Daniel’s Coming Of Age
By Lisa Chant for Adelaide Now, 9th Septmeber 2007
DANIEL Radcliffe might play the quintessential English schoolboy as Harry Potter, but he doesn’t plan to wallow in eternal teendom.
In Hollywood, it’s long been true that for every Jodie Foster making the successful transition from child star to accomplished adult actor, there’s a Molly Ringwald (or even Gary Coleman) who can’t quite cast off the cheesy characters of their youth.
But as his choice of roles during the past few years has shown, Radcliffe is in it for the long haul, despite a bank balance (well into the tens of millions) that puts him in the enviable position of never needing to chase a pay cheque again.
While British stage play Equus (he appeared naked as a stablehand with a dark fascination for horses) marked the David Copperfield star’s transition to more challenging roles, it was December Boys which first caught his eye.
Directed by Rod Hardy and filmed chiefly in South Australian locations such as Kangaroo Island and Adelaide, the coming-of-age drama is based on Michael Noonan’s novel and focuses on four orphans enjoying their first holiday at the seaside.
The film also stars the likes of Jack Thompson, Suzie Wilks, Kris McQuade and Sullivan Stapleton.
“I wanted to do something between films four and five of Harry Potter,” Radcliffe recalls of his decision to choose the small-budget drama over more high-profile and big-budget fare.
“And, out of all the scripts we got, it was far and away the best. It was written in a very interesting way .. it was very vivid and it was provocative, which made it very unique. Also, Maps as a character is very different to Harry Potter and that was very exciting.”
In the film, the orphans Maps is the oldest fight for the affections of a local couple in the belief they might be looking to adopt one of them.
Offscreen, however, co-star Victoria Hill (last seen in a funky Australian adaptation of Macbeth) says Radcliffe acted as a kind of mentor and leader of the pack for younger co-stars Christian Byers, Lee Cormie and Jamie Fraser.
“Having done the Harry Potter films, I know the value of really focusing and I know that I wasn’t particularly focused on the first three films,” says Radcliffe, whose other credits include The Tailor of Panama.
“Here, all the boys were really, really talented and very good and if they focused I knew they would give really great performances and, because I liked them all so much, I was really keen to make sure that they were focusing and they were doing themselves justice, which they all did. They were brilliant and I was continually amazed by how professional they were. Obviously they were running around like wild children in between takes, but they were great. As soon as the camera started rolling they were fantastic. It was a pleasure, it was an absolute pleasure, and to me, the best thing about doing the film was working with Christian, James and Lee.”
Not to mention, of course, homegrown talent Teresa Palmer, who has herself hit the big time, turning a breakout role in 2:37 into high-profile gigs such as Grudge 2 and Kids in America.
While Radcliffe can joke about his “nerves” over her boyfriend, retired Port Adelaide AFL star Stuart Dew, who was “at the back of my mind the whole time”, Palmer did co-star in his first movie love scenes, filmed long before THAT kiss in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
But he says the sweet and inherently innocent scenes, although steamier than anything Potter author JK Rowling has put to paper, were not terribly erotic to film.
“What was weird about it was that it wasn’t in the slightest bit arousing,” he says of the scenes, which trace Maps’ growing relationship with local girl Lucy. Because Teresa, I mean Teresa is absolutely beyond me. I mean she’s absolutely beautiful, but when you’re there and there’s a crew around you, there’s nothing remotely exciting about it.”
Radcliffe, who’s next non-Potter film is My Boy Jack, tips Christian a “sweet, sweet boy” who also filmed Opal Dreams in Coober Pedy as the most likely of his young co-stars to pursue a long-term acting career.
But he did learn something from all three a swag of Aussie words to update his vocabulary.
As our talk turned to the difficulties of mastering the Australian accent, a feat which even brought Meryl Streep undone (in Evil Angels), Radcliffe asked if I thought his was “any good”.
Chuffed by my “yes” and “incredibly grateful” to hear he fooled at least one person (truth be told it was my sister) into thinking he actually was Australian, the actor said he worked on it with a team that included National Theatre dialect coach Kate Godfrey.
“Then, you know, being on set and being with an Australian crew obviously really helped and having the other three boys there was good as well because I was constantly picking up pointers,” he says.
So did he learn any good slang swear words?
“They’re the same ones in English really, aren’t they,” he says. “I know the word bogan, but it’s not really a swear word. There was bogan and there was another one, it was bit like bogan.”
Bevan? “Bevan! Yeh, that’s the other one,” he says.
While Radcliffe has made no secret of his admiration and desire to work with the likes of Scarlett Johanssen, his eye is also focused on another rising Aussie star.
“If we’re talking about Australian actresses, someone who’s a bit older than me but I think is very, very sexy is Emily Barclay,” he says.
“And the thing that makes her sexy is that she’s so talented. I watched her in Suburban Mayhem the other night. I thought it was a really good film all the performances were excellent but she so was brilliant in it.”
Naomi Watts is another Antipodean on his co-star wish list, although his more immediate focus is a potential debut on Broadway next year in a reprise of Equus, for which he won rave reviews.
Radcliffe said the prospect of acting in New York was “terrifying”.
“It will be amazing, but I will be terrified because I was talking to Richard Griffiths (his Equus co-star who also plays Potter’s Uncle Vernon) about playing New York and he said the most stupid thing you can do is underestimate New York audiences,” the 18-year-old said.
Oh well, if it doesn’t go according to plan there’s always a memory modification charm.
December Boys opens on September 20. It will also premiere in the US and UK this month.