From director Alexandre Aja and author Joe Hill, Horns is a unique and unusual blend of fantasy, horror, drama and comedy. Blamed for the murder of his girlfriend and ostracized by everyone he knows, a small-town guy named Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) awakens one morning to find that he’s grown a pair of horns from his temples. Armed with the supernatural powers that they possess, he sets out to find the true killer and prove his innocence.
While at Comic-Con for a panel in Hall H, actor Daniel Radcliffe spoke to press at a conference, in which he talked about being drawn to dark material, what most excited him about doing this film, what was on his playlist for the role, what makes Alexandre Aja a great director, connecting to the symbolism in the film, his vision for the next 25 years of his career, and what he got to do while walking around Comic-Con dressed as Spider-Man. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: Did you have any reservations about taking on such a dark story?
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: I definitely didn’t have any reservations, in terms of the darkness of the movie. Even Harry Potter had quite a lot of darkness in it. Doing things like Equus and The Cripple of Inishmaan and Kill Your Darlings, I like getting involved in that kind of stuff.
What really excited you about doing this film?
RADCLIFFE: It’s an amazing book, and the adaptation of the book into a script was fantastic. I like things that take an idea that everyone can relate to, in some way, and not necessarily being accused of murdering your girlfriend, but the idea of being an outsider and experiencing loneliness and coping with loss, and finding a really original, crazy way to deal with that topic. People talk about this film as being fantasy or horror, but I’ve always seen it as being magical realism, in the sense that most of the world is very, very grounded in reality, apart from this one fantastical thing that is happening in the middle of it.
What challenges did you have, in preparing for this?
RADCLIFFE: It’s a challenging part and there’s a lot to mine, in terms of what he has gone through, prior to the beginning of the film and as he’s going through it. I broke down the script, the way that I would approach anything. And then, you have the more superficial but fun challenges of the prosthetics, which is mainly a challenge of staying still, for me.
You’ve talked about using certain music, over the years, to get you into a certain headspace for certain roles. What music got you into this one?
RADCLIFFE: I made a playlist, and I do always make playlists for characters. There was a song that actually ended up in the movie, by a band called The Shivers, called “Lonely Road.” And there was a lot of Metallica and Megadeth. There was some Radiohead and Hope of the States. There was a lot. It stretched onto two discs, by the end of it. And I still make discs.
This story has a balance between Ig’s new demonic persona and an attempt to prove his innocence. How did you handle that balance?
RADCLIFFE: There is always something more interesting about a part that is multi-faceted and has a dark side and is more true to life, even in this very heightened world that we’re in, in the film. He’s a true anti-hero. He is absolutely good and you should root for him and be with him, all the way, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t do some questionable things. But, even he questions them. It’s not without consequence. He learns from that, so that he can be, in some sense, redeemed by the end.
What kind of director is Alexandre Aja?
RADCLIFFE: I really cannot say enough nice things about Alex, but I’m going to. The story I’ll tell you exemplifies why he is so brilliant. At the end of the film, after we finished the last shot, myself, the script supervisor, some of the grips and some of the camera guys all stood around for an hour, talking about what a pleasure it had been to work for him. You might hear that from actors, but that is very rare to happen across the crew. Some directors walk onto the set with the attitude that they are the only person with the creative impulse and they are the only artist on that set. Immediately, a crew feels that, because a film crew is a group of incredibly talented, technically skilled people, with many different roles. If they know they’re being listened to and collaborated with, rather than just being told what to do, it inspires me and them, and it made it a pleasure to come to work, every day. You knew that he was going to create one of those awesome moments, and it was a pleasure to be a part of his vision, every day. It really was.
Was working on something like this very different from the book adaptation process you went through with Harry Potter?
RADCLIFFE: I wasn’t really closely involvement with the adaptation process of either. Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings came out at the same time, initially, and a few other famous book-to-movie transitions have adjusted people to the idea that, as wonderful as all books are and as much as we’d like to put everything in, things do have to move around and shift slightly. But, the tone of the film remained absolutely true to the tone of the book. I think some filmmakers would have looked at all of the different genres and styles and gone, “Okay, for the sake of ease, we’ll just make it horror, and take out the comedy and romance,” to make it simpler. Not that (author) Joe [Hill] would have ever allowed that, but Alex never shied away from any of that.
How did you connect to the symbolism in this film?
RADCLIFFE: I’m not a religious person, but I have always been fascinated by the mythology and imagery in all religions, particularly Christianity, which has got some fantastic stuff in there. Weirdly, when we first met, we had a discussion and I was worried that I came off a little bit creepy with my obsession with the devil as a character in literature. He is traditionally this very, very charismatic character, so I was very excited to play him. And the snakes were awesome. I had a six-foot long python wrapped around me for the last half of the film, which is the best prop any actor can ever have. There’s no acting required when you’re wearing a snake. A lot of symbolism got built into the movie. One of my favorite things is that all of the driver’s registration plates in the movie are bible verses, which relate very specifically towards the characters. There are many things for people to discover, on the second watching of this.
You also did The Woman in Black. Are you attracted to supernatural movies?
RADCLIFFE: Yeah, I do like the genre because anything can happen in it. As long as you play by your own rules, you can do whatever you’d like. It’s not an intentional thing that I’m picking all of this really dark work, but I guess I enjoy it. People do talk about Horns, The Woman in Black and Frankenstein as being things that are all of one genre, but they actually aren’t. The Woman in Black is the most traditional horror film you can get, and Horns is the least. And with a film like Frankenstein, it more falls into the adventure category than anything else. I hope it’s going to be a great film. So, I can’t explain my attraction to dark material, but I don’t think it’s going to end soon.
You’re 25 years old now. Do you have a vision for where you want to be and want you want to do, with the next 25 years?
RADCLIFFE: Not specifically. I hope that, in 25 years time, I will have a family. I would like to have directed by then, as well. That’s something I really want to do, down the line. But I just want to keep working, really. I just want to keep acting. Playing one part for a very long time builds up in you a desire to play as many different things as you can, so I’m really enjoying that, at the moment. So, I don’t know what it will hold, but I’m really looking forward to it.
If you were able to walk around Comic-Con as a fan, what would you dress as?
RADCLIFFE: Half an hour ago, I did exactly that as Spider-Man, head to toe. It was good. I also posed in the Sharknado 2 poster, which was pretty awesome. I’m excited for that.
What did you think of Sharknado 1?
RADCLIFFE: I loved it! That’s why I’m so excited about Sharknado 2. I can say that unironically. I really, really enjoyed it. It was fantastic!