Who’s the real Daniel Radcliffe?
One of the many appealing things about Daniel Radcliffe, and perhaps the most impressive, is his ability to remember names. Any business guide will tell you the technique helps to forge and strengthen relationships by making others feel good about being remembered. A psychological cuddle, if you will. In Hollywood, a place where ego often rules with an iron fist, this sensitive approach is invigorating. And it’s all, he says, thanks to Sir Michael Caine.
‘On the first Potter film I was working with friends of Michael’s who told me stories about him. They said he walks onto set and by the end of that day he’s learned everyone’s name. I try to do that as best as I can, as well. It’s about being really effortless. No ego. I think way before I ever met him, I had modelled myself on him a little bit.’
And thank goodness for that. After progressing from wannabe child actor to that lofty superlative ‘Britain’s biggest rising star’ at the age of 11, Daniel swiftly clocked up eight blockbusters before his 21st birthday and is currently the eighth wealthiest person under 30 in the UK, worth a mind-boggling £74million. He’s now 26 and, by rights, could be cocky and difficult to interview, protectively guarding a past soiled by sorry tales of rebellion and mischief.
But save for one episode, which we’ll come to, Daniel is anything but. He’s a curious mix of fiercely driven, fabulously polite and nice. Heck, he’s even sacrificed his lunch break for Balance, generously using time out from rehearsing his new off-Broadway show, Privacy, to chat.
BREAKING THE MOULD
We’re actually here to discuss his latest film, Now You See Me 2 (12A), a sequel to the 2013 heist thriller, which sees Daniel starring alongside Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and (squeal) Sir Michael Caine.
‘Jesus! I was in awe the whole time,’ he says of meeting his acting hero during a rendezvous in director Jon Chu’s office. ‘He could not be more “everything you want him to be”.’
In the movie, Daniel plays evil tech boss Walter Mabry, another role that smashes his speccy schoolboy wizard past to smithereens.
In 2008 he stripped off in Peter Shaffer’s play Equus, played a gay, sexually infatuated poet in 2013 thriller Kill Your Darlings and, most recently, embodied a magical farting corpse with a permanent erection in controversial indie film Swiss Army Man. Needless to say, it takes an awful lot to make Daniel blush.
‘I will do stupid sh*t constantly and I don’t really have time to be embarrassed by all of it,’ he laughs. ‘I get more embarrassed, and this is quite a British thing, whenever somebody’s being sincere or giving me a compliment. Today our director [Josie Rourke] was being very nice about something I’d done in rehearsal and I was like “oh, uh, God!”’
Daniel likes roles that make him ‘afraid, nervous or stressed’ but in the real world he has struggled with the boundaries of his own identity.
As the final instalment of the Harry Potter franchise advanced, Daniel listened too closely to critics who predicted the end of his 10-year career and, fearing he’d be relegated to ‘Where Are They Now?’ lists, he leaned on alcohol to dull the pressures.
‘A lot of people suffer from anxiety, particularly in social situations,’ he says. ‘I was determined at that time to live like I was not a famous person and could do all the stuff everyone else did. I’d go out then I’d have this slightly paranoid sense that people were looking at me or watching me, and the quickest and easiest way of removing that anxiety or those inhibitions was alcohol. If that’s the only way you can do those things, that’s not good.’
Daniel gave up booze in 2010 and, despite a couple of relapses, hasn’t touched a drop in two years. ‘Fortunately, I have learned how I can go out and still enjoy socialising while remaining myself, which is nice,’ he smiles.
This is Daniel’s second decade in the arms of global fame, which means he’s never enjoyed the same freedom to live as other young adults.
But apart from ‘maybe seeing slightly more live music’ he insists that, given the chance to do it all again, he wouldn’t do things differently. ‘I can still do most stuff,’ he says. ‘You just have to keep it in some sort of perspective. I have an amazing life and I get to do this f***ing amazing job and there’s never been a moment where I’d want to change that.’
So can he go shopping at Sainsbury’s? ‘Yes… Well, Tesco. Absolutely.’ And what happens when he does? ‘Very occasionally people ask for a photo. Yes, it gets slightly annoying if people are dicks about it and it’s never nice to be stared at for a long time like a zoo animal but, generally, people are really nice and it’s not too much of an issue.’
RETRACING HIS STEPS
As an unhappy and unconfident pupil who attended posh schools like Sussex House in Chelsea, acting was Daniel’s escape route. After he was cast as Harry Potter, his parents, Alan and Marcia (both former child actors), quit their jobs as a literary agent and casting agent to work as his managers and, says Daniel, stopped him turning into a ‘cocky little sh*’t’.
His parents later inspired Daniel to support the Trevor Project, an American suicide helpline for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth he’s backed since 2009. ‘Having grown up a lot around my mum and dad’s friends, a lot of whom were gay, it was never an issue in my life,’ he explains. ‘But as I grew older and realised homophobia exists and is, in fact, rampant, it struck me as a brilliant thing to be able to help out with.’
Daniel himself is not gay, however. He’s been dating New York-based actress Erin Darke, 30, whom he met on the set of Kill Your Darlings, for two years and the couple conduct a long distance relationship, seeing each other once a month.
‘I talk to some friends who have been together for a lot shorter time than Erin and I and they say things like “oh man, I just want some time on my own” and it sounds like [they’re] bored with each other. I think there’s something about a long distance relationship that never lets you get to that point.’ Earlier this year, in honour of the 15th anniversary of the theatrical release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Daniel posted a letter that JK Rowling sent him after he was cast as Harry. One line read: ‘You and Harry will grow up side by side and it will be a wonderful thing.’
Growing up: Daniel’s roles post-Potter
1. A horrifyingly good performance in The Woman in Black (2012)
2. Playing with poetry in Kill Your Darlings (2013)
3. The boy next door in What If (2013)
4. Devilishly handsome in Horns (2014)
5. Drop dead delightful in ‘beautiful and sweet but also gross and futile’ Swiss Army Man (2016)