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Interview: Guns Akimbo’s Daniel Radcliffe

by Charles Trapunski

I mean come on, it’s Daniel freakin’ Radcliffe! When the opportunity arose to speak with the acclaimed actor one-on-one at TIFF, we jumped at the chance. His film at the festival was Guns Akimbo, which co-stars Samara Weaving, and was shot in New Zealand, and yet this was our chance to speak to Dan Rad about past TIFFs. We asked about many of our favorites and we avoided asking about The Franchise That Must Not Be Named (in other words, please don’t ask him to sign your wand), although he himself brought it up a few different times.

The following is condensed and edited from our exclusive one-on-one chat with the delightful Daniel Radcliffe. *This interview was originally published on September 16, 2019*

Brief Take: Guns Akimbo is your first action movie in a while, isn’t it?

Daniel Radcliffe: Well, yeah, absolutely. I mean that’s the thing, the Potter films you don’t really think of as straight action films. But they really do include a lot of that stuff, so I was exposed to a lot of that when I was young, which was fun. But there is something great about being able to do it, and the reason that I don’t do it a lot of the time is that I [pauses] struggle to believe myself as an action hero kind of character. I feel like if I have that credibility problem with myself, then maybe other people will, but with this particular character, I was like: “No, I can definitely play this guy!”. The kind of idea of the reluctant action hero, really does not want to fight him with much, would rather run away, was something that I could feel like I could get into.

BT: We spoke to your The Cripple of Irishman’s co-star Sarah Greene at last year’s TIFF and she spoke highly about working with you in Broadway and the West End. What was something that you enjoyed about that experience, playing “Cripple” Billy across two venues?

DR: I feel like every time I do a play, I always feel like I learn and get better every time. It keeps you sharp, doing it as an actor, and it keeps you honed and it gives you the confidence and the knowledge that you are able to do this without an editor and without the same sort of safety net that you have on film. And yeah, it was an incredible play and it was getting the chance to do Martin McDonagh’s writing and doing it with Sarah (Greene) and Conor (MacNeil) and Pat Shortt and all of the other amazing people. I just found out that one of the really wonderful people in the show passed away really recently, Gillian Hanna, but it was a wonderful thing to be a part of.

BT: Tell me about being an Executive Producer on your TBS series Miracle Workers.

DR: It’s lovely, honestly. Having a job like Miracle Workers that has kind of occupied a really lovely amount of time in the last few years in my life, it’s really lucky. I think that I’m in the stage of my life in which I just want to work with people that I like on the material that I like and I enjoy doing, and it really ticks all those boxes. Having access to Simon Rich’s writing, which is, in my opinion, some of the funniest writing I have ever read, having access to that on a sort of annual basis was also getting to return and getting to work with a bunch of people with whom you formed relationships and friendships, it’s a real gift. And you talk to people on tv shows and not everyone has a great group of people with whom they work, so yeah, we’re very lucky.

BT: When you were at the Guns Akimbo premiere you said something like: “The best piece of advice for actors is be nice to everyone on set”. Do you abide by this?

DR: Yes, I do. Not that you have to be [chuckles] you know, I think that there are some basic things that actors should do and not assuming that you are…because yeah, in a way actors are the people that people tend to focus on in the film, but you don’t, you’re like the last person to arrive on set in the day, you’re one of the first people to leave. There are parts of your job that are challenging, but there are parts of everyone’s job that are challenging. Nothing will ever drive me quite as crazy as seeing something and it’s subtle things, it’s not necessarily like big freak outs all time, like if I see an actor for example, like if the boom mike falls into shot in one take, or if we have to go again because focus was on the camera and you know, actors, if I see an actor getting annoyed by that I want to shake them and say “How many times have you screwed up a line and you made a mistake and everyone…and it’s fine, it’s not an issue”. And 90 per cent of actors are really nice and the 10 per cent [chuckles] tend to get a lot more attention or take up a lot more brain space, because it’s personally hard for me to be around that kind of attitude.

BT: I enjoyed the film Kill Your Darlings. What was the importance of that project on your acting journey?

