By Claire; Edited by Coralie, Mary and Jenna
In The Beginning…
Daniel Jacob Radcliffe was born on 23rd July 1989 in the London suburb of Fulham. From the tender age of five, Dan expressed an interest in acting, although his early experience was limited to playing a monkey in a school production. (Today, Dan’s perspective on his first role today is “I hope no one ever finds any pictures of that!”). He became officially involved in the acting profession “by accident”.
He had missed out on auditioning for a part in a television production of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist – his parents didn’t think it would be a very good idea – but he was destined to make his small screen debut as another of Dickens’ famous titular characters: David Copperfield, starring alongside Maggie Smith and Bob Hoskins.
“A friend suggested that I audition, as a bit of fun, for the role of David Copperfield. I never expected to actually get the part as I knew there would be hundreds of boys trying for it, so when I did, it came as a huge surprise.”
The annual Christmas BBC period drama is very popular in the UK and this 1999 adaptation of the classic novel was particularly well received. Copperfield producer Kate Harwood had these comments after working with Dan:
“He has a particular quality of naturalness and innocence. One normally dreads working with child actors, but in his case he was wonderful. He has a great deal of charm and simplicity.”
Dan followed up his appearance in “David Copperfield” by taking a small part, to gain some experience, in the film “The Tailor of Panama” released in March 2001. He played Mark Pendel, the son of Harry and Louisa Pendel, who were played by Geoffrey Rush and Jamie Lee Curtis. While the filming was taking place, a major talent search was underway in the UK to find someone to portray a certain popular literary character and Curtis was struck by a particular insight:
“One day I was looking at Daniel, who was standing beside the swimming pool. I turned to his mother and said: ‘He could be Harry Potter.’ “
The Role Of A Lifetime
It was Dan’s “charm and simplicity” that caught the eye of Chris Columbus and David Heyman whilst on the search for a young British actor to bring to life the lead character of what is arguably the modern literary world’s most successful phenomenon: Harry Potter. This was going to be no mean feat for whoever won the role and superb casting of the part was, of course, vital to the film. Director Columbus had seen a tape of “David Copperfield” and had badgered his casting director into calling its young star in for an audition.
However, Dan’s understandably protective parents were reluctant to subject their son to any gruelling audition process only to have his hopes dashed and so the life-altering role was at first turned down. But serendipity smiled down on Dan one evening in a theatre: producer David Heyman and screenwriter Steve Kloves spotted him with his parents in the audience while watching the play ‘Stones in his Pockets’. Heyman knew Dan’s father through business connections and introduced himself to Dan during the interval. He then spent the second half of the play totally distracted by his potential Harry.
The next morning, Heyman called Dan’s parents to try to persuade them to change their minds about letting him audition and… discovered that they had already had the same idea! They agreed to an informal meeting between Dan and David Heyman and, once they were confident that he would be protected as much as possible from the media glare if offered the role, agreed that Dan should go for an audition. Then one night while taking a bath, Dan heard his father answer the phone:
“My dad came in and told me I’d got the part of Harry Potter. I cried, I was so happy. I woke up in the middle of the night, around half two, and I woke up my dad too, just to check with him that it wasn’t all a dream. That I really was going to be Harry Potter.”
The casting of Dan, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in the lead roles of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger was subsequently announced in August 2000. Importantly, Potter author Joanne (JK) Rowling gave Dan her seal of approval – when she saw Dan’s screen test, she claimed that she felt that “it was like being reunited with [her] long-lost son”:
“Having seen Dan Radcliffe’s screen test I don’t think Chris Columbus could have found a better Harry… I think Dan nailed it, and I am really pleased.”
Production of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone” began in September 2000 and the worldwide interest in the film was unprecedented. It was released on 16th November 2001 and was praised widely for its faithful adaptation of Rowling’s book, going on to become the second-highest grossing film of all time, behind “Titanic”. Also praised widely was its young star (“… a wonderful Harry… young Radcliffe is perfect as Harry… seems to have been born to play the part…”) who found himself on the cover of practically every entertainment magazine of the moment. Numerous TV appearances in the UK and US followed and curious audiences began to discover the boy behind the lightning-bolt scar. Fan sites began to spring up across the Internet. A star was born.
