Harry Potter and the boy who wouldn't give up

Jane Charnley IF HE had listened to his mother, young Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis might never have shot to fame.

Lynda Lewis admitted last night that she had tried to bribe the 14-year-old with a burger to leave the auditions.

But the proud mum was in their home city of Leeds last night, with her husband Adrian and Matthew's grandfather, Bernard Needham, for the city's premiere of the latest Harry Potter blockbuster.

Matthew appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as Neville Longbottom.

Mrs Lewis said: "He nearly didn't get the part, if it had been up to me. We were at the auditions for six hours. There were about 700 kids there and I honestly thought 'this is a waste of time'.

"I said to Matthew, 'If we go now, I'll take you to McDonald's'. But he hung on and we stayed.

"When we got the call I thought it was a joke. We're very proud of him."

But yesterday Matthew – who attends St Mary's Catholic comprehensive school in Menston, and went to drama classes in Horsforth from the age of five – was lapping up his new status as a screen hero.

Stepping out of a white limousine for the event at the Light, he said it was fantastic to be in Leeds – despite having just attended fan-packed premieres in New York and London.

"I'm Leeds born and bred and it's brilliant to come back," he said, before the words ran out. "I really don't know what to say."

A group of teenage fans who had just seen the film – screened yesterday every 45 minutes from 10am – could not believe their luck when they saw Matthew.

As they gathered round to kiss the star, Jo Pacey, 17, of York, said: "It's just amazing. We just came out of the cinema and I said 'that's Neville'. "He's gorgeous. And it's definitely the best film so far."

Another fan is Bradford Bulls captain, Robbie Paul, who admitted that he and his wife Toni were as excited to see the latest film as their two daughters Iesha, 10, and Mia, eight.

He said: "Harry Potter is brilliant. I don't know if we have come for the kids or if I have dragged the kids to it. We are really looking forward to it."

Neil Hobson, from Sheffield, said his daughter Kate, 11, had read the books over and over again. My daughter is a fanatic. They have really captured her imagination."

And 10-year-old James Irwin and his brother Jake, eight, who were with their parents from Withernsea, could not contain their excitement.

James said: "I've got all the books and all the films. But I've left the scarf in the car because it's too warm."

His mother Helen said: "If it encourages them to read, it's a great thing."

Cinema spokesman Rob Seal said yesterday's screenings were fully booked. "Our last biggest day was on the Harry Potter and James Bond weekend in 2002.

"I think this has to outsell that one."