Whistler Film Festival 2012: Daniel Radcliffe talks post-Potter life with Strombo

Yes, Radcliffe fans, he’s all that. That is, if your definition of “that” is charming, self-effacing, down-to-earth, and, of course, cute.

Daniel Radcliffe, he of Harry Potter fame, brought his star power to the Whistler Film Festival on November 30, drawing a full house at Millennium Place. (Recording wasn’t allowed during the event, hence the paraphrasing rather than direct quotes in this article.) And who better to chat with Radcliffe than Canada’s boyfriend, CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos.

Radcliffe, blending in with Whistler's relaxed vibe in a light-brown sweater and dark jeans, has been in the vicinity (Mission, Squamish, Vancouver) shooting the film Horns (based on the novel by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill). In the genre-defying film (he said it has multiple elements, including horror and romance), a guy who wakes up to find his girlfriend murdered and that he’s grown a pair of horns on his head. The horns have the power to make people confess to him, which he uses to find out who killed his girlfriend.

It’s part of his post-Potter career transition, which sees him taking on varied and unconventional roles.

He said he felt that after growing up with the Harry Potter group, he realized that there’s only so far that a person can develop in one environment. He talked about the need to “be in a room full of strangers”, to be “afraid and worried”, and to be giving himself the opportunity to fail (but hopefully not actually doing so).

When Strombo asked him whether he regarded the horror film The Woman in Black (his first film after the Harry Potter series concluded) as a critical moment in his career, he said in retrospect, it was. But he hoped that even if fans simply went to see “Harry Potter” in a new film, hopefully they’d be drawn into the film’s compelling story. (He admitted that he “smiled a small smile” when he heard it was one of the most complained about films because it frightened many children, who were taken to see it with their parents.)

When Strombo asked him what an indie director would need to approach a star like him, Radcliffe said just a great script. But he also pointed out that directors should be aware that anyone in a franchise is “dying” to break out and do something else in between their regular work.

In fact, one of his upcoming films is a Canadian film by It’s All Gone Pete Tong director Michael Dowse. Radcliffe described The F Word as a sweet but edgy rom-com that made him think of Manhattan and It Happened One Night.

One of his other forthcoming films is Kill Your Darlings, in which he plays the beat poet Allen Ginsberg. But don’t expect a dry retelling of history. He said the film depicts Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs, as the “drug-addled miscreants” that they were. In fact, he called it a “huge amount of fun”, almost becoming Oceans 11 (!) at one point.

He also portrays the younger counterpart to Jon Hamm, who both portray Dr. Vladimir Bomgard at different stages of his life in A Young Doctor’s Notebook. The TV series is set in Russia in 1917, and he described it as a comedy about isolation and loneliness (“very weird but extremely funny”, he said).

What might surprise some people is that he said he gets recognized as much for Harry Potter as he does for his stint on Ricky Gervais’ TV series Extras. (However, he noted that this was particularly mentioned by guys who don’t want to gush about having seen Harry Potter.) He also said that he got the gig in the weirdest way he had ever gotten work. He had been filming December Boys in Australia and was in a house with a kangaroo and snakes as pets when his dad said Gervais was on the line and asked him to be on the show just as he was bottle-feeding a kangaroo. (He said he had already watched Gervais’ U.K. version of The Office three times by then.)

Among his mentors he said he counts Harry Potter director Chris Columbus, actor Gary Oldman (Sirius Black in Harry Potter), and Kill Your Darlings director John Krokidas. He also said he admires the careers of Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney, for their mix of commercial and indie films. He did meet Clooney once at a White House Correspondents’ dinner; Clooney gave him a bear hug and told him that he was making all the right moves, and to keep on going even if they’re not all winners.

He noted that his work does allow him to spend a lot of time with his family (he said they’re a “great team as well as a great family”). His parents had initially turned down the Potter franchise because they feared it would be too disruptive to his life. When he decided to go for it, he said his parents knew the risks but trusted themselves as parents. They first signed on for two films, but his parents constantly asked him if he was truly enjoying himself. He said there’s a misconception that his upbringing was narrowed by his experiences when in fact he feels he’s stepped outside the potentially limited world of his school life and working with people from different backgrounds.

And it looks like fans don’t have to fear that he’ll develop an unwieldy ego. He said he told his family and friends that if he ever turns cocky, he wants them to call him on it. He said he doesn’t understand how some people can live with themselves after displaying diva-like behaviour.

As for media attention, he noted that the press changed in how they approached them after they turned 16 (particularly for Emma Watson, he said, who the paparazzi often chased down streets). He said he disagrees with the notion that if you’re a public person, you wave the right to privacy; he pointed out that it’s different if you actively court media attention.

He said that he realizes that he has been far too open in the past about some things but he’s learning to strike the right balance in maintaining his privacy. He did add that he’s hoping to develop more of his personal life by discovering more of what excites him outside of the film world since right now, his hobby is his work.

To conclude the one-hour Spotlight event, WFF executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw presented Radcliffe with a handcarved talking stick made by Squamish Nation artist Jim Yelton.

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.

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