By and large, almost every feature film, play or anime that’s been released concerning Mary Shelley’s indelible literary legend focuses on the creation of the monster itself, and while that’s still true to a certain degree in Paul McGuigan’s soon-to-be-released supernatural feature, Victor Frankenstein is as much about the core dynamic between James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe’s leading duo as anything else.
Scripted by Chronicle scribe Max Landis, the aforementioned pairing will assume the roles of Victor and his brilliant but reclusive protégé Igor Strausman, respectively, who set out to defy the laws of nature and resurrect the dead. It’s a dark and slightly horrifying idea, but one that promises to pay off for the all who are involved.
Recently, during the film’s press day, we caught up with Radcliffe for an exclusive interview. During the course of our discussion, the actor spoke with us about what drew him to the script, the physicality of the role, finding Igor’s voice and much more.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
WGTC: What attracted you to this project in the first place? It’s kind of a different take on the classic story that we all know and love.
Daniel Radcliffe: Everyone has an image of Igor as Victor Frankenstein’s hunched over assistant, like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein. People are expecting to see that, and I felt it was important to be faithful to that image as we open the film. But that image changes about twenty minutes into the film when Victor rescues me, then takes me in and breaks my spine, which is a very intense and painful scene. Then Victor drains Igor’s hump.
What fascinated me about the script was how it revealed Igor’s backstory, how he lived before he met Victor. Everyone has an image and perception of Igor, based on what they’ve seen in the films, and I liked how the script subverted all of my expectations. In the 1931 film the creature was born in the middle of the story; in this film the creature is finished towards the end, so the story is mostly about the relationship between Igor and Victor.
WGTC: What do you think Igor sees in Victor? Why does he help him?
Daniel Radcliffe: When you first see me, I’m a freak show attraction being controlled by Barnaby, who’s played by Daniel Mays, and I’m living in absolute squalor. Igor has been mistreated; he lives in abject conditions and doesn’t even have a name. But he has a brilliant mind. He’s saved by Victor, who shows him great kindness and recognizes Igor’s intelligence and talent. After he breaks my spine, I begin helping Victor with his experiments.
WGTC: Talk about working with James a bit. What was that like? What did he bring to the project?
Daniel Radcliffe: James is a very physical actor, which he showed in the scene where he breaks my spine. It’s hard to get other actors to be that physical, because they’re scared that they’ll hurt you, but not James. I wanted James to throw me against the wall and to act as if he was really try to break my spine, and he was willing to do that. He didn’t break my spine, of course, but he threw me around and was very physical with me throughout the filming, which I appreciated.
WGTC: How does this taken on the Frankenstein story differ from what people are familiar with?
Daniel Radcliffe: There are horrific elements in the film, of course, but the relationship between these two men is the heart of the film. The relationship reverses somewhat by the time Igor and Victor reach the monster experiment, with Igor, who loves Victor and would do anything for him, trying to save Victor from himself. Victor does experiments with a half-monkey, a hyena, and the results are horrific, a bastardization. Igor, who has a brilliant scientific mind, becomes the scientist and Victor becomes the monster. Igor says to Victor: “People won’t remember you as a scientist; they’ll remember the monster.”
WGTC: You’ve said in the past that one of the biggest challenges of this role was finding Igor’s voice. Why is that?
Daniel Radcliffe: He doesn’t have a cockney accent but rather speaks with a neutral London voice, an Englishman’s voice, lower than my own voice. It’s not the voice of someone from the upper class but someone at the very bottom of the food chain; it’s the voice of someone who’s never really lived in society and has never really spent time talking with other people until Victor came along and rescued him.
WGTC: What was it like filming in Scotland, and what did that bring to the film?
Daniel Radcliffe: Well, we filmed the main castle sequence, the climax, in January, when it was freezing cold, and they had all of these rain machines pouring down on James and I for two weeks.
There was this little room, a hot room, two-by-three, where we could run for cover and get warm, which we did every time there was a break. The conditions made the scenes seem real to us, and Paul was very good at letting James and I find the characters and play around. It’s a beautiful looking film, classic, gothic, but also very dark at times, and I think that, tonally and visually, it’s very faithful to the original film.
That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Daniel very much for his time. Be sure to check out Victor Frankenstein when it hits theatres this Friday!