Since bidding farewell to the wizard that made him a household name, Daniel Radcliffe has been on a creative roll, appearing in indies that have challenged the actor and made critics see him in a new light. His performance in “Horns” (out this Friday and currently available to watch on Video on Demand platforms) ranks as his most startling yet.
In the horror-comedy hybrid adapted from Joe Hill’s cult novel and directed by Alexandre Aja (“Piranha 3D,” “High Tension”), Radcliffe stars as a young man believed by his small town to have murdered his girlfriend (Juno Temple), who mysteriously disappeared. Things only worse (and weirder) when he awakens one morning to find devil-like horns sprouting from his temples. Eventually he comes to discover that his new horns give him special powers.
Indiewire sat down with Radcliffe in New York to discuss the oddball film and slew of other topics.
You’re a New Yorker, correct?
I’m very much split between London and New York. There’s all kinds of regulations around the amount of days you can be here for per year without a green card and all that kind of stuff, so you have to be careful about that because I love your country and I don’t want to take the test and I never want to be not allowed to come back here. So, I go back a lot but I do love New York.
I figured someone of your stature could pay off immigration.
[Laughs] No, I know. They’re very good. They’re very egalitarian about that. Everyone’s fucked. I don’t know what it is. I think growing up in England, Americans get the piss taken out of them quite a lot for how incredibly enthusiastic and zealous you are about everything, but when you’ve lived here for a while, you realize actually I think English people are just jealous. I’d rather have it that way.
Reason I asked if you’re a New Yorker, is ’cause I’m curious what you make of this whole Ebola scare? Do you want to head home?
I’m not scared. I feel like we’re lucky to live in a westernized predominantly very wealthy country, which obviously doesn’t make us immune to any of those things. But, I’d be worried now if I were living in West Africa. I’m less worried to be in New York.
All the headlines last night were “Man in New York Gets Ebola.” But he came from West Africa. He had just been there. It was reported obviously, but it was reported after the initial kind of ‘let’s just shake you up’ news for a second. That’s the thing. News is like anything is now. It’s just a quest to find separation with your audience from all the other outlets around so any way you can try to get a start on them. I suppose you gotta do what you gotta do.
You’re obviously a fan of the horror genre, having made “Woman in Black” and now “Horns.” You also have an adaptation of “Frankenstein” coming up.
Yeah. It’s interesting because I used to always say, “Oh, there’s no connection.” These are just the things I choose. But now I’ve definitely had to concede that. Actually, I think it’s about the fact that movies like this give you the opportunity to tell a really fucking cool, compelling, exciting, weird, original story at a surface level, while dealing with kind of big, heavy, dark ideas on another level.
This film is about somebody ostensibly who grows horns and has to figure out both who killed their girlfriend and why they are turning into the devil. But, really it’s a film about what happens to us after we are separated from the one we love the most. It’s about how you can become what you are perceived as. So, there are ideas of being an outsider and dealing with grief are all things that people can connect to, but dealt with in a really cool, unique way.
Similarly, in a “Woman In Black,” it’s a ghost story and it’s kind of a wild ride around this house and it’s this claustrophobic, sort of tense, fun, scary experience. You can also enjoy all the stuff going on underneath, which is about a guy searching for proof of the afterlife because it’s a man whose wife has died, who suddenly starts seeing the ghost of a woman. So, it’s about him trying to figure out if, indeed, there is an afterlife and if that means that his wife is alive somewhere. So, it’s just about a man dealing with grief. So I just think horror, I fancy, you have the ability to have your cake and eat it.
And while “Horns” has a lot going on under the surface, it’s also the film in which Daniel Radcliffe sprouts some pretty huge horns.
Yeah. I mean, they’re kind of awesome.
Did you get to keep them?
I did. I kept one set. It’s a thing because it’s not like you can put them on and they look as good as they do in the film.
How long did it take to get those things on?
Only 20 minutes.
It took maybe half an hour to 40 minutes on the first day. But, very quickly after that we had it down. Basically, I have the horns but what I don’t have are the blending pieces, which blend it from the horns to the skin. But, other than that, the horns were on a wire cage that just sat on the top of my head and they fit perfectly into position and then you glue them down every day and put the blending piece on, which took 10 minutes to paint on. Then you were away. It was amazing fast.
When you’re doing lots of prosthetic stuff, how good or bad your day is depends on how good or bad your makeup artists are. I just had people who I would say were the best. Just amazing. I could not wish for anyone to make my life any easier.
Are you going to go the prosthetic route for Halloween this season?
You know what, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Juno [Temple] has just invited me to Halloween with her and she just showed me some pictures of her from a costume party from the other weekend and she made a Mad Hatter costume basically.
And did all the makeup and hair herself. I was like that is ridiculous. I’ve really got to up my game this year.
I love what you did at Comic-Con this year by donning the Spider Man outfit, and exploring the madness incognito. I was thinking you must want to do something similar this Halloween to actually partake without being noticed.
That’s the thing, I have done it before. That’s where the Comic-Con idea actually came from. What I did the year before in the New York Halloween parade.
I’m an idiot; I had no idea.
No, no! I don’t think I’ve said that in interviews necessarily.
Are you going to do that again?
Yeah, absolutely. I would definitely. It isn’t lost on me of how weird it is to have to put on a mask to go and be normal, but I do really like it. It’s a fun thing to be able to interact with somebody without me being Daniel Radcliffe in any way affecting the interaction is kind of cool. I’ll definitely be doing that again.
I’ll be in LA for Halloween this year so I’ll miss the New York parade unfortunately this year.
Were you familiar with the work of Alexandre Aja before reading the script for “Horns”?
No, not at all and I had sort of heard of some of his films, but I hadn’t seen any. “Piranha” was actually the first one I watched.
What did you make of that?
I loved it.
It’s pretty fucking wild.
Yeah. But, I also came at it from the point of view from loving sci-fi original movies and asylum movies and anything with versus in the title basically. So when I saw that I was thinking he’s just set out to make the bloodiest, sexiest, best movie ever and that’s what he did. I think actually there was something in “Piranha” which made me go, “Oh, that takes a fucking deft hand,” because “Piranha” is one of those films that has to work on its own, but it also has to be the thing it is also parodying. That’s really fucking hard to pull that off.
Like “Piranha,” “Horns” is pretty hilarious in bits, especially the scenes where complete strangers unload onto you. As an actor many grew up watching, I’m sure you’ve had fans come up to you and act out in a similar way. Has that ever happened?
Yeah, definitely. You absolutely get a sense very quickly that people got to know you and in a way that — the thing that always worries me about it is that I always find myself going, “Please talk to somebody else about this — because I’m more than happy for you to talk to me about it, as long as you are talking to somebody else as well.” The chances are most of the encounters that I have with fans that are telling me some deep, intimate thing about themselves, they don’t last very long. They’re either at a stage door or at a premiere type event or something like that. I always like to make sure that they’re talking to somebody who is actually in their life about it who can help them with it every day. So, it’s lovely to know that people feel that they have that relationship with me and that is a very sweet thing. I’m pleased that Potter has been that place of comfort for so many people, because god knows that there are TV shows and films and things that if I ever met the creators of, I would be like, “Thank you very very much, because you’re a great source of joy,” or whatever it was. So, I never get bored of hearing that.
What’s been your most uncomfortable fan interaction?
Well, I had a woman come up to me once with her husband in tow and tell me that her and her husband had one of those arrangements where if you meet this famous person, you can fuck them. She told me that I was on her list. Her husband was also there and I was like, “Hey! Hey fellow! Lovely to meet you darling, but you’re not on my list I’m afraid.” [Laughs]
How old was this woman if you had to guess?
I would say definitely not old enough to make it inappropriate. [Laughs] Not in her twenties, older than that, but not by much. It was just one of those things like maybe in another time and if her husband hadn’t had been there, maybe it would have been flattering. But, with her husband standing right there, it was just super awkward.
Since Potter, you’ve stuck to indies. Are big studio offers not coming your way, or is it simply a case of you gravitating toward the best material?
There are studio offers, but generally speaking, the stuff they make is not as good. I’m not saying I’m being fucking inundated with franchises all the time. That’s not the case either. But, there’s a healthy amount of things coming from studios, which is good. I grew up making big movies, so I really like doing those films and I would totally do them again, but my main goal at the moment is to do things that either I am incredibly passionate about or things that I think will improve me by the people I’m working with or whatever else it is. Stuff that I think I’m going to get something out of it.
But with indies, I think the key difference is that every decision gets made by often 20 people. So, if any decision is made by a committee, it’s immediately going to be diluted. So, I think in the indie world, as much as it is seriously frustrating in terms of getting things made and striving to actually get stuff like that together, it’s just worth it in the long run because you end up doing work that you’re really pleased with. The year that I filmed “Horns” was 2012 and I did “Kill Your Darlings,” “Horns” and “What If” all in that year. If I could have every year like that for the rest of my career, I’ll be a very happy man.