The Woman in Black - Daniel Radcliffe interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
DANIEL Radcliffe talks about making the break from Harry Potter into new, more adult material starting with the film adaptation of The Woman in Black.
He also discusses the appeal of appearing in a classic horror, some of the challenges involved and some of the Internet rumours circulating about him!
Q. You read the script when you were on the plane just after you’d finished Harry Potter? Is that right?
Daniel Radcliffe: That is correct. We finished on June 29 and I read the script on the plane going to America that night, something like four hours after we did the last shot. And it was amazing. I think one of the reasons I was so excited by the script was the fact that I hadn’t envisioned myself doing horror, it was never something that I gravitated towards myself particularly, so the fact that I suddenly found myself really enjoying this script was even more exciting because it was so unexpected.
Also, Jane [Goldman]’s writing is kind of amazing. It’s a testament to her writing that I read the script in an hour and it’s mainly stage direction… there’s not much dialogue but it was written so well and so compellingly that I just raced through it. So, I read the script, it was a great script and it was an interesting part, [involving] things I hadn’t been asked to do before, and then I met the director, James [Watkins], who I immediately felt that we shared a kind of vision for the film and what it was about, and it being not just a horror film but also something where the characters are not just an excuse to scare people, but actually the characters are real, the relationships feel real, and it’s got real heart as well. So, it was a chance to do something different and so, yes… great script, great part, great director… that’s the holy trinity. Yes!
Q. Had you seen the stage play?
Daniel Radcliffe: No, I never went on that school trip! Everyone else I know has seen it on a school trip and for reasons I need not go into I wasn’t at school very much, so I missed out on that one. And I never read the book for AS Level. That seems to be the two things: my friends have either studied the book or they went and saw the play at school. I read the book obviously once I’d finished the script and knew I was meeting James. But no, I still haven’t seen the play. I now will but I couldn’t see it before for the same reason I didn’t watch the TV movie that was made, just because I copy… I know that’s what I do, so I have to stay away from other interpretations of the part if I want to give my own.
Q. You have a link to the TV movie as well…
Daniel Radcliffe: I know… Adrian Rawlins, who played my dad in Potter, played this part in the original TV movie that was made. I know you all know that but I’m just saying anyway [laughs]! But I like the idea that the Potter family has a monopoly on this character.
Q. What intrigued you about the nature of the role? Did you see it as a kind of bridging gap into older roles?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yes, certainly I was never under any illusions that this would be the one film that I would do that everyone would suddenly go: “Oh, he’s no longer Harry Potter!” I don’t think that’s going to happen but I certainly think it’ll start that. I think I look very different in this film, I think it’s a very different type of performance that I give. I mean, when you play Harry, my own natural energy and attack is very useful because that’s how Harry is as well. But with a part like this, it was about trying to completely suppress and deaden my own natural energy and give the look of somebody who has had the vitality taken out of him by the circumstances of his life.
So, those were the things I was kind of concentrating on. I didn’t think at the time about how much it would distance me or not distance me. Also, one of the things that was really appealing about this was that the story was so compelling that I… and I still think, even if people go in with Harry Potter in mind, after the first 10 minutes the story is quite gripping, so I think people are just going to be involved in the story and won’t be thinking about too many other things. But who knows, I could be wrong!
Q. Did you have lots of different scripts sent to you as you were finishing Harry Potter?
Daniel Radcliffe: There were a few around the end. There were certainly two or three that we were looking at. But this kind of went straight to the top of the pile as soon as it arrived just because it was the best, most complete film script I’ve read. It was also the one with the most realistic chance of filming soon. So, everything about it was perfect.
Q. What did you have to say ‘no’ to?
Daniel Radcliffe: One of them was a comedy… and it wasn’t really about saying ‘no’. It was more the fact that they were nowhere near ready to go and Woman in Black was in a place where it was almost getting ready to go and if I entered into it and got attached then it would probably be the last little boost it needed to get over the finish line. So, it wasn’t so much saying ‘no’ to other things, and some of those things are probably still on the table, but not in the immediate future.
