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Daniel Radcliffe and the magic of the Sex Pistols September 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies.
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december_boys_radcliffe.jpg  Out of his comfort zone: Daniel Radcliffe as Maps in his first non-Potter film, December Boys.

It’s certainly a novel way to begin an interview. Daniel Radcliffe has been speaking for less than 60 seconds when suddenly his ball drops to the floor and rolls across to the far side of the room. As he retrieves it and returns to his seat, he explains why he always keeps a cricket ball handy for interviews.

“When I was doing press interviews for Harry Potter V they were all junket interviews, so it was all on TV. I would sit with the ball under my foot, and any time someone was asking a really inane question I would start to tap wildly on it to release the nervous energy,” he says with a quick demonstration, “which was pent up due to the fact that I really wanted to go, ‘Why are you asking me that? That’s a really stupid question! You’re embarrassing both of us here.’ ”

It’s hard not to take an instant liking to Radcliffe, who speaks at a word-per-minute rate that would frighten James Woods. Not because the Harry Potter films have made him the most recognisable teenager on Earth. Not because his performance in his first non-Harry film is good and took guts to do. And not because he is articulate, funny and free of youthful hubris.

It is because of the Sex Pistols. He casually drops the reference while spruiking December Boys, which he shot in Adelaide two years ago, before he flew off to do Order of the Phoenix.

Set in the 1960s, the film stars Radcliffe as Maps, one of four orphan teens who, during a stay with a family at the beach, discover that one of them is secretly being sized up for adoption. Directed by Australian veteran Rod Hardy, it is an uncomplicated coming-of-age tale.

“It’s good, isn’t it?” Radcliffe chirps. “It’s sweet and it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. We’re telling a very simple story. That’s it.” He doesn’t appear to draw breath when he speaks.

“It’s like what I always say about the Sex Pistols. People say, ‘Their songs weren’t exactly complicated and there wasn’t much to them,’ and I say, ‘Yeah, but they played them well; they were a tight unit.’ And that’s what this is. We’re not telling an incredibly complex story in terms of plot. It’s complex emotionally, but it’s the way it’s executed. It’s really, really good.”

It was a costume dresser on the first Potter who gave Radcliffe his initial taste of punk, which he liked so much he had the dresser hard-wired into his contract. Radcliffe gushes about the Damned, the Buzzcocks, the Clash, obscure artists such as Jilted John and even the proto-punk Australian band the Saints. “Yeah. Stranded. Great song. He just got me into all that and it’s something that never died in him, and I don’t think it will ever in me.”

Radcliffe has a lot on his plate. The Potter franchise may be the most successful film series in history, at $4.47 billion it outranks Bond, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but he is hard on himself. He knows more than anyone that he has got a long way to go as an actor.

He took on December Boys, he says, to get away from the “comfort zone” of Harry. “I wanted to prove to myself that I could go into a totally new environment with a new crew and pull a performance off rather than just being totally overwhelmed and frightened by the fact that I didn’t know anyone. Also, having started acting young, he said, trying desperately to avoid the phrase ‘child actor’, there is,” he laughs, “this stereotype with child actors, which is that we’re all nightmares and that we’re all horrible, bratty kids. And going onto a new film you think, ‘God, am I going to have to work against this?’ ”

He did, and feedback from the crew confirmed to Radcliffe that he had escaped the brat syndrome. But what he really wants to escape is Harry. So he tackled the controversial stage role in Peter Schaffer’s Equus after December Boys, and mercilessly spoofed himself in an episode of the TV comedy series Extras, where Radcliffe played the movie prat he clearly isn’t.

He found December Boys refreshing. “One of the cool things about Maps was he’s very, very quiet. With Potter, all the characters express their emotions and a lot of the plot through the dialogue. Maps doesn’t have that. So you have to communicate with less dialogue, which is a nice challenge. It wasn’t exactly Holly Hunter in The Piano, but it was going closer to that.”

Given that he did the film two years ago, he rates his work as “the best possible performance I could have given at that time. If I did it now, I could do it better, but I think we can go through life saying that and it won’t get us anywhere.”

Thanks to Harry, Radcliffe is Britain’s wealthiest teenager. Uppermost in his mind, though, is not early retirement but the artistic impulse propelling him.

“It just comes down to what you’re motivated by. I’m not motivated by money. I’m not motivated by leisure. The thing I get the most buzz out of is being on set. You get a feeling of achievement at the end of a really good day’s work. Everyone likes that. Also, I like to write a lot to get that artistic stuff out.” Write what? “Poems, mainly. I really enjoy it. I really like reading and I like literature, but poetry is the main type of literature that I love reading.”

As a talented young actor with the world at his feet and a bright future ahead of him there is, of course, a chance that Daniel Radcliffe will ruin his career by engaging in the sorts of behaviour currently afflicting young Hollywood. He laments the damage Lindsay Lohan has done to herself “That’s so sad. Lindsay’s really talented. I think she’s brilliant”, and offers this observation of why it is happening so much.

“My interpretation of the reason is that in America if you start a career in the media young, such as being a child actor, you will be treated as an actor first and then a child. In England, you are treated as a child first and then an actor. I think that makes a big difference, because you can get ideas above your station if you are treated as someone of great importance from a young age.” Should any such ideas ever occur to Radcliffe, he will no doubt be the first to know.

December Boys opens in cinemas in September.

Related Links > http://wip.warnerbros.com/decemberboys/

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