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From Hogwarts to Hogtown

Daniel Radcliffe takes another step out of Harry Potter's shadow with Toronto-shot rom-com

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Radcliffe stars opposite Zoe Kazan in the The F Word.

CAITLIN CRONENBERG Enlarge Image

Radcliffe stars opposite Zoe Kazan in the The F Word.

In cinematic terms, there can be no more famous student in the world than Daniel Radcliffe.

The London-born actor played Harry Potter, student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, over the course of eight blockbuster films from 2001 to 2011.

Here in the real world, the actor, now 25, impresses as a diligent student of theatre and film.

And that diligence has served him well in his post-Potter career, allowing him to become a creditable song-and-dance man on Broadway in a production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2011, or channelling the horror-cool of Peter Cushing in his period Hammer horror film The Woman in Black in 2012.

Radcliffe dips his toes in the romantic-comedy genre in The F Word (opening in Winnipeg next Friday) as a medical-school dropout secretly pining to get closer to his supposedly platonic friend Chantry, played by Zoe Kazan. (The "F" in the title refers to "Friend.")

The movie was filmed and set in the city of Toronto under the direction of Michael Dowse, the Canadian director of rudely funny comedies including Fubar and Goon.

Radcliffe spoke to the Free Press over the phone from Toronto during a publicity tour.

 

FP: Many critics have complained that the romantic comedy is either dead or dying. Making a movie like this would seem to be a vote of confidence in the genre.

DR: I absolutely think it's not dead. Like everything now, there's a lot of crap out there, in the same way that most action movies are kind of crap. But occasionally you'll get one like Die Hard or The Bourne Ultimatum or whatever it is, that make you go: Oh, cool, I remember why I love action movies and how good they can be!

And it's always the same problem: People forget about characters. People forget that whatever you do or say in a script doesn't matter if people don't care about the character involved.

When this genre became popular, people went: 'OK, I know what that is, it's a formula. You follow that formula and you write some relatively funny jokes and you have a romantic comedy.' But without creating characters that people care about, they're not going to be interested and it doesn't count for anything.

That was the other thing that made me keen about this film was that it didn't feel like it was going to be 90 minutes of people being sarcastic and funny and witty with each other. It was actually going to pack some emotional power as well. I like it because it's a film that makes you happy without being sentimental.

 

FP: When you were doing interviews for The Woman in Black, you shared your appreciation of Peter Cushing in the Hammer horror genre. Are there any old-school actors you admire in the romantic-comedy genre?

DR: My favourite romantic comedy is actually Arthur with Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli. The other one we mentioned a lot in relation to this film was It Happened One Night, just because the central relationship in that is so modern and egalitarian; (Clark Gable and Claudettet Colbert are) taking the piss out of each other totally equally. One is as smart as the other. It's a great film. And Clark Gable is great in it.

 

FP: Speaking of great talents of the past, Zoe Kazan is undoubtedly a charming collaborator, but she also has a family history. Her grandfather, Elia Kazan, directed Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and James Dean in East of Eden. Was it a temptation in the off hours to geek out on her about her theatrical lineage?

DR: I didn't. I guess I made the assumption in my head that she would like talking about that as much as I like talking about Potter. I don't really mind talking about Potter and I don't think Zoe minds talking about her family, but when you're just meeting somebody, I wouldn't want Zoe to think: 'Oh, he's just another person who's fascinated by my rich lineage.' Just like when I meet people I'm going to work with, I want them to see me as an actor and not as just one character.

So I didn't bring it up. But I did (geek out), not with Zoe but with Juno Temple (his co-star in his upcoming supernatural thriller Horns) when I met her dad (film director) Julian Temple the other night. I geeked out with him for about 15 minutes about punks. I think I just started quoting whole sections of (his Sex Pistols documentary) The Filth and the Fury to him.

 

FP: Post-Harry Potter, you seem to have been pursuing the experience of a well-rounded actor, encompassing stage, TV and movies of all genres. Is it all according to a plan, or has this been a fairly organic process?

DR: It's pretty organic. You can't really make a plan in the film industry because you don't know what scripts are going to come in. And even past that, you don't know which of those scripts is actually going to get made. You just have to find as many things as you like as possible.

The way I have fun doing my job is by varying it and by trying to make it different every day I step on set. That's my hope. I think playing one character for a very long time builds up in you a desire to try and play as many different kinds of characters in as many different types of film as you can.

So I was excited to play in a romantic comedy but also to play somebody who's alive now, a modern young guy. It's something I've never done before. It's always been a period film or a fantasy world. It's kind of nice to play someone who's completely real.

 

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 16, 2014 G1

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