J.K. Rowling might be returning to the magical universe that gave rise to Harry Potter, but Daniel Radcliffe has never looked back since retiring his wand in 2011 — seemingly for good — after a decade playing The Boy Who Lived. In the last several years, Radcliffe has tackled a variety of eclectic parts that almost seemed designed to blow up our image of him as the iconic boy-wizard. There were his performances in the stage revival of Equus and then the song-and-dance Broadway hit, How to Succeed in Business…, and a starring turn in last year’s gothic horror film, The Woman in Black.
At this year’s Toronto Film Festival, the 24-year-old was its unofficial poster-boy, arriving with starring roles in three different — very different — films that demonstrated once again that Radcliffe isn’t afraid of venturing outside the box. In Kill Your Darlings, which premiered earlier this year at Sundance and opens in theaters Oct. 16, Radcliffe plays a college-aged Allen Ginsberg who falls in league with a spirited group of mesmerizing free-thinkers, led by Dane DeHaan’s Lucien Carr, a troubled soul who opens Ginsberg’s mind, body, and soul to new experiences. In Horns, based on Joe Hill’s macabre mystery novel, he plays a young man whose presumed guilt in a small-town murder seems to be manifested in the horns that suddenly sprout out of his forehead. And in The F Word, which was recently acquired by CBS Films, he proves that he can also deliver a straightforward romantic-comedy, playing a relatively normal guy who settles for being best friends — friends being the F-word in the movie’s title — with the girl he loves, played by Zoe Kazan. “It’s that rarest of things,” says Radcliffe. “It’s a really cheerful, happy film without being sentimental.”
The Brit sat down with EW to discuss his new movies, what it’s like to be the actor who used to be Harry Potter, and his upcoming role in Frankenstein.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Two years removed from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which capped a decade of eight movies that grossed more than $7.7 billion worldwide, do you find that the industry still sees you as that character, and do you find that frustrating?
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: On the whole, no is the answer to that question. Occasionally you’ll get some script in for some crappy fantasy thing and you just go, “Well, no, guys.” But generally speaking, I think the fact that I’ve shown a willingness to stretch myself and test myself means that people want to test you. So, no, I don’t get frustrated by that because it hasn’t — so far, at least — been an issue.
The three films you have at the festival couldn’t be more different. Is there a strategy involved when you choose these roles, a calculated effort to build Dan Radcliffe 2.0 and do something contrarian from what’s expected? Or do you simply have the luxury to choose parts that speak to you?
I do have that luxury. I was obviously made financially secure by Potter, and so I am able to just do what I like, in terms of picking projects, which is a fantastic freedom to have and one that very few young actors have. But you can’t really make that much of a strategy, because you don’t know what scripts are going to come in. It’s really just about picking things that you get enthusiastic about and that you’re going to be excited to do.
You were just 10 years old or so when you and your parents agreed to sign on for Harry Potter. Even though the books had been popular, did you have any realization of just how enormous this was going to become?
We did not have any kind of concept of how big it was going to be, but my parents had the right attitude and always kept the right attitude with me, which was that it was all just fun. You know, going to a premiere was fun. Doing interviews was fun. You found ways of making it into a game. So I never felt pressure as a young kid, I never was really stressed out by it, and I never felt daunted by what was ahead. You know, I initially signed on for the first two films. Then, after that, each year, my mum and dad would say, “Are you still enjoying it? Do you still want to go back?” I would be like, “Yes.” And that was it, right up until after No. 5, when I just signed up for 6 and 7, because at that point there was no way I was going to not do the last two. It was an amazing way to spend my teenage years. I loved it, and I made some friends that I hope I’ll have for the rest of my life.
You know, you don’t have to look very far to find stories about child actors who struggle with success and with what happens after the success disappears. Hollywood is littered with the carcasses of child actors who struggle professionally and personally with growing up. But you have emerged relatively unscathed and creatively healthy.
I think when you start young, you either get lucky and you love it or you don’t. And if you don’t, and then you’re stuck in it and you come to resent it, then obviously stuff goes wrong. But I’ve always loved it. And I also think there’s something to be said, you know — you said Hollywood is littered with the carcasses — I have spent so little time in Hollywood in my life. I’ve literally spent under three weeks there, if you add up the entire time I’ve spent there in my life, so I think that probably does make a big difference. I don’t mean to say that Hollywood is crap, but growing up in the industry there I think is a lot more challenging than it is in London.
In Horns, you play a character who’s suspected of murdering his girlfriend and then wakes up to find devilish horns growing out of his head. It’s a movie that seems to be having a little fun with Harry Potter and the fame of playing him.
Probably Alex [Aja] snuck some stuff in there that I wasn’t aware of. I think it’s mostly happenstance, stuff like obviously the snakes being a huge part, and the fact that I’m wearing red and gold. I think there were just a lot of things in this film that already existed, but take on a slightly richer meta layer when I’m cast in the role.
We haven’t met, but I was at Sundance earlier this year, walking out of a hotel, when a mob of photographers started taking my picture — which is an unusual experience for me and was quite unsettling. It wasn’t until I turned around that I realized they were snapping shots of you.
Oh, right. Sorry.
But it made me realize what you have to deal with all the time — from the time you were 10. And then, when I saw that scene in Horns where you offer an exclusive interview to whichever reporter beats the crap out of the others, I couldn’t help but think that was something you took some relish in playing.
I definitely enjoyed all that stuff, like getting the media to fight. Don’t get me wrong, I have a very good relationship on the whole with journalists, but there were times, particularly in the later years of my teenage years, when I definitely would’ve liked to start a fight between journalists if I could have done. So it’s a huge amount of fun to play around with all that stuff — stuff that you know sort of plays into people’s perception of you and slightly subvert that. It’s a joke within a joke, another layer for people who are sort of in the know.
You don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
I start filming Frankenstein later in the year. It’s an absolutely brilliant, mad adventure of a script with James McAvoy as Victor, and I’ll be playing Igor. [He pronounces it I-gor].
Is it I-gor or Ee-gor, per Young Frankenstein?
There is some debate now about which is the version we’re going to use. It won’t be up to me, because it’s not actually my name for the whole film … so I’ll leave that as a tantalizing clue. I’m not the one who has to say it first. I think James is the one to call me it first. So whatever he pronounces, that will be the name.