Times Talks with Daniel Radcliffe Part II
And finally … the second and final report from the Times Talks event …
It was a surreal experience for me to find myself sitting directly behind none other than celebrated Broadway producer and chairman of the Shubert organization, Gerald Schoenfeld and his delightful wife Pat, at the Times Talks with Daniel Radcliffe on Tuesday night. It was even more surreal for me when they turned around and started chatting with the handful of us who were in the immediate vicinity; they were both wonderfully friendly and interesting, and Mrs. Schoenfeld had nothing but words of praise for Dan; calling him sweet, talented and down to earth.
Meeting the Schoenfelds was only the beginning of what turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Dan connected with his fans on so many levels, and having the opportunity to ask him questions in a ‘scream free environment’ (versus a film premiere environment, which is extremely exhilarating, albeit really hard on the hearing!) was a huge treat. I’d cooked up four questions during my short flight to New York because I wanted to be sure I had something fresh to ask should one of them be addressed during the interview, and I was lucky enough to be able to ask him two of them. We took turns in front of microphones, one set up on each side of the room, and Daniel took the time to respond to everyone’s inquiries with his trademark aplomb and quirky sense of humor.
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From the questions put forth, we learned that the main difference between the London and New York versions of Equus will be in the staging and blocking more than in the characterizations. Dan mentioned that Alan Strang’s ‘default setting’ should be aggressive and that allowing people to gradually see his more human side was what made him interesting. He then shared the story about how Gary Oldman helped him get in touch with his deeper, darker emotions during the filming of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, at one point shaking him and shouting at him until all he wanted to do was curl up into a fetal position and cry.
Of course, you couldn’t have a Q&A with Dan without having a couple of questions about music and bands being tossed around, and Dan was only too eager to share his thoughts on his latest favorites, including the sensational Alex Harvey Band and Joanna Newsom. When asked about wizarding bands, Daniel admitted that he wasn’t really familiar with the various groups.
Some questions were high in entertainment value, such as the one about what Dan liked the most and the least about New York, to which he replied that he was constantly amazed by the level of noise compared to London, which is also a very busy city, and that he and his fellow actors hear constant banging from their rehearsal rooms during the day because there is so much construction going on. “You look away, then you look back and there’s a new building there,” he remarked.
He also loves how theatre savvy New Yorkers are, sharing a story about a recent trip to a Barnes & Nobles book store where he was paying for his purchases, chatting with the girl at the cash and thinking he was anonymous until he turned to go and she asked him when the play was opening. Aside from the blaring of car horns, there isn’t anything Dan really dislikes about New York … but “there is still plenty of time for that,” he joked.
Other Equus related issues that were brought up were about meeting and discussing his character with the great Peter Shaffer, how much Dan enjoys working with Richard Griffiths who is ‘academic and bright, yet never imposes and always shares,’ and how the Broadway version of Equus will be more accurate when it comes to the grooming and saddling of horses thanks to a visit to a stable of beautiful show horses.
Dan, who doesn’t ride, laughingly admitted they were ‘doing it all wrong’ in London. We were also reminded that the play is about the true story of an adolescent who blinded not six, but twenty-six horses. According to Dan, this is an exaggeration because “once you blind one, it will kick you in the head and you’re out.” He also pointed out that psychiatrists usually hate Equus because the show asks a question that there really is no answer to.
The Potter-related questions were also good ones, such as which scene Dan was most looking forward to filming in the seventh movie, to which he replied, “The walk through the forest because it’s so emotionally intense and then hopefully, if it remains intact, I’ll get a brief hello to Gary again because he comes back as a ghost.”
Gary Oldman, Stephen Fry and his parents figure prominently on Dan’s list of role models, and if he had to choose between a film and a stage production, he said he would most likely choose the film, although he admits the buzz and adrenaline rush you experience when you’re on stage are really unique.
When asked if he could imagine for a minute that no one in the room knew who he was, what would he tell people about himself, not as an actor but as a person, Dan laughed. “I would question you letting me on this stage in the first place!” He then went on to say that he is a person who got really lucky very young and that he’d been brought up with a certain work ethic, that he’s passionate about cricket, loves literature and poetry, is very interested in film and loves his job.
He admitted that he regretted the comment he made about having dyspraxia because it really hadn’t had any negative impact on him and he felt the issue was being blown out of proportion. He also responded to a question about his religious upbringing, which he said he didn’t have, although he jokingly reassured everyone that he hadn’t been raised in a moral cesspit, and he had the audience howling with laughter when he responded “God” to a question about which role he would probably never get to play.
I was not the last person to step up to the microphone, but wanted to share my questions with you last because I was there on behalf of DanRadcliffe.com, and I wanted to have something special to report back to you.
I first of all congratulated Daniel for all he’d achieved on film and on stage so far, which he thanked me for, and then asked my questions:
Q: I saw you in Equus in London, and there was something in particular that stuck me and that I found really amazing, which is the choreography you do when blinding the horses. I was wondering how much training it took to perfect because it is really very difficult.
A: Don’t get too attached to that, because … the thing is … it did take a very long time, because you’re in there and they are flying around with these hooves that are really sharp, and they’re flying around your head, and I’m naked at this point and as if it wasn’t terrifying enough to do in front of a live audience, to do it and almost get killed is not good (!). So it took a long, long time, but I think it is the most effective and shocking piece of theatrical stuff. And also, to be honest, I must take very little credit for that; those horses were just amazing because they knew that if I was too close they just wouldn’t move because they wouldn’t risk it and to be able to make snap decisions in those moments when you don’t even have time to think … they really, really saved me and they were amazing, and the guys who are doing it here are also really amazing. It’s mind boggling. They’re incredible and so strong and you’ll find it amazing when you come to see it.
Q: Finally, I’d just like to know if there is any character in another play or musical that you would be interested in portraying eventually.
A: There are a couple of dream roles … I’m very careful not to say them. (The audience cheers him on.) I would love to play, at some point, Puck … (Large round of approving applause) … It’s a popular choice … and in terms of musicals, the one I … my favorite, favorite musical of all times is Company, and I’d love to play in that.