DR: Kill Your Darlings was a really important film for me, generally, because it was the first film that I had filmed after the last Potter had come out. The Woman in Black I had filmed before, but after we’d finished filming Potter but before it had come out and so Kill Your Darlings was the first film I made in which I was really going: “Oh, okay, that’s done now. This is the start of the rest of your career”, so it was a huge film for me. I’m also incredibly close with the director of that film (John Krokidas), I’m still really good friends with Dane (DeHaan) and Anna (Wood), his wife, and I also met my girlfriend (Erin Darke) on that film, however long ago that film was made, 7 or 8 years. Yeah, that was a very, very influential film in my life.

BT: What about your experience with the film Horns?

DR: Horns was another one of my favorite films that I had done and Alexandre Aja the director is incredible. Every film that I did at that stage is a huge learning process, I like to think that it is still. I like to think that definitely at that point every film was a journey of “Okay, how do I play this kind of part?” and “How much do I enjoy playing this kind of part?” and my twenties was about trying to figure out in a way what I am good at and the stuff that I like to do.

BT: You were great in The F Word, and your friend group was amazing as well: Mackenzie Davis and Adam Driver were both standouts.

DR: I feel like I have been really, really lucky, actually, to work with a lot of people at the beginning, like right before they become stars. Well, obviously, Zoe Kazan, but Zoe Kazan was fairly established by that point, but watching Mackenzie Davis and Adam Driver for the first time, and just as soon as I was around Adam Driver, I was like: “Oh, you’re going to be a star”. There is something that, I think that Dane DeHaan is one of those people, too. And more recently, with Geraldine (Viswanathan) and Samara Weaving as well, it’s like I’ve always been really blessed to work with a lot of amazing people right at the start of their careers.

BT: I don’t think that I have ever seen a film such as Swiss Army Man before.

DR: Yeah, that was also insane. It was an insane one to do, but the Daniels themselves are two of the most inventive kind of people so they made it. I really enjoyed that every day, there was something in the script and I was like: “Wait, how is that going to work? How are we going to do that?” Like: “What do you mean I get punched in the mouth and swallow his hand? How do we actually film that?” And every day there would be an answer like: “Oh, that is how we do it!” Like any day in which you say “How do you do that?” and end up conquering the problem as the day goes on, those are the days that I love.

BT: What’s something that is not addressed in the industry that you think you should be given attention?

DR: You know what? There’s lots of pressing issues and there are lots of other things that I could say for this answer, but I think that the one thing that I will say, because people are saying it, I think a greater recognition for stuntmen at award ceremonies. I have a really personal connection to it which is that a friend of mine, who was a stunt double on Potter, became paralyzed from the chest down as a result of a stunt that he was testing for me. And I think that they are the only people that put their lives and their bodies on the line for the films we love. If you go to see a trailer, if you go see an Avengers movie, you’re seeing a lot of stuntmen. The actors that are famous from it are not the people that you’re necessarily seeing all the time, and I think that they’re past from getting their due a bit. I mean they’re paid, obviously, it’s a job, but I think that if actors can all stand around and get awards, there must be some way of figuring out how to do a stunt award too.

BT: Can you speak about your work with LGBT rights as well as what can be done in the fight against homophobia?

DR: From a practical standpoint, I think that getting a service like The Trevor Project or The Trevor Project into more countries around the world is going to be the next step in that. But there’s so much to unpack about how we can start being kinder to each other and what my influence adds and where and if social media comes into changes in our behavior in the way you relate to each other. I do think that something has been inspired by the last few years, I do know that I have become more active in certain things and helping in volunteering and it’s hard to pick good sides out of the last few years of sort of world chaos, but there does seem to be a general capacity of people to want to give up more of their time and be more active in things, which I think is a very good development.

BT: Can you talk about your upcoming project as well?

DR: Absolutely! I filmed a movie called Escape from Pretoria, which is the truly amazing true story of three guys who escape from a maximum security prison in South Africa in the 1970’s, and yeah, I learned the accent. I think that it was good for the time, it’s definitely one on which I feel very rusty right now. But yeah, it’s an amazing film. I loved the director of that film (Francis Annan) so much. He is a young, hungry director from the U.K. and this is his first feature and I think he’s really, really talented, and I’m very excited to see what he’s done with the film.

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Brief Take