DANIEL RADCLIFFE (14)
Sunday Herald (3 novembre 2002).
Is it only a matter of time before stardom blows the minds of Harry Potter's young stars? As the second film, The Chamber Of Secrets, comes hurtling to our movie screens, Vicky Allan talks to Daniel Radcliffe... and finds just a little punk-fuelled anarchy?
It's a question that's on many a Pottermaniac mind. When will the well-mannered and ever-so-softly-spoken Daniel Radcliffe crumple under the heady pressures of global fame? When -- as if he were his alter ego Harry Potter under the influence of the Polyjuice potion -- will he metamorphose into the ugliest type of showbiz brat, a cocaine-fuelled Drew Barrymore or a troubled and psychologically-scarred Macaulay Culkin?
A moment in his presence dispels those thoughts. Sitting in his Hogwarts school uniform -- crisp white shirt, striped tie and black trousers -- he appears the perfect picture of a normal, middle-class schoolboy. If anything, it's his politeness that seems jarringly abnormal. Radcliffe has that very British habit of thanking you and apologising for everything. 'Thank you,' he says, in his deliberate, formal, measured way (never just 'thanks'). Sometimes it's not even clear what he's thanking you for. One minute, it's for a compliment, the next, it's for just having been to see the film, as if you've donated to his own personal charity. 'I heard some people went to see it 23 times. Thank you,' he says. 'I mean, thank them.'
That's not to say he's some perfect, rule-abiding Hermione Granger. Robbie Coltrane, who plays Hagrid, remembers a famous occasion on the first Potter movie, when, as a practical joke, Radcliffe switched the language setting on his mobile phone to Turkish. Coltrane began to question the cast, but not for long, because Radcliffe quickly owned up, and sent a grovelling note saying sorry. It's not difficult to imagine this scenario. Radcliffe is witty and entertaining, but talks in diffident stops and starts. He's nervous, worried that he might offend, say the wrong thing or not explain himself quite properly. 'Harry's parents aren't around,' he explains at one point. 'They're dead.' Then he pauses in horror as if he's said something really callous. 'Sorry,' he says. 'I said that a bit roughly.'
A self-confessed attention-seeker, he has been building on his reputation as a prankster. Emma Watson, who plays Hermione, has fond memories of him dancing on the tables of the great hall with Coltrane . Meanwhile Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) describes him as the 'worst corpser' he's ever worked with. 'You have to be very, very careful not to do anything that might make him laugh,' says Isaacs. 'The twinkle in your eye can make him laugh.'
A lot has changed, even in the year since the release of his first film, not least his height, which at 5'4" has already been the subject of much speculation. Will Radcliffe, now 13, grow too monstrously tall to play Harry? The film-makers are confident he won't, just as they were confident that his voice breaking wasn't going to be a problem: after all, Harry is meant to grow older, book by book. Radcliffe has also lost a little flesh from his face, become a little gaunter and bonier. His friendships with co-stars Emma Watson, 12, and Rupert Grint, 14, have strengthened. He's developed a taste for punk rock, the vintage 1970s stuff: The Clash, Iggy Pop and the Sex Pistols. 'Is that okay?' he looks to his publicity agent, as he says this. 'Can I say that?' Then, as if countering what she might say, he adds, 'It's not just a phase ... I can't say it's because I like the tune ... I suppose it's the attitude.' So this is his dark side: behind the 'thank you' is a secret anarchist.'As a person he hasn't changed at all,' says director Christopher Columbus. 'The only thing that probably affects him is he gets recognised in certain places.' In a way, he's probably right. For all the magazine covers and posters Radcliffe must have seen of himself on the side of buses (which he says he likes), he seems to have a resilience to the glamour -- perhaps he's still too young. So far he seems to have escaped many of the trappings of showbusiness. When asked how much money he's earned, he says, 'I don't know how much I did get and I don't really want to because I don't need it. I'm just a kid.' Though he rarely attends his home school in Fulham, and receives lessons from an on-set tutor, he spends his spare time with friends, playing 'cool PlayStation games like Medal Of Honour'. He doesn't even have a mobile phone. 'What would I need it for?'
Much of this level-headedness comes from his family -- his father, former talent agent Alan Radcliffe and mother Marcia Gresham, a casting director -- people who know the business all too well and have some inkling of its traps and pitfalls. Initially Alan Radcliffe was reluctant to let his son audition for the role of Harry. After a first meeting with Columbus, they had practically turned it down, and the tape of Daniel in the BBC production of David Copperfield was left to languish on his desk, despite
Columbus's many declarations that 'that's the boy I want'.
'You have to understand,' says Radcliffe junior. 'Basically we didn't know what it was going to be, what the situation was, whether it was going to be filmed in England, how they were going to do the schooling. So [my father] was obviously very cautious.' It was only later, after a chance meeting with producer David Heyman at the theatre, that they began to be seduced . But when Radcliffe senior told his son he'd landed the part -- famously, Daniel was in the bath at the time -- there were tears of joy.
The Radcliffe family have clung to their caution, shielding their only son as far as possible from the media glare (Alan Radcliffe has even given up work to act as his chaperone). They protect him but allow him make his own decisions. When asked how much say his parents have in his future, he says, 'None ... well, no I shouldn't really say none. I take that back. They advise me the best they can, but they leave it down to me. They're really nice about that.'In some ways, they needn't have worried. Not only does Radcliffe have a remarkable solidity, but Columbus's own experience with child stars, particularly Macaulay Culkin on Home Alone, made him all the more keen to ensure that the Potter children would have, as far as possible, a normal childhood. 'The kids on this film have solid, strong parents, and obviously Macaulay Culkin never had that,' Columbus says.
Kenneth Branagh, who joins the cast as Hogwarts teacher Gilderoy Lockhart, is also impressed with the young cast's stability. 'They might easily have turned into monsters but they are remarkably well adjusted, which is a tribute to their parents. They are incredibly self-possessed, even in the middle of the adolescent storm.'
In the end, it's not the fame or the money or the media hot-housing that makes child stars go off the rails, it's whatever fractures there are in their families, in their own psyches. But Radcliffe is not obliged to play Harry Potter throughout the series. 'I'm just thinking about the third film at the moment,' he says.
Perhaps, he adds, later, he'd like to be a writer or a film-director, or even a fireman ('though that's too scary, you might get burnt'). Then he confesses he's only ever written one short story, and would be too lazy to even keep a diary, and he wouldn't be good at directing action sequences, and you're reminded -- it's all wide open, he's only 13. Next year it might be gangsta rap instead of punk. And in five years' time, when the final Potter film is scheduled, then, who knows, maybe he'll be a real anarchist.
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