Daniel Radcliffe on Acting His Way Out of Harry Potter

Maui Time | September 17, 2007
December Boy

Daniel Radcliffe Talks About Acting His Way Out of Harry Potter

By Cole Smithey (1663 words)

Daniel Jacob Radcliffe is an unassuming and polite young man who says "to be honest" so much in conversation that you feel like he's constantly trying to remind himself to stick closely to the truth. For all of the fame and riches that playing Harry Potter in cinema's most successful franchise has afforded him, Daniel Radcliffe carries none of the inflated ego that you might expect. And yet, he possesses a gravitas that is beyond his 18 years. Daniel doesn't so much resemble the Harry Potter character that he will soon leave behind, as he seems to be anxiously awaiting the next role he can pour himself into like mercury filling a glass vessel.

Since throwing caution to the wind to perform in a West End revival of Peter Schaffer's nudity-mandatory play "Equus," Radcliffe teamed up with Australian independent director Rod Hardy for an ensemble film based on Michael Noonan's novel "December Boys." In the story, Radcliffe's character Maps is one of four orphan teenage boys raised in a Catholic convent in Australia's rugged outback. The realization that they may never be adopted is sinking in when the boys arrive to live with an elderly couple for a summer in a small seaside community. Maps gets his first taste of romance in the guise of a local tart named Lucy (Teresa Palmer), while the promise of adoption by a young local couple tempts the boys into an uncomfortable rivalry. Radcliffe fits into the film's nostalgic setting like a boy out of time. His limber physicality conveys a thirst for experience that Maps is quick to explore.

When I interviewed Daniel Radcliffe recently in Midtown Manhattan, his passion and enthusiasm struck me as characteristics that will serve future generations of audiences who come to know him for roles other than that of Harry Potter.

CS: How do you feel about Harry Potter now that the end is in sight?

DR: Weird. It's going to be very strange, I think, finishing them. But it's exciting. I just don't know how it will feel when we finally stop them. Yeah it will be sad, but it will be good.

CS: Has Daniel Radcliffe grown up now, or are there still boyish pursuits that you enjoy?

Daniel: I don't think I'll ever properly grow up. I don't think anybody does really. Everyone's sort of very, still very young and immature. I certainly am. Yeah, I don't think I've changed that much. It wasn't like I suddenly hit 18 and I started buying the Financial Times and things. [Laughs]

CS: You've just completed "My Boy Jack," a movie set in World War I and based on Rudyard Kipling's search for his son Jack (the role you play) after he went missing in action. What attracted you to it?

DR: It was a number of things. First and foremost, I've always had an interest in World War I. I don't know why. Ever since learning about it in school I've been fascinated by it. It was an amazing script, and that's the only thing you need really. I finished doing that about 3 weeks ago, and that's very exciting. And I think it will air on television in Britain in November, and I don't know when, or if, it will come to the states.

CS: So it doesn't matter to you whether it's theater or independent film or something for television?

DR: No, not at all, not in the slightest. I don't know why it would. You hear things about people not wanting to do anything other than film, which I think is ridiculous, because what if you shut yourself off to a great script? It's bizarre.

CS: You surprised audiences by performing "Equus" in the West End. Will you be doing the play on Broadway?

DR: Hopefully, yeah. I mean, it will be later in the next year. If it happens, I'll be there. Obviously I'm very, very excited. And terrified, obviously, but very, very excited. [laughs]

CS: What did you learn from doing "Equus" that you were able to bring back into your film work?

DR: I think the main thing I took from it was the ability to sustain concentration for a long period of time, because when you're doing films, you'll do a take and then have 2 minutes and then do another take. So it's sort of chopped up like that. Whereas, in "Equus," Richard [Griffiths] and I were on the stage for the whole play. We didn't get off at all. So you learn to keep up that level of concentration for two and quarter hours. It's exhausting mentally. I never expected it to be, but it is. I suppose that level of concentration I'll be able to take away, hopefully, and use it in films.

CS: Do you think anything will change from the way you played Alan Strang in the West End version to the way you would play him on Broadway?

DR: That's a question I can't answer yet, because my mind hasn't been on Alan Strang for, you know, a good few months now. I'm sure there will differences but when we were doing it on the West End, it changed almost every night.

CS: A big part of "December Boys" has to do with friends. Can you say that you have a close-knit group of friends in your life as well?

DR: I've got some great friends, and some of them are on the set, but one of my best friends is a guy called Robin who I've known since I was 5-years-old. I'm very lucky in that respect because I've got some very, very good, loyal friends.

CS: What do they think about the trajectory of your career?

DR: Oh, they don't care! It just doesn't make any difference to them I don't think, which is great.

CS: Unlike the "Harry Potter" films, "December Boys" seems to be a far more cross-generational story.

DR: In an age when almost every film that's made is targeting a demographic, this film it really isn't. We're just telling a story, and there are bits in it that young kids will enjoy and there are bits in there that people my age and older will relate to and love. We've told all aspects of the story, and just balanced it out, and we haven't tried to angle it toward any particular way of telling it.

CS: Have you ever had your heart broken like your character in "December Boys"?

DR: Oh, I think everybody has at some point, has had similar experiences like that, yeah.

CS: You have a great scene in the movie where you your first major big screen meltdown. How far did you have to dig for that?

DR: The actual scene was filmed on the last day of filming, and it was in our 16th consecutive hour of filming that day. It was a quarter past four in the morning on Christmas Eve, and so I was sort of having a meltdown, as was most of the crew [laughs]. That was sort of an amazing day. But of course for all of those scenes, you do have to dig in deep, quite deep, and find things and remember things that people have told you, because I've never had that experience in my own life. It comes from listening - and that's the thing. I think, as an actor, in terms of your resources the most valuable thing you can do is just listen to people. Talk to as many people as you can and find out what their stories are and if you find enough of them then eventually it will apply to the situation, and that's what happened in this one. I was able to think of things people have told me in the past about what certain experiences were like in their lives. Music is a big help with things like that for me. I don't know why, but it helped me just get into the moment.

CS: I understand that you put together a CD of music for director Rod Hardy to listen to. What was on it?

DR: It was the "Love of Elliot Smith," "Radiohead," "Nine Black Alps" and William Mason. It was a lot of quite dark, heavy stuff.

CS: Having worked in film since such a young age, did you find yourself nurturing your more inexperienced cast members on the set?

DR: When I was 12 and on a film set I was having such a great time and I wanted these kids to have a great time. And one of the ways of doing that is to work hard. If you don't work hard and you're just messing around, then the atmosphere on the set becomes incredibly tense. I always think it's a bad time when you look around the corner and see your director by the monitor like this [buries face in his hands], as I happened to catch Rod doing on one particularly long, tense day. But the great thing about these 3 kids is that they did actually listen. So, if did you said them, 'Look, guys, you know, it's 1am. We need to go home in a bit. We really need to concentrate now.' They would just do it.

CS: You're finally 18, and you grew up doing "Harry Potter." Does any part of you feel like you've been exploited?

DR: I'm exploited all of the time. [Laughs]

CS: Is there more media interest in your private life or do you find that nothing has changed?

DR: I've not been 18 for long, so I think we need to give it more time before we can properly gauge that situation. I don't know if anything will change. I hope not, but I expect it probably will a bit. Um, I don't know to be honest. We'll see, I guess.


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