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December Boys - Daniel Radcliffe interview

Daniel Radcliffe in December Boys

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DANIEL Radcliffe talks about his experiences of filming December Boys in Australia and why he doesn’t feel that he’s becoming stereotyped in his roles.

He also discusses his plans for the future, life after Harry Potter and what he really thought of the final book in the series…

What was the attraction of December Boys?
Daniel Radcliffe: In my view, Maps is a very different character to Harry [Potter], which was very appealing. It was also down to some very good advice I’d been given by a director – not someone I’d actually worked with but someone I’d had a meeting with. It was a general meeting but one of the things he said to me, which I really took to heart, was: “Whatever you do next and for the foreseeable future, try if you can to make sure that the film is an ensemble piece, rather than the film hanging on your performance.” December Boys is such an ensemble piece that it means while the attention initially in the press might be focusing on me, once people get in there they’ll watch the film as a whole rather than analysing my performance.

Q. You have a loving family in real life, so is it difficult to get into the head of an orphan?
Daniel Radcliffe: Well, Maps is actually my third orphan [laughs]. I did David Copperfield, then obviously Harry Potter, so I’ve had a bit of experience playing orphans and I have some good friends who have lost parents when they were young. It was mainly about talking to them and how that feels. I don’t think that you necessarily need a certain type of background to take on roles like these. You see actors from very, very privileged backgrounds playing working class characters and vice-versa. I don’t think your background limits you as to what you can do. But you’re right, I’ve had a very happy upbringing.

Q. Are you worried about perhaps being stereotyped into playing orphaned, vulnerable characters?
Daniel Radcliffe: Not really. In terms of the other stuff I’ve been doing recently I think vulnerability is something that every character I’ve played has had. But I think the fact that Harry [Potter] and Maps are both orphans doesn’t make them the same character. They’re still very, very different. I think Harry very much wears his hearts on his sleeve and is very vocal about how he feels, whereas Maps is much, much quieter. For the first quarter of the film he really doesn’t say much. And that was the main challenge for me, being able to communicate the same amount you would have to with any other character but with less dialogue.

But I don’t think I’ve been stereotyped into playing orphans. Harry is the only one I have any plans to play again the near future. I’ve just done a TV film called My Boy Jack where I have a very, very protective mother and a very devoted father [Rudyard Kipling]. And in Equus I had what would appear to be a family like any other, really, but it just so happens that his character was very, very damaged. So I don’t think I’m going to have too much of a problem.

Q. How was it working with another young cast? With Harry Potter, you’ve grown up with your co-stars but with this one you were the old hand, as it were?
Daniel Radcliffe: It was interesting because on Harry Potter I still am one of the junior members of the cast. Even though I’ve done a lot of them I’ve only just turned 18 and I’m working with actors a lot older than me. But suddenly I was on this set with these three kids that were a lot younger than me and had done a lot less, so I was suddenly one of the senior members of the cast and I did feel really protective of all the other kids for some reason. But I actually quite enjoyed that aspect of it, of being treated like an adult rather than one of the young ones.

Q. Did they see you as Harry Potter?
Daniel Radcliffe: Probably a little bit at first but then when I did the Australian accent I think they stopped seeing me that way [laughs].

Q. Did you notice anything different from going from a big film set like Harry Potter to a smaller, independent film set like December Boys?
Daniel Radcliffe: It’s funny, there are very few differences. The main difference is that on a set as big as Harry Potter it takes you the length of one film to learn everyone’s name. Whereas on something like December Boys you can generally do it within a couple of days because the crew was so much smaller. But I think all film sets are equally chaotic no matter how big or small the budget. And something else they have in common is that everyone is pulling together to make the best film possible, so it’s quite a communal experience in that way.

Q. And how did you find being away from home for so long?
Daniel Radcliffe: Australia has been, in my experience, a very welcoming country so I didn’t feel too bad. My dad was out there with me the whole time and my mum came out for two weeks at the beginning of the shoot and two weeks at the end. Then we had Christmas out there and came back home. So, I didn’t feel too isolated at all because I was so welcomed by the crew.

