Exclusive Interview: Daniel Radcliffe
After a decade pretending to be you know who, Daniel
Radcliffe finally has all the freedom in the world and it shows. In 2012, he was a troubled lawyer with a ghost problem in the horror film The Woman in Black, then, as one does, he followed it with a turn as Allen Ginsberg in last year’s Kill Your Darlings. His next productions see him as a horned man with mysterious powers in Horns, and Igor in Frankenstein — which makes his role as a lonely med school dropout in What If, which comes out Friday, the most conventionally unconventional role of his career. It’s Daniel Radcliffe. In a romantic comedy. Of course it somehow works because as he told Milk Made, he takes this acting stuff very seriously.
One of the things that struck me about this film was the chemistry that you had with co-star Zoe Kazan. Did you guys know each other before filming?
No, not at all. We’re quite similar in that we’re both quite bookish and nerdy and probably have the same sense of humor. Also we both have a background in theater. Chemistry comes down to when you’re off set and you’re chatting and getting to know each other and then being curious and interested. When I was doing Kill Your Darlings, all the people in that group had to really form a gang and seem like they were really best mates. So we all made an effort. We all came to set being like, we’re going to hang out and get to know each other and form some of those relationships so that they at least slightly mirror what they are in the film. And I think it’s the same with [What If], not just with myself and Zoe but with me and Adam [Driver], me and Mackenzie [Davis]. Just having that general attitude, I’m going to come to set and be a part of the set rather than I’m going to come to set and isolate myself in my trailer. It creates a different atmosphere. If Zoe or I had been unwilling to enter into it then I’m sure our chemistry would have been awful.
I was actually talking to Mackenzie about it earlier today and she was saying that one of her tricks to developing chemistry is to just get drunk with people.
[Laughs] I don’t do that because it probably wouldn’t have the desired effect.
You’ve been acting for a while now, do you feel like you’ve picked up some tricks of the trade that a lot of younger actors may not have figured out yet?
Me and Mackenzie had a moment when we were walking to the stage together for the first time in one of the scenes and she was like, “That’s cool, I’ve never been on a sound stage before,“ and I was like “What, really?” I forget that not everyone’s been on sound stages since they were eleven. The cameraman on Frankenstein said something to me that made my day ‘cause he said myself and James McAvoy are two of the most technical actors that he’s ever worked with. He said “We can direct you in inches,” because I’m really good at my technical side and finding the light and doing all that sort of stuff. But I think the great thing about acting is as your life changes and as you grow up and live more of your life you just get more and more to draw from and hopefully I should just keep getting better as I get older. That’s the theory.
Are there any young actors out there that you
One of the young actors I have admired most of all is Dane DeHaan from Kill Your Darlings and I was lucky enough to work with him and become friends with him. There are a lot of young actors I really like and many who I haven’t worked with like Eddie Redmayne or Aaron Johnson, Logan Lerman from America. There’s so many fantastic young actors who all to my mind have their heads screwed on. We’ve seen the results of actors who party and don’t really like doing the work very much and they never seem to end up particularly fulfilled or happy by the industry. So I think a lot of people who are younger now that are getting into the industry know that if you like the work and you like being on set then it’s great fun. If you don’t like that and you just do that as an excuse to get on to premieres and red carpets then you’re going to wind up having a terrible time.
If you were to watch a movie, could you tell what someone’s motivation is?
No, you can’t tell from watching films. But you see interviews with people and you kind of get a sense of what people are about and why they’re doing it. They can be completely disingenuous because it’s an interview and you never know until you’re on set with somebody. But I think on the whole there’s a lot of really great actors around. We all seem to want to make — I can speak for myself and Dane at least — interesting movies and we see no reason that just because we do a bigger budget movie it needs to be less interesting and bland.
Was there anything that surprised you working with Zoe or working with James McAvoy in Frankenstein?
I knew enough about Zoe to know that she would come incredibly prepared and be a really hard worker and I knew the same thing about James. The thing everyone said to me about James before I worked with him was, “Oh, I think you’ll like him, you’re quite similar,” so I was very flattered by that. I would put it out there as a warning to other actors who work with James: I’m very lucky because I like the physical side of my job, I like being thrown around, I like being beaten up, I rarely like using pads — and James likes it too. He’s an incredibly physical actor. So I would say to anyone who’s going to work with him, just buy some armor first.
That’s a good warning, did you come away with bruises or anything?
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have some bruises because our first scene is him slamming me into a pillar. I was talking to James about if he enjoyed [working on Frankenstein] or not and he said, “You know, I really have. This is an old fashioned movie and we jump off stuff,“ which is absolutely right. Me and James got to do a load of stunts ourselves for that film and James really badly hurt his elbow at one point. It was a really physical movie, we had a bigger budget than other stuff I’ve worked on recently — but not as big as Harry Potter or X-Men or something like that. We were up against it time-wise all the time. The final stunt sequence to the movie I can’t wait to see because we did pretty much all of that ourselves.
What’s the next project you’re excited to be a part of?
I always prefer to know what I’m doing but at the moment I’m just reading scripts for later in the year. If I’ve learned something in the last couple of years it’s that you have to be very patient when you’re trying to get independent films made because financing comes and goes and you just have to be prepared and ready to go at anytime. I’m also preparing for Tokyo Vice when that does happen, and I really hope it does because I’m learning Japanese.
What If is out in select theaters August 8th and everywhere August 22nd