Into The Chamber
Filming of the sequel, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, began a mere three days after the first film was released. Frequently described as “a lot darker, a lot scarier… and a lot funnier” than the first film, “Chamber of Secrets” was more of a straightforward action movie and received generally positive reviews when it was released on 15th November 2002. History repeated itself as the film smashed transatlantic box office records and it is currently the ninth-highest grossing film of all time.
Those who worked with Dan on the film have lavished praise on him. Kenneth Branagh has spoken of his joy in working with such a well-balanced young cast. The special effects team were amazed by Dan’s ability to act convincingly opposite a ball on a stick in the scenes involving Dobby the House Elf, before the CGI creature was added. Chris Columbus, speaking after the release of “Chamber of Secrets”, was more precise:
“What used to take eight or nine takes, now we do it in two or three. Particularly Dan. He has almost become a mini action hero. He is really strong and I like that strength about him because Harry Potter needs to develop that strength… He is incredibly focused. I’ve seen actors twice his age who couldn’t give as convincing a performance.”
After the promotional whirl of the UK and US, Dan took a little time out from promoting the film to make his West End stage debut in November 2002 in “The Play What I Wrote”, directed by Kenneth Branagh. The play, which is a tribute to former top British comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, has a different surprise guest every night and makes them perform a humorous sketch. Says Dan of his experiences:
“It was great fun. I had never been on stage before so it was a little scary at first but it certainly gave me the desire to do more on stage.”
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The majority of 2003 was taken up with the filming of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. In preparation, new director Alfonso Cuaron (who has a “much more laid back, emotional, intense way of directing”) had Dan, Rupert and Emma write essays on their characters, which Dan found useful. An excellent interview by TLC editor Melissa Anelli quotes Dan as listening to music to prepare for particular scenes, and having lengthy conversations with his father regarding his life experiences in order to portray the passionate emotions that Harry displays in the book.
“There’s a lot of teenage angst in this one, probably more than the book. It’s much more of an internal journey for the children, especially for Harry. And he’s much more comfortable with confrontation, especially with Snape. He’s a lot angrier. If you had all this stuff happening to you in real life, you’d be pretty angry too.”
The third film was a special experience for Dan since one of his idols, Gary Oldman, was tapped to play the role of Sirius Black, the Prisoner of Azkaban. As always, Dan and his costars received praise from the director and producers for their work. Director Alfonso Cuaron observed that he was most fortunate to come into the series with the three young stars established in their roles: “It was so clear how suited these kids are to play their characters.” Chris Columbus added that “it’s a sense of real pride to see that these kids have become such accomplished professional actors. It’s like seeing your own children up on screen.”
“Prisoner of Azkaban” was released on 4th June 2004 winning praise from critics as the best Potter film yet. Even though it was a darker gloomier film under Cuaron’s direction, the third movie continued the winning Potter tradition by grossing nearly $800 million worldwide, placing it currently at sixteenth in worldwide box-office receipts.
The Triwizard Tournament
“Dark and difficult times lie ahead, Harry. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right… and what is easy.” (Albus Dumbledore).
Even before the release of Prisoner of Azkaban, production had begun in the spring of 2004 on the next film, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” Directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mona Lisa Smile), this film promised to be the most exciting installment yet. Since ‘Goblet’ was a highly action packed thriller that centers on an elaborate contest know as the Tri-Wizard Tournament, the physical requirements were much tougher this time around. For a scene taking place during the second task of the Tournament, Dan actually had to learn to scuba-dive and then act underwater. During the battle with the dragon, Dan’s stunts included a 50 foot drop off a rocky embankment.
And to insure that ‘Goblet’ is the ultimate action thriller, Harry has to bleed! Dan admits that “there is even blood flowing!” But he reassures his fans with a well placed quip and a grin:
“Of course it´s not my own, but film blood! However, I did cut my fingers on a page of the script. That hurt like hell!”
Aside from the action, there are also fresh acting opportunities for Dan as he endures a long feud with his best friend, seeks a date for the Yule Ball, learns to dance and faces his resurrected nemesis. On the awkwardness of a boy’s first crush, he jokes that “when I was 14, you know, I was slightly better than Harry but not much… when I was with a girl, I had to say really clever things and the more you try to be clever, the more chance you have of looking stupid!”