Q. Is there anything you’d get so far into the script and go ‘I’m not doing that’? Any pet peeves?
Daniel Radcliffe: Not particularly. I don’t think there’s anything that I would really baulk at doing on-screen. I don’t think so. I’ve got certain pet peeves about writing… my pet peeve about reading scripts is when they give you a line reading and there’ll be a line but next to your character’s name it’ll say ‘very angry’. But I’m like: “Well, I’ll decide that actually!” So, there’s little things like that. That’s a slight pet peeve. But, you know, most scripts have them and all actors have a little issue with that.
Q. Did the notion that it was going to be made by Hammer appeal to you at all?
Daniel Radcliffe: I’m somebody who is very, very proud to have been a part of the British film industry all my life and to have kind of been involved with a very important piece of British film history, so yeah to be going from something as prestigious as Potter to something as equally prestigious as Hammer was very exciting. Also, there’s a few weird links between Potter and Hammer in that Amanda, who did my make-up for all the Potter films, her dad, Eddie, had done all the make-up for the original Hammers. I used to watch them too. Dracula was kind of our end-of-term film at school.
So, I used to watch that a lot and I felt honoured to be filling what I regard as the Peter Cushing role in this film. If this film had been made then, Peter Cushing would have beaten me for this part 10 times out of 10! So, I was very pleased to be able to work with Hammer. And it is a thrill when the Hammer logo comes up at the beginning, I think… although every time it comes up, even though I’ve seen the film three times now, for the first moment that Hammer comes up I expect it to say Marvel, for some reason. It has that kind of superhero thing going on for half a second!
Q. Does it seem weird that if you attach yourself to a project it will get a green light?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yeah. That’s not a general rule. I mean, this project was already far enough along and had enough people behind it, including the Hammer name, to be getting it going. I was the final thing that it needed…
Q. But you’re a very modest guy…
Daniel Radcliffe: But I promise you it’s not false modesty to say that. There are very, very few actors whose name… even people like me and Robert Pattinson, who are at the moment big names and bankable or whatever that means, but there’s very few actors that saying ‘yes’ to something would be a green-light for the film. I think probably George Clooney, brad Pitt and Johnny Depp are the only three that have that kind of pull and that comes from having had very long careers and kind of being universally respected as actors and as professionals. So, there’s a long way to go before we’re at that stage.
But it is also a very nice thing to know that you are going to be able to help get films made that might not otherwise get made, particularly as I’m in a position now where I’m very fortunate, financially on Potter, so I don’t have to work for the money now and I can just do the things that interest me. I like the idea of not having to do stuff for the money and if I want to, I can pick indie projects for the rest of my life and be quite happy doing that.
Q. What will be next? What do you want to do?
Daniel Radcliffe: Next, I start filming a movie in March, which I think will be about a 30-day shoot called Kill Your Darlings, which is about a murder was sort of the catalyst for forming the beat generation. I’ll be playing a 19-year-old Allen Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan, a young actor who is fantastic, is playing Lucien Carr, who is my best friend at the time, Jack Huston is playing Jack Kerouac and Elizabeth Olsen is playing Edie Parker. It’s a very, very exciting… again, James [Watkins]’ second film was The Woman in Black; John Krokidas, our director, is making his first feature. As I was saying to someone earlier, everyone wants to work with Scorsese and Spielberg, and who wouldn’t, but I find it equally exciting the prospect that I might be working with the next Scorsese or the next Spielberg. I think it’s very exciting to work with young, hungry directors.
Q. Would you be interested in producing?
Daniel Radcliffe: Down the line, absolutely. I would love to self-generate films. Directing is what I’d like to get into eventually… frankly I feel like it would be a waste if I didn’t, I’ve spent so much time on film sets, I know how they work, and I love them and love to be leading them, and I would like to do that as a director definitely. I’m looking at guys like Sean Durkin, who did Martha Marcy May Marlene… that’s a completely self-generated film, he wrote that himself, directed that himself, got the financing and produced it, that kind of film-making is really exciting and gives a kind of creative freedom that all directors aspire to, so that’s the way to do it definitely.
