For more than a decade, Daniel Radcliffe was known the world over as the owlish waif in the massively successful “Harry Potter” films — based on the equally popular book series by JK Rowling.
Now, the young actor is turning a page.
A child prodigy no more, the 22-year old Radcliffe now is stepping out in grown-up film roles. His first post-Potter film, which opens this week, is the neo-Gothic horror movie “The Woman in Black.”
Radcliffe told AFP that he fell in love with the script, which he read for the first time just a few hours after shooting the last frames of his final “Harry Potter” film.
“It was such a brilliantly written script,” he said.
“Normally, if you get a script which has a lot of stage directions, it can be quite hard to read, but I just flew through it — it was so frightening. You could tell it was going to be scary,” he said.
“That was for me the principal reason to do it,” said Radcliffe. “It was a really compelling story.”
“The Woman in Black” — a co-production between Canada, Britain and Sweden, directed by British filmmaker James Watkins — debuts Friday throughout North America and opens in Europe beginning next week.
A supernatural thriller set in the 1920s, the movie is about a young widowed lawyer sent to an eerie estate to settle the affairs of a recently deceased dowager.
He begins to investigate the mysterious drowning years earlier of the elderly woman’s young son, and uncovers the startling mystery of numerous unexplained deaths of young people in the neighboring village.
Radcliffe said he was drawn to the project not just by the script, but also by the message that underlies the grim storyline.
“It’s about how death and grief affect people in different ways,” he said. “It’s a horror film, but driven by characters.”
The role is a huge departure from his persona as boy wizard in the eight-film, billion-dollar “Potter” franchise, but it allows him to make a clean break and avoid the peril that faces all successful actors — becoming typecast as their last character.
“I think I have to accept that for some people I’m always going to be Harry Potter, some people will never want to see me in other ways,” he told AFP.
“But you know, some people already see me as just an actor, and so I just have to keep trying to make people see me as a true actor and not as a character.”
He feels surprisingly little grief about laying the boy wizard role to rest, and is determined to mix it up as much as he can — trying as many different types of roles on for size as he can.
Last year, for instance, Radcliffe tried his hand at musical comedy, appearing in the hit Broadway production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
A few years ago, in an earlier turn on New York’s “Great White Way,” Radcliffe stunned his fans by disrobing on stage in the starring role of the psycho-drama “Equus.”
Soon he’ll begin work on “Kill Your Darlings,” a true-life murder story in which he co-stars as poet Allen Ginsberg.
He acknowledged that relinquishing Harry Potter, the role of a lifetime, will be neither quick nor easy.
“I think I’m going to be breaking away for probably the next years. I think it will take a little time for people, to say, ‘Oh, he has now established himself in a career outside Potter,'” he said.
“That’s what I want to do, and that sort of takes time. It’s not going to happen with just one play or just one film, unfortunately,” he continued.
“It’s going to be a combination of two or three years’ hard work. If I succeed in that, I have confidence that I will.”
Not that Radcliffe is complaining. Thanks to his decade as Harry Potter, Radcliffe has garnered worldwide fame and fabulous riches, and is estimated to be worth about $80 million.
“I have many more opportunities than most actors do, to play great parts, because of the status that Harry Potter has given me,” he acknowledged.
“I think generally speaking, I just have to be grateful for the opportunities it’s given me,” Radcliffe said.
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