Daniel Radcliffe Talks Sprouting 'Horns', Trying New Genres and Playing Past 'Harry Potter'

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Juno Temple, Daniel Radcliffe and Heather Graham

"Film producers love movies about the devil because he's a character they can all relate to"

Daniel Radcliffe aims to be simultaneously heartbroken, hilarious and horrifying in Horns because the Alexandre Aja film is arguably quite the hybrid genre: a "tragi-come-horror-dy," according to author Joe Hill.

"The challenge with this film was that it's an insane situation all the characters find themselves in," Radcliffe told The Hollywood Reporter at its New York City premiere on Monday night of playing Ig Perrish, who is accused of murdering his girlfriend (Juno Temple) and soon sprouts horns on his forehead and harnesses a new ability to evoke the unspeakable truths out of those he encounters — a power he tries to use to solve the crime. "To keep that grounded, and the characters recognizably human and honest while doing justice to the obviously insane situation, is the line you have to walk, between drama and melodrama. It's a crazy movie, so it's a fine line!"

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The Dimension and Radius-TWC film, produced by Red Granite Pictures and Mandalay Pictures, sees a devilish Radcliffe later playing with pitchforks and entertaining snakes, and first premiered at Toronto Film Festival last year, alongside romantic comedy What If (then called The F Word)and the beatnik tale Kill Your Darlings. "It was fantastic! I never could've imagined it — three or four years removed from Potter, that I would be getting to show that amount of range, all in one week? Which was awesome," reflected Radcliffe, who also expressed his excitement over London's Harry Potter-themed hotel rooms and spent most of his red carpet interviews defending Emma Watson's feminism efforts. "Not every Toronto Film Festival is going to be like that for me, but I hope I get to continue to show that amount of range."

"He is making the most incredible and brave choices with the films he's doing right now," Temple (in Balmain) said of Radcliffe, recalling how they'd often chat between shots and that he'd tell a new joke each time before a particular cut-in where she needed to be laughing. "I had a ball with him! He's so knowledgeable about so many things, like an encyclopedia of life."

Heather Graham echoed of Radcliffe, "One night, the director said, 'I don't want you to hurt your voice,' and he said, 'I could do this forever.' He loves what he's doing — he's so talented and hardworking." But which fanbase is crazier: Harry Potter or Flowers in the Attic? Her verdict: "That's funny! There are more kids for Harry Potter, but there are a lot of crazy fans for Flowers in the Attic — people really love that book!"

The Landmark Sunshine Cinemas screening was introduced by producers Cathy Schulman, Joey McFarland and Riza Aziz, and an always-lively Hill. "Film producers love movies about the devil because he's a character they can all relate to. … "I hope we all raise a little hell tonight!" he joked to the audience, filled with crew members whom Radcliffe greeted with hugs. RADiUS co-presidents Jason Janego and Tom Quinn,Dane DeHaan, Rufus Wainwright,Nas, Olivier Theyskens, Nicole Miller, Michael Angarano and Radcliffe's Kill Your Darlings actress Erin Darke also hit the premiere, which was followed by a rooftop bash at SoHo hotspot Jimmy at The James Hotel.

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On the red carpet, author Hill expanded on the hybrid genre title, juxtaposing his "paranoid, unhappy novel" to slasher films where "one-dimensional characters are bowling pins knocked down by Freddy Krueger, and the character who has the most layers to him always turns out to be the serial killer — I hate that. Horror is about empathy: finding characters that you love — which for me, is discovering their sense of humor, being able to laugh with them and at them — and then seeing them suffer the worst." Screenwriter Keith Bunin echoed that "most American movies try to unify the tone," which is exactly what this film aims not to do.

Hill compared the significance of the sprouting horns to the transformation in Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, in which Gregor Samsa wakes up one day as a bug "because he always was one," said Hill, "and in Horns, Ig Parrish is already in hell — his girlfriend is gone, in his small town he's been demonized before he even becomes a demon. I think if you're going to be in hell, the only way to survive is to be one of the devils. That isn't very satisfying to some people who want fantasy with explanations, but this is a more magic-realist thing. … Although I do think it's hopeful that you can see the worst in people and love them anyway."

Mandalay Pictures producer Schulman, who first read Hill's title as a galley, recalled to THR how Radcliffe upheld an American accent throughout their first meeting, during which he said he wanted to take on a post-breakup role because of his own recent split (Radcliffe laughed off this notion). Still, "in the Harry Potter role, oftentimes he was the scared child who had to overcome obstacles and bring people together," said Schulman. "This time, he had this absolutely mastery of people around him."

See more Juno Temple on 'Horns' Co-Star Daniel Radcliffe: 'He's Such a Giving Actor…It's Insane'

Of the fact that Horns is this season's third disappearing-female film, after David Fincher's Gone Girl and Gregg Araki'sWhite Bird in a Blizzard, Schulman — who is also producing Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn's Dark Places — laughed, "It's like in the water or something!" But she notes that audiences will see in Horns, over the other two titles, that "a romance can survive all odds, including death itself."

Horns hits theaters and video on demand Friday.

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee