Daniel Radcliffe talks 'Kill Your Darlings' and admits it would 'break' him to never act again
TORONTO - Things are going well for Daniel Radcliffe.
It isn't easy transitioning from playing one of the most iconic figures in recent literary and cinematic history for over half your life to seemingly less magical roles. Or, perhaps that should be edited to note the transition is about an industry and not the actor himself. Because, as you'll learn, even Radcliffe has had to fight for roles in independent films you'd assume would kill to have someone with his notoriety on board. 2013, however, has seen the fruits of his labors. In January, he received strong reviews for his portrayal of Allen Ginsberg in the period drama "Kill Your Darlings." Sony Classics acquired the picture and it screened at the Venice Film Festival last week. It plays the Toronto International Film Festival this evening.
Radcliffe has also had two other films premiere at Toronto with strong reviews: "Horns" and "The F Word." CBS Films appears close to picking up the latter and it seems inevitable that the former finds a home as well. Good times for the young Brit, and a perfect time to sit down for a chat.
Speaking about all three projects during an interview Monday, Radcliffe waxed on his fear of being told he won't be allowed to act again, finding his projects, the inherent difficulties of making "Darlings" on a now infamously small budget and much more. Oh, and by the way, he's the one who brought up Amanda Bynes…
Q: Your director (John Krodikas) was a first time filmmaker who took years trying to get "Kill Your Darlings" off the ground. How did he convince you to jump on board?
Daniel Radcliffe: Well, that's the thing. I mean there wasn't much convincing needed to be done. I mean the script that he and Austin [Bunn] wrote was so good. I mean you mustn't underestimate the power of a good script to an actor because we read so much crap. You read a lot that's not good. And so when you read something that is just smart and funny and true and well-crafted in terms of the structure of the story…And like every scene, every scene in "Kill Your Darlings" teaches you something about one of the characters. There is no scene in the film that doesn't move along at least one character story at least somewhat. And that's I think the mark of a really good script, where the story's being told constantly rather than in chunks of exposition. And so, you know, that was just so impressive. And I leapt at the chance. And then when you meet John, have you met John?
Well, then you know. He's very charismatic and very charming and he's not somebody who you doubt. I have complete faith. When he talks to you about his film and he has such confidence in his vision for the film and he knew absolutely the type of film he wanted to make, he knew what all these characters were going through, you know? I feel like I've been presented evidence that he was gonna be fantastic, and he was. He's become a very good friend and somebody I have huge amounts of respect for as a professional as well as a person.
Q: You mentioned about all the crap scripts you get. How many scripts do you actually read a week? Five? 10?
Not anymore. I used to read probably a lot more than I do now. It's a process. You know, after coming out of "Potter," my agent sent me a lot more scripts because they wanted, I think, to find out what kind of things I wanted to do, what my taste was. And then as that developed and they got a sense of that more, now they don't send me the ones that they know, "Oh, he's never going to go for that." So, you know, I can't read everything I get sent, but I read, you know, a lot of it. I mean I got lucky because John Krokidas came and saw "Equus" in New York. And that was really, you know, as far as I'm concerned, that was what got me this part. That was what got me in the room for it.
Q: Well, what about your other films here at the festival: "Horns" and "The F Word?" If you hadn't made "Kill Your Darlings" would you not have gotten them? Or had you already shot those and worked on those before?
You know what, no. "Horns" I had to really sort of fight for I think a little bit because there were -- I think at the time that they were casting it, possibly [director Alexandre Aja] had originally thought of somebody slightly older for Ig. And somebody more closer to probably Alex's age. He's only 30 or 31. But the late '20s, I think, was how they were thinking originally. So, I think I had to convince Alex a little bit that I had the maturity and that I could play that as well. But also I went into that meeting and I happened to have a little bit of an obsession with the way the devil is portrayed in the popular culture. And "The Master and Margarita" is one of my favorite books and I spent a lot of time reading, or having bits of "Paradise Lost" explained to me at school. The Devil's kind of a great character. Traditionally he's a much more interesting character than anybody else in the Bible. You know, Milton wrote "Paradise Lost" and he made [such a different] Devil. That's sort of where the idea of this kind of very charismatic Devil sort of initiated from. But then he had to write "Paradise Regained" 'cause he was so upset by himself at how appealing he had made the Devil. And, you know, and so in that sense I was able to go in and talk a lot about the script and about themes and about things like that that I was really into.
And with "The F Word," I think I've got it in the back of my head somewhere that it might have come about because of [my hosting] "Saturday Night Live." I'm not sure but I have a feeling that that's where maybe like Michael Dowse might have seen me do that and thought, "Oh, he can do some comedy. I wonder if he'd be more interested to explore that as well?" It's interesting 'cause literally every job I've got for the past few years has been as a result of somebody seeing me do like "Equus" or one of the things that, you know…
Q: That you wouldn't expect.
…that you wouldn't expect. And, in retrospect, "Equus" was a brilliant decision. Not just for me to make at the time so that I got better as an actor, which I did because I learned so much from it, but actually just as a statement of intent about what I want my career to be. I think it made everyone sit up and take note and go, "Oh, you know, he might do this. He might do 'Kill Your Darlings.'" Because there's some people that would've probably said, "Oh, this guy's coming off a big franchise. He'll never want to do this." But I think doing stuff like "Equus" showed people that I was actually serious about it and that I was more about script than I was about money or anything else like that.
Q: It's been nine months since "Kill Your Darlings" premiered at Sundance. And the festival is always full of casting directors, producers and directors. Did the movie's response in Park City provide you with offers you hadn't gotten before?
I'm definitely being talked about in a different way, I think, now, and that's really exciting for me. But yeah, there have been offers of lots of different stuff since Sundance, lots of sort of very intense stuff. A couple of other gay characters. [Laughs.] But, you know, yeah, it's been great. I think once these films start coming out that's the next step. But since finishing "Potter" I've been thrilled with the great variety of scripts that I've been getting and the fact that they're all totally different and I'm very pleased by that because I think it means that people are sort of getting the message that I want to do diverse things.
Q: I actually spoke to John at Sundance and we had this long, like, 30-minute conversation about "Darlings." And, you're right, his energy is just like, boom! He was talking about the fact that he had shot this in 27 days or so, sort of guerrilla style, which is very hard for a period piece. In theory, I'm still confused on how that actually happened.
So are we.
Q: I don't think you'd made a movie like this beforehand. Even though you trusted John and the movie had a great cast, were there moments where you were like, "Is this gonna actually happen? Did you ever doubt, like, "Is this gonna come together?"
Not about the film as a whole, more about certain scenes. There's one scene in the film that I won't say the scene because if you're looking for it you can see it. But if you don't look for it you won't see it. But there's one scene in the film, which we started shooting at 10:00 PM at night in pitch black and finished shooting at 6:00 AM in the morning in broad daylight. And we definitely walked away from that day going, "How the fuck will that scene ever work?" And it does.
Q: They just cut it around it?
They cut around it, they graded it, they did all kinds of stuff. They were very clever and our DP is a fucking genius. Frankly Reed Morano deserves a shout-out for that scene alone. I'm not gonna tell 'em which one it is Reed, don't worry. I'm saying that to Reed 'cause if she's reading this she'll be, "Don't fucking tell 'em which one it is, Dan!" It's more like where if John comes in saying, "OK, we need a close shot, we need the close shot, we need the close shot." And somebody says, "We can't. We have to move on." Then as an actor you leave set going, "How are we gonna cut it together? We didn't get the close shot," you know? "We can't use all that one take." So there's stuff like that, but ultimately those things can always be fixed; if you have a clever enough director and a clever enough editor and a clever enough DP, you can always fix that stuff.
Q: Well, "Horns" and "The F Word" were also low-budget films as well. Did you have any…
You can't even compare the budget "Horns" has to "Kill Your Darlings." "Horns" has so much more substantial budget than "Kill Your Darlings." Yeah, like almost ten times the budget.
Q: Oh wow. OK.
You got to bear in mind like "Kill Your Darlings" had a very, very low budget.
Q: I think it's somewhat o fa secret how low a budget it was.
Yeah. I used to say [what it was], and then somebody said to me, "Dan, could you stop saying how low our film costs?" In fact, it was John came up to me and said, "Dan, could you stop telling people how little I made this film for because then they'll always expect me to make it for that much." And he's right, so I have.
Q: Sure, but "The F Word" is an indie romantic comedy. I'm guessing it did not cost that much.
No, no, no, no.
Q: Are there moments on those films where you've been sort of like, "How are we gonna pulls this off?"
The only difference is like sometimes I think I sound like a spoiled actor. The example I use from "Kill Your Darlings" is that we were scouting locations one day around New York and John said to our producer, "Oh, that's great 'cause that's the day we'll have the crane." And I just turned around to him and I stopped myself because the question I was about to ask was, "Will we not have the crane every day?" On "Potter," we just had two crane cameras just there, lying around. Even if we weren't using 'em we just have 'em. 'Cause that's the money, the difference in studio money. On an independent film you rent a crane camera for one day and you get all your crane shots.
Q: You get the lights for that day.
Yeah, exactly. I mean I think if you were talking to an actor that maybe didn't prepare in the way I do, there might be some differences, because like it's definitely a jump. You're going from shooting maybe an eighth of a page a day on "Potter" to shooting nine pages a day. And I imagine that would be a job for some people. But I've kind of found that I've thrived in it. I think all that money and time buy you is the luxury of indecision.
Q: Well, what's really interesting is, no joke, an hour before this I spoke to one of your contemporaries who also grew up on set, Dakota Fanning.
Oh right, OK.
Q: And one of the things that she talks about is that she just loves acting so much that she doesn't really – I mean she cares about the final product, but not that much. I mean she cares about it and she's glad people like it but the experience for her is actually…
Yeah, doing it.
Q: Is that the same for you?
Yeah, that's why you do it. You do it to be on set. I don't do it so I can watch myself back in a movie. I do it so I have a great time on set. And I think the thing that so many people often ask me, like, "What drives me?" And I think frankly there is some very irrational but very real thought in my mind that one day some guy's gonna appear out of nowhere and say, "You can never work on a film again." And that would fucking break me. I wouldn't know what to do with my life. I've grown up on film sets since I was nine. Dakota Fanning probably about the same age, probably even younger, actually.
Q: Six, I believe.
Six, Jesus Christ. But probably, we literally almost probably started at the same time. In fact we did start at the same time because we both appeared…
Q: Well, she's 19, how old are you again?
I'm 24. But she and I, if I'm right in saying, were both picked in Variety's 10 kids to watch [or something like that] in 2001, which I still have it framed. My mom and dad still have it framed in their bathroom so that's why I remember it. And I remember there's definitely me and Dakota Fanning. I believe possibly Jonathan Lipnicki and Haley Joel Osment and Amanda Bynes.
Q: Oh wow.
I can't remember who else was up there, but so far me and Dakota are doing well. It's good.
"Kill Your Darlings" opens in limited release on Oct. 16.