The Book of Daniel Radcliffe

By Jeremy Kinser

Originally published on Advocate.com May 29 2012 1:26 PM ET

The intense gaze of Daniel Radcliffe’s wide blue eyes is as haunting as the moody English landscape that provides the setting for the actor’s most recent film, The Woman in Black. The 22-year-old actor chuckles when this is mentioned. “I’ve been told several times I have a thousand-yard stare,” he offers. “When I’m not in a bright and cheerful mood I tend to look like I’ve just run across no-man’s-land.”

Based on the famed 1982 novel and stunningly directed by James Watkins, the gothic ghost story (now available on DVD and Blu-ray) marks both Radcliffe’s first film since leaving Hogwarts and an unexpected return to the supernatural genre of the Harry Potter films, which made him a marquee name. Having already proven his versatility in hit stage revivals of the psychological drama Equus and the classic musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Radcliffe will soon portray his first gay character.

The 22-year-old actor will star in Kill Your Darlings, a true-crime drama from out director John Krokidas, in which he’ll depict legendary Beat poet Allen Ginsberg years before Howl made him a literary icon. Radcliffe belongs to a committed generation of young entertainers intent on using their fame as a platform to speak out for equality. For his efforts on behalf of the Trevor Project, which works to prevent LGBT teen suicides, Radcliffe received the organization’s Hero Award. “Young people deserve to live in a world that accepts them for who they are, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” Radcliffe said upon learning of the honor. Radcliffe tells The Advocate about his return to the supernatural with The Woman in Black, what drew him to play Ginsberg, and why he’s tirelessly committed to speaking out for equality.

The Advocate: The Woman in Blackis the first film you made since the Potter  franchise ended. Did you have any hesitation about making another movie within the horror-fantasy genre?
Daniel Radcliffe: I said to myself, if I rule out any script that had remotely any fantasy element, I’d be cutting myself off from a huge amount of amazing work. If you’re talking about films made years ago, it would exclude me from films like The Shining or A Matter of Life and Death or who knows what else. There are so many films that could be deemed as having heightened paranormal elements to them, which could just be magical realism or a ghost story, which isn’t really the same feeling as Potter. I decided not to let that impinge on my decision-making.

What specifically appealed to you about the film?
For me it was a chance to do something that’s genuinely different and that I thought people wouldn’t be expecting and that I wasn’t expecting. If you’d said to me that the first film I’d do after finishing the last Potter would be a horror film, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s never been something I’ve particularly gravitated towards. But one of the only horror films that made an impression on me while I was growing up was The Others. I saw it when I was about 13 and absolutely loved it.

The Woman in Black certainly shares qualities with that film.
When I read the script I thought of that film immediately and James Watkins felt the same. He also had a Spanish film called The Orphanage in his mind when he was conceiving this film. Having the chance to make one of those unusual, suspenseful, atmospheric, scary ... There’s a difference between a nasty film and a scary film. Of course films like Hostel and Saw are going to be horrifying because they’re unpleasant and there’s gruesome imagery involved. You’d be inhuman not to have some reaction to that. But with a film like this, it taps into things we have evolved to fear: darkness, noises we can’t identify the source of, those things that really scare us in real life. It all adds up to make a really effective, very scary film, I think. It also touches on family, loss, grief, and things you might not normally associate with a horror film.

You mentioned the 1946 fantasy A Matter of Life and Death. I’m impressed that you’re so film-literate.
That’s my favorite film. There are gaps in my film knowledge. I’ve never seen Star Wars and stuff like that. But A Matter of Life and Death I think is one of the greatest showings of what imagination in cinema can do, with no visual effects, really. It was a brilliant story and brilliantly acted. David Niven is the most impossibly charming man in the world in that film and always. It’s just a brilliant film.

You portray Allen Ginsberg in your next film, Kill Your Darlings.
I feel I am incredibly lucky to be playing him. Despite the damage from his upbringing and his mother and what he went through, he really emerged into the most fully formed open, compassionate human being out of all of the Beats. He’s certainly the one you’d be most comfortable spending time around, I think. When you watch footage of him and William Burroughs together and see how much they care about each other and how close they were and the love between all those guys and the incredible sadness that brought them all together that they were all carrying in some degree. It’s great.

This is director John Krokidas’s first feature film. What convinced you to take this leap of faith with a novice filmmaker?
You obviously haven’t met John. [Laughs] John is one of the most passionate people you could ever meet. For me this is an exceptional script. The scenes were almost completely devoid of exposition, yet the story was always being moved along and any information being given out in those scenes is given as information about the characters and not just handed out for the audience to understand. It’s a brilliantly written script. You meet John and he has such unwavering belief in this project and he’s enthusiastic and fun and I thought, Yes, I want to dive in with you and make this happen. I think that’s why so many people were drawn to this film. It’s myself, Lizzy Olson, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyra Sedgwick ... an amazing group of people. That’s due to the script and John’s passion for the project.

Last year you received the Trevor Project’s Hero Award. The founder of Trevor Project said that you actually reached out to them to become involved with the organization. Why was this important to you?
I think it started when I was doing an interview a few years ago and I was being asked about gay rights and I realized I was speaking much more passionately about gay rights than anything else I’d been asked about. It’s because while growing up a lot of my mum and dad’s best friends were gay, so there were always a lot of gay men in my life. When I went to school, suddenly there was something weird about that for a lot of kids. That’s still very odd to me. I’m still like, What’s new about it? It’s been going on for ages. I couldn’t understand why people are freaked out about it. I find it incredibly frustrating that people are still being brought up in ways that encourage homophobia and allow it to affect the lives of millions of people across the country and the world. Finding out about Trevor Project through friends at that time just seemed perfect. I wanted to be of service and help, and I’m just incredibly proud that I’m able to. I do get people coming up to me and saying – I’d say at least five or six times each week someone will come up to me and say, "Thank you for what you do for the Trevor Project." It’s amazing that you’re able to effect a positive change just by being you and talking about things that you feel strongly about. I’m just very proud to be a part of it.

Marriage equality is a hot button issue in the States. Earlier this year British prime minister David Cameron stated his support. Is it safe to presume you support it as well?
Yes, absolutely. Obviously. [Laughs] It shouldn’t even be a thing. It shouldn’t even be a discussion. That doesn’t sound right. Everything should be discussed. Anyone should be able to get married. One of the most amazing things I’ve seen was during the Republican thing earlier when Michele Bachmann was still around and some young girl asked her why gay men can’t get married. Michele Bachmann said they can but not to each other. I thought, That’s the problem. They don’t even understand the question. It’s so frustrating to me and bizarre. Hopefully progress will come.