About a climactic scene in which Harry hands over the body of a fellow contestant to the boy’s father after battling his mortal foe, Lord Voldemort, Dan says:
“I had to tap into emotions that I personally never felt, that most people have never felt. Because they were challenging, it does make them fun.”
The fourth movie in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, released on 18 November 2005 was another rousing success with the young stars holding their own in scenes with some of the UK’s leading actors including Ralph Fiennes and Brendon Gleeson. The movie outperformed the 2nd and 3rd films in the series to bring in nearly $900 million at the box office placing it at number seven on the all time box office total worldwide.
Potter fans worldwide have long anticipated Harry’s first onscreen kiss in the fifth installment of the series, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” directed by David Yates, scheduled for release in June of 2007. Dan surprised and delighted fans by accepting a part between Potter films in the screen adaptation of the Michael Noonan novel, December Boys, directed by Ron Hardy (The Sullivans).
Dan plays the role of one of four orphaned boys in 1960’s Australia, competing for the attention of a possible adoptive family. Interest in the novel and in the film have exploded since Dan signed on for the role, his first outside the Harry Potter franchise since 2001. Fan excitement has peaked ever more by the news that Dan will have his first onscreen kiss in this movie with actress Teresa Palmer. His perspective on that special moment is simply this…
“My first kiss in the movie was fantastic. But in real life, I’m not very good with women, like Harry Potter, but you know, any boy who says he’s never felt awkward around a girl is lying.”
In an official press release for the film, Richard Becker, of Becker Entertainment, had this to say about Dan:
“Daniel is an actor with talent and intelligence beyond his years. He can step into any role and deliver a brilliant performance. December Boys is a compelling and charming story reminiscent of Stand By Me. It appears audiences continue to seek films with heart and meaning and I believe that December Boys has that special quality. We are thrilled that Daniel has chosen it as his next starring vehicle.”
The movie was filmed in Australia from November 2005 to January 2006 to avoid conflict with the production of “Order of the Phoenix” which began shortly thereafter. “December Boys” is scheduled for release in December 2006 in the United States, Australia and the UK.
Daniel took on a role in the controversial play “Equus” at the Gielgud Theatre in London early 2007. He portrayed 17 year-old Alan Strang, who is sent to a hospital to undergo psychological treatment after blinding six horses. There he teaches his doctor (Richard Griffiths) the true meaning of passion and belief. The audience lives within Strang’s unique psychosis and in turn finds a passion and spiritual awakening of its own through his madness.
Daniel really set the tone of the production with an amazing performance, proving once and for all he is more than just “Harry Potter”. Throughout the entire show Radcliffe was well poised, well spoken, in character and emotionally charged. He hit every mark spot on; he portrayed the right balance between insanity and reverence, spirituality and emptiness, awakening and shutting down; it just all clicked in one go. He definitely struck the right balance on stage.
Daniel says about the play, “It was one of those things where I think any 17 year-old boy with aspirations to act for the rest of their lives…if they were offered that part in that production being directed by Thea Sharrock, and next to Richard Griffiths, you’d be really stupid to say no! It’s an amazing play and that was the reason for it.”
“Equus” was a very popular night out on the West End in London, and each night oodles of fans could be found congregating at the back door waiting for Daniel to appear after the show. Along with the fans were the paparazzi, but there was a solution to the paparazzi problem. “Basically what we would do was…I would wear the same outfit every single time with different t-shirts underneath, but I’d wear the same jacket, zip it up so they couldn’t see what I was wearing underneath, and the same hat, so they could take photos for six months but it would look like the same day,” laughs Daniel.
Dan will soon get the chance to wear the same hat and jacket once again when he reprises his role in “Equus” on Broadway in September of 2008.
Behind The Glasses
There are a few parallels to be drawn between the apprentice wizard and Dan. Thrust into the limelight at an early age, both Harry and Dan have had to deal with the hazards of the media circus. Both are coping well. It is possible to imagine Dan walking the corridors of his school with people muttering “Bless my soul, it’s Daniel Radcliffe!” but happily, this does not seem to be the case! Dan says that his life has changed surprisingly little since taking on the role of the world’s most famous boy wizard. When Dan himself is asked what qualities he shares with the bespectacled schoolboy hero, he states that loyalty, curiosity, standing up for himself and a propensity to land himself in trouble are the greatest similarities. His friends are, like Harry’s, incredibly important and they have not changed their attitude towards him since stardom has struck.