Q. You write don’t you?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yes I try. I’m trying to write scripts at the moment. I’m trying to get better at it. I’m reading a lot of scripts at the moment and that’s helping me get better, I think.
Q. How did you prepare for the role? I mean, this comes from a place of deep sadness over a bereavement…
Daniel Radcliffe: Touch wood, thankfully I’ve never been bereaved and so you’re never going to imagine yourself into that mindset. So, I spoke to a grief counsellor, particularly because I was interested in the fact that if your wife died during childbirth, what kind of relationship would that mean you have with your son? Would there be a resentment? And the answer I got was a definitive `yes’. And then I read a couple of books, one was A Grief Observed by CS Lewis and the other was You’ll Get Over It [Virginia Ironside], which is an amazing book about the grieving process. I was just trying to take in as much information, furnish yourself with enough information, so that on set, rather than have to think consciously about it, it would inform your choices as you went along.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you’ve seen The Woman in Black three times already. How critical are you when you watch yourself back?
Daniel Radcliffe: Guess! Very critical! I hate watching myself but I know I have to watch it because I’m going to be asked about it so I need to have some sort of semblance of what the film is like. But it’s not an enjoyable experience watching yourself. I hate it less than I used to but I still don’t enjoy it. I am critical but I try not to get to a point where… you know, being self-critical is good, being self-hating is destructive and it’s a very fine line to walk.
Q. Is it true that you have eight different Twitter accounts?
Daniel Radcliffe: None of them are me!
Q. Do you Google yourself?
Daniel Radcliffe: I Google myself to see what come up when you Google Daniel Radcliffe because that’s always amusing. At the moment, it’s `Daniel Radcliffe gay, Daniel Radcliffe Twitter, Daniel Radcliffe alcoholic’, they are the three top suggestions that come up, which is kind of awesome! What was great was that when the news first came out, when me and my girlfriend were photographed together for the first time, within 48 hours, if you typed in R-O-S-A [her name is Rosanne Coker] she was Google’s third search result after Rosacea and Rosa Parks, so I find that quite amusing. And also what I love about the gay thing is that every single person I type into Google, it doesn’t matter if it’s Florence Welch, anybody, if you are not being called gay you don’t have a career. That’s my theory!
Q. Do you pay attention to what is written about you?
Daniel Radcliffe: A little bit. Sometimes you can’t help but pay attention to it because your mates will be texting saying: “Oi, what’s this?” “Don’t tell me, dick.” Yeah, you are trying not to pay attention to it because it’s generally not constructive, it can be very funny, in which case it’s fine to pay attention to it if you’re going to laugh about it. But if it’s going to get you angry then it’s a pretty pointless waste of energy, so I try and be selective about what I take an interest in about myself. I don’t read articles but occasionally people will say: “You’ll probably be asked about this, so read it…” But generally speaking you just let it wash over you.
Q. You’ve taken part in quite a lot of self parodies, including Saturday Night Live… but when writers come to you with this does it ever get hurtful?
Daniel Radcliffe: Not at all, no because with the Potter sketch on SNL most of the people writing that are massive Harry potter fans, like Taran… Taran played Dumbledore in the opening sketch and Ron in the Potter sketch, he’s a mad Potter fan and it’s all done with love. You know the comedian Brendan Byrne? He’s got a great line: “You’re in the alpha male club, it’s time to sit back and have a f**king sense of humour about yourself!” Once you’ve been in the biggest movie franchise in the world, people are going to make jokes. [But] I’ve had some great references… once I was mentioned in The Thick Of It – that was one of my favourite mentions ever. I don’t know if you remember the line, I certainly do. It was: “If you resign now this party will be out of power until Daniel Radcliffe is advertising walk in baths in People’s Friend.” I was very, very pleased with that! There are also great ones in South Park. You’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself.
