Daniel Radcliffe

“I just do things that excite me”

Words: Richard Jordan
Photo: Getty Images 

Back in cinemas in a reworking of Frankenstein, Daniel Radcliffe talks about the thrill of a challenge and following his own path

After 10 years and eight movies as the young hero of the multi-billion dollar grossing Harry Potter franchise, Daniel Radcliffe said goodbye to wizardry in 2011. But rather than veering off the rails like so many child stars before him, or being typecast as the plucky young hero, Radcliffe has worked hard to prove himself a capable and versatile actor. Since Potter, he’s defied expectations by taking smart, daring parts in films such as ghoulish chiller The Woman In Black, beat-poet drama Kill Your Darlings and twisted horror Horns. His latest role – as Igor, the troubled assistant of James McAvoy’s mad scientist, in Victor Frankenstein – marks a return to big-studio cinema. But, true to form, this is no ordinary adaptation… 

THE RED BULLETIN: Igor is a character who doesn’t exist in Mary Shelley’s novel. Did that give you more room to play around with the story?

DANIEL RADCLIFFE: Having that character gives you licence to do more with the story. The script had the most entertaining front page ever. It read ‘Frankenstein by Max Landis, based on (the American pop-culture zeitgeist interpretation of) Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’. Max had fun seeing how many different incarnations he could slam together in one universe, but the original theme of the book – our discomfort with science and technology – is still very much present. I got into trouble for saying in an early interview that if you like the book, you’ll hate the film. That obviously isn’t necessarily true, but I do think it’s best to prep anyone expecting a very faithful adaptation of Frankenstein. 

This is your first big-studio film since Potter. Was choosing the right vehicle important to you?

Not really. I wasn’t ever sitting around thinking, ‘OK, I want to break back into studio films – which one shall I go for?’ It was more like, ‘This could be a lot of fun to do as well as watch.’ I have no control over what happens next, so I’ve learned to just enjoy the experience at the time.

Victor Frankenstein is action-packed. Was it fun doing large-scale stunts again?

Yeah. I’d worked with the stunt co-ordinator, James Embree, on Potter, so he knew I was up for doing stuff. It’s all about developing a relationship with the stunt co-ordinator and convincing them that a) you’re true to your word, and b) you won’t do something stupid like break a leg. Once you’ve shown a degree of physical competence, people are less nervous about letting you get up on the wires or perform falls. I really enjoy all that stuff because I did so much of it growing up. I’m just very good at falling – I don’t know how to explain it!

“Being in harry potter and having a sense of that level 
of success and how rare it is… it takes the pressure off.”

You’ve had some interesting roles in indie films over the past few years. Was this a strategy to avoid typecasting? 

I just do things that excite me. You can never guarantee the success of a film – some of the best that get released each year, no one watches. It’s a crapshoot. So much is dependent on factors other than the film that making plans is a waste of energy. All you can do is choose what you think will make you happy and be fun to make. Being in Harry Potter and having a sense of that level of success and how rare it is… in a way, it takes the pressure off. You think, ‘Well, it’s pointless trying to recreate that – either it will happen or it won’t.’ The Woman In Black was very successful, but no one had predicted that. I believe you have to follow your gut.

Is it important for you to take on new challenges, too?

Definitely. There are so many kinds of characters I haven’t played yet. I think I maybe get an unfair amount of credit for taking diverse parts. Most actors want a wide range of roles under their belt, but because I played one character for so long, people seem more surprised. I do have moments when I’ll be like, ‘Man, can I not just pick something easier, where I don’t have to learn how to play guitar or speak Arabic?’ But I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

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