Daniel Radcliffe talks about turning eighteen and taking time off from Harry Potter
Based on the classic Michael Noonan novel, December Boys is the story of four orphan teenagers growing up behind the closed doors of a Catholic convent in outback Australia during the 1960s. When the convent sends the boys to visit the seaside one summer, they meet a young couple unable to have children. The two newlyweds decide that they would like to adopt one of the young boys, which causes a rift in the group.
Daniel Radcliffe plays the eldest orphan, Maps. He finds himself drawn to Lucy, a beautiful girl from down the coast. Their relationship leaves Maps Heartbroken, and offers Radcliffe a chance to break free from his Harry Potter persona.
Last Thursday, we got a chance to sit with the young actor and talk about his experiences making the film. Here is our conversation:
Daniel Radcliffe: I'm recording this interview, too.
Just so we get it out in the open right now, you didn't bring your wand?
Daniel Radcliffe: No, I didn't. Nope.
What did you think of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Harry living?
Daniel Radcliffe: I'm very pleased. It means I get to live, and I get a death scene. I am really, really pleased. I think what Jo did with it is remarkable. To write a book that is that good under so much pressure and hype is truly exceptional.
I think it's amazing that you guys are finding the time to do other projects on the side. Where did this fall into your timeline? Where were you able to make room for this?
Daniel Radcliffe: This was shot between Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I had been looking for something to do in that gap. Because it was the first time I had a long enough gap to shoot something. Also, it was a pretty short shift. It was only six weeks. That's when it happened. Someone said in a press conference yesterday, and they were right, that the planets aligned on this one. That sort of sums it up.
Was this sort of like a vacation for you?
Daniel Radcliffe: No! I did have a vacation in Australia afterwards, because I stayed behind for a couple of weeks. But, no, it was work. It was hard. Has anyone told you about the last day of shooting? We worked from eleven in the morning of December 23rd until a quarter past four the morning of Christmas Eve. It was about a sixteen-hour day. By the end of it, we were on our knees. But weirdly, I thrive in those sort of situations.
What scenes were you shooting on those days?
Daniel Radcliffe: We shot everything you see in the cave. The scenes between me and Lucy in the cave, between the boys and me in the cave, and the scene between me and Fearless in the cave. All of those scenes where shot in one day.
The big scene with Lucy was shot in one day?
Daniel Radcliffe: Everything with Lucy in that cave was shot in one day. Big day. A good day.
Have you ever been heartbroken in real life?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yeah, of course. I think everyone has had those experiences. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this. I think everyone can associate with this character on that level. Male or female.
Do you think you get special treatment because you are Harry Potter?
Daniel Radcliffe: No, because people are very disappointed when they meet me. When you are an actor, people think that you are going to be effortlessly cool in real life. And that you dress the way you do for premiers all the time. So when they meet all five foot five of me, in jeans and a t-shirt, they are less than impressed.
What drew you to December Boys?
Daniel Radcliffe: It was the fact that Maps is such a different character than Harry. And I wanted to do something that was different. I'd read a number of scripts around that time, and that was one that really stood out. For a number of reasons. One of which was the stage direction. Those don't usually stand out in a script. Normally they are quite dull. But these were written like exerts from some fabulous novel. And it was beautiful to read. That instantly made it stand out. Also, I got to work in Australia. Which is always good.
Do you think you'd ever consider adopting a child?
Daniel Radcliffe: I suppose so. That's a long way off, mate. I don't know. It would depend on the circumstances. I can't really give a yes or no answer to that.
So you are not considering adopting at this point?
Daniel Radcliffe: No, no, I am. I already have three children. No...Not just yet.
What was your working relationship like with the other three boys? Were you like an older brother to them? Or were they these precocious, adult-like children?
