Harry And The Pool Of Terror
By Jamie Portman for Ottawa Citizen, 14th November 2005
Swimming is just one of the new things Daniel Radcliffe had to learn. Another was learning to dance, he tells Jamie Portman.
LONDON – When Daniel Radcliffe thinks about the scene now, he can hardly believe he did it. In the course of filming Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he spent a total of 41 hours and 38 minutes under water — with one dive alone lasting 75 minutes.
“I’m an absolutely awful swimmer!” he confesses. “I’m terrible. I’m one of the worst swimmers in my year at school.”
So when he saw the finished film in which he, as Harry, confronts a treacherous underwater world, he felt both astonishment and pride. After all, no stunt doubles were used.
“Oh yes, that was me. I had a fantastic stunt team behind me, but I trained for six months and then I started doing it. It’s probably something I never would have done — learning to dive — if it wasn’t for this film.”
Harry even finds himself growing fins and gills for this sequence — one of the most popular in the J.K. Rowling novel, and one that already is creating high anticipation among the millions of Potter fans awaiting Friday’s premiere of the fourth instalment of the series.
Director Mike Newell has gone to great lengths to re-create a major set piece of the book — The Triwizard Tournament, which sees Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry compete in a series of life-threatening challenges with two other prestigious wizarding schools. At 14, Harry is too young to participate, but the enchanted Goblet of Fire, which picks the competitors, has other ideas. It spits out one final name — Harry Potter — and despite Harry’s insistence that he doesn’t want to compete, the Goblet’s decision is final.
Which is why Harry finds himself waging battle with a ferocious horn-tailed dragon for possession of a golden egg, navigating a dangerous and impenetrable maze, and braving the dangers of a forbidding black lake in order to rescue friends Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint), who are tethered in its murky depths.
For the lake sequence, Radcliffe found himself six metres down in Europe’s largest underwater filming tank. Members of the stunt team were nearby with oxygen masks to come to his aid whenever he ran out of air. Radcliffe calls it a bizarre experience but one that he loved. His biggest problem was to avoid producing telltale air bubbles. “I had to remember that Harry has gills, so he’s not actually breathing.”
Now that he’s 16, Dan Radcliffe has learned something important about himself: he really does thrive on challenge. He also cites the battle with the dragon — where at one point he’s hanging upside down 12 metres in the air and then is suddenly dropped. There was also a challenge of a different kind — learning to dance for the school ball.
“Both my parents were amazing dancers,” he says. “They were competition-winning dancers. I think the genes may have slipped a generation because I am not blessed with the dance.”
Anyway, he would never complain.
“There’s a danger of getting bored if you’re not being challenged,” he says firmly. And he’s not only referring to the physical action. The latest film is darker in texture and eventually brings Harry face to face with his evil nemesis, Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), the man who murdered his parents. During shooting, the role of Harry was starting to impose heavy emotional demands on him.
“You can’t help but be aware, really. But that’s good — because it was hard. If everything you’re doing is easy, then you get complacent and don’t give a good performance. So to be challenged, you have to overcome something, and to overcome something, you have to push yourself more. And that’s what I enjoy doing.”
He’s perched in an old-fashioned armchair in a suite in the legendary Claridge’s Hotel.
Harry’s trademark round spectacles are gone, and so is his shaggy hair. What you’re seeing is a pleasant, unassuming 16-year-old in striped dress shirt and casual trousers.
He’s bright and articulate — but also naive in assuming that no one will spot him when he goes out in public.
“I never cease to be amazed by how recognizable I actually am,” he laughs. “I don’t think anyone will recognize me, especially now I’ve had my hair cut, but people still manage it. I don’t know what it is. I’m told I have quite distinctive eyes — apparently they’re just massive and glow — but I don’t think I notice it.”
Radcliffe is now midway through the cycle of seven movies to be made from the Rowling novels.
When the films began with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, speculation was high that Radcliffe and his two young co-stars would outgrow the series and be replaced after the third. But now he hopes to run the course.
“I think there’s the sense now that we’ve done four, why not go the whole way? That is a long time away, but it’s an attractive prospect to do all seven. It also depends on other things — am I doing enough other work at the same time?”
But an 11-month shoot is time-consuming. Radcliffe and his friends will have a brief break at Christmas, but in January they’re due for costume fittings and rehearsals for the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, with shooting expected to start in February. By that time, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will be firmly behind him, and he will not watch it again.
“I don’t like watching myself at all. I’m very critical. I never say ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I should have done that.’ It’s always — ‘Oh, that wasn’t any good.’ That’s not really constructive.”
He hasn’t watched any of the earlier films, either.
“I haven’t seen them since I’ve done them. I’ve been quite resolute that I’m not going to watch them. It’s sort of a similar reason to why I never read reviews. It’s because I think I might get self-conscious. It might make me too aware of myself. It might compromise my instincts as to how to play Harry. After the premiere, I say: that film’s now done, so I’ll put it aside.”
But not necessarily forever. “I think I would enjoy watching it maybe in 30 years’ time, if I have kids by then or whatever and am watching it with them.”