Q. What did you make of the outpouring in response to the last Potter film?
Daniel Radcliffe: It was wonderful, I think it was in recognition of… whatever you thought of the series, they’ve done it for 10 years. I’m very proud of the franchise because these are big movies, made ostensibly by an American studio, Warner Brothers, and we managed to keep the integrity and care. There was never a moment where everyone got complacent, they always really cared and wanted to make great films. To have kept that ethic up for 10 years is impressive and is deserving of the affection and love it generated. I’ll never forget standing in Leicester Square… someone said there were 25,000 people there.
Q. Can you remember much about your first press junket for Harry Potter? One journalist wanted to ask you, Emma and Rupert about the situation in the Middle East…
Daniel Radcliffe: I’m sure I probably had an opinion, did I? I remember the day very clearly. I remember seeing Lizo Mzimba there and thinking, ‘oh my God, Lizo from Newsround, I’m really excited!’ It was bizarre. And I remember Rupert and Emma being really sweet to me because I’d only read the first two books at that point, and I’d obviously completely forgotten the second because someone asked: “Who is Tom Riddell?” Of course, thinking back these guys were trying to trip us up, I mean – first time out! And Rupert was writing out the answers to these Harry Potter questions and trying to slide them over to me in front of the world’s press. But I look on that day with great affection and actually I do remember it very clearly, we were in the Landmark Hotel, fittingly named.
Q. You’ve talked about this before, do you still feel strongly about Oscars for Potter?
Daniel Radcliffe: I do feel very strongly about Alan [Rickman]. I feel it would have been wonderful for Alan to get some recognition because it’s an incredible achievement. Obviously, there are a lot of others… I mean, Christopher Plummer in Beginners particularly, that’s an amazing performance as well. There’s lots of great performances. But I think what’s remarkable about Alan’s is that he managed to give such an emotive performance in not much screen time and tell such a clear story with the expectation of the world upon him for the whole revelation of that scene.
Everyone was waiting for that moment and Snape’s confession and I just thought he did it wonderfully In terms of the rest of it, you know… do I think we’re the best picture of the year? No, probably not. I think we’re a great movie absolutely. And how much of a pat on the back do we really want? We’ve made 6 billion dollars at this point. Box office figures, when they’re quoted, can sound very cold but it means that people not only went and saw the film but they go back again and again and again in the cinema. After the second film came out, I met someone who had seen it 20 times in the cinema! That’s mind-blowing to me but people love them and it speaks to their affection for the films and what we did that they went back and back and back. So, obviously it would be lovely but we’re not desperately in need of it.
Q. Do you ever think you’ll get to the stage of Alec Guinness, who started to ask Star Qars fans not to go and see the film for the umpteenth time?
Daniel Radcliffe: I always remember something Robert Smith said in an interview about fans, which I’ve always remembered. Someone asked him why he still dresses the way he does onstage. And he said it’s because people come to my shows dressed like that and if they look and see me not dressed like that, it’s somehow a betrayal. So, I’m not going to be like one of those punks who then claims they were never in a band 20 years later and is a stockbroker. I’m always going to be proud of Potter and what it has done for me. There’s no way I’d be doing Woman in Black or got onto Broadway without it. So, I would never play down my association with it. It’s something I’m very, very proud of and, you know, the fandom is a wonderful crazy thing. I don’t know in 30 years if someone is still coming up to me in wizard and gown maybe I’ll change my mind but for now I’d not discourage anyone from watching those films
Q. You’re looking very lean – is hoofing on Broadway the best workout you can have?
Daniel Radcliffe: It is. I haven’t been to a gym in a year and a half but if you want a good workout do a Rob Ashford show eight times a week. My legs are actually kind of breaking now that I’ve stopped! It seems that doing the show was the only thing that was keeping them from hating me [laughs] and I’ve only got myself to blame because I stretched maybe twice in a year, so it’s my own fault. Now that I’ve stopped it’s incredibly painful all the time. I miss it as well, I miss the fear of going out on stage already.
