Daniel Radcliffe: ‘I’m still fascinated by magic’
If Daniel Radcliffe is smarting about the mediocre reaction to his latest film Swiss Army Man, he’s doing a good job concealing it.
Admittedly, his character Manny is a tough sell. A gassy, talking corpse found washed up on the shore by a despondent Hank, played by Little Miss Sunshine’s Paul Dano.
While Radcliffe has since heard praise for the film, the first showing at Sundance Film Festival saw walkouts by audience members.
“To be honest, people didn’t know what they were going to see,” muses the actor, who these days splits his time between his native London and New York.
“It was a very buzzy film before the festival started. Perhaps there was a disparity between what people were expecting and what the film actually is, because on the second showing, the audience were just insane for it and absolutely loved it.
“I think that was because they had more of an idea of what they were getting into,” he adds optimistically. “There wasn’t the stunned silence that followed when people were watching it for the first time.”
So the furore about the flatulent corpse was just hot air?
“You want to get a reaction, and some of the initial reaction has been sensationalised, with the talk of a farting corpse… Actually, maybe it isn’t really sensationalised – there is a farting corpse!” Radcliffe confesses.
“The sensationalising was probably expected, but what is exciting is that people who are seeing the movie are now going, ‘Yes, it is incredibly strange but is also one of the funniest, most beautiful films I’ve ever seen’.”
While the jury’s out on Swiss Army Man, his next release, Now You See Me 2, should unite fans.
If there’s a common thread running throughout Radcliffe’s recent roles – there’s off-kilter romcom What If, tense thriller Horns, and his portrayal of Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings – it’s that they bear very little resemblance to each other, and each edges him further away from the blockbuster boy wizard of his early career.
Still enthusiastic to chat about Harry Potter and honour the career launch pad it gave him, Radcliffe has nevertheless been clear on his desire to forge ahead, with the new, the quirky and the downright unexpected.
Now You See Me 2 fits in nicely. The first film, which follows the Four Horsemen, an anarchic group of magicians who dupe a corrupt billionaire out of his money using their skills as illusionists, was a surprise hit, taking £300-million worldwide when it was released in 2013.
The sequel sees the return of Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo and Morgan Freeman, plus an injection of new blood in the forms of Mean Girls star Lizzy Caplan, Michael Caine and, of course, Radcliffe, who plays “obsessive and slightly crazed” Walter.
When his ex business partner cons him out of a fortune, Walter harnesses the Horsemen’s power while they’re under duress to steal a heavily guarded piece of technology, so he can regain his money and power.
“Walter wants to give the impression that he’s all-knowing, all-powerful and has more information than the Horsemen,” explains the 26-year-old, who was 10 when he was cast as Harry Potter.
“That is the main battle in the film. Part of the tension is trying to figure out who is playing whom, and who really has the upper hand.”
Radcliffe, whose first job was as the young titular character in the BBC’s adaptation of David Copperfield, found himself with a good hand in the casinos on location in Macau.
“The game over there is baccarat,” explains the actor, who will also be seen sporting a shaved head as an undercover officer in thriller Imperium out later this year. “That’s what everyone plays and, God, did I get into baccarat!
“The person who really surprised me with how into it they got was Jesse Eisenberg. I don’t know if I am imagining this, but it seemed as though Jesse had some sort of card counting method.”
He says he is interested in trickery “to a point”, having seen behind the magician’s curtain on the Harry Potter set.
“There was a guy who did a lot of the practical magic that we used on set, particularly on the third film, and he has a real in-depth knowledge of the history of magic,” Radcliffe explains.
“It’s fascinating, because through time, there are lots of intersections with magic crossing over with religion or science. I’m fascinated by a lot of that stuff, but I certainly don’t pretend I am particularly knowledgeable about it.”
The world of Walter is far removed to that of Harry, but still, was he worried about being associated with another magic film?
“Perhaps I should think about that stuff more than I do, but I don’t worry too much about that kind of thing, really.”
Recognised the world over, he says going about his daily business is less problematic than you might imagine.
“LA, New York and London are all very easy for me to walk around and be in without too much hassle. New York is the easiest place in the world, because even if people do notice you, they don’t really care. And LA is different again, because people are very used to actors. People treat you differently there, but in a very nice way.”
With Harry Potter And The Cursed Child due to open on the West End stage later this summer, no doubt the gaze will fall upon him again. So has he booked his tickets?
“I don’t know if I’ll see it, to be honest,” says Radcliffe. “But I definitely want to write to Jamie Parker who is playing Harry and wish him good luck!”