Ain't It Cool News interview

Ain't It Cool News interviewed Daniel in promotion of Escape from Pretoria.

I want to talk a little about the film and your career in general.  I find it endlessly fascinating that after coming up as a child actor in a major franchise, you’ve made the seemingly deliberate move into quirkier or offbeat work like Equus and Swiss Army Man, and now, Escape from Pretoria.  Can you tell me a little bit about that transition?
You know, it’s mostly just inspired by the fact that I’m in a position to do things that I like.  I mean, at first there was a feeling coming out of Potter…there was definitely a certain amount of feeling that I had to prove that I could do lots of different things.  That led to me always knowing that I wanted to have a wide variety in my work if that was possible.  And I think a lot of my journey after Potter has been me finding out what I’m good at and what I like.  And it makes me really happy to do it, and I’m in the position to simply base my career around the things that make me happy to do, and I balance that with a pathological need to be working at all times, but I am getting better at not just doing things because I have the time, but picking the things that I love and that I know I’m going to love doing.

It seems like you were dipping the toe in the pool and challenging stereotypes as early as your appearance on Extras (which I loved, by the way).
(laughs) Yeah, well that was particularly about –- obviously, I’m a huge fan of Ricky Gervais and The Office, and just to be on the show was a big deal.  And that was very fun to do acting-wise.  But what it gave me the chance to do was to take the piss out of sort of ridiculous, arrogant, slightly braggadocious child star stereotypes.  And, I can’t remember how old I was, probably fifteen or sixteen, so I was old enough to realize that’s what people probably thought I was, so he gave me a chance to take the piss out of it, and hopefully communicate to some people that it was not the person that I was.

Yeah, there have to be some mixed emotions about freeing yourself from the obligations of a machine like the Harry Potter franchise and the back-against-the-wall freedom of carving out a fresh identity with performances that allow you to challenge the public perception of who you are as an actor.
Yeah, I mean –- that’s the thing: looking back during that crucible it wasn’t a big deal.  It sort of showed people that I was willing to hedge up, and challenge myself, which I think was something people needed to see at that moment in time — you know, to believe that I was going to take being an actor seriously.  And that was the case for a while.  I’m sure to some people I’m still very much bridging that.  But I’m feeling much more secure in who I am and my abilities, not that I still don’t have self-doubt or insecurity, but I definitely feel like –- if you had said to me ten years ago at the end of Potter, if you had presented me with like the career that I have had since then, and said This is what you’re going to be doing for the next ten years, I would have bitten your hand off with delight.  I’m sort of very happy with how it’s gone so far.  There’s still time for it to go wrong!  But I’m very happy.

As an actor who is so well known for a specific on-screen identity, what is that transformation like for you to play a character like Tim Jenkin, where you grow a beard and vanish into the physicality of the role?
What’s funny is: the beard, I literally grow whenever I’m not working, because I hate shaving with a passion.  The beard was like, they wanted me to grow it out, and I was like, “Yeah, great, that can be done.”  And actually I was really resistant to the idea of a wig; I was just kind of trying to grow my hair out, but my hair does not do what Tim’s does even if I grow it, so they put the wig on.  I was like, “Oh, actually, that is really good.”  There is a lovely thing that happens, and it doesn’t happen on every job at all: sometimes I just look like myself, but on this one (and on Kil Your Darlings where I did the eyes and the hair, and on Imperium, where I actually shaved my head), there is something very helpful sometime about when you look in the mirror and see a different person.  It’s something sort of quite liberating, and you feel more liberated to push yourself into a different physicality, because you look so different.

It’s very, very interesting seeing you, whether you’re transforming physically like that, or something like Swiss Army Man where you’re just absolutely taking the piss out of how the public sees you.  That’s a fantastic thing.  That’s gotta be liberating.  Now, circling back to Harry Potter just briefly, tell me about working with Ian Hart again.  You had your first dramatic scenes as a relatively new child actor with him [HP 1], and now you’re playing against him in Escape from Pretoria as a seasoned performer.  That has to be a unique experience.
It’s really cool, and it’s an experience I’m having more and more, and it’s both lovely and sort of a reminder to me that I’m getting older.  I can’t even begin to imagine what for them it must be like, for the people on the other side of that.  But for me, Ian has not changed at all.  I said to him, “Why, you look the same as you looked twenty years ago,” and he was so nice.  It’s really nice to work with him again as an adult, and get to do proper acting with him again.  I’m also having that experience in the play I’m doing at the moment in London where one of the actors in it, a guy called Carl Johnson, who I worked with maybe on my second or third day ever on a film set on a film for the BBC when I was maybe nine, or just ten; and yeah, it’s a really cool thing that I’m gonna get for a while: working with people who I worked with twenty years ago.

Speaking of working with people, how much did you draw on the experiences of the real Tim Jenkin, who has a cameo in the film as a prisoner?  Did you get to talk to him much?
Yeah, we were really lucky, actually.  We got to Skype with Tim and Steve for a bit, and we were able to ask, and in spite of having told his story about a hundred thousand times, he got very patient with us, and was great at answering all of our questions about his book, and he was on set as a very valuable resource.  We could ask him about stuff and about how things worked.  It was kind of intimidating to have him around, because we’re making his life into a film, but it was definitely a great resource.

So, Daniel, what do you have next, what’s next in the pipeline? 
So I’m doing this play right now, and that will take me to the end of March.  I’ve got this film and I’ve also got Guns Akimbo coming out in quite quick succession.  They’ve done like an interactive movie with The Unbreakabele Kimmy Schmidt, and I’m in that, and that’s coming out in like the middle, I think…actually I don’t know when that’s coming out, but at some point in all this.  I think after that I’m gonna take a break, and read some scripts and figure out what next.  But I’m not rushing out, I’m going, I’ve been going since the middle of last year, so I’m okay to have a little break for a while.

Well, after The Woman in Black, I am dreaming of a big budget remake of Dracula, with you as Jonathan Harker, or frankly anybody else in that story.**  I loved The Woman in Black.  I loved seeing Hammer return, and that you were on the flagship title there. 
I love that film!  It’s a brilliantly made film, and yeah, I would love doing that!  I really love that idea, so if anyone’s reading, make it so.

source: aintitcool.com

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