Q. At the risk of sounding like I’m asking about the Middle East, have you got anything to say about David Cameron’s comments last week?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yes! I kind of don’t know where they came from, I think it’s bizarre. I haven’t seen the context yet, I do have to say that. But he’s saying we should make more commercial films? I mean, how much more commercial than Captain America, X-Men: First Class, Clash of the Titans 2 and War Horse does he mean? And Harry Potter… I mean, we’ve made the most commercially successful franchise in film history here over the last 10 years, and quite a lot of really big films are being made here. And also he can’t just offer a decree unless he’s going to offer an incentive. We’re not going to be able to compete with Eastern Europe unless he’s talking about tax breaks and things like that, which I don’t know that he is. You can’t just say “we need to make more commercial films’. It sounds like someone who doesn’t really have an understanding of the industry? But hey, he’s a politician so he must be right [laughs]. I’m sure they wouldn’t speak so confidently if they were ill-informed!
Q. For Woman in Black or the Ginsberg movie – did you audition or would that sort of thing make you storm out in a strop?
Daniel Radcliffe: Absolutely not. One of the things that I cannot fathom is young actors who won’t audition and won’t read. I was talking to a director recently because when I meet directors one of the first things I say is: “If you want me to read for this I’m more than happy to…” They just don’t expect that because young actors just don’t. And I don’t think it’s the actors themselves, it seems like their agents don’t want them to be exposed, which I find very strange. But I know that generally speaking people have only seen me in one role and I need to prove to them that I can do other stuff and if that means auditioning, I’m fine with that. I auditioned for Kill Your Darlings.
In fact, I auditioned for it originally when I was doing Equus on Broadway when it first came around. I got the part, then I went off to film Harry Potter 6 and the film was like: “Well, we’re going now!” So, they had to go without me and they cast Jesse Eisenberg and Chris Evans. That was that incarnation of the film and then the financing fell through. And when John started again he came back to me and said: “Look, we’re trying again. You’re now available; do you want to do it again?” And I was – absolutely. But I had one meeting with John followed by a session together where we worked for three hours and after that I got the part.
Q. Are there other stage productions in the pipeline?
Daniel Radcliffe: My next mission is to find a new play in England, that’s what I want to do. It’s not favouritism I promise, I’ve been in New York for the last couple of shows and they did talk about How To Succeed… coming to London but I was tired and I’d done it for 11 months, which is longer than any stage run I’ve ever done before, and also I don’t think big business was ever conceived as a glamorous place by people, so it’s very hard to satirise it over here. We never had the Mad Men era so I’m not sure it would be as universally enjoyed over here as it was [on Broadway]. A show like Guys and Dolls works anywhere but Succeed has so many jokes based on Americana.
Q. Did living and working in New York take the pressure off you, in terms of recognition?
Daniel Radcliffe: Kind of! People in New York are used to seeing people and also they’re New Yorkers, so they don’t want to be impressed. So, that does make it a lot easier. And also being in New York was amazing last year because for everybody else the last year  was about the last [Harry Potter] film coming out, and for me it was it was like a little moment and I was doing the show and so that was the focus of my year. It was nice to have something else to concentrate on.
Q. Could Potter work on the stage?
Daniel Radcliffe: No. I have been asked [before]. I know that Darren Criss has obviously done the Potter musical but I don’t think there should be an official musical version. I don’t think Jo (Rowland) would sanction that either, I’m pleased to say.
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- Daniel Radcliffe interview
- James Watkins interview
- Susan Hill interview
- Jane Goldman interview
- The Woman in Black Photo Gallery
- The best Hammer film posters
- Behind-the-scenes Photo Gallery
- Watch the trailer