Hermione, We Hardly Knew Ye

Hermione may be history.

The entertainment blogosphere is buzzing with reports that Emma Watson, the actress who plays the role of Hermione in the wildly popular "Harry Potter" movies, may not sign up for the next movie.

The reports have prompted a flood of reaction on "Harry Potter" fan sites, mostly of the "OMG" and "!!!!!!!" variety. Warner Bros., the studio that makes the movies, tried to dampen speculation by putting out a statement: "We're extremely confident that Emma will be back for films six and seven."

But, with five "Harry Potter" films already under her belt at the tender age of 16, Watson has begun to express some dissatisfaction with her role. She has complained about "not wanting to be known as the 'Harry Potter girl' forever."

Watson was just 10 years old when she was cast as Hermione.

"She was a completely inexperienced actress. She had never done anything in particular. … We tested all of our finalists and when her test came on, someone said, 'Can we put her under contract until she's 40?'" said Janet Hirshenson, a casting director who, along with her partner, Jane Jenkins, runs the Casting Company in Los Angeles.

In addition to casting "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," Hirshenson and Jenkins have cast "The Da Vinci Code" and "A Beautiful Mind" among other films.

It might seem peculiar that any actor would be willing to walk away from millions just to avoid being typecast. But Jason Alexander could probably tell you a thing or two about it. Alexander is so closely associated with his character, George Costanza, from the television series "Seinfeld," that he has been unable to find much success in the nine years since the series ended.

Actors Get Itchy

Perhaps that's why it almost seems inevitable. An actress becomes a big star playing, let's say, romantic comedies. And then America's Sweetheart takes a turn playing a down-and-out drug addict.

Typecasting is a double-edged sword, explains Jenkins.

"You can become enormously successful but it's very limiting creatively. Carroll O'Connor was an enormously talented stage actor but he was known for ['All in the Family's'] Archie Bunker. He finally got away from it when he did "In the Heat of the Night," but it took him years."

The list of actors who have fought the velvet grip of typecasting is long. Think Meg Ryan, Jennifer Aniston and Sylvester Stallone.

"Sometimes actors get a little too itchy. They want to play from A to Z and maybe they can only do A to L. Of course, they're in real trouble if they can only play from A to B," Hirshenson said.

Jim Carrey has tried to put roles in comedies like "Dumb and Dumber" behind him., but his turns in more dramatic fare such as "Man on the Moon," and his latest, "The Number 23," haven't been very successful.

"He won't be commanding $20 million for his next picture unless it's a broad comedy, maybe 'Mask 4,'" said Lisa Beach, a veteran casting director. Beach has cast roles in "Walk the Line," "Wedding Crashers" and "Election."

Beach believes Watson's co-star Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry, made a smart move by starring in the play, "Equus," where he took a turn in the nude.

"The next thing Daniel Radcliffe should do is take a year off and then take a part in a small independent film playing a serial killer or a pedophile," Beach said.

Holy Hogwarts.

Better to Be Known Then Not

Even though actors don't like it, being typecast may not be a net negative, according to professor Ezra Zuckerman of MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Zuckerman studied the film industry in 2003 and 2005 and found that, in fact, typecasting had some real advantages. "Typecasting is actually a blessing. It gets you something."

In other words, typecasting is better than no casting.

Zuckerman's data show that most actors -- about 70 percent -- who actually get a film credit won't get another substantial role over the following three years.

The study said, in part: "Typecasting provides a route into the industry by conferring the minimum level of recognition necessary to continue to obtain work, even if this recognition involves the adoption of a generic identity."

Beach agrees. "Certainly in sitcoms, when you're casting a half-hour comedy, if an actor has done a guest star on 15 different sitcoms you know they're going to deliver for you. They're going to give you what you want. That's the one you pick."

Overall, though, film industry veterans believe actors should be most concerned about one thing. "The acting game is so precarious that getting a job is the main thing," Hirshenson said.

That's why Beach offered up some advice for Hermione. "I think Emma Watson should be signing on that dotted line tomorrow."

That serial killer part can wait.