Harry Potter And The Frank And Far-Reaching Discussion
By Sean Smith for Newsweek.com, 21st October 2006
Daniel Radcliffe, the 17-year-old star of the “Harry Potter” movies sat down on the set of the fifth film, “Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix” with NEWSWEEK for a wide-ranging discussion on acting, fame, friendship, dating, and why he’s decided to make his stage debut – naked, no less – in the Tony-winning play, “Equus.” Radcliffe aced his final exams this summer, and just prior to this interview, had gone with his friends to Britain’s huge live music event, the Reading Festival, which features bands such as Blink 182, Linkin Park and Dirty Sanchez.
NEWSWEEK: When you go to places like the Reading Festival, do you have to worry about being recognized?
Daniel Radcliffe: It’s not so much being recognized. The only thing you have to worry about is press. But we pretty well got away with it. There was only one photo of me [that was published] with some headline about the hat I was wearing. [Laughs] Yeah, some really important news. Groundbreaking stuff. So, no, people recognizing you is not really an issue. In fact, one of the best moments of the festival for me was on the first day: My friends and I walked out of this tent, and there was this guy passed out on the floor. He woke up, just momentarily, went, [in slurry, drunk voice] “It’s Harry Potter!” and collapsed again. [Laughs]
I’ve seen crowds go crazy over you, though. Girls screaming. What’s that like?
Daniel Radcliffe: I don’t really experience it on a daily basis because I’m here most days, where everyone knows me. I suppose visitors to the set sometimes will be slightly awestruck, and that’s odd for me because I know myself, and I know there’s really nothing to be awestruck about. So the premieres are very odd because you get out of the car and there are hundreds of people screaming your name. To you, your name doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a noun, like “table” or something, so when suddenly people are chanting it, it’s the strangest, strangest feeling. But it’s also incredibly gratifying because you work on a film for a year and suddenly all these people come out, basically, to thank you. So it’s great.
Do you date?
Daniel Radcliffe: I do, yes, but not at the moment.
Do you have to worry that girls want to go out with you just because you’re famous?
Daniel Radcliffe: It’s always a worry, yeah, but I’ve got pretty good instincts for people. Normally, the people who are not genuine are the ones who say, “You know I’m not just being your friend because you’re Harry Potter, right?” And it’s like, “Uh, fine, but if that’s the case, why do you need to say that?”
You’ve been playing Harry for six years now. Are you still enjoying it?
Daniel Radcliffe: This film has been the most fun I’ve had, definitely, partly because of Imelda Staunton [who plays Harry’s nemesis, Professor Dolores Umbridge], and partly because of David Yates, our wonderful director, who I have had absolutely the time of my life working with. He pushes me farther and more often than I ever have been before. This is not being detrimental to any of the previous directors because I wouldn’t have been able to do this before, but David has caught me at just the right moment.
Harry’s much angrier in this book. And more bitter.
Daniel Radcliffe: I think he has what a lot of people after the Holocaust had, which is survivor’s guilt. I think he thinks he should have died rather than Cedric [Diggory, who was killed by Voldemort in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”] Cedric was nothing to Voldemort, and so Harry feels, “I’m the one who should have been taken.”
I know some fans didn’t like this book because they were bothered by Harry’s anger. They thought it was out of character.
Daniel Radcliffe: I was fortunate enough to get to spend about an hour with [Potter author] JK Rowling on this film, and she said, “If people say, ‘I don’t like how angry Harry is in this book,’ then they haven’t been reading close enough.” If you look at what Harry’s been through, most people would be far more angry than Harry is, and far more outraged at the state of the world. Harry’s actually fairly well balanced, for everything that’s happened to him. It’s not petulance.
I read you did really well on your final exams.
Daniel Radcliffe: Yes! Thank you very much! I did. I’m thrilled. I’ve always worked hard, but it’s never paid off to quite this extent before. I’m also thrilled for my teachers because they worked so hard. Lina Wright has tutored me since the first film, and gave me confidence and a love of learning, everything. I owe so much to her, and so to go out on this note for her, it was great.
Did you feel more pressure, knowing that your grades, whatever they were, would be made public?
Daniel Radcliffe: Um, no. If they were bad I probably just wouldn’t have told anyone, and if it had gotten into the papers, I probably would have said, “Oh, the press. Don’t believe everything you read.” [Laughs]
So are you going to go to college?
