Vanity Fair interview

Vanity Fair interview with Daniel about Swiss Army Man, but also whether or not he’s been reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (yes they keep asking him about the play) spoilers and more. Post-Harry Potter, a lot of your films have pushed viewers out of their comfort zones—especially Swiss Army Man. Why do you choose roles like these? Is there a certain kind of satisfaction that comes with them?
Daniel Radcliffe: It’s not that I want to have that effect on people, necessarily—although I think that’s good. It’s more just that I pick things based on what I find exciting, which sounds so simplistic as to be almost a lie, but it’s not.

You can never predict what’s going to be successful—and also I’m very naive, in that I do a film like this thinking, “Everyone’s gonna love this!” When I did Kill Your Darlings, I was like, “How isn’t this a film for everyone?” And of course then, you find out, “Alright, well, I guess I’ve got quite niche tastes in some way.”

Basically, it’s about what excites me, and I’m in a position at the moment where I don’t have to do something unless I really love it. And I don’t know if I’ll be in that position forever, so it seems just sensible to get as much weird, cool stuff in as you can.

That makes sense. I thought it was interesting that you’ve done all these smaller, more niche projects, but this summer you’re also in this big blockbuster, Now You See Me 2. It’s a magic movie, but you play the skeptic.
Which I, idiotically, didn’t think about at all. I think people won’t believe me when I say that, but the magic thing didn’t even occur to me. But yeah, the people I admire are always the people that manage to mix it up and do both: do super commercial stuff, and do super weird indies as well. And that’s kind of the career I want for myself.

The huge draw in working on Now You See Me 2 was—as much as the first film is great fun, and it’s fun to be a part of those big bold movies—working with that cast. There are so many people I admire in it for so many different reasons: Dave Franco is one of the best young leading men actors that we have, because he’s also incredibly funny and self-deprecating. And you’ve got Jesse (Eisenberg) as somebody who’s a fantastic actor and is also a prolific writer. Woody Harrelson and Mark Ruffalo are Woody Harrelson and Mark Ruffalo. And then Michael Caine.

As an English person, he was one of those people that I heard talked about growing up—and you’d be like, “Oh, I want people to talk about me that way one day.” That is the Everest of my own personal aspiration. That would be the greatest compliment that I can think of, because he’s kind of universally adored as a person and as a professional.

Just to get to work with him and see that—I don’t know how old he is now, but I think he’s in his 80s, and he’s still . . .

Still going.
Still going, and still loves it. He’s not one of these older actors—and there are a lot of them—that come on like, “O.K., let’s just do it and get it done and I’ll go.” He’s having fun, he’s having a laugh, he’s having a joke, he’s catching up with a friend. It’s really inspirational.

Paul Dano had worked with him on something shortly before we worked together, and Paul was just saying he was everything we want to be when we’re older. He’s proof that you don’t have to become a jaded ass.

So when you read the script for Swiss Army Man, what was your initial reaction? I can’t even imagine.
Everyone sort of thinks, “Oh, you must have been freaking out.” But actually it read really well and easily as a script.

My concern over it was, “O.K., I get how this is going to be funny; I’m not assured of it being epic in the places that it wants to be.” But it is. That’s what amazed me about it. It’s beautiful and epic, and those are the two things that I was like, “They’re there in the script, but how does that translate? How do you do this stuff onscreen?” And that’s where, frankly, these directors are like no others that I’ve worked with.

Every day, they were amazing at—you know, there’d be a scene where Paul punches me in the face, and I swallow his fist and his arm, and then he punches me in the stomach to project his arm back out. I read that and was like, “How are we going to do that?” And then they’d just do it with camera angles and editing. They’re really clever.

You know that thing that people sometimes say—it’s that cutesy bullshit thing that people say about bees, where they’re like, “Bees can only fly because nobody told them they can’t?” That thing? I think that applies to the Daniels.

If you had to take on one of these characters’ roles in real life—and be either the corpse on the beach who has to learn to be human, or the human who has to teach him how to live—which would you prefer?
I would rather be the corpse who has to learn how to be human. Honestly, I don’t know what that says about me.

There’s a sweetness to Manny, an innocence. And I feel like that’s always the way you should come into the world, and he’s very lucky to have Hank. Whereas, I think if I were Hank and I was a suicidal man, I would be . . . peaks and troughs would be how I’d feel about dragging around this annoying, cheerful corpse.

It’s been five years since the last Potter movie wrapped. Coming out of those movies, did you have a specific goal or career path in mind for yourself? Has it changed?
I think the goal I had was to just keep working, and do as much interesting stuff as possible.

If you want to drive yourself crazy in this industry, the quickest way to do it is to make a plan. So there was never like a, “I want to do this, and this, and this, and this by this point.” And actually, the thing that has become even clearer to me over the last couple of years really has been that—without going into specifics—any time I’ve done something or taken a job because I thought, “This is the right career move; this is, career-wise, what I should be doing,” it’s never turned out as well as the things that I want to do because I love them.

O.K., last question: I know you’re understandably not going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child any time soon. But have you been reading any of the spoilers?
No I haven’t—but you can tell me! Does he die? Does Harry die?

I actually don’t know, either! The only ones I’ve read had to do with Voldemort and Bellatrix.
Did they, like, couple up? O.K., I’m gonna . . . Yeah. I was the person that told Gary Oldman that Sirius died.

Wait, were you really?!
I came in one morning, and he was like, “I haven’t got time to read it at the moment; will you just tell me, is it me?” Because we’d all heard that someone died.

I was like, “Yeah, it’s you.” I spoiled it for him.


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14 June 2011
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