STEPHEN APPLEBAUM, The West Australian, May 17, 2012
The first time I saw Daniel Radcliffe, he was a wide-eyed 11-year-old at a press conference for the first Harry Potter film. Eight excursions into J.K. Rowling's world of wizards and muggles later, he has emerged from the franchise a young man, ready to move on to other projects. But are cinemagoers prepared for a post-Potter Radcliffe, or will he be forever stuck in the hallways of Hogwarts in people's minds?
On stage, in London and on Broadway, he convinced critics that he has more to offer (I'm not referring to his full-frontal nude scene) with his powerful performance as a teenager who blinds horses, in a production of Peter Shaffer's controversial psychosexual drama, Equus.
If the American notices for his recent all-singing, all-dancing turn in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying were more warmly encouraging than rave, most reviewers at least agreed that his desire to stretch himself was admirable. The question is: can he now sell himself to film audiences as something other than Harry?
His first outing - a brilliantly executed spin on Susan Hill's chilling ghost story, The Woman in Black, from Britain's newly revived Hammer studio - hasn't persuaded everyone, despite strong box-office takings in the UK and US.
But only churlish viewers would deny that he brings gravitas and darkness to his portrayal of widowed father Arthur Kipps.
Radcliffe is well aware he still has people to win over. However, meeting him in the flesh, you realise just how good a job he does in the film. On the brink of suicide when we first encounter him, it is as if bereavement has turned Kipps, a lawyer, into a living dead man.
"What was universal in all the people I talked to about loss, and about serious depression, was just how physically tired you are," Radcliffe says. "So that's where I started with Arthur, in a place of deep physical fatigue."
The film's director, James Watkins (Eden Lake), wanted him to move slowly and evoke a sense of stillness, requiring the actor to temper the "excitable energy" that he says, laughingly, has got him through life. "That's my thing. But James was very keen to deaden that."
Kipps hasn't been able to move on from his wife's death, and his battle with the ghostly Woman in Black - a kind of angel of death wreaking havoc on the children of a small English village - is essentially a battle for closure, for both of them. It could almost be a metaphor for Radcliffe's own bid to move on from Potter - something he believes would have been tougher were it not for Equus, and the way his performance was received.
"I have days when I go 'Am I going to be able to separate myself in a legitimate, credible way from Harry?'" he says. "Then I think 'God, but how much harder it would have been if I was starting to try that now'."
He has come to believe that Equus is the most important thing he has ever done. "It made people sit up and go 'Oh, he's interested in and willing to take risks, and he's committed'. Even directors who didn't see it . . . it has made a huge difference to how they saw me."
With a reported personal fortune of around $84 million, Radcliffe, 22, need never work again. Instead, though, he talks excitedly about the freedom that the money - "which is weird because I don't know what to do with it, and nobody does, and nobody would" - gives him to try "interesting projects". It means he can afford to risk falling on his backside because he doesn't have to worry financially, "which is the greatest liberation".
The most impressive thing about Radcliffe, arguably, is just how well adjusted and grounded he appears to be.
The money and fame could easily have turned him into a spoilt monster, but he is polite and chatty, and doesn't yet show signs of being jaded. He has earned himself a reputation as a hard worker and is very self-critical, which, he admits, can sometimes be a problem. "There is a thin line between self-critical and self-hating, and I go back and forth," he says candidly.
Last year he revealed how he had become "reliant on alcohol" - he no longer drinks - while filming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2009. Today, he finds watching the film, the sixth in the series, difficult. "I look back at it and go 'That is the performance of a complacent, lazy actor'," he says. "I see myself as not having given everything. I was unhappy in my own life and that comes across on film."
Really? "Maybe other people don't see it because they weren't there but I can't watch that film without going 'No, you should've been better than that. It's a missed opportunity.'"
He is more relaxed about his fame, something he ascribes to having had six years to ease himself into it surrounded by the same people, rather than having it suddenly thrust upon him like what happened to Robert Pattinson after the first Twilight film.
"People compare us a lot and I say 'No, Rob actually had it a lot harder'." Radcliffe says. "To suddenly get huge fame at that age is totally different from getting it at the age of 11 and having time to prepare yourself for the idea of growing up into it. I can't imagine that."
Far from complaining about his celebrity, he confesses to getting a kick out of the attention it gets him from girls. When Japanese fans faint, as they've been known to do, "You just go 'How weird is my life. That's hilarious,'" he chuckles. When he waved back at a pretty girl in the audience for How to Succeed and she went "mental", he loved it. "I may, at best, have that for another 10 years. So while you can do that, you should enjoy it. I know I'm nothing special. But she thinks I am, and that's funny."
What does his partner, Rosie Coker, think about this? "She finds it funny too, thankfully. She knows I'm a big flirt."
A tolerant girlfriend, a pile in the bank - Daniel Radcliffe's life really is magic.
First published in The West Australian, May 17, 2012
First published in The West Australian, May 17, 2012