Wednesday 21 February 2018

Darling Daniel

He'll always be remembered as a boy wizard, but Daniel Radcliffe's film success is a welcome break from the norm of most former child superstars. By Stephen Milton

Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe employs an open book policy which I wholeheartedly applaud and commend. Largely unscathed after what one can only presume was a vigorous media-training during his Potter tenure, he's sporadically spilled the beans on numerous personal topics over the years; his troubles with alcohol, a penchant for the older ladies, popping his cherry to one of those said older ladies.

Even today at London's Charlotte Street Hotel, he wildly gesticulates as he discusses his risqué love scene with another man in Jon Krokidas' Kill Your Darlings.

"I've fucked a horse on stage when I was 17," he cries, ever so eloquently of his turn in Equus, "but somehow, gay sex is a bigger deal?

"One of the reviews I saw very early on called it 'graphic'! There is nothing graphic about it. You see a bit of bum... and a bit more bum. That's really it.

"It's not, if you'll pardon the pun, a 'half-arsed' sex scene. It is just the fact that it's sex and that it's sex with a man. And it's sex with a man and the actor who played Harry Potter."

Admirably succinct for a 24-year-old, he continues to happily lay out the mechanical blueprints for shooting a scene of such a sexual nature as I feel the burn from my cheeks dissipate, content in the successful navigation of a potentially touchy subject.

"When I met the chap I was about to have sex with," he dryly adds, "it was sort of like, 'Hi, nice to meet you, how's your day going? Good, great... now let's get down to this.'"

Radcliffe is mellow and frank, grinning widely, enjoying his own humour. I steer the conversation towards that amusing incident last year when he was snapped at a home in Dundrum surrounded by some boisterous members of the Dublin Minor football team, euphoric after a win at the All Ireland's.

Clutching the Tom Markham cup, he looked to be having a ball at what was perceived as a harmless house party affair. I ask how the encounter came about and watch as his face turns ashen.

"Must we go into that," he proffers, staring down at his scuffed trainers.

Yes we must Daniel! Who doesn't want to know the details of your night with the younger Blues after bumping into them on Grafton Street while shooting comedy, The F Word?

He scratches his head, shifting in the chair.

"It was very fun. Those boys were very good to me... and eh, frankly I'd love to know the details of that night too. I was a stupid boy."

There's an awkward beat of silence in the room. I expected a winning anecdote, a charming yarn of hi-jinks and tomfoolery. Maybe a lack of memory fills the actor with remorse but hey, we've all been there.

With dark circles carved above his cheek bones, Daniel appears physically drained.

He's just stepped off a plane from Toronto where he was hocking three new features; Kill Your Darlings, frivolous Dublin based comedy, The F Word and edgy, dark thriller, Horns, about a young man who sprouts said appendages after being accused of the murder of his girlfriend.

"I'm shattered," yawns the diminutive actor, stretching his arms above his head. "Three films at the one festival, probably not the best planning. And actually, I didn't know if that would be detrimental, whether one film would get the bulk of the attention over the other two. But they all fared really well."

Slight and pale in a red sweater, jeans and a navy mac, which he wears throughout our interview, his complexion quickly rosifies when we discuss the awards buzz a buzzing over his Darlings performance as Allen Ginsberg, literary enigma and one of the founding fathers of the Beatnik generation.

"It's an absolute honour to even be included in the conversation. When you look at the list of people, 12 Years a Slave and The Butler, I cannot emphasise enough how, come six months down the line, I'm not going to be part of the discussion."

Told over an unsettling, staccato rhythm, the film examines the murder of David Kammerer at the hands of Lucien Carr (a wholly watchable Dane DeHaan), which happens in the orbit of his fellow Beatnik writers; Ginsberg, William S Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston).

Radcliffe's Ginsberg provides the narrative in the lead-up to the crime while documenting his growing obsession with Carr and fragile relationship with his mentally unstable mother.

"Some of his poetry is so electric and energetic but it didn't hit me at gut level. It's only when you learn about his personal life, that's when his work becomes more emotionally powerful.

"I was very aware of Carr's importance to his life and his relationships with Kerouac and Burroughs. But I knew nothing about Ginsberg's relationship with his mother which is a big thing for men, and an even bigger thing for Jewish men."

Seems the young Hogwarts raised megastar, who is reportedly dating Darlings co-star Erin Darke, after previously romancing artist Rosie Croker and Irish actress, Laura O'Toole, is making brave, calculated career choices taking him far beyond the realms of Rowling's creation. Though he denies any direct intention.

If anything, his involvement in Darlings and a recent turn on the West End in Martin McDonagh's Cripple of Inishmaan, reflects a desire to honour his joint heritage.

"I'm Irish from my father growing up in Down and Jewish from my mother and they're very strong, industrial heritages, hard-working and artistic and I think that's a good combination. What made me is having two parents from very different backgrounds.

The knives were out for his portrayal in Inishmaan but Radcliffe survived intact, thanks largely to the efforts of co-star, Pat Shortt. "He was the one I went to when I needed help with the accent, though he'd give me more pointers than anything about certain words I'd use.

"I almost owe my performance to him, who by the way, I love the fact that he's known as a national treasure back in Ireland. I took great pleasure in telling everyone that and even learned all the words and serenaded him with the Jumbo Breakfast Roll song. He loved it."

Arguably one of the most famous faces on the planet for the last decade, Daniel's accompanying personality is a paradox; forthright, amiable and absurdly down to earth.

A result of a fading from the planet's gaze since Potter came to an end? Does he enjoy more freedom?

"I can't speak for Rupert [Grint] or Emma [Watson] but the fervour around me has actually increased since the end of Harry.

"I've now more of a sense of it and in Venice Festival last month, it was INSANE! At one point I was chased to the toilet by 500 people... and then back."

So he can still empathise with those in a similar position, like One Direction?

"Probably not quite as bad, but I've a glimpse into their world. But you know what, I can walk down the street and go unnoticed and so can they. Put a baseball cap on, keep your head down. Done."

Kill Your Darlings is out today

Irish Independent

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