Daniel Radcliffe has moved well beyond Harry

08/19/2014 12:00 AM

08/18/2014 6:44 PM

Little Harry Potter grew up to star in a millennial take on “When Harry Met Sally.” Now in theaters, it is titled “What If.”

One might wonder where the time went, had Daniel Radcliffe not filled it so well with diverse, interesting stage and screen roles.

Radcliffe, 25, still was a teen and in the midst of the “Potter” film series when he appeared nude on stage as a horses-obsessed young man in the 2007 London revival of “Equus.” The show later moved to Broadway.

In 2011, the year the “Potter” movies concluded, he sang and danced in a new Broadway staging of “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He just finished a Broadway stint in Martin McDonagh’s revived 1996 dark comedy “The Cripple of Inishmaan.” Radcliffe drew the best reviews of his stage career for his disabled young Irishman seeking a role in Hollywood film.

One thing Radcliffe will not revive is the Potter role. He has said he is done, even though “Potter” author J.K. Rowling recently posted a new story on her website that has Harry in his 30s, married to Ron Weasley’s sister, Ginny, and working for the Ministry of Magic.

Radcliffe is too busy top-lining other movies, like “What If,” which asks that “When Harry Met Sally” question of whether men and women really can be just friends. It does so with clever dialogue and an adorable chemistry between Radcliffe and co-star Zoe Kazan. Radcliffe plays Wallace, a medical-school dropout and recent romantic dumpee, and Kazan plays Chantry, an animator who already has a handsome, long-term boyfriend when she and Wallace meet at a party.

The pair instantly click, sharing a sense of humor and a fascination for topics such as Elvis Presley’s diet in his later years. (A giant peanut-butter, jelly and bacon sandwich, known as “Fool’s Gold,” apparently figured in that diet and also appears in “What If.”)

Radcliffe showed he could carry a non-“Potter” film when the 2012 chiller “The Woman in Black,” in which he starred as a lawyer professionally burdened with a haunted house, found audiences in the United States and United Kingdom. He followed it with last year’s critically acclaimed “Kill Your Darlings,” in which he brought sensitivity to the real-life role of poet Allen Ginsberg. “Darlings” focuses on Ginsberg’s friendship with, and romantic yearning for, charismatic Beat figure Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), and the slaying of another Carr associate.

The near constant shadow over Radcliffe’s stage and screen characters makes Wallace in “What If” seem especially fun by comparison. Wallace is a regular young guy, beset by self-doubt and career uncertainty but not by Death Eaters, ghosts or strange obsessions.

Enjoy the light while it lasts. Radcliffe’s next film is “Horns,” directed by horror specialist Alexandre Aja (“High Tension”) and due in October. Radcliffe plays a guy who awakens with horns having sprouted from his head.

Reached recently by phone in Los Angeles, Radcliffe was friendly and good-humored while discussing “What If,” his post-“Potter” career and a British tabloid press that has watched him with more scrutiny than Voldemort did Harry.

“What If” is the most conventional film you have made after the “Potter” films. Why did you choose it?

I enjoyed the dialogue. I felt like it was a very traditional romantic comedy, (but) I think the characters are what make it interesting. The way these people feel very real, and I hope, likable as well. I do a lot of generally darker-leaning stuff. I think that’s what I enjoy. I don’t think you can have ice cream all the time, but definitely (sometimes). When I was on set, I was like “This is really fun, making a movie you know will make people happy.”

So “Fool’s Gold” is a real thing …

Yes, early today I did an interview with a local TV news outlet in Colorado, and they took great pride in telling me they were indeed the home of the Fool’s Gold sandwich.

It is very real. Be very afraid. I’m joking about it, (but) I love it. It is delicious. Zoe and I – it is the one thing we disagree upon so far that can never be reconciled. She is adamant that it is not food. I am adamant that it is delicious.

You were at Comic-Con in July to promote “Horns.” When you weren’t working, you walked the convention floor in a Spider-Man suit, so as not to be recognized. How did your experience contrast with what would have happened had you walked around as yourself?

If I had just walked around, it would have very quickly turned into a lot of taking photos with people. Which is kind of what I did anyway. (laughs)

But it was just a different atmosphere. People change (when they recognize me). It can affect an interaction, with me being me. It was nice to experience (interactions) with that not in the way. I guess the Spider-Man costume got in the way a bit, but it was still a different thing. People were very sort of calm, really. They were still enthusiastic, because everyone’s enthusiastic at Comic-Con, but it was definitely more relaxed.

You seem so mature and poised for a 25-year-old. Do you feel mature for your age, or is that just the public’s perception from having seen you play that reasonable young wizard for so long?

When I was a teenager, I felt that maybe the fact that I was interacting with adults in a different way than most teenagers do, it did make me grow up a little bit. Now I just feel 25. So clearly I slowed down at some point (laughs).

You worked with many esteemed British actors in the “Potter” films. People who move easily from the stage to indie film to TV and then highly commercial movies. Did you aspire to that kind of career?

Very much so. … You just look around, when you are working with people like Imelda Staunton and David Thewlis and Gary Oldman. Not just how they are as actors, but how they conduct themselves on set. That is very inspirational. I hope, and I certainly feel, like I learned a lot from them, about how to be not just a good actor but a good professional.

Was there ever a time, when you were younger, that you questioned whether you wanted to continue acting?

Not after I made the decision when I was about 14. The idea of being an actor really took some hold, (and) I knew it was something I wanted to continue with after (the “Potter”) films were done. From that moment, I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.

After that … I always knew this was something I wanted to continue with, I always knew there would be people who would say that wasn’t possible, and I always knew I would work harder than those people knew I would or thought I would.

You seem to work very hard, and you are bucking every idea about the pitfalls of child stardom. Where did that work ethic come from?

I think it is because the stereotype about child actors is that they’re kind of brattish and lazy. I think when I was younger, because I thought that was what people might think of me, I guess I always wanted to make sure that was never the case.

I remember the day after I got the (“Potter”) part, there were articles written in British newspapers about how my life, or certainly my career, were (Radcliffe’s voice drops to a whisper) in doubt. When I was 11. Being written, I think, by another former child actor. When you are aware of that from a young age, I think it lights a bit of a fire under you, and it makes you want to not ever let these people say they were right.

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