It’s testament to Daniel Radcliffe’s ferocious ambition and love of his craft that he even got past the synopsis for his latest film Swiss Army Man. It was hailed and hated in equal measure during festival season, after all.
In this debut feature from famed music video directors The Two Daniels, we first see Radcliffe washed up on a desert island, dead, catching the eye of Hank (Paul Dano), himself about to fall off this mortal coil. What follows is 90 minutes of… well, we’re not entirely sure.
“The directors told me they want to make a film where the first incident of flatulence makes you laugh, and the last one makes you cry,” Radcliffe explains with a chuckle. Yes, you read that right.
“I am in a very fortunate position where I don’t have to worry about how things are received, I can just do the projects I want. I probably won’t be in that forever, so I just think why not go for the most exciting, crazy stuff you love as humanly possible in the time that you have.
“When I read this script, I wasn’t stuck by ‘uh oh, what will people think’, but more ‘wow, this is so original and really good, and I haven’t read stuff with this level of creativity and imagination every day’.”
From being ridden like a jet ski to escape the island, to helping recreate moments of an unrequited love on a bus made out of woodland shrubbery, via a bear fight, Radcliffe’s Manny is the unconventional support, both emotional and physical, in Hank’s desperate bid to get home.
“I have had some people who see it as a movie about love,” the 27-year-old explains, speaking exclusively to Time Out from a New York hotel room where he was performing off Broadway in Privacy. “Others say it’s a heart-wrencher about being damaged or vulnerable, one of isolation. Or is it a buddy movie? There are so many different ways to take it, and none are incorrect.
Carrying what could be construed as a mangled concept is no easy task. Radcliffe credits his co-star as being one of very few capable of managing it.
“Paul lives in a heightened world in a grounded way,” Radcliffe says. “He is very, very funny. He is fantastic. Moments that could be really, really weird, he makes them heartbreaking or funny, he brings a real humanity to the part. In someone else’s hands it could have been ‘creepy weirdo’, but in Paul’s you see the vulnerable, intensely shy, damaged guy who has a real sweetness in his heart. I think Paul is amazing, one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”
Weeks since screening, it’s still posing questions to this reviewer; a sign of a good film.
Swiss Army Man is in cinemas across Dubai from Thursday August 25.