After shedding the child star stamp and confronting his demons, Radcliffe is ready for a come-up. Here we revisit one of his first post-Potter interviews
Taken from the November 2010 issue of Dazed:
Aged just 21, Daniel Radcliffe is now about to leave his broomstick behind to work his magic on Broadway and beyond. Rosamund Witcher asks the actor how he’s preparing for life after Potter.
Arriving to meet Daniel Radcliffe at the Dazed shoot, it’s hard not to expect an earnest, bespectacled man-child. Regardless of whether or not you’ve ever seen a Harry Potter film, the iconic franchise is such a pervading cultural phenomenon of the last decade that his name instantly makes you think “boy wizard”.
Instead, there’s a bare-chested 21-year-old man smouldering for the camera with clownlike make-up smeared all over his surprisingly chiselled face. “Hi,” he says. “I’m Dan.” Daniel Radcliffe is not Harry Potter, and he wants you to know it.
Hours later, and despite the arduous shoot, Dan is brimming with hyperactive enthusiasm. “When you’re covered head-to-toe in make-up, the only thing you can do is go for it,” he grins.
He says how excited he is to be in Dazed because “that’s how I go through life; constantly bewildered”. He pauses, then asks, “Would you like a vodka and tonic? I used to drink vodka and diet coke but my parents said I’ve got to start ordering grown-up drinks. It is a bit teenage, isn’t it?”
Like many child stars, he appears simultaneously very young and unbelievably mature: a combination that comes from so much life experience at such a young age, coupled with growing up in the cosy cocoon of fame. Unlike many young stars, however, he isn’t bored by his lifestyle. Instead he’s open, excited and full of tales of his recent 21st birthday.
“I went to Russia with friends and it was brilliant,” he grins. “We were in this crazy cocktail bar in St Petersburg, where the barman was doing these mind-blowing tricks: throwing the vodka up and catching it on his elbow. Everyone said I should have a party. But I had one for my 18th and, although it was fun, I spend my life being the centre of attention. I don’t need that on my birthday. So Russia seemed like a good way to mark it. Also, it doesn’t hurt to be out of the country. Less paparazzi attention.”
The tabloids did get snaps of Dan downing cocktails in St Petersburg, but there was no money-shot of him doing anything controversial because, frankly, he’s too sorted. The fact that he has avoided the cliché pitfalls of child stardom is all the more impressive when you look at the extraordinary success of the films. So far, they have grossed £3.5billion at the box office, worldwide.
But he shrugs off the money and fame as if embarrassed by it. The secret to his downto-earth attitude, he says, is the people around him. “Vanessa (his friend and publicist) is one of the people on Potter who’s a lifer,” he explains. “She’s been there since the beginning. Same as Peter, who drove me here today: he’s been driving me for ten years. Also my make-up artist Amanda, and Will, who dresses me.”
Now filming has wrapped on the final two films, this tight-knit group is disbanded. “Yeah,” he sighs. “It’s so weird.” Will he miss cast mates Rupert Grint and Emma Watson? “I’ll miss the crew more,” he says, before quickly adding, “I get on well with the cast. But Emma was studying in America for six months, and Rupert’s in and out. The crew is there with me every day; they’re my constant. I’ll miss them a lot.”
“I’m not playing a smackhead rent boy, which would make people say I’m trying too hard to be outrageous” – Daniel Radcliffe
He won’t have time to dwell on it though. With Potter done and dusted, he’s diving straight into a film adaptation of The Woman in Black, written by Kick-Ass’s Jane Goldman. There are two other films in the works: a biopic of photojournalist Dan Eldon (“if I’m still young enough to play him when the script is ready”) and a remake of 1930 Oscar-winner All Quiet on the Western Front. “That will be 2012,” he says. “First, I’m doing The Woman in Black, then the musical will take up all of next year.”
The musical is How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which hits Broadway in the spring. Despite his casual self-deprecation, the role is a huge deal. Not many young actors would have the energy, confidence and talent to take the lead role in an all-singing, all-dancing show that will mean performing at full-throttle seven days a week for at least nine months (it’s booking until November at the moment, but the run is likely to be extended). Having already made his mark on Broadway when Equus transferred from the West End in 2008, New York has become a second home. “I’ve got a place in the West Village, which is cool. But I live in London,” he says, firmly. “It annoys me that people think I live in New York. I’m English. But next year I will turn into an honorary American, despite myself. I’m so excited to be on Broadway because I grew up with musicals. My parents are big show queens. They’ll love it.”
Dan has a tendency to go off on a tangent (his most used phrase is: “sorry, where was I?”). On a totally unrelated note, he will suddenly say something like, “What did you think of Inception, by the way?” His excitable brain flits tirelessly from one thing to another. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t like time off. “I get very bored very quickly,” he says. “There’s nowhere I’m happier than at work. Someone said that, of the three of us (in Harry Potter), I’m the one who seems most eager to do other stuff. But it’s not eagerness to get away from Potter. It’s just, if I took time off, I’d spend it moping around the house.”
Also, he is aware how important his first post-Potter move will be. “There is a certain amount of pressure,” he nods. “The Woman in Black is perfect because it’s making a statement but not one that will be distracting. I’m not playing a smackhead rent boy, which would make people say I’m trying too hard to be outrageous. Also, nobody has really seen me without glasses on film and the first shot in The Woman in Black is a close-up of my face. It’ll be like the big reveal.”
