Daniel Radcliffe Interview
By David Savage for Popcorn, September 2007
Shortly before the release of his new ‘coming of age’ indie movie December Boys, Daniel Radcliffe chatted to David Savage about the film, which he shot in Australia almost two years ago. There wasn’t much time to talk, but the 18 year old actor, best known as boy wizard Harry Potter, still managed to share a few words on shooting the movie, his young co-stars, his own favourite ‘coming of age’ flick, religion, nuns and clowns!
On the afternoon of Friday 31 August, Daniel Radcliffe is sitting in Room 138 of the Berkeley Hotel in London’s swish Knightsbridge, having very quick chats with journalists about his new movie December Boys, his first non-Harry Potter film role – so quick in fact, that Warner’s should have fitted revolving doors to his suite. Popcorn has been promised an 8 minute natter, though on the day, it’s wrapped up in well under 5, so there wasn’t time to get too deep about anything – a pity with such a great interviewee as Daniel. But here’s what we did manage to fit in.
We’ve waited a while for December Boys to come out. It was filmed in late 2005 – so what’s delayed it for so long? I think it’s just that thing of it’s an independent film, and sometimes they find a long time to get distribution, and December Boys was no exception.
Has it been frustrating to wait so long, because obviously you must have wanted people to see you doing this new kind of role.
Yeah. I mean, not necessarily frustrating. You just find yourself waiting and waiting, and the release date gets put back and gets put back again, and it’s just a matter of being patient, really. It’ll come out when it’s ready to come out, and a good script will be a good script from one year to the next. Obviously you only had a fraction of the budget and time with the film than you have with the Potter films… A tiny fraction!
So how well did you adjust to the indie style of filmmaking?
It’s really not that different. In terms of the atmosphere on set, it’s exactly the same, because A. every film set is equally chaotic, and B. on any film set, you’ve got a group of people pulling together to make the best film we can. So that was no different with December Boys.
How well did you take to working with a whole new set of people, because you’re used to working with what you could call a family.
Yeah. I was a bit nervous at first actually, because I didn’t know what they were expecting of me. I thought they might be expecting me to be that stereotype child actor. So I thought I might be coming up against that stereotype a bit. But they didn’t seem to have that perception of me before I was there, which was nice.
Do you think this film will find you a new audience, because it’s very different in terms of tone, pace and atmosphere than the Harry Potters.
I think so, but equally I think a lot of the people who have enjoyed Harry Potter can go to this and enjoy that equally. One of the things I liked about the script was that it wasn’t obviously targeting one demographic. We were just telling a story and not particularly worrying about ooh, this will appeal to that group of people or this will appeal to that different group. We’re just telling a story and a lot of people will be able to take something away from it.
The other kids in it are all really charming…
They’re all much younger than you. How quickly did you bond? And did you end up taking on an older brother role?
I did a little bit! I felt quite protective of them, really. They were really good fun. A really great, bright group of kids.
Were any of them in awe of you at first because of the whole Harry Potter thing?
If they were, they covered it very well, because they seemed totally unfazed by it.
Is the ‘coming of age’ film one of your own personal favourite genres?
Er – I think it’s just that I’ve done… Harry Potter could be called coming of age, and certainly December Boys is, and the other thing I’ve just done, My Boy Jack, is about a boy turning into a man, and I think that’s just simply because I’m 18, or I was 16 when I did this, but around that age. Those are the kind of stories that are going to involve 16 year olds.
Do they appeal to you as a viewer, though?
Oh yeah, definitely.
Do you have an all-time favourite ‘coming of age’ film?
Stand by Me. (1985 movie based on a Stephen King novella) I think it’s a beautiful film, and very, very funny. I think those kids in that are just amazing.
There’s lots of majestic scenery in December Boys. Did it make you ponder your place in the universe, when you were surrounded by it all?
Ah… not really, no! No, I see it as being beautiful and I appreciate it on that level, but it doesn’t make me question my own existence, or anything that deep.
The kids in the film are all brought up in a convent school, which has had such a strong effect on them that they see visions…
What’s your own relationship to or interest in religion?
I’m very interested in religion, but I’m not a religious person in the slightest.
So your interest is academic, rather than -
Yeah, I’d suppose you’d call it that. I like learning about religions, but it has no bearing on my own life personally.
Nuns. Are they scary, sexy or reassuring?
They’re not as scary as clowns. I find clowns quite scary sometimes.
If you are scared of nuns anyway, the film might -
It might exacerbate that fear!
But one of the things about the film which I quite like is when you first see the shot of the nuns and the priests with all these boys walking around, your initial reaction is, oh, maybe this is gonna be some dark, y’know, Catholicism type story and it’s actually not. It’s totally unrelated to that, which is quite a nice sort of non sequitur.