Catching Up With... Daniel Radcliffe
Paste caught up with Daniel Radcliffe, the titular star of the Harry Potter franchise, last week in London. The 19-year-old (who turns 20 next week) discusses his poetry, the need to take risks in acting, and just what he’s done with the money he's earned from the highest-grossing movie franchise ever.
Paste: You’ve talked quite a lot recently about being bullied when you were at school, Daniel.
Daniel Radcliffe: Yes, because it is an issue that I feel very strongly about. But with me it wasn’t bullying so much in the ‘beaten up’ sense, as being picked on and a bit of targeted aggression. I never went home with cuts and bruises and scars as some unfortunate kids do. Just a bit humiliated, I suppose. Jostled. And it was all to do with ‘being Harry Potter’, and other contemporaries not being able to cope with that. I suppose that a lot of young actors who get some sort of prominence go through the same thing. I just endured it and got on with it. It helped that I got out of school a lot (which the bullies clearly resented) and I was tutored on film sets for much of the time. So I was given a great deal of freedom—as they saw it - and anyone who didn’t conform to their narrow-mindedness got in their way. All very silly really.
Paste: You scored a huge hit with the stage play Equus, both in the West End and on Broadway.
Radcliffe: You know what? That play gave me the taste for pushing the boundaries and for doing something that bit different. I have discovered that, when you are acting, that the best quality that you can have is fearlessness—that is what you should aim for. You should be willing to try anything. You might fail, but at least you’ve made the attempt. That’s what I aspire to. You learn as much in failure as you do in success—or rather, you should do, if you’ve got any common sense. I remember that Alan [Rickman] came to see Equus on Broadway, and he gave me a lot of guidance which I much appreciated he’s an actor who I admire, and who is always trying something new and daring.
Paste: Any other inspirational actors from your Harry Potter colleagues?
Radcliffe: Michael Gambon, who is the least professional, and most respected, actor I have ever worked with—and I have told him that to his face. Michael just creases me up. He laughs a lot, and he is inspirational. And when you are laughing so much, he’ll suddenly throw a switch and deliver a wonderful performance. His character, Professor Dumbledore, dies in Half-Blood Prince, and I had to do a scene lamenting over his body. I really pulled out all the stops to convey the emotion, and after the fourth take, I looked down and Michael lay there—he’d dozed off, and I had to prod him to wake him up. So much for impressing someone with your skills!
Paste: Harry Potter has a lot of girls really quite agitated, all over the world
Radcliffe: I never ever cease to find that very odd. In Japan, they scream and scream all the time when I make a personal appearance, and I honestly wonder why. I’ve sort of got used to it now when I’m on the red carpet for a premiere or whatever, but I still think inside, “Why me?” I can tell you that the Daniel Radcliffe who does all the press conferences and all the premieres is a very different guy from the one that you’ll find at home in my flat, wearing a t-shirt and underpants, eating popcorn and watching cricket on the tele with the curtains drawn. That is the real me. And it’s not a very appealing image, is it?
Paste: One of your acting colleagues, teenage Robin Knox, was killed in a violent knife attack before the film was released.
Radcliffe: Yeah. I can’t pretend that Rob was a great mate of mine, or that I really knew him that well, but I will say that he was a great big ball of sunshine in every group that he was in. Everyone who knew him, liked him. And then he was knifed in that cowardly attack, and he died. Whenever I was in contact with him, I liked him a lot. His death cast a long shadow. What a waste, a stupid, tragic waste.
Paste: Of the Harry Potter’s that you’ve done so far, your favorite is ?
Radcliffe: The fifth one—for two reasons. The first is that Gary Oldman was in it, and I love that man’s work, and the second was that there was no bloody Quidditch in it. That is really torture, having to do the Quidditch games. It’s more than several steps up from discomfort—it’s pain! Gary, thank God, has become a good mate, and something of a mentor. He’s a guy with a supremely sane head on his shoulders.
Paste: Who else do you admire?
Radcliffe: Kenneth Branagh, he’s a great bloke. He first suggested doing Equus.
Paste: If you had to be somewhere else today, you would be where?
Radcliffe: At a really good cricket match. Tom Felton, who plays Malfoy, my sworn enemy in the movies, and I are really the best of mates, and I’d love to be somewhere with him watching a first rate game. Only trouble is that we are recognized everywhere Tom has had his hair bleach-blonde for the last few years for his character, and it really makes him stand out. At least I can take off Harry’s glasses when I walk off the set!
Paste: How were, or are, you academically?
Radcliffe: OK. I got some reasonable GCSE’s—seven B’s, a couple of A’s and an A*, which is alright. But I’m not going to university, that’s not the way I want to go. I want to chase the acting roles.
Paste: What’s next?
Radcliffe: There are a few projects on the boil, but the one that I am really interested in is based on the real-life story of a photo-journalist, Dan Eldon, who was only 22 when he was killed by an angry mob in Somalia. A really heroic guy. We are waiting for the green light for that one, and it all depends on the funding we want.
Paste: You are also something of a poet.
Radcliffe: I write verse, yes. Not sure if it is any good. It’s appeared in some magazines, one of which is called Rubbish: It’s What Everyone's Talking. I don’t write under my own name, that would be a bit scary. I have had a private book published, and I gave Michal [Gambon] a copy, and he was very kind about it. It’s just another form of personal expression, isn’t it? An extra line of creativity. I don’t think that I could ever, in a million years, write a novel or a play, but a poem or a short story, they are (I hope) within my bounds. It’s nice to write your own words, rather than saying someone else’s, right?
Paste: Where do you live now?
Radcliffe: In a flat in Fulham [a district in London], near my parent’s house. I keep it reasonably tidy, and I’ve been there for, oh, nearly two years now. I still take the washing around to mum occasionally though!
Paste: Come on, honesty time .what have you done with the earnings from the Potter films, since you don’t own a car and can’t drive?
Radcliffe: Sensible investments (I hope), the flat, and a very interesting painting by Jim Hodges, a very exciting New York Artist, that I love. There’s a little bit of calligraphy in the middle of it which spells out ‘Oh for crying out loud!’, which is something that my mum says a lot. That’s its appeal. The connection.
Paste: If you weren’t acting, you would be ?
Radcliffe: Reading. Anything. I love books.