On July 23, the day before this interview took place, Daniel Radcliffe turned 25. Just a few weeks earlier, in the alternative universe of Muggles and Wizards, J. K. Rowling had written a dispatch about Radcliffe’s former alter-ego Harry Potter, noting that he is now 34, a happy husband and family man, a few strands of silver in his hair, and apparently enjoying the pleasures of semi-retirement.
Not so Radcliffe. He has hung up his wand, put behind him the enormously successful franchise that consumed him for 10 years, and pursued other ambitious and eclectic opportunities on both stage and screen.
After his revealing and acclaimed 2007 theater debut in “Equus,” he has sung his way through 300 performances as J. Pierrepont Finch in a 2011 Broadway production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He appeared in the title role in Martin McDonagh’s black comic play “The Cripple of Inishmaan” — first in London in 2013, then this year on Broadway. Of the latter production, Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times, “Mr. Radcliffe’s Billy embodies the essence of this beautifully ambivalent play.”
On the screen, he has chosen even bolder projects. He cuts a romantic figure as a lawyer investigating a ghost in “The Woman in Black” (2012). He plays the Beat poet Allen Ginsburg in “Kill Your Darlings” (2013), a true story of obsessive love, murder, and the vagaries of genius. In “Horns,” an adaption of a novel by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) scheduled to be released on Halloween, he portrays a young man who wakes up in a drunken stupor with his girlfriend dead and two horns sprouting from his head.
Oh, that old story.
After these roles, taking on the part of the hunchbacked Igor in the upcoming remake of “Frankenstein” should be a walk in the park.
So how did he end up doing “What If” (opening Friday), a conventional romantic comedy in which he plays a guy with a broken heart who tries to be “just friends” with an attractive woman engaged to another man? While promoting the film in Toronto, Radcliffe found the time to talk on the phone about this and other topics — including Comic-Con (he would appear there on July 25) and meeting Tom Brady at a party last year. Turns out that the lad who excelled at quidditch onscreen has grown into a fervent and knowledgeable NFL — and New York Giants — fan.
Q. A belated happy birthday. I hope you didn’t spend it doing interviews.
A. I actually had a lovely evening. Very quiet. I got some great gifts but nothing other people would find interesting. I’m very hard to buy for so a lot of engineering goes into it. Socks are my thing. I love a good sock.
Q. Turning 25. Is it a time of reflection for you?
A. I don’t spend more time reflecting on my birthday than on other times. I haven’t been really fazed by the fact that I’ve turned 25, and I’m really content with the way things are going. In my career and personally, my life is having a nice balance at the moment. There hasn’t been much cause for introspection.
Q. J. K. Rowling recently wrote a short story updating the status of Harry Potter to the present day. There are also rumors of potential sequels. Any chance you might take up the role again?
A. No. That’s not high on my list of things to do, to be honest. I love Harry Potter, I love what it’s given me and I’ll always be grateful for that. But I played the character for 10 years and I’ve been so excited the past few years that I can’t see myself going back to that.
Q. It would seem that you could have your pick of any role to play at this point. But your choices have been daring and unexpected. What criteria do you use when you accept a project?
‘I’m very lucky that I don’t have to do something I’m not really passionate about.’
A. I pick the kinds of films I would like to see if I were an audience member. You can’t really make a plan because you don’t really know what scripts are going to come in and which of those scripts are going to get made. So you’ve got to find as many things as you feel passionate about and you can absolutely give yourself and hope they do get made. So it’s not so much a plan as following my instincts.
I don’t want to give the impression that my involvement in a film is an absolutely surefire thing to starting it because nothing is — very few actors have that kind of power. But I am in a rare position for a 25-year-old of having control over the things I do, and not [having to] do things if I don’t want to. Most of my friends, if they get an audition for something absolutely terrible, they have to go to it. It’s a job. You can’t turn it down. I’m very lucky that I don’t have to do something I’m not really passionate about.
Q. How did you happen upon “What If”?
A. It was just sent to me with a letter from Michael Dowse, saying why he thought I would be good for the role. It was a really kind letter. So I read the script and on the second page there was a moment of real identification with the character when he’s talking to this girl and he’s spouting off all this drivel about “forte” and how it should be pronounced. I’m into words and etymology and stuff like that so I would definitely be the kind of guy who would pick someone up on something like that. Maybe not now, but when I was younger. So I related to him at that moment. But also I thought the script was funny and smart. It’s not a revolutionary story in any sense. We aren’t reimagining the rom-com. It’s a very traditional story. But I think it’s executed really well, a real feel-good movie but it’s not manipulative, cheap, and sappy. A great date movie.
Q. Since there’s time for only one more question, here’s a choice of three topics: 1) Comic-Con, 2) “Frankenstein,” or 3) meeting Tom Brady.
A. I’ll try to get in all three. [I’m] going to Comic-Con; [I’ve] never been before. People say that I had once been scheduled to appear, but it wasn’t true. It was a mix-up in which people had been led to believe I was going but I had never been scheduled to go. Still, people said I had stood them up. Now I will actually be going, and will be talking about “Horns,” and I will probably talk about “Frankenstein” as well.
“Frankenstein” is a really exciting film. I think it’s going to be a crazy, ambitious movie. It’s a totally mad retelling of Frankenstein from the point of view of Igor, whom I’m playing.
And then Tom Brady. He was wonderful to meet. I’m a huge fan of his. I find him very inspirational. Particularly the intensity with which he has played his entire career. It’s never dropped.
Q. As a Giants fan it’s probably easier to like Tom since your team beat him in two Super Bowls.
A. That’s why I really like him.Interview was condensed and edited. Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.