He’s helped make the mega-budgeted Harry Potter movies the highest-grossing franchise in history. But two years ago, Daniel Radcliffe took a stab at shaking up his screen image by accepting a role in a teeny-tiny Australian indie movie, December Boys (which just opened in New York and L.A.).
Radcliffe plays Maps, an orphaned lad from the Outback sent with three fellow orphans to have a summer holiday in a seaside town, circa the early 1960s. Maps is the responsible eldest kid in the quartet, but away from the nuns, he lets loose. He learns to drink and smoke, and catches the eye of a local lass (Teresa Palmer), leading to a deflowering scene way beyond that chaste kiss with Cho Chang in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. (It’s semi-explicit PG-13 stuff, which prompted Variety to dub December Boys, ”Harry Potter Gets Laid.”) EW.com caught up with Radcliffe to talk about Boys, just as he began filming on a TV movie, My Boy Jack, in Ireland last month.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This character, Maps, is nothing like Harry Potter!
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: I needed just to prove to myself that I could absolutely go off and do something else. The question I get asked a lot is about being stereotyped as Harry, or rather typecast. I never thought of that as being an option for myself, but I totally understood why people would ask it. So thought it would make a lot more sense to start doing different things before [the] Harry Potter [films] ended, sort of in conjunction with them, rather than waiting till they’re all done and then trying to break away.
That’s what made you take that flashy stage role in Equus last winter in London as well, right? You got a lot of attention for doing good work — but also for being stark naked onstage.
If you can do something like Equus, that has a much different, more grown-up audience, I think that shows people you really want to try out different things. It makes them take you more seriously.
And yet, way before Equus, you did December Boys — even though we’re only seeing it now.
I don’t think I would’ve been able to give the performance I gave in Equus or in Harry Potter 5 had I not been in December Boys. It really helped my confidence. Because suddenly I was working with a different crew. There was nobody in the crew or cast who was connected to Harry Potter.
Was that daunting at first?
Pretty nerve-wracking. I’d been doing the Harry Potter films for about four or five years uninterrupted at that stage. And, obviously, people make assumptions. The child-star label is brought up. And so I was worried that people [on December Boys] would be thinking, Oh God, what’s he going to be like? when I was walking onto the set the first day. I was quite nervous about going up against that stereotype. But, luckily, I’m not that person, so they were very, very accepting of me. Because I wasn’t being horrible and throwing things.
Is the character you play in December Boys English or Australian?
Australian. I had accent lessons with a woman called Kate Godfrey, who’s fantastic. It’s a very easy accent to caricature, but not to do accurately. We filmed in Adelaide, Australia, and a lot of people have said to me, ”Oh, it’s a very Adelaide accent.” Personally, I can’t tell the difference between an accent from Adelaide and an accent from Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane. But in Australia they can. So, hopefully it’ll go down fairly well.
And you shot it back in 2005?
In between Potters 4 and 5. But I’m losing track of the time in my own life at the moment. I now sometimes have to work to remember exactly when I did Equus. Because so many journalists came up to me and asked, ”Do you think Equus helped you in making Harry Potter 5?” I found myself eventually saying, ”Yes.” And then I’d catch myself — Wait, I did Equus after Harry Potter 5. But yes, December Boys was directly after Harry Potter 4 finished.
NEXT PAGE: ”I did get very, very giggly. There were points where I was laughing because it seemed so surreal.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What made you pick December Boys? And had you met director Rod Hardy before?
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: To be honest, we were getting a lot of scripts, but none of them really compared to December Boys. It was the standout by a long, long way. It had the most heart and the most warmth. And it wasn’t an overly sentimental warmth, which is a massive turn-off for me. I’d not had any sort of relationship with Rod prior to December Boys at all.
He works a lot in TV in L.A., so, since you’re rarely there, you wouldn’t be likely to cross paths, right?
We met at a hotel in London to talk about the Maps character and the story, and we really got on pretty well instantly. He’s lovely to be directed by. The biggest problem he had with me was that I’m quite open. If I like something, I won’t in any way hide my enthusiasm. Whereas Maps is much more reserved. If something excites him, he’ll be happy about it, but it’s almost like he doesn’t even know how to show it, or how to communicate what he’s feeling. And so Rod had the challenge of basically reigning all that enthusiasm back in.
You get a scene in a cave with Teresa Palmer that’s pretty sexy stuff — you are clearly simulating actual intercourse, although you’ve still got most of your clothes on.
What I love about that scene is that it’s very, very sweet. It’s a mixture of genuine innocence and something that’s not anywhere near innocent. Even though you get the feeling she’s being very overtly sexy, it still seems very harmless and tender and caring.
It’s like the real goal isn’t having sex. She says to him, ”I always want you to think of me as your first.”
It was pretty hilarious during the press tour for Harry Potter 5 that everyone kept asking me, ”How was it doing your first onscreen kiss?”
You mean with the Cho Chang character?
I kept saying, ”Well, it’s the first one people will see. But it’s not the first one I’ve done!” Teresa was great. She’d done a couple of screen kisses before. I think she’d done a sex scene as well. She was fantastic at making me feel not-quite-so-nervous about it all.
How did she do that?
She was just so relaxed about it, I couldn’t help but be relaxed, too. I did get very, very giggly. There were points where I was laughing because it seemed so surreal. There is actually one moment in the scene where she kisses me, when Roger left the camera on me just a beat too long, and I started cracking up because that was the first time I had been kissed on-screen, in front of a crew. Totally out of character at that moment, because I thought he’d cut the camera. But actually it worked really well in the context of the scene.
I think I’ve read you wrapped Boys in late 2005?
We finished shooting at quarter-past-four in the morning, Christmas Eve, 2005. That was the longest day I’ve ever worked. It was a long, long day, because we had a lot to get done. That’s what happens on a six-week shoot.
And you’d begun it right after promoting Potter 4?
Yeah, and then we started pre-production on Harry Potter 5 in January 2006, and started filming in February. It was a busy while. But I quite like being busy.
So you finished December Boys nearly two years ago. Why the hold-up releasing it?
I don’t know the conversations exactly, but obviously, these things need to be spaced out, because I don’t want it to cloy. People have been seeing a lot of me this year. December Boys is an independent film, and it takes a while to get the distribution together. It’s not going to be playing on masses of screens at all. It’s not like Potter. The publicity we do for Potter is great fun and all of that, but ultimately, Harry Potter, people will go and see it.
They’re predisposed to see it, really.
Whereas with December Boys, every interview counts.