Source: The Event Guide, July 2007
He’s the richest teenager in the UK, and, thanks to his role as Harry Potter, one of the most famous in the world – so, what’s Daniel Radcliffe doing playing makeshift cricket with a lowlife like Paul Byrne?
I’m playing cricket with Harry Potter in the hallway of a hotel. At least, it’s a cricket ball we’re throwing back and forth, and the guy at the other end is 17-year old Daniel Radcliffe. Better known to millions of people around the world as that boy wizard who has generated, so far, $3,499,67,256 at the box-office.
It’s day two of three days of interviews here at London’s Claridges Hotel, the fifth film charting the growing pains of Hogwarts’ most famous pupil, ‘Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix’, about to hit our screens on July 13th. And add a few extra hundred million onto that already mind-boggling take.
For Radcliffe, it’s just another day at the office, the young actor having developed a method of tricks and treats to help him through the annual promotional circus. The way the rest of us develop our own little methods of surviving long-distance flights.
One of the tricks today, he tells me, is a conspiracy between himself and his two lead co-stars in the Potter franchise, Rupert Grint (who plays comic sidekick Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (who plays the determined Hermione Granger) to give one unsuspecting Japanese journalist completely different answers to the same question. “There’s always this tendency to get the same questions over and over again,” smiles Radcliffe, “and so, you know, we thought we could have a little fun with that. The poor woman is going to go home with a real twister. It’ll be interesting to see how she makes sense of it all.”
Break time is over, and Daniel picks up his cricket ball – he’s a big fan of the game, and asks me if I know how Ireland have done today; I don’t, given that I’ve just had the pleasure of five hours of non-luxurious, non-stop travel to get here – and we head back into his room.
This is my fifth time interviewing Daniel Radcliffe, and I’m beginning to feel like an uncle, the one who swings by every Christmas. Only this time, for the first time, the new Harry Potter film isn’t chasing the Yuletide market, The Order Of The Phoenix being released instead during the heavy summer blockbuster season. A longer book than all the rest – a toe-crushing 870 pages – ‘The Order Of The Phoenix’ needed that little bit more time to make it up onto the screen. And rather than rush the production to meet their annual November release date, the producers – and author J.K. Rowling – thought it best to take a few extra months to get it right.
It was the right decision, with new director Peter Yates – best known for his hard-hitting TV dramas, such as ‘State Of Play’, ‘Sex Traffic’ and, most recently, 2005’s G8-baiting ‘The Girl In The Café’ – bringing a distinct edge to a Potter outing that many have seen as Rowling’s finger-in-the-eye to modern-day politics. And, in particular, new Labour’s love of the spin, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry finding itself under the thumb of a deeply paranoid Ministry of Magic, its head, Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy), convinced Dumbledore is plotting a coup when he insists that the evil Lord Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned. That the local rag, The Daily Prophet, are happy to run with whatever exclamation mark they can find amidst the rumours, leaks and scaremongering is Rowling again making a point about our not-so-magical real world.
Such politics are hardly a concern for Daniel Radcliffe though, so, I decide to open light. I ask him if all thirty takes of his kiss with fellow actor Katie Leung – marking Harry’s first ever snog – were absolutely necessary. Given that Ms. Leung is a rather fetching young woman, might young Mr. Radcliffe have deliberately spoiled a take or two?
“No, no,” he laughs. “The thing with that is, in general, in scenes, you will do probably more than six or seven takes per shot, so, with the amount of camera angles we did, it probably added up to more than thirty takes. But, of course, I said it took thirty takes to do, and then someone puts that as, ‘Daniel Radcliffe requested thirty takes for the kiss scene!’. So, that’s my excuse.”
Besides having to save the world – and himself – from badboy wizard Lord Voldermort, in ‘The Order Of The Phoenix’, Harry James Potter has to deal with good ol’ teenage angst. How is the young Daniel Jacob Radcliffe coping with his teenage angst?
“My middle name,” he smiles, “excellent. The good thing about being able to portray Harry whilst being a little older than him is that I will have already gone through whatever he’s feeling. So I can have a little bit of objectivity about it. I think everybody feels that kind of angst when they go through their teenage years, and Harry is no exception. And I was certainly no exception either.”
The seventh book, ‘Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows’, comes out eight days after the latest film. Does Radcliffe see that final book as a light at the end of the tunnel, or is there a part of him that dreads the fact that this incredible journey is finally going to reach its destination?
“Well, obviously, it’s a bit of both. In some ways, it’ll be exciting to finish, and step out into the un-Potter world, but then, in another way, I’ll be incredibly sad, because by the end, I’ll probably be about twenty. Which means that this would have been my teen years, which is bizarre. But, you know, it’s been amazing…”
Rowling has revealed nothing more about that final book other than the fact that two characters die, and the very last word is ‘scar’. Amongst the actors, only Alan Rickman (who plays Severus Snape) reportedly knows what happens to his character. Does Radcliffe have any theories of his own as to how the whole saga might end? More importantly, is there a betting pool on set about the finale?
“Tell you what, we don’t have one,” he smiles, “but that’s not a bad idea. Before the end of the junket, we should have a sweepstake on who’s going to live or die. Which is a very macabre thing to say, obviously, but, you become desensitized at this. “Yeah, Alan is the only one who seems to know what’s going to happen, but then, over the last few days, David Yates also seems to know much more than the rest of us. I keep getting journalists coming in and saying, ‘Well, David Yates told us this, this and this’, and I’m replying, ‘Well, that’s pretty incredible, because I didn’t know. Wow!’. So, if you want to find out stuff, ask him!”
Our time is nearly up. Keen to make sure he won’t spend the rest of his career being That Guy Who Was Harry Potter, Radcliffe has been using what little time he has off from the franchise to do other work. He recently made his theatrical debut getting his wand out in a West End production of ‘Equus’, and was on our small screens most recently playing a caricature of his real-life self in ‘Extras’, which included a scene where he somehow manages to fling a condom onto the head of Dame Diana Rigg. Nice. Radcliffe has also got the Aussie drama December Boys heading our way, and will next be seen playing Rudyard Kipling’s son in the TV drama ‘My Boy Jack’.
“I felt it was important for me to get some other roles under my belt before the end of Harry Potter,” explains Radcliffe. “I didn’t want to just do all the Harry Potter movies and then end up trying to reinvent myself. It seemed a better idea to start doing things in-between the Potters, so that I could ease people out of it gently. Although, Equus isn’t the most gentle of awakenings…”
Not that Dame Diana had a gentle awakening either…
“It was amazing doing ‘Extras’, as I think it’s great – big fans of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The parody I play in the show, I felt that could be the person people expected me to turn out to be. So, it was quite fun to play up to that. If ever I think I’m getting too fond of myself, I’ll just pop on that episode of Extras, and realise where that kind of thinking might just lead.”