Daniel Radcliffe on Sex, ‘Harry Potter,’ and Complicated Relationships
The 24-year-old star of stage and screen sat down to talk about his new romantic comedy, What If, why he’s done playing the boy wizard, and much more.
This is not a cautionary tale. While the specter of Harry Potter, the film franchise that grossed over $7.7 billion worldwide and monopolized his life for 12 years, still looms large, Daniel Radcliffe has done his damnedest to carve out a very respectable career for himself post-Hogwarts. The roguish grin that so endeared him to a generation of moviegoers is still there, only now, it’s covered by a bit of stubble. Yes, the “boy who lived” is now, at 24, very much a man.
In addition to his dazzling turns on Broadway in the musical How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and in the dark comedy The Cripple of Inishmaan, as well the UK miniseries A Young Doctor’s Notebook, opposite Jon Hamm, the diminutive, chipper Brit showcased three wildly diverse performances at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. The opening salvo was his turn as a young Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings, which saw the ex-child actor visit heretofore unforeseen emotional depths as a bright-eyed young man who’s had his heart ripped out.
Directed by Michael Dowse, What If, in select theaters Aug. 8, sees Radcliffe tackle his most “adult” role to date: romcom lead. He plays Wallace, a twentysomething medical school dropout who falls for Chantry (Zoe Kazan), a capricious animator/artist. There’s just one problem: She has a boyfriend. As Wallace spends more and more time with his new pal his feelings grow even stronger, and the young man struggles valiantly to navigate his way out of the “friend zone.”
Your co-star and pal in the film is Adam Driver. Are you a Girls fan?
You know, I’m not because I’m real bad at watching TV. Particularly with Breaking Bad, I have to leave the room when people start talking about it because I haven’t watched any of it but I intend to watch it all someday, along with Girls and Mad Men—I’ve only seen a few seasons, so I’m nowhere near caught up. It’s terrible. I’m so behind and don’t have a stake in any of these conversations!
How did you and Adam get on? You two do a convincing job of playing best friends.
Well, I was always of the opinion that these two guys became best friends for no other reason than that they were forced to share a room together for a while. They’re such opposites that in any other realm they’d be like, “I fucking hate this guy,” but because they were slammed together, they got on. Because of his character on Girls, people think Adam’s going to be quite loud and brash and obnoxious, but he’s such a quiet, humble, sweet guy—and a brilliant improviser. His improvisations would do a great job of walking that line between offensive and really, really funny. A lot of actors are similar and like talking about “acting” a lot, which can be torture. There’s a lot of what I call “actor wank.”
This movie deals with your character pining after someone else’s girlfriend. What are your thoughts on that—off limits?
It does appear in films, but the cliché of it is that the boyfriend she’s with in romantic comedies is a dick, you can’t understand why she’s with him, and you think, “Oh, just be with the good guy.” But in this, he’s handsome, successful, and treats her well, so it makes it a tough choice. Falling in love with the right person at the wrong time does happen a lot, and there are situations in everyone’s life where, were it not for the presence of another man, they’d be asking the girl out. It’s a hard line to navigate—especially if you become really good friends with the girl, because then you think, “Will I jeopardize my friendship if I risk it?” But I’m of the opinion that if you really fancy someone and feel like you’re falling in love with them, you’re going to have to face that eventually and deal with those emotions. The main difference between me and Wallace is I wouldn’t have been able to live in that limbo world for so long; I would’ve come out with it.
Right. People who are attracted to each other can be good friends, but you have to confront that mutual attraction head-on and move past it in order for it to really work.
Right. Then it can either dissipate and you become friends again, or you become more than friends. But eventually, you need to have that conversation, otherwise it will boil over.
There’s a scene where Adam’s character is gorging on nachos, since it’s his post-sex food. Do you have any post-coital rituals?
I don’t think sex makes me hungry! Maybe I’m not doing it right. [Laughs] I’m much more of the old cliché of a cigarette as opposed to a meal. I definitely like a cigarette. But I can’t think of what my post-sex snack would be!
Cigarettes are appetite suppressants, so maybe that’s why you’re not so hungry.
Maybe that’s why I’m not eating after sex, because I’m smoking! Maybe they’re mutually exclusive. I’ve discovered something about myself here. [Laughs]
There were all these rumors that you shot some new Harry Potter footage with Emma Watson and Rupert Grint for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.
I honestly know nothing about that. I think they may very well be using existing footage that we’ve already filmed, but I’ve heard no calls or involvement.
Are you going to pop up in J.K. Rowling’s Potter spin-off movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?
