Daniel Radcliffe on Potter and Bad Puns
LOS ANGELES — Daniel Radcliffe plays an orphan once again in the new movie “December Boys” – but this time, the “Harry Potter” star doesn’t have any magical powers to help get him navigate his adolescent angst.
In the coming-of-age drama, set in 1960s Australia, Radcliffe plays the oldest of four boys at an orphanage who get to spend their Christmas holiday at the beach. The younger ones compete to be adopted by the families they meet, while Radcliffe’s character falls hard for a pretty (and very assertive) local girl, with whom he shares cigarettes and his first sexual encounter.
It’s the latest opportunity for the actor, who just turned 18, to show he’s capable of much more than the iconic role of Harry Potter, which has inspired teen girls to sob, flail and faint in his presence. (The fifth installment in the franchise, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” has grossed more than $288 million domestically this summer and it’s still hanging in there at the box office.)
Last year, he did a hilariously deadpan send-up of his wholesome boy-wizard image on the Ricky Gervais comedy “Extras.” And earlier this year, he famously appeared naked on the London stage – and earned rave reviews – as a disturbed stable boy in “Equus,” which he plans to reprise on Broadway next fall.
The blue-eyed, quick-talking Radcliffe spoke with The Associated Press about all these parts, as well as regular-guy problems like doing laundry.
Radcliffe: (Sitting down on the couch, tugging at his stiff, dark jeans): These are the only pants I have left because I haven’t been able to wash stuff so frequently ’cause we’ve been going from hotel to hotel, and prices on washing underwear, it’s like extortion – it’s, like, four dollars a pair of underwear.
AP: Really? You could buy some new ones for less.
Radcliffe: You probably could, actually, but then they weigh the case down. And so I’m wearing the only pants I have left as I do this interview.
AP: So you do your own laundry then?
Radcliffe: Yes – well, I put it in the basket and it just suddenly comes back clean. My chores mainly revolve around keeping my room at an acceptable level of cleanliness and tidiness and just general standards of hygiene.
AP: You can see floor.
Radcliffe: Chunks of floor – it’s sort of a patchwork floor that I have amid posters and magazines.
AP: So what’s all this about you doing “Equus” on Broadway?
Radcliffe: Yeah, absolutely, hopefully. It’s not absolutely certain yet, as nothing ever is, but yeah, that’s definitely the plan. … I’ll be starting Harry Potter 6 and then that will go to the year 2040, and then after a few months – there’s probably going to be a few months’ gap in between that – and then “Equus” on Broadway. It should start late next year.
AP: A lot of scrutiny already for you in this role in London – New York audiences are very discerning, as well. What’s that going to be like?
Radcliffe: I’m going to be pretty nervous about it, of course, but it should be fun. And (co-star) Richard Griffiths has done Broadway before. He was the king of Broadway for a while when he won the Tony for “The History Boys,” so I couldn’t be with better people.
AP: Is it cold on that stage?
Radcliffe: (Smiles) Yes, it’s very well air-conditioned.
AP: There’s shrinkage?
Radcliffe: (Smiles again) There is an element of retraction, certainly.
AP: After the first time, I’m guessing, you get over this a bit.
Radcliffe: Oh yeah, you don’t care. I don’t care – I’ve done it 128 times.
AP: But everybody else cared and everybody else freaked out when you first got naked.
Radcliffe: It was hilarious.
AP: Why is that, do you think?
Radcliffe: ‘Cause, I don’t know, maybe they want me to be Peter Pan and stay young forever, some people. It’s also, I think, a lot of it is media stirred-up.
AP: And tabloids have fun with puns, of course.
Radcliffe: I could write so many good puns, I’m sorry. They’ve used “Hairy Botter” about five or six times now.
AP: And then there are the obligatory wand puns, of course.
Radcliffe: The wand puns, yeah, you can have lots of fun with them.
AP: But you knew that you wanted to be an actor when you were very young, right?
Radcliffe: Not really – I only properly decided that I wanted to do it when I was like 13, 14, when I was on Harry Potter 3.
AP: Really? So you were just messing around for the first couple of Harry Potters, this role that everybody in the world would have wanted?
Radcliffe: I wasn’t messing around, I was working, I was focusing. But I was having fun – I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” But it was on Harry Potter 3 that I started to think like that.
AP: What happened with that one that something clicked inside of you?
Radcliffe: I think working with Gary Oldman was pretty inspirational. Working with him for the first time was pretty amazing for me – that’s whose career I love.
AP: What advice did he have for you?
Radcliffe: He’d never patronize me enough to give me advice. That’s a horrible thing to do unless you’re really, really close to somebody. Me and Gary get on very well, we’re quite close, he just isn’t the type of guy to do that. You just learn from watching him.
AP: I’ve read that you haven’t felt comfortable watching yourself on screen, is that still true?
Radcliffe: I still don’t like it. No, I don’t think any actor does, really. I enjoy the movies, I like watching them, I just don’t like watching myself particularly.
AP: What do you think when you see yourself?
Radcliffe: “God, you’ve got a stupid mouth,” anything, just totally negative criticism, basically.
AP: But don’t you feel like you’ve gotten better in each one?
Radcliffe: Yeah, absolutely. Oh yeah, no question. But, you know, there’s a long way to go.
AP: Do you think you understand the insanity of the Harry Potter phenomenon any better today than you did at the beginning?
Radcliffe: Not at all. I think it’s almost impossible to fully comprehend. When you’re in the middle of something, you can’t see how far it stretches. And that’s sort of my position on it. I met someone the other day who said, “You’re really big in Kuwait.”