Updated: January 26, 2012 6:17PM
He will always be Harry. Daniel Radcliffe makes that fact perfectly clear. You’re playing a game of “what if” with one of the most recognizable faces on the globe, and the good-natured 22-year-old is like an eager puppy.
What if J.K. Rowling wrote another Harry Potter book?
What if it was turned into another film?
What if they wanted him to be the middle-aged Potter someday? He wouldn’t need to have a gut, but still, could he put on the specs again?
“If it was good enough, I would be Harry Potter again. If it was anything short of good enough, I would say no,” Radcliffe says. “I know I wouldn’t be Harry again for nostalgic or dutiful reasons.
“But if I learned one thing in life, it’s that it’s foolish to cut yourself off from anything. My motto is to never say never.”
It’s that motto that’s bringing him into his post-Potter career. After starring in the beloved wizardry franchise with worldwide grosses of over $7.7 billion, he is ready to put down his wand for at least a little while.
“I’ve had a lovely first year away from being Harry,” he says. “I made this movie and did a Broadway show.”
The movie is “The Woman in Black,” opening Friday. Radcliffe plays a widowed lawyer named Arthur Kipps who travels to a remote village to make sense of a recently deceased client’s papers. Instead of staying at some friendly local hotel, he decides to lodge at a creepy old mansion where he encounters a mystery woman dressed in all black. It’s the ghost of a scorned woman who has a yen for vengeance.
It begs the question: Why not run out of there screaming and book yourself at a nice, ghost-free Embassy Suites?
“I was even asking, ‘Why the hell does he stay in the house?’ I want to grab this character, shake him and tell him that he’s not going to do well staying in that haunted dwelling,” Radcliffe says.
“I resolved this question saying to myself, ‘Here is a young man who has lost the wife he loved. He’s almost seeking a guarantee that she is in a better place and they will be reunited someday.’
“He stays in the house because of the power of curiosity,” he says. “Curiosity is what makes us human. The character I play, regardless of what happens, needs to know what happened in this house with this woman in black.
“In the end, the film is about how grief touches people.”
It’s also about those classic horror movie moments that have you dropping your popcorn.
When you’re Harry Potter, however, getting your chills isn’t easy.
“There’s a moment where the ghost sneaks up to me at the window. I didn’t even know how bad it would be until I saw the first cut of the film,” Radcliffe says. “The director simply told me, ‘Just walk to the window and then walk away again.’ He didn’t tell me that there would be any major special effects there.
“When I saw the film I almost lost my lower half. Even on the set, the crew guys were quite protective of me. They knew the ghost effects were going to be chilling. I saw some grown men on the crew mouth the words, ‘Daniel, move!’ People who have seen the film are screaming, ‘Dan, get out of there!’ ”
In the New York apartment where he has lived alone for the last year, Radcliffe says he was turning on a few lights in the middle of the night when the shoot was done and he was on Broadway performing “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
“The bad news is that my dogs live with my mom and dad now. I’ve moved out,” he says. “I couldn’t take the dogs with me because I’m so busy that they would never eat again.
“You need dogs in your house when you make a horror movie to check out the noises,” he quips.
His parents are Alan Radcliffe, a literary agent, and Marcia Gresham, a casting director, two people who always supported his yen to act. They helped him audition for school plays and supported his decision to take it even further and go pro.
His first major role was in a 1999 TV version of “David Copperfield.” In 2001, he was in “The Tailor of Panama” as the son of Geoffrey Rush and Jamie Lee Curtis.
David Heyman, the producer of the Harry Potter films, attended a play where he met Daniel and his father in the audience.
“At that moment, I looked at Dan and thought, ‘He is Harry Potter,’ ” Heyman says of casting Radcliffe in 2001’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
The Potter franchise, concluding with last year’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” (2011), became Radcliffe’s childhood album.
“I’m seriously proud of the last two films,” he says. “They so far surpassed my dreams. It’s great to hear from people who didn’t even see the other films and have no emotional connection loving the last film.”
Some thought he deserved an Oscar nomination for playing Potter. “People asked about my chances and I say I would be more likely to get hit by an Oscar if it came flying at me,” he said.
“I don’t need anything else. I had the role of a lifetime.”
He came away with some Potter souvenirs. “I got two pairs of the glasses. All I had to do was ask,” he says with a laugh. “I have one pair of glasses from the first film and one from the last.”
Radcliffe hopes to wind up behind the camera. “I would love to direct,” he says, fretting, “The problem is I’d employ all of my friends. I wouldn’t have a single unpleasant person around me.
“But I would love to step behind the camera and stay in front of it, too,” he says. “Life is full of possibilities.”
The only thing not possible: Developing a star attitude.
“I’m just a crazy kind of actor who just cares about the work,” Radcliffe says. “The truth is I didn’t get an attitude over the last several years, which was a conscious choice. Why get an attitude when your job is to be a wizard and defeat evil and fly through the air? It’s a good job.
“I’m just a bad movie star!” he cries. “But the truth is I’ve always had an intrinsic dislike of people with attitudes. I never trusted those kinds of people.
“If I ever became that kind of actor, I’d have to sit myself down … and have a talk with myself.”
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