Harry Potter turns devilish

Harry Potter turns devilish

The moment actor Daniel Radcliffe hung up Harry Potter's wand in 2011, he faced a conundrum: After playing the world- famous boy wizard for more than a decade, he had to show cinema audiences that he could equally portray other characters, real- life muggles who lived lives more ordinary.

It is a process that is still in transition even now.

"I always wanted to do stuff that would separate me from Harry Potter, but at that particular point, it wasn't about finding separation," Radcliffe recalls of his final days under Hogwarts' protection. "It was just about showing that I could act in other things."

The 25-year-old Englishman currently stars in his fourth post-Potter film, Horns, a bizarre, magic- infused romantic drama-cum-murder mystery directed by horror moviemaker Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, 2006). The film opens here tomorrow.

He says: "There was never going to be one thing that would distance me from Harry Potter, so I think it is about trying to build up a body of work that eventually says that I have moved on.

"Also, everyone assumes that I might be worried about what Potter fans would think of me doing other stuff, but they are a very open- minded group of people, generally speaking, who are interested in things outside of Harry Potter.

"I also think there is an assumption that anything I do now is a comment on what I used to do, and it is really not. It can't be."

That might well be the case, but his latest film is bizarre enough to be a statement of sorts.

In Horns, he plays a dark-edged murder suspect who sprouts a devilish pair of horns that give him fantastic psychic abilities.

Presumably, it was the story's peculiar narrative and dark flavour that tempted Radcliffe in the first place? After all, his character in the film, Iggy, is a long way from Harry Potter.

"Definitely," he says. "They are all the things I respond to in a script, especially the black humour. I think black comedy is the closest thing to real life because tragedy and happiness are never that far away from each other. Also, this is the first time that I am playing a modern American guy. I always like the chance to do something for the first time."

The film is based on the novel by Joe Hill, son of celebrated horror writer Stephen King, and it remains faithful to its source - meaning that it is a real splice of genres such as comedy, mystery, horror, fantasy, magical realism and romance.

While Radcliffe admits that he had thought it could be a "divisive" work when he read the script, he adds that "it was one that as soon as I read I wanted to do".

He tries not to strategise too much when it comes to picking movies. "Ultimately my strategy now is: Will I have a good time, will I enjoy it, will it be something I haven't done before? I love being on film sets, I love my job. There is never a moment when I am like, 'I don't want to be here.' Those are the things that drive me to go for jobs."

His post-Potter cinematic output includes the leading role in The Woman In Black, a 2012 smash hit gothic horror that took more than US$127 million (S$162 million) at the worldwide box office, revitalising the classic British horror production company Hammer Films; and also a starring role in last year's biographical indie Kill Your Darlings, in which he played beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and for which he shot a gay sex scene.

He followed Kill Your Darlings with What If, a 2013 romantic drama in which he featured opposite Zoe Kazan as a quick-witted nerd.

He has shone on stage, too, famously stripping off for the critical hit Equus in 2007 in London, before starring in the New York production the following year. In 2011, he did the Broadway revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical drama How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.

"Doing a musical in New York, which is the spiritual home of the musical, was really scary," he says of the experience. "And because it is not something that I am naturally gifted at, I had to work very hard.

"I got sick and tired of hearing, 'Oh, being on stage is really liberating.' It is not. It is terrifying! Each night, I found it frightening. And with dancing, in a way, it is even more exposing - especially when you have a chorus of 30 people behind you who are all super talented.

"It is very intimidating, but I know that I have got to be prepared to take risks to show people that I am serious about trying to forge a career."

Up next: the Judd Apatow-directed comedy Trainwreck and the big-budget studio film Victor Frankenstein, in which he plays Igor from Mary Shelley's 19th-century gothic novel.

In many adaptations, Igor appears slightly buffoonish. But the new film is told from his perspective, charting his relationship with the young medical student Victor Frankenstein, who is brought to life on screen by Scottish actor James McAvoy.

"It is funny at times," Radcliffe says of Victor Frankenstein. "There are moments of comedy in it, particularly in the first third. I would describe it as an adventure movie, a rip-roaring 19th-century adventure. James McAvoy is stunning in it, really staggeringly good.

"At the beginning of the film, my character is just living as this nameless, pitiful, hunchbacked creature, with this pretty horrible mistreated life. Victor saves him from all of that and gives him a new life - so in effect he becomes my creator.

"The story is then about at what point do you stop paying homage to the person who gave you the life. Do you at some point have to rise above that? It's really good fun and I can't wait for people to see it."

stlife@sph.com.sg

Horns opens in Singapore tomorrow.


This article was first published on October 27, 2014.
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