Dan attends an all-boys private school in London when not receiving private tutoring on set and he has diverse interests. He supports his local football (soccer) team, Fulham, and looks after his two dogs, Binka and Nugget. He has credited Chris Columbus with giving him a love of film, and counts ‘Apollo 13’, ’12 Angry Men’, ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ among his favourites. He has developed a love of classic punk music (The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Pixies) and he isn’t at all shy about sharing his opinions on any band. He has a lot to keep him occupied in his free time – practising the bass guitar, really studying magic (he’s a dab hand at card tricks), working out and trying his hand at writing his own stories.
Over the last several years, Dan has put his fame and influence to good use, quietly engaging in charity projects. In May 2002, Dan contributed to a video which is designed to help autistic people learn to recognise facial expressions, an act which inspired fans here at DanRadcliffe.com to raise over £2000 for the National Autistic Society to mark his 14th birthday.
In March 2003, a lock of his hair and an autograph raised over £750 for the British charity Comic Relief, which benefits deprived areas in the UK and around the world. In February 2005, Dan’s autographed Hogwart’s Crew T-Shirt was auctioned by the Tsunami Celebrity Clothes Auction to raise over £500 for victims in Southeast Asia.
Dan also participated on the buyer’s side of a recent charity auction by submitting the winning bid for a handwritten copy of the Sirius Black family tree donated by J.K. Rowling to Book Aid International. Another very worthwhile cause that he has chosen to support is Demelza House Children’s Hospice in Kent, south-east England. Dan’s request to fans that they make a donation to Demelza House has raised thousands of pounds to help improve the quality of life for terminally ill children (click here for details).
Reviews of Dan’s portrayal of Harry Potter thus far have been consistently positive and, in February 2002, he won the Variety Club Award for Outstanding New Talent. Since then, he has received a number of popular awards, including two Silver Otto Awards from German magazine “Bravo”, TIME for Kids 2002 Person of the Year, “Relly” Awards for Junior Achiever of the Year from the Regis and Kelly show in the US in 2003 and 2004, and Best Actor awards from 7 Extra Magazine (Belgium, Jan 2006), Roadshow Magazine (China, August 2004), and the KZONE Kids Choice Awards (July 2004).
The enormous success of the Potter franchise doesn’t seem to faze the young actor. He has stated that he never watches his performances once the premieres are over and, in order to stay focused and grounded, does not pay attention to his own press.
“To this day I have never ever read a word that has been printed about me or the films – and I never ever watch interviews I have given on television.”
Playing the world’s most beloved young wizard has had another side effect – Dan has earned quite a large female following recently, which is doubtless set to increase this year! He has received thousands of letters, but does he consider himself a heartthrob? Comes the modest reply:
“Personally I can’t see it, but if other people can, fine. Cool!”
Unfogging The Future
What’s next for the remarkably mature young actor, whose exquisite manners, talent and charm have cast such a spell over the cinematic world? “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” will be in theaters November 21, 2008. He is also signed up for the final Potter films, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part one and two, coming in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
In the long term, Dan has expressed an interest in acting and directing. Does he have any preference with regard to role or genre?
“I would consider doing any part as long as the script is good and the film has an interesting director, but it would be a mistake to want to show you can do stuff other than Harry Potter so badly that you just rush into something.”
As an experienced actor, Dan is well aware of what’s important in the film industry! Dan has now worked alongside half of Britain’s A-List actors, such as Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh, Julie Walters, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes and the late, great Richard Harris. When asked who else he would like to work with, Jake Gyllenhaal, Geoffrey Rush (who played Dan’s father in “The Tailor of Panama”) and Robert Carlyle are at the top of the list.
It is safe to say that whatever path he chooses, Daniel Radcliffe will probably continue to charm all those he meets. The staff of DanRadcliffe.com are very excited about what’s in store for 2008 and beyond, and we wish Dan all the very best in the years to come which should see his star shine even more brightly in the sky than it does already.
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