something that happens in real life."

JK Rowling apparently insisted that, just as Harry, Ron and Hermione had been, Quidditch star Cho Chang should also be played by an unknown. The casting criteria were that the successful actress should be 16 and of Oriental appearance - two qualifications Katie happened to fit at the time. "Is there anyone here from Scotland?" asked the casting director at the start of the audition, and only Leung raised her hand. Winning the role over 3,000 other hopefuls was a surprise since Leung had never acted before, even at school. It was her father Peter Leung, a Motherwell-based businessman, who saw the ad on a Chinese TV channel and told his daughter they should go to London and have a shot.

"When he asked me to go down for audition, he wasn't really forcing me or anything, he was just suggesting," says Leung. "Although, when I got down to the last 100 people, he started to get kind of serious and he was like, 'Yeah, you've got to try your hardest.'"

Pottermania has been a double-edged sword for Leung. She enjoys the work, the travel and the dressing up for premieres, but shortly after landing the part, a mean-spirited campaign against her kicked off on the internet. "This kind of stuff is inevitable because Dan has so many female fans - millions of them - so I'm not surprised some of them didn't like me," says Leung, who is now weighing up a career in art and design, or pursuing other acting prospects. Last year she moved to London and shares a flat with a friend, not far from her agent.

"I have applied to a university in London but the decision is really hard because I have opinions from so many different people."

Recently it was mooted that she could be cast as the lead in a live action version of Mulan, the Chinese cross-dressing warrior. "I've just read about that in the papers too. As did my neighbours," she says. "It's not true at all, although it would have been cool if it was."

Meanwhile, the Cho Chang chapter of her life ends with Order Of The Phoenix. "Cho's mentioned briefly in the books," she says, "but they try to cram so much into the films that I don't think there'll be room for her. Besides, Harry's all about Ginny now, isn't he?"



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