Premiering his second film at the Sundance Film Festival after 2013’s Kill Your Darlings, Daniel Radcliffe credited his late Harry Potter co-star Alan Rickman for “empowering” him as a young actor carrying one of the biggest franchises of all time on his shoulders.
“A lot of the older actors on those films had known me since I was very young, and so had Alan,” Radcliffe told The Daily Beast before the world premiere of Swiss Army Man as fans, critics, buyers, and even Lena Dunham lined up for one of the festival’s buzziest films.
“On the third film we had a lot of stuff to do together,” continued Radcliffe, who was 11 years old when he won the part of J.K. Rowling’s iconic boy wizard. “And he just treated me like an actor. And the feeling of getting that respect from somebody who’s that much older and better than you really empowers you.”
Radcliffe, now 26, plays the most unusual role of his career to date in Swiss Army Man, the feature debut of the shorts and music video directing duo known as Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert). Paul Dano stars as Kent, a castaway who’s given up all hope of making it off his deserted island when he discovers the washed up body of a man, played by Radcliffe, who happens to be dead and possesses special powers. Naturally, the pair embark on a magical adventure to unite Hank with the woman of his dreams (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Did I mention Swiss Army Man is also a musical?
Before the festival Netflix made pricey SVOD deals for two star-driven indies: the Paul Rudd picture The Fundamentals of Caring and Tallulah, starring Ellen Page. On Friday afternoon, Sundance’s Eccles Theater was packed for the first look at what some expect will be, thanks to its DanRad power and offbeat streak, another of this year’s hottest sales. Outside the ticketless hordes hunted desperately for scalpers, hyped on the quirky plot and star power alone.
Inside the Eccles, Radcliffe gave props to his directors, comparing Swiss Army Man’s zany plot to the hit music video for DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What” that scored the Daniels’ over 369 million views on YouTube and counting.
“They’re the kind of directors that, if you just talk about their ideas, if you say ‘In the Turn Down For What video, everyone’s going to hump stuff and then they’ll go through the floor,’ you’d be like, that sounds weird!” he marveled. “But it’s similar to this story—you think that sounds odd, but it really works in ways that it shouldn’t.”
The elevator pitch is more or less Cast Away meets Weekend at Bernie’s, but Radcliffe and Dano claim they’ve never seen the 1989 beach comedy classic—and never will.
“I’ve never seen Weekend at Bernie’s! I believe that neither of our directors has either,” said Radcliffe. “Everyone started making that joke, so we said, ‘Let’s not watch it, just in case we’re actually making Weekend at Bernie’s again.’”
According to him Swiss Army Man is about “joy—that’s the feeling that you get out of it.”
“It’s about someone who is very alone, who finds connection,” Dano offered.
“And overcoming shame,” Radcliffe added. “You just have to see it. It’s profoundly profound and profoundly stupid at the same time, in a great way.”