'Woman in Black's' Daniel Radcliffe Reflects on Co-Stars, Directors and the Bizarre Place He Became Harry Potter (Exclusive Video)
As part of BAFTA-New York's tribute to the 22-year-old British star, Radcliffe and THR's Scott Feinberg had an hour-long conversation about his life and career.
Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to conduct an hour-long interview with Daniel Radcliffe, the 22-year-old British actor who starred as the title character in the Harry Potter film franchise that encompassed eight films over 11 years (2001-2011), grossed over $7.7 billion at box-offices around the world for Warner Bros., and single-handedly revived the faltering British film industry.
Our conversation was part of a tribute to Radcliffe from the New York branch of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), which wished to commemorate the end of his Potter era (which came to a close with the July 15 release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2, the series' most critically acclaimed and commercially successful installment, and an Oscar nominee for best art direction, best makeup, and best visual effects) and the beginning of his next film chapter (which kicks off today with the release of The Woman in Black, his first post-Potter film, in theaters across America).
When this conversation took place, Radcliffe was starring in a hit Broadway revival of the Pulitzer Prize winning play How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, singing and dancing through eight performances a week. (It was, in fact, his second stint on the Great White Way -- in 2007, at just 17, he starred in a revival of Equus, and famously appeared nude on-stage.)
As you hear for yourself by checking out the video at the top of this post, Radcliffe and I covered a wide-range of topics:
- his pre-stardom days ("I had a very, very happy childhood. I wasn't particularly good at school... I was very, very talkative... nobody wanted me on their sports team... I was never in a school play... I think I turned around to my mum when I was five and said, 'I want to be an actor,' but I was five -- my opinion on what I wanted to be changed hourly. So it was never something I was driven towards.");
- his first steps into acting and his professional debut in Simon Curtis' 1999 BBC telefilm David Copperfield ("A friend of my mum and dad's called Sue suggested to them, 'Why doesn't he audition for David Copperfield?' ...With no thought of me getting it... And then I got it... On that film we had [Dame] Maggie Smith, Ian McNeice, Bob Hoskins, Paul Whitehouse, Imedla Staunton -- an amazing cast. And I remember [Simon] said to me, 'You won't work with a better cast than this!' And, in any other case, he would have been right.");
- his familiarity with the Potter books prior to the Potter films ("My dad read the first two to me... I wasn't, kind of, swept up in it the way everyone else was.");
- how he was "discovered" in 2000 for the Potter films ("I don't believe in fate, but, very fortunately, my parents do.");
- how he learned he'd gotten the part ("I was in the bath.");
- his "blessing" from Potter author J.K. Rowling ("It's her character and I have always felt a duty to her.");
- his reaction to seeing the first Potter film for the first time ("The first and the last ones were the only times I've cried.");
- his reaction to others' reactions to the Potter films ("It's always very hard for me to talk about my experience of the Harry Potter phenomenon because I really don't have one.");
- when he first realized he was famous (the first premiere -- "It is a wall of noise, and it's something you've never get used to -- it's still very intimidating.");
- on not missing a "normal" childhood ("I ws still with young people a lot of the time -- people of my own age -- so I didn't feel cut off from it in any way. I don't feel like I missed out on too much... I feel incredibly lucky. I maintain that there is no more fun place for a twelve-year-old to be than a film set. It is the world’s biggest toybox.”);
- how he handled his stardom and fame ("Obviously, I [was] a teenager, so there's a ton of stuff I regret, but I've benefited from all of that.");
- meeting and working with co-stars Emma Watson and Rupert Grint ("We auditioned together once... what I remember more clearly than that is our first photoshoot together.");
- what it's like for him to watch the Potter films now ("I don't even see the films... I don't even see the scene. I see what was happening that day, or what was going on... it's just a huge collection of amazing memories, really.");
- on his different experiences with each of the four directors who worked on the series, Chris Columbus (installments 1 and 2); Alfonso Cuaron (installment 3); Mike Newell (installment 4); and David Yates (installments 5, 6, 7, and 8) ("[Columbus] got three 11-year-old kids enthusiastic, and happy, and excited to be at work every day for two years... [Cuaron] showed us that we could be actors, as well... [Newell was] the perfect man to direct that film... [Yates'] contribution cannot be understated... an amazing storyteller.");
- the roster of amazing actors who appeared in a supporting part in at least one Potter film, including David Bradley, Kenneth Branagh, Jim Broadbent, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, the late Richard Harris, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Dame Maggie Smith, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Emma Thompson, and Julie Walters ("Even the smallest parts are generally filled by the most incredible actors.");
- the unusual phenomenon of having an actor grow up over a number of years in the same character (the only similar cases being Mickey Rooney in M-G-M's Andy Hardy films and Jean-Pierre Léaud in François Truffaut's Antoine Doinel films);
- his favorite sequence in a Potter film ("My favorite sequence, I think, in all of the films is when Hogwarts starts coming to life in the last movie. I find that incredibly moving and really stirring.");
- on how he felt when the Potter series was coming to a close (“Ten years was enough. By the time we got to the end of that process, I was ready to move on and do other things.”);
- on how he felt when he saw the last film (“I was so nervous going to see it… I haven’t been pleased with all of them—I mean, I have been very openly critical of my performance in my sixth film; I hated it. I’m a very harsh critic of these films. But I was so pleased with how the last one came out.”);
- on what goes through his mind when he reflects on the Potter years (“It was an amazing time in my life… I loved every second and all of the people I got to work with. It’s mindboggling how lucky I have been.”);
- on starring in Equus at just 17 ("Looking back, I think how did I do Equus? How, at 17, did I have the confidence to do that? And, the truth is, I really didn't at that time... I still think that the most fulfilled I've ever felt as an actor was when I did Equus on Broadway... it was an amazing experience.");
- on starring in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying over the past year ("I love a challenge. I love having that thing of not wanting to miss a show. That's my big thing... I am desperate to maintain it.").
- on The Woman in Black, a novel turned play that marks his first post-Potter film ("I read the script for this four hours after I did my last shot on Potter! ...I was on a plane to come to L.A. to do my first round of meetings, which I'd never done before -- ever. It always surprises people: I've spent a combined 10 days in Los Angeles in my entire life. So I met the director shortly after that, and we were on the same page, and wanted to make not just a horror movie that would make people jump, but also something that was a comment on grief. You know, a character-driven horror film, which I don't think there are too many of anymore, in the mold of something like The Others or The Orphanage. And it was a pleasure to shoot. And it was so exciting to be doing something different.")
I hope that you will enjoy watching the conversation. I know that I enjoyed being a part of it.