Nope. I’m not involved. A while ago they’d asked me to come back and do more stuff for the theme park and at that point I felt like that was the moment to try and draw a line under it because that theme park is going to keep expanding, keep going to more countries, and there is going to come a point where I’m 30 years old and if I would still be doing that then, there would be something wrong, in my opinion.
“Hey, Dan, we’re bringing the theme park to Dubai in 2020!”
You know? That’s bound to happen, isn’t it? Not that they need it, and I wish them all the luck in the world. I genuinely think that what they did with the theme park in Florida is fantastic. They’ve really made it a fun place. I’m very happy for them, and I’m very happy for all the fans because there is still such a hunger for it, so I’m happy there are things to say to that, but yeah, it doesn’t involve me.
Does the Potter gang get together often?
The last person I saw from Potter was Rupert that I saw earlier this year at a theater awards thing in London, and he was really brilliant in a play called Mojo—a dark play about gangsters in the ’50s. That’s all my contact. I haven’t spoken to Emma in a long, long while. But we’re busy, and I think it’s been very exciting to go and work with different people. I can only speak for myself, but it was something I was worried about because I’d only been on that set, so you think, “How will I cope on another set?” So it was quite nice to come over here and do Kill Your Darlings with nobody that I knew and start again and find out how I am on a set without the total familiarity of the Potter set.
You and Dane DeHaan were great in Kill Your Darlings.
Oh, thank you. I just want to see if Dane DeHaan’s career continues to follow the James Franco pattern of just playing lots of parts James Franco’s played. I’ve played Allen Ginsberg, which Franco played, and Dane’s now played James Dean and Harry Osborne. Between us, we’ve got Franco’s career covered. We just need to remake Pineapple Express now. Or Spring Breakers. I’ll get some corn rows. It’ll be totally me.
There were rumors a few months back that you were engaged.
Absolute bollocks. It was Star, was it? It is very funny. I got a text from my English teacher being like, “Is this true? Congratulations!” And I had to say, “No, it’s not true! We’re very happy but we’re not getting married!” Marriage is not a thought that is even remotely close to me at the moment.
You’re attached to reunite with your Kill Your Darlings director Jon Krokidas and co-star Dane DeHaan in College Republicans, with you playing a young Lee Atwater and DeHaan playing a young Karl Rove. Is that happening?
I don’t know at the moment! It’s looking really good, and it’s a fantastic script. That’s the plan—Dane as Karl and me as Lee—but trying to get the three of us in the same place at one time is tricky. It would make a really good movie because I don’t think people know that story at all. Like Kill Your Darlings, it’s a story about the genesis of a very important American cultural phenomenon that nobody really knows about. It’s fascinating how much of the neo-conservative ideal was born in a Ford Pinto driving around the South between Lee and Karl. It’s a serious true story, but it’s witty.
Do you follow American politics at all?
Oh, I do. I find it much more interesting than English politics. There’s a sense in British politics, certainly at the moment, that it doesn’t really matter who’s in power—there’s not going to be a huge change either way. And very few of David Cameron’s announcements are featured on CNN, while all of Barack Obama’s announcements are featured on the BBC. Plus, in American politics, the split between the parties is so wide, so as an outside observer, it’s very interesting.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, probably makes it on American news more than Cameron—but only if he gets stuck on a zip line or does something silly.
Well, Boris is more interesting. That’s the thing about Boris—he acts stupid, but he’s not at all. He’s a blatherer and can come off as oafish, but he’s a super smart guy. He wouldn’t be the person I vote for, so I’m slightly concerned that he may end up running the country at some stage. I think he’s really the politician with the biggest weight of public support behind him in the UK.
I’m excited for this Frankenstein film coming out next year with you as Igor and James McAvoy as Frankenstein. When I think of Frankenstein, I have these visions of Robert De Niro in awful makeup.
That’s the vision I had of it when I was approached to do it as well, because I hadn’t read the book. I have a hump, but only for the first part of the movie. The take on it is that it’s the Frankenstein story told through the point of view of Igor. Igor is found by Victor at the beginning of the movie working in abject, abusive conditions in a circus, so Victor decides to steal him away from that because he seems potential in him to be a great surgeon and collaborator. From my character’s point of view, it’s about going from having no voice and being treated as subhuman, to having a purpose in life, and being stuck in the middle of a moral dilemma that only he could solve. It’s sort of a 1850s The Social Network because it’s about these two guys who are at the tip of the spear of technology, but when Victor’s ego starts to spin out of control, it becomes Igor’s job to rescue him from himself—just like Victor saved Igor. But there are plenty of archetypal Frankenstein moments. It’s alive! is in there, and there’s a lot of flipping of switches!
A small portion of this inteview appeared in an earlier post.