Daniel Radcliffe: I’m going to take the year off and then review the situation. I’m doing a play [“Equus”] next year, so there’s no way I could do eight performances week and do [school]. After that I’ll sit down and think about what will be gained or lost by doing school. For now it’s lovely just to have the feeling of a year off. It’s great! Liberty! It’s wonderful.
Your character in “Equus” is a far cry from Harry. It’s a very adult role. You even have a nude scene. Do you feel you want to shake off Harry a bit?
Daniel Radcliffe: I don’t want to shake him off, no. Part of me wants to shake up people’s perception of me, just shove me in a blender. If I’d gone into the theatre and done something light and fluffy, everyone would have just gone, “Oh, that’s not particularly challenging. It doesn’t prove anything.” But this is a really challenging play, and if I can pull it off – we don’t know if I can yet – I hope people will actually stop and think, “Maybe he can something other than Harry.” Also, it’s just a pretty fabulous play.
Do you think acting is going to be your career?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yeah. You meet so many interesting people from so many different backgrounds. You get a chance to find out new things about yourself. Acting is just like reading a book, in that you experience something through the eyes of someone else. You’re finding out about this character through playing him, and his beliefs make you stop and question your own. It’s quite revelatory sometimes. So, yeah, I definitely want to be an actor; I love it so much. But I want to write as well. I’d love to direct a short film, just to see what that’s like. But I don’t know anything about the technical side of things. At all. I’ve been here for six years, you’d think I’d have picked up a couple of things. [Laughs]
It’s been interesting to watch you grow up on camera. Do you look back at the earlier films?
Daniel Radcliffe: No. I will when I’m, like, 30 or 40, and I’ve got kids. I’ll sit them down and say, “See, this is what I’d done by the time I was your age. What have you done?” [Laughs] I always forget: sarcasm doesn’t work in print. Um, I would like to look back at them in ten or twenty years and possibly cringe a little bit. I wasn’t an actor when I was 11, really. I was just a kid having the time of his life. But I don’t really have a sense of myself growing up on film because I’ve done so much growing up off film, as well. Harry’s grown up on film, but not me.I was really angry as a teenager – just all those hormones in your system – and irritable, impatient, bored.
Have you had to find ways to cope with that when you’re working?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yeah, of course you do. But everyone on set has a backstory. Everyone has something going on behind the scenes, and none of them brings it to work, so you just have to learn to deal with it. I’ve had my moments of getting really angry, irrationally, but to be honest, they are few and far between nowadays. What have I got, really, to be angry about? I’ve got a few things that I would change, but I’ve got a great life.
You and Rupert Grint, who plays Ron, and Emma Watson, who plays Hermione, have worked together a long time. When I met you all on the first film it was sort of like the boys against the girls. But when I talked to you during the making of the third film, “Prisoner of Azkaban” it seemed that you and Emma had become close friends. What’s the dynamic between the three of you now?
Daniel Radcliffe: We’ve got a mix of both at the moment. I mean Rupert’s got a table-tennis table in his room-well, what hasn’t he got in his room? He’s got a dartboard, a pool table, an Xbox, and now this little infrared shooting range, which I’m very good at it. So I’m constantly in there chatting to him and using his stuff, and Emma and I have a very similar relationship to the one we had on “Azkaban,” which is more conversational. Rupert’s great, because if you’re ever in the mood for a very surreal conversation, you can have it with him. Like, “What would happen if each of us had our own gravitational pull?” [Laughs]
When this all started six or seven years ago, your parents, the producers and the director of the first two films, Chris Columbus, all put a lot of thought into what playing Harry Potter would do to your childhood and to your life. They were all really concerned about it. Now that you’re older, do you think they made the best decision for you?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yes, and I’m not just saying that because I want to seem positive. I got a better education here than I would have if I had stayed at school. I was never very good at school, and I would have had a really crap time if I’d stayed. There wasn’t anything that I stood out at. I wasn’t very good at sports. I wasn’t good at academics. But now, through this, I’m doing something that I enjoy, that I’m good at, and that I’m improving at. And I’ve developed a love of learning from being here and being tutored one-on-one. I’ve learned so much more than I would have had I stayed in school.
Will you make the last two films?
Daniel Radcliffe: If the script does justice to the book, it would be foolish not to do the sixth, because I think the book is so incredible and the part is so brilliant. [The seventh book has not been published yet].
I also assume it would be hard to walk away from Harry at this point.
Daniel Radcliffe: Yes. I’ve come this far. If I’d stopped after the third film, someone could have come in and there would have been time for the fans to get used to him. At this stage it would be a bit harder, certainly.