Times Talks with Daniel Radcliffe Part I
Here is the first part of the report from the Times Talks with Daniel Radcliffe. Part two will be coming soon!
I was in a ‘New York State of Mind’ by the time I arrived at The Times Center on Tuesday for the much anticipated Times Talks with Daniel Radcliffe: Screen to Broadway Stage. We were ushered into the medium-sized theatre (roughly 375 seats) in a timely fashion and before we knew it, the lights were dimmed and the soirée’s moderator, Julie Bosman, and Daniel Radcliffe were introduced by Carol Day from the New York Times to enthusiastic applause from the crowd, who had just been informed that this particular session of Times Talks had sold out faster than you could say ‘Dumbledore’.
From that point on, we were thoroughly engaged in a verbal ping pong match in which questions, quips, stories and repartees were tossed around at a steady pace. Relaxed and more at ease in the spotlight than ever, Dan was his usual blend of adolescent boy, well-spoken man and consummate performer. He aimed to please, and did not disappoint.
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The first question of the evening was about how Dan felt about being on Broadway. He stated that when he’d attended the Tony Awards back in June, he’d sensed the people’s excitement about Equus. He shared that he’d never worked with American actors before, except for My Boy Jack‘s Kim Cattrall, and that he really likes the new Equus cast. He also said that he’d met a few Broadway actors since his arrival and that “you get a real sense of history on Broadway.”
The moderator then asked Dan why he wanted to do theatre at this point in is career since most young actors who want to become movie stars, which is something Dan already achieved, are forced to do theatre to prove they are good. Dan’s reply to this was that there are in fact many really good actors out there who will never do a play in their life and who are still great actors, but that somehow, in the eyes of a lot of people, theatre acting legitimizes you.
He then went on to discuss the difference between working on film versus working on stage; that he’d worked with a vocal coach to learn how to project his voice, and trained for 18 months in order to be ready for his theatre debut — it was very difficult for him at first, but his hard work paid dividends in the end. “You know that people are watching you and you are worried about screwing up,” he quipped, “then I looked across the room at Thea Sharrock, Richard Griffiths and John Napier and all these amazing people who had great careers, and thought ‘I couldn’t be screwing up with better people!’ Daniel found the six week rehearsal time for the play a ‘luxury’ because “you had time to sit down and debate, which was just joyous.”
When sharing his nervousness about memorizing all of his lines for Equus with fellow Potter actor Michael Gambon, he was simply told to “learn them in rehearsal.” In terms of what he learned during the process of the show, he mentioned that it was all about sustaining both energy and concentration throughout the run.
The next item up for discussion was the initial reaction to his taking on the role of Alan Strang in Equus, and if he’d been surprised by it, to which he answered that all the shock came before the play actually opened in London, and that a lot of people were treating it like it was pornographic, which of course it is not.
When asked if being in Equus changed his reputation and how people saw him, he said that he is taken more seriously now, but that the biggest benefits of all were how much the experience built up his confidence and the sheer rush of being on stage. He remembers how, after the London opening, he couldn’t stop smiling after everybody stood up at the end of the play, which is rather rare in London. “In London, when you get a standing ovation, you’ve earned it … the applause was elating.”
When asked whether, after working with Richard Griffiths in London, the two actors had decided to stick together for the Broadway run of Equus, Dan responded that he didn’t know he’d have wanted to do the play without Richard because after roughly 127 shows together “you develop a real chemistry with that person.”
How does this compare with the kinship Dan shares with the actors on the Harry Potter set? “I think something happens when you’re on stage. I think the bond between actors on stage is, almost out of necessity, tighter. On film, we get along really, really well, but we are never in situations where we have to save each other.” He then added the problem with Equus is that many of his and Richard’s scenes start so similarly that you can start one and then think you’ve jumped back and when that happens it’s good to know that they are able to save each other.
Daniel went on to share an incident that happened during one of the London shows in which the actor who played the Young Horseman and Nugget, Will Kemp, missed the block he was supposed to jump up on while Dan was on his shoulders, and to his credit, didn’t drop him. Apparently someone in the audience gasped and they just stood frozen for a minute like a deer caught in headlights before Will finally got onto the block and carried on the routine. At this point, Dan was laughing … from sheer terror! According to him, that’s the beauty of theatre, or of a live music concert. “Every show will have its own little moment of idiosyncrasies, whereby on film it’s the same every time.”
The now postponed, but much anticipated sixth movie, was then brought up, and Dan laughingly stated that he didn’t like the idea of people thinking he was somehow responsible for the decision and that he was made aware of it only twenty-four hours before the rest of the world. He added that he found the situation very unfortunate and that he hoped the fans would find the film well worth the wait. We were then, oddly enough, treated to the trailer for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When it was over, Dan blinked up innocently at the crowd and asked “How was it?”
The moderator then asked whether Half-Blood Prince was going to be darker than the previous Harry Potter movie. Dan confirmed the dark places in the movie are indeed darker than in Order of the Phoenix, but that the light places were also much lighter. He then shared the one moment in filming that lacked total professionalism on his part, which was when he tried to make Rupert and Jessie (Ron and Lavender) laugh during their kissing scene while he was tucked away off camera.
The spate of online petitions and letters from upset fans, hoping to have the release of the film changed back to its original date, was brought up next and Julie wanted to know whether Dan was surprised at the intensity of the reaction. “Not particularly,” he replied. He also didn’t think that it mattered that fans now know how the series ends. “You know, people knew the boat was going down in Titanic…”
The discussion turned briefly to Emma Watson’s hesitation to sign up for the last movie, and Dan explained about her studies and the length of the commitment, two to three years with filming and promotion, which had to be taken into consideration. He then talked a bit about his parents, who did not want him to become an actor at first (they have, of course, changed their minds since then!) and how his father gave up his own brilliant career to chaperon him on set. He candidly admits that he got into acting by “dumb luck” and that you need luck in order to get started in the business, but also that you only deserve the luck you have if you work, and work hard to get better, which is something he has been doing consistently.
Next up was a question about his work on My Boy Jack, which he found to be an amazing experience, especially the scenes in the trenches in which everyone was willing to stick together in the cold and wet. Apparently the rain drops that come from rain machines on movie sets are “twice the size and half the temperature” of regular rain drops, and everyone had wet suits on underneath their army uniforms.
They were all so cold their hands were shaking, and when hot teas and coffees were brought to them, they would say thank you and simply pour them over their hands to keep them warm. When a week later, Dan was filming scenes in a “beautiful country setting with glorious sunshine” he missed the trenches because of the friendships that had been developed there. When asked whether he was a World War I buff, he replied “no,” but that he was both interested and depressed by it.
The topic changed back to a more light-hearted subject when reviews were mentioned. Daniel confirmed that he never reads them because “if it’s a bad one, you go *he gasps in horror*, and if it’s a good one, you get self conscious about it.” He elaborated by explaining that is why the director is there, because he/she knows exactly what you’re doing.
Is Dan expecting a different reaction to Equus from American audiences versus London audiences? Jokingly, he confessed that he believes American theatergoers will better grasp the meaning of the play because “there are a lot more people in this country who are in therapy than in England.” He then added that this is where Harry Potter came in useful because people who’d never been to the theatre or seen a straight play before came to see Equus in London, and he believes the same thing will happen again in New York. He also impressed upon us how important it is to stage a play like Equus because it transcends generations of theatergoers.
The moderator’s last question was about Dan’s future projects once the Harry Potter series is finished. He mentioned the film project about Dan Eldon and that perhaps he’d like to be in another play, but that first, after a fourteen-month shoot, he might like to take a couple of days off to relax!