Harry Potter is just one of my friends
by Philip Key for Liverpool Echo (icLiverpool), 28th May 2004
FOR the late Gerald Campion, it was a role he never quite escaped; Dennis Waterman managed to get away from his. Both had played the most famous schoolboys of their eras.
Campion in the 1950s was cast in a long-running television series as Billy Bunter, “the Fat Owl of the Remove”. Amazingly, he was 29 when he first got the role but when it ended in 1961, Campion found he had been type-cast. He ended up running a restaurant business.
Dennis Waterman was luckier, taking the role of William Brown in a 1960s TV version of Just William. He went on in adult life to find other roles in series like The Sweeney and Minder.
Just what the future holds for 14-year-old Daniel Radcliffe who is playing Harry Potter for the third time in the new movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban remains to be seen.
Potter, unlike Bunter and William Brown, is a world-wide phenomenon with Radcliffe now established as the universal face of the bespectacled schoolboy wizard of the books.
But Radcliffe refuses to be overawed by the responsibility. He even refuses to be drawn too much as to whether he will make acting his career.
“I really like doing it,” is all he will admit. “Working with Gary Oldman on the new film was unbelievable and the actual work was fantastic.”
He delivers an enigmatic grin. “In a way, I don’t really think about a career because it is too much fun. Everyone says jobs aren’t supposed to be fun. Some people call this a job. Whatever happens, happens. I don’t think about it that much.”
He has to admit, however, that Harry has changed his life.
“You know, people who have known me for years have started to call me Harry but people I meet on the street actually call me Dan.
“That is confusing – people who don’t know know you seem to know you better than people who do! Very confusing.
“It is kind of weird as I have actually started to talk about Harry as if he is another person that I know, like one of my friends. Which is actually quite worrying.”
He even feels like Harry sometimes. “In certain things I do I do feel like him. I can’t say I feel isolated from people as I am surrounded by huge amounts of people every day.
“But in the sense of confusion I do, the things every adolescent goes through. It is a universal thing. When you are a teen you question the world a lot more than you do when you are nine or ten.
“When you first see Harry he is 11. When he turns 13 in this film, it opens up a whole new world. he’s starting to notice girls which brings a huge amount of other stuff into it!”
Daniel is also hugely defensive of his character. Ask if he ever hates his alter ego and he expresses surprise. “Wow! Not really. There are parts of his character that are not particularly nice but everyone has them. I think in some aspects he is extremely arrogant and we learn in the fifth book that his dad was very arrogant.
“In a way his negative points are what I love about him because he is not like the perfect hero. He is incredibly flawed and that’s what makes him such a real character and you can associate so much with him.”
Radcliffe has been playing the character for 3 years now. “A huge amount of my life has gone into it,” he agrees.
In a way, Radcliffe has been growing up publicly on film but as yet, he won’t be shown shaving on film. “The director actually said he was scared of me,” laughs Radcliffe. “So I don’t think he would trust me with a razor blade!”
There is, however, a slightly more modern look for Harry and his friends in the latest film. “We still have the uniforms but everything is a lot more broken down,” he explains. “The director asked before shooting what kind of things Harry would wear and we went through it.”
The spectacles are still in place, of course, although Radcliffe does not actually need them. “The ones I wear in the film are just glass. During filming I had to act as if I had lost my glasses and unfortunately I could see perfectly which was very irritating. So I had to really concentrate on making my eyesight go blurry which was very difficult.”
It was a job playing David Copperfield that got Radcliffe started. “I went to an audition for it because my mum’s friend was involved although my parents didn’t think I would get it.
“For Harry Potter I was in the right place at the right time. I was in the theatre and the producer was in the row in front. I never thought about acting in a serious way until I started doing Harry Potter.
“Now I am definitely doing the fourth film with the director Mike Newell and I can’t wait. After that, who knows?”
His last stage appearance, however, was a bit of shock for Radcliffe. He had been asked to guest star in the London version of the comedy The Play What I Wrote, the show which had started life at the Liverpool Playhouse.
He appeared in it three times. “The first time I forgot my lines and had to be saved but the last time I walked straight on, tripped over the curtain and landed flat on my face.
“It was like ‘Oh-my-God, three people from my school are here and they are going to see me in a dress’.
“That was the most nerve-wracking experience. I was wearing a blonde wig and bright pink and blue dress! I am not going to live that one down.”