Daniel Radcliffe: No, not at all. That's what's great about them. You met some kids who start acting young. I don't know why I'm in a position to be talking about this. But, they started young and they are really precocious. You ask, "So, are you going on a Holiday?" They say, "No, I'm going to be doing three shows!" And you think, "Oh, God!" These boys, they are just normal kids. Lee is very funny. He plays Misty. He'd actually retired at age twelve. He had one film under his belt, and that was it. He had retired from the film industry. Then he came out of retirement to shoot this movie with us. Which was very good of him. Since this, he has gone back into retirement. So, I don't know what we did to him. But, yeah...I'm not sure how much Lee really wants to be an actor in the long term. But Christian (Byers) certainly does. I think he probably will. He has the drive, and he certainly has the talent. I think he will. But that's what's so great about them. They all have such different personalities. James Fraser who plays Spit is essentially me when I was twelve. In real life, not so much his character. In real life, I saw a lot of myself at age twelve in James. So, I guess I have sort of a soft spot for him. They are all really, really good kids. There was an element of me having to keep them focused on set. Like all good twelve and thirteen year olds, they were hyperactive and running around everywhere. That's not good on a film set, because there are cables everywhere that you can trip on. Sometimes I'd have to say, "Guys, we really need to focus now. Because its 1 am. And we really need to go home soon." They were all really cool boys.
I had a hard time believing that Maps became a priest after his experience with Lucy.
Daniel Radcliffe: That is a very, very interesting point. I can see what you mean. My reading of that, is it was a way for him to take his experience with Lucy and leave it behind. It was his way of taking himself out of the carnal world. I think. That's how I read that. I once read an interview with Morrissey, and he said his ideal job would have been a librarian, because he would have liked a world of solitude. And I think that, in a way, applies to Maps and his experiences with Lucy.
You just turned eighteen. So you are not a boy anymore.
Daniel Radcliffe: Mentally I am.
What do you see differently? Is there anything you can do that you couldn't do before?
Daniel Radcliffe: Drink. Well, in England. And if you ask politely enough, over here too. Weirdly, I did have a moment when I turned eighteen, where I looked in the mirror and was thinking, "Right. Now how do I act eighteen?" A few days later, I did have this urge to try and be older. I think growing up is one of those things you do without you noticing.
You should start smoking.
Daniel Radcliffe: I should start smoking and drinking a lot more? Okay. Funny enough, the one thing about turning eighteen is, I find that buying drinks for other people is much more exciting than drinking itself. You really do feel like part of the gang. You do feel older when you do that.
And do you smoke in real life, like you do in the movie?
Daniel Radcliffe: Not in real life. Those were herbal cigarettes. I had to assure a young boy at this Q&A session in New York after the film the other day. This kid stood up, looking terrified. Suddenly, all the press people turned around. The moderator goes, "Do we have a question from the young boy in the back?" The kid says, "I want to know. When you smoked in the film, were they real cigarettes?" I was like, "No, young man, don't fear. They were herbal cigarettes. Don't worry." And they tasted disgusting.
When Harry Potter wraps up, where do you see your career going?
Daniel Radcliffe: For the foreseeable future, I want to continue acting. I want to get my head around that first. But I'd also like to direct something. Certainly, in the long run, acting is what I would like to do.
You have My Boy Jack coming up next?
Daniel Radcliffe: Yeah, I just finished that. I finished that a couple of weeks ago That is about a family in World War 1. It's about the Kipling family. Him and his son, and how their lives were altered. He loses his son, which was me. Yeah, it is a really beautiful script, and I think that could be a really excellent piece of television. That will be on in England in November, on ITV. Hopefully, it will be on in America sometime next year. Please do watch it. I think it will be really fantastic.
In comparison to the movie, how romantic was your first kiss?
Daniel Radcliffe: It was really romantic. I can remember the song that was playing. We were in this passionate clinch, and this really romantic song was playing. Then this really hardcore punk song came on. And it totally spoiled the mood. That's what I remember about my first kiss.
Was it her first kiss as well?
Daniel Radcliffe: No. She'd been there a few times before me. God, I hope she doesn't read this interview. Okay, thank you.
December Boys opens September 14th, 2007.