Although he would never say anything negative about his time as the boy wizard, he is clearly irked that some people can’t see beyond it. “One girl in Russia said, ‘Are you going to do other films now or just fairy stories?’ She was drunk, so I shouldn’t hold it against her,” he rolls his eyes. “I tell you what. It’s amazing when someone says, ‘I loved you in Equus.’”
Not that he’s ungrateful about the Potter experience. In fact, it is quite the opposite – he is very appreciative. “Without it, I’d have been having a really shitty time in school,” he smiles. “I was rubbish. For some reason, I could never hack school, which is one of the reasons I was so grateful for Potter.”
And, as first acting jobs go, you don’t get a better training ground than working with a cast that has variously included Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter and Gary Oldman.
“Gary has become a mentor,” says Dan, taking a swig of his vodka tonic. “He has a healthy cynicism about people in this industry and what they want from you. I’m very open and trusting. Not naively so, but I see the best in people. Gary’s realistic. When I was 15, he said, ‘Now you’re famous, your name is a brand. You have to look after that because everyone is going to try and use it.’”
Indeed, Dan has turned down countless big-money offers to do campaigns. “I was asked to advertise a car company and I was like, ‘But I can’t drive!’” He shakes his head. “Adverts are not something I’m interested in, at all. If you don’t need the money, then don’t lose your integrity like that.” Suddenly wary of sounding haughty, he adds: “I mean, some people have bills to pay. I don’t know everyone’s situation. But, if you’re doing it out of greed, then that’s bollocks.”
You might think, well, easy to have that attitude if you’re a multi-millionaire at 21. But Dan’s lack of interest in financial gain seems to come from a genuine place. He’s unhappy, for instance, about the decision to release the next Harry Potter film in 3D.
“I don’t get 3D,” he shrugs. “I’m probably speaking out of turn here, but I don’t care. I’ve never yet heard a person say, ‘That film was great, but I wish it was in 3D.’ So, yes, I’m slightly annoyed because we don’t need it. Not that I hate all 3D films. Toy Story 3: can we just have a moment for how amazing that was?”
And he’s off on another one of his tangents, this time about the heartbreaking moment when the old toys are discarded. “I was on the point of crying, but I didn’t want to cry in front of my friends. My mum and dad went to see it on my 21st birthday, when I was out of the country. As if they haven’t had enough moments of their boy growing up over the last few years, they went and traumatised themselves by watching that. Mum was in bits.” He pauses, then adds: “Mum says I talk about her too much in interviews, so I’ve got to stop.”
“Anyone who thinks the people who are papped all the time don’t want to be is under a false impression. You have to go to the places where the paps are, and then do something worth photographing” – Daniel Radcliffe
One topic that Dan famously swerves in interviews is girlfriends. He was rumoured to be dating Equus co-star Laura O’Toole. So, while he’s in talkative mode, let’s get the definitive answer. Are you in a relationship?
“I’m not, actually, any more. But I was for years, when I was saying that I wasn’t.”
So should we believe you now, or not?
“Okay, this is the truth,” he takes a deep breath. “I am single for pretty much the first time in my life. I’ve been in relationships from the age of 14. I went out with one girl for six months, then another girl for two and half years. Then I was with a girl for three years, and now I’m single.”
Off to New York as a single man? “What can I say? There will be dancers,” he laughs uproariously. “I said to my friend the other day, ‘Dude, I’m doing a show with dancers. I’ve got to be single.’ He was like, ‘Don’t sleep with anyone in your own show. That’s a mistake.’ It’s good advice, but I’m not sure I’ll stick to it. I have a habit of falling in love with people at work. I fall in love very easily. I can look around a room and fall in love three times. I met my last girlfriend on Equus.”
Was it during your naked scene that she fell for you?
“Ha! Actually, the first time we saw each other naked was on stage. But it was more when we were running through lines together. It was the same with Teresa Palmer in December Boys. Of course, I knew that she didn’t actually fancy me; she has a six-foot Aussie Rules-playing boyfriend. But, as a man, in that moment, when the girl is a good actress, you get fooled.”
“If I’d have stayed in school, posh public school boys would be my only frame of reference for the world. Whereas I’ve been taken out of that and met people from every social background. I’ve become a more rounded person.”
But you’re Harry Potter. Does being so famous make it hard to trust people?“ Not particularly. I adopted the policy that I’d rather be open than close myself off to the world, even if it means getting screwed over. And what you find is that most people are genuinely very nice.”
“I fall in love very easily. I can look around a room and fall in love three times” – Daniel Radcliffe
Having said that, there was an exposé last year with pictures of Dan smoking what looked like a spliff (for the record, it was a rollup cigarette), under the genius headline “Harry Pothead”.
He sighs. “I don’t know what that guy had against me. The thing is, he took the photo and then used his real name in the paper. It’s like, so you want everyone to know you’re a prick? That was weird, but, other than that, it’s been cool.”
Well, you’re not exactly the kind of celebrity that appears in Heat every week.
“No, but that’s a choice that you make,” he says. “Anyone who thinks the people who are papped all the time don’t want to be is under a false impression. You have to go to the places where the paps are, and then do something worth photographing. I’m sure, at some point, I’ll fall out of a club looking bleary-eyed. But in general I don’t do that stuff because it doesn’t interest me and I’d rather fucking sleep, you know, I’m tired. I am actually very boring.” In reality, Daniel Radcliffe is anything but boring. Now, those of us who never had much interest in wizardry should sit up and take notice of one of our most exciting young actors, who at the age of just 21 is on the verge of a spellbinding transformation.
What If is in cinemas now