Q. What did you miss most when you were out there?
Daniel Radcliffe: My dogs. Other than that, I was genuinely made to feel pretty at home. Obviously, I missed being in London but it didn’t really factor in to the experience too much.

Q. Do you feel nervous about the reaction to this film given it’s your first big screen role away from Harry Potter?
Daniel Radcliffe: A little bit. But I’m just going to try not to think about it to be honest. It’s when you start to worry about things like reviews that you become very self conscious and very neurotic – and like the world needs another neurotic actor! Hopefully, I won’t go too far down that road of reading reviews and things like that. I’d like to take it in my stride and if they totally slate it, I’ll just have a breakdown!

Q. Do you think in your next choice of role away from Harry Potter you’ll need to make a very definite statement to move away from that character?
Daniel Radcliffe: I don’t know if I need to move away from it but I certainly do need to establish with people and within the industry the fact that I absolutely want to make a career out of this and that I’d never be content with just coasting along on the Harry Potter fame. That’s what motivates me. I get a huge kick out of doing good work and out of working on different films with different crews, so hopefully that’s what these films will achieve.

That said, I’d never want to distance myself from Harry Potter because I’m incredibly proud of the films and, particularly with the fifth one, proud of what I did in it. It’s not a question of absolutely detaching myself from it, but rather establishing myself as an actor rather than a character.

Q. Have you read the final Harry Potter book?
Daniel Radcliffe: I have indeed, yes. I loved it. I thought what she [JK Rowling]‘s done is very, very clever because in effect she’s made a very spoiler proof book. If someone tells you what happens to Harry at the end, and whether he’s dead or alive, it doesn’t actually matter. It doesn’t take away from any of the drama that happens in the book. I had sort of worked out the ending before it was published just based on fragments of conversations I’d had with JK Rowling over a period of about a year and a half. So, I was sort of one step ahead, which I’m very pleased about. But I was really, really happy with the book.

Q. Will there be a part of you that’s slightly relieved once all the Harry Potter movies have been done?
Daniel Radcliffe: Oh yeah, I make no secret of that. It’ll be quite exciting and quite daunting to suddenly be in a non-Harry Potter world. It’ll be quite intimidating in some ways because [at the moment] you know that whatever films I do in between I’ll always have Harry Potter to go back to. But when that’s not there it’ll be interesting to see how I cope.

Q. What’s next in terms of films or theatre?
Daniel Radcliffe: Well, I start Harry Potter 6 in three weeks’ time and I worked out the other day that I’ll have two days off between now and then! But that should be fun because I’m really looking forward to working with David Yates again. I think he’s a brilliant director. And then hopefully next year we might take Equus to Broadway, which would be amazing. Other than that, there are no immediate plans. I’ve just finished a film called My Boy Jack which stopped shooting a couple of weeks ago and that will be coming out in England later this year, around November time.

Q. Do you have any plans to go to university or drama school?
Daniel Radcliffe: No. For me, you go to university to meet lots of different people from different backgrounds. I think that’s one of the most important things you get there, certainly from what my friends have told me. And you also get some sense of direction regarding what you want to do when you leave. I sort of know what I want to do in my life – I want to act and ultimately I’d like to write. And in terms of meeting people from different backgrounds, that’s what you get on a film set. So the two most valuable things that university would have given me I’ve sort of achieved by being on a film set.

In terms of drama school, what that will give you that you won’t necessarily learn on a film set is the technical ability – ie, projecting your voice and stage craft. I’ve been working on that with a woman for almost two and a half years, partly in preparation for Equus, and it’s an ongoing process. In a way, I’m having one on one drama school, which is very, very fortunate.

Q. What would you like to write?
Daniel Radcliffe: Poems, mainly.

Q. Do you feel more pressure with each Harry Potter film, or more pressure on something like December Boys?
Daniel Radcliffe: It’s pretty equal really. There’s a lot of pressure obviously on Harry Potter because you have to make them better, especially now that we’ve set up the franchise so that they do keep getting better and better. The pressure is definitely on to make sure we continue doing that. But equally for any of us who go off and do other films in between people will probably scrutinize our performances and so there’s a lot of pressure there. But as long as you just ignore it totally then you should be fine.

b>Read our review of December Boys