It isn’t easy making the transition from being the face of an uber-popular film franchise to the modern-day version of Peter Cushing, but Daniel Radcliffe is giving it a try.
His latest film, and first major big screen outing since the final Harry Potter movie was released last year, is an adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1984 ghost story “The Woman in Black.” It also marks the fourth theatrical release from the recently revived famed Brit horror studio Hammer Films.
“The [Hammer film] I know is the first Dracula film that they made.” explained the enthusiastic Radcliffe during his promotional visit to Toronto last week. “The first time I watched it was at school. Everybody in my class wanted to be Christopher Lee. I wanted to be Peter Cushing because I thought he was really cool. There’s no doubt that had The Woman in Black been made 30 or 40 years ago he would have beaten me to this part.”
The Woman in Black follows the story of young lawyer Arthur Kipps as he’s sent to close out a recently deceased widow’s estate at a mansion with a dark past in a remote English village.
Once at the house he begins to see the ghost of a sinister woman dressed in black and is eventually is drawn into the mystery that haunts the house and surrounding town. The events play out in the grand tradition of ghost yarns like The Haunting or The Changeling; not that Radcliffe was able to draw on these classics for inspiration. He hates horror films.
“I’m terrified of them! A lot of modern horror can leave me cold and also I’m not good with blood and gore and all that stuff. It’s not fun for me. There’s nothing entertaining about watching a film like that.”
Regardless, Radcliffe was eager to take on the more grown-up role after spending the majority of his career being known as “the boy wizard,” yet he insists he doesn’t have a concrete strategy for how he’d like to see his career play out.
“I was under no illusions that people would see this and say “Oh he’s not Harry Potter any more. He’s completely transformed!” but I think it’s a very good step in that I look different. I’m playing a man rather than a boy. I think it’s very useful for an audience to see that I’m trying to do different stuff. We all are: Emma [Watson] and Rupert [Grint] and everybody.”
“It’s funny because people ask those questions a lot about whether it’s intentional that you want to be so diverse.” Radcliffe said. “It is, but I don’t think that’s specific to somebody coming out of a franchise. I think any actor worth his salt wants to show as much versatility as possible. So, over the next couple of years it’s going to be about doing as much work as possible and making it as varied as possible.”
The character of Arthur is grieving the loss of his wife 5 years before and is attempting to be a good father to his small son despite his crushing depression. It’s a role that required Radcliffe to do some research on that type of mental illness as well as discussing the essence of the character with the book’s author, Susan Hill.
“It was mainly about making sure I was on the right track. Obviously the script is an adaptation and very different both in the character of Arthur and in the entire framing of the story so I was kind of keen to make sure I wasn’t doing anything that would piss her off.” Radcliffe laughed.
“I spoke to a couple of people about depression and they both said how physically exhausting true depression is. How it is a serious effort to get out of bed in the morning so that’s where I started from with Arthur. I just wanted to make sure that it tallied with the vision of the character that she had.”
Looking to the future, Radcliffe is excited to begin shooting the film Kill Your Darlings in March. He’ll be taking on the role of infamous 1950s beat poet Allen Ginsberg. “It’s a first-time Director,” Radcliffe revealed. “I’m terrified, but very excited.”
He’s also looking forward to stretching his wings and finally finding an acting method that works for him. “I used to joke and say that I’m a point and click actor. My whole process has really been about trusting your instincts and hitting your mark.”
Radcliffe continued, “I feel I’ve been very lucky in having the right directors come along at the right times and taking me where I need to be. Alfonso Cuarón [who directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban] was one, Thea Sharrock who directed me in [the stage play] Equus was another, and I think [Darlings Director] John Krokidas is going to be the next one.”
In the end, Radcliffe is more than confident that he has it in him to surprise even the most ardent of Potter acolytes. “I’m going to get better is by taking risks and working with people who I think are going to improve me. Over the next couple of years I’m going to come on leaps and bounds.”
This concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Daniel Radcliffe for speaking with us. The Woman in Black opens in theatres on February 3, 2012.