It’s been more than 18 months since Radcliffe shot his last scenes for the Harry Potter series. Eight films, 10 years and a rumoured personal wealth of more than Dhs242 million. Since then, he’s shot his first post-Potter film, an adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black, in which he plays lead character Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer dealing with the affairs of a dead woman in a haunted rural house.
Last year Radcliffe returned to the New York stage, following a stint in Equus in 2008, for the 1960s musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, in which he played a window cleaner who works his way up to become chairman of the board. Most reviews confessed that he hadn’t suddenly transformed into the world’s greatest singer and dancer, but that he oozed charisma and effort.
That seems to define where Radcliffe is at: he’s determined to leave HP behind by working as hard as he can on new ventures. He could surely have walked into another comfortable studio franchise after hanging up the broomstick. But instead he’s treading the boards and working on indie films.
Didn’t he want to take a long holiday after Potter? Hit the beach? Laze about? He looks shocked. ‘There was never a moment when I was like, “Oh, I’m going to take some time off,”’ he says earnestly. He’s driven and sensible, but no stuffed shirt. ‘There’s no time to take time off. I need to be very busy over the next few years. I would never do a job just for the sake of it, but, yeah, I want to work.’
Radcliffe shot his last scenes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II in June 2010, but was already in training for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying by taking singing and dancing lessons at the weekends. ‘Then, when Potter finished, we just blitzed it,’ he says. ‘I’d do at least nine hours of dancing a week and six to eight hours of singing. I did that for six weeks, then started filming The Woman in Black.’
This well-crafted horror throwback comes from a revived Hammer Films and has a pleasingly old-fashioned feel to it. It’s a suitable transitional role for Radcliffe: his character is centre stage but quiet, which allows him to essay an older, different persona without dragging him out of his comfort zone. He’s the first to acknowledge this. ‘Obviously it was important to give a good performance, but it’s not like I’m Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady,’ he says. ‘My character is the calm centre around which all this madness spins out of control.’
The Woman in Black is more than just another role for Radcliffe: it’s a statement of intent that he wants to pursue a career beyond Potter. But did he ever think of chucking it all in, finding something else to do? ‘Yeah, I’ve thought about that, but actually I love my job. I loved being on those sets and there was never a moment I wanted to be anywhere else.’
In March, Radcliffe heads back to New York to shoot an even smaller film than The Woman in Black, a Dhs14.6 million indie called Kill Your Darlings about a murder involving a 19-year-old Allen Ginsberg. Radcliffe will play the beat poet. Can we assume that producers shouldn’t bother sending him any scripts with even a passing resemblance to Harry Potter? Is the film industry aware that the wizard hat is staying in storage?
‘They are very much aware,’ he laughs. ‘You know, I don’t get sent any fantasy stuff, or maybe it gets sent, but my agents don’t pass it on.’ This sparks a memory of one of the odder offers he ever received as an actor: a remake of The Wizard of Oz with Potter co-stars Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, in which the filmmakers wanted him to play the cowardly lion. ‘Who knows karate! Amazingly, it didn’t get made. But no, I don’t really get that kind of stuff any more. I think the word is out. Once you do Equus, people kind of go, “Oh, he probably doesn’t want to do another fantasy franchise immediately.” ’
There are few better ways of shedding your image as a kiddie star than exposing your manhood on stage night after night, as he did in Peter Shaffer’s play, in London in 2007 – aged just 17 – and then in New York in 2008. ‘When you first do it, it’s terrifying,’ he remembers. ‘No one ever says that. I had a terrifying moment when I got to the end of the run in New York and realised I’d been naked in front of [co-star] Richard Griffiths more than I had been in front of my girlfriend at the time. That was worrying.’
The Woman in Black is in UAE cinemas now.