80 million dollar-tagged manchild Daniel Radcliffe stars this month in The Woman in Black, his first screen venture since the globally doted-upon wizard saga, Harry Potter. Wonderland made every effort to watch the film with an open mind – especially as posthumously the Potter buzz already feels like more of a media-peddled sugar rush than this generation’s The Three Mothers trilogy – and spoke to its surprisingly knowledgeable and unpretentious star about the project.
So you read the script for The Woman in Black when you were on the plane just after finishing the final Potter scenes, is that right?
Yes. We finished filming on the 29th June and I read the script on the way back to America – four hours after we did the last shot. I think the reason why I was so excited by the script was that I’d never envisaged myself doing horror – it was never something I gravitated towards particularly. The fact that I’d enjoyed the script was even more exciting, because it was so unexpected. Also I think it’s testament to Jane’s [Goldman – screenwriter and wife of Jonathan Ross] writing skills that I read the script in an hour, especially as it’s mainly stage direction and not much dialogue. So I read the script, knew it was an interesting part and asked of me things I hadn’t done before, and met the director, James [Watkins], who I immediately felt I had a connection with in terms of sharing a strong vision for the film.
Had you seen the original stage play?
No, I never went to that school trip! Everyone else I know had seen it on a school trip and, for reasons I need not go into, I wasn’t at school very much. I’d only read [Susan Hill’s] book after I finished the script, too. I still haven’t seen it, but I now will. I stayed away from the TV movie, because I copy and I knew I needed to stay away from it in order to enable me to give an interpretation of my own.
What intrigued you about the nature of the role? You’re playing a man older than you – was taking it on a statement about where you want to go with your career post-Potter?
Yeah. I mean I was never under any illusions that this would be the one film that people would suddenly go “oh, he’s no longer Harry Potter.” I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I certainly think it’ll start that. I look very different in this film and think it’s a different type of performance that I give. When I play Harry, my own natural energy and attack is very useful because that’s how Harry is as well. But with a part like this, it was about trying to suppress and completely deaden my natural energy and give the look of someone who has had the vitality taken out of him by the circumstances of his life. So those were the kinds of things I was concentrating on – I didn’t think at the time really about how much it would distance me.
Did you have lots of scripts sent to you when you were finishing Potter?
By the end, there were certainly two or three that we were looking at, but this came to the top of the pile as soon as it arrived because it was the best, most complete film script I’d read. It also had the most realistic chance of filming soon, so everything about it was perfect.
Did the notion that it was produced by Hammer appeal to you?
Yes – I’m someone who’s very proud to have worked in the British film industry all my life, and to be involved in a very important piece of British film history. Dracula used to be our end-of-term film at school, too.
I’m starting a film in March, which I think will be a thirty day shoot, called Kill Your Darlings which is about a murder that turned out to be the catalyst for The Beat Generation. I’ll be playing a 19-year-old Allen Ginsberg. Ultimately, I’d love to pursue directing, especially as I’ve spent so much time on film sets – I know how they work and I love them and love leading them.
How did you go about preparing for the role? You spoke to a psychologist as part of your research for it…
Luckily I’ve never be bereaved – but it’s something that…you’re never going to fully imagine that mindset. So I spoke to a grief counselor – particularly as I was interested in the idea that if your wife dies during childbirth, how it effects the relationship you have with your son or daughter. Would there be resentment there? The answer I got was a definite “yes.” And then I read a couple of books – one was A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis and another was called You’ll Get Over It, which is an amazing book about the grieving process. It was about furnishing yourself with as much information as you could so that on set, rather than have to consciously think about it, the information would inform your choices as you went along.
The Woman in Black in on screens across the UK from February 9th
Words: Jack Mills