He’s walked us through a world of witchcraft and wizardry, made moviegoers believe in the Woman in Black of the Eel Marsh House and now Daniel Radcliffe has absolutely no trouble selling himself as a guy with horns growing out of his head in Alexandre Aja’s adaptation of the Joe Hill novel, Horns. Radcliffe leads as Ig Perrish. Ig is all ready to live happily ever after with his longtime girlfriend Merrin Williams (Juno Temple), but then she turns up dead and he’s named the prime suspect. Complicating matters further, Ig also wakes up with horns comings out of his head.
Horns is already available on VOD, but in honor of the film’s very appropriate October 31st theatrical release, I got the chance to sit down with Radcliffe to discuss the challenges of grounding such an out-of-this-world situation, what it was like working with Aja, his hopes to direct his own feature film and loads more. You can catch all of that in the interview after the jump and, in case you missed it, click here to find out what Radcliffe had to say about Victor Frankenstein as well.
Question: What was it like the first time you saw yourself with the horns on? I remember when that first picture came out, I was thinking, ‘This looks great, but he’s still going to have his work cut out for him to truly sell that.’
DANIEL RADCLIFFE: That’s the thing. When I first put them on I was relieved. It’s all very well to see written down, ‘He has horns on.’ You can imagine something really cool, but whether it translates into something really cool or actually something comic or distracting, there’s no guarantee until you sit down and have them on. But, no, I loved them immediately. I was like, ‘Oh these are awesome.’ Also the fact that they’re kind of the same-ish color as my hair and that it looks sort of – one of my most hated words in the world is ‘organic’ and the misuse of the word ‘organic.’ People are like, ‘Oh, I want it to feel organic.’ But in this case, I do use it just because they look like they are made from organic material that has come out of my head rather than something stuck on. Full respect to Hellboy, but we didn’t want it to be Hellboy. It’s a different thing, it’s a different style of movie, it’s a much more grounded world so we wanted to avoid any kind of things like that. I kind of loved them pretty quickly. You just felt f*cking cool when you wore them, to be honest. [Laughs]
It does look really cool with the horns and that outfit. I hope you kept the jacket.
RADCLIFFE: I kept the jacket. Yeah! Before I’d even left my costume fitting or started filming anything, I think I went, ‘That’s coming home with me at the end.’ There were only like two of them, maybe three of them, and they were made for the film specifically and two of them got the sh*t beaten out of them and torn apart, so I got the one good one that I kept and it’s a hell of a statement to walk around in though normally. It’s quite big. I’m hoping that after this film comes out, people will know it. ‘Oh that’s the cool jacket from Horns!’ Whereas now they’re just like, ‘Oh, Daniel Radcliffe is wearing a statement leather jacket tonight.’
RADCLIFFE: Yeah, yeah! That’s mainly my goal for this film actually is that we just created a new Halloween character for everybody. I would loved to see that. That for me, that’s actually the definition of success of this film, is if next year I go to the Halloween parade in New York and I see at least a couple of people dressed as Ig.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you see it this year because it’s been on VOD for about a month now.
RADCLIFFE: Right! So, okay, I know I shouldn’t be asking you about this, but the VOD thing; so it came out on VOD and it’s still out?
I saw it at a press screening a while back, but I’ve actually watched it at home since, too.
RADCLIFFE: Oh, that’s cool! I’m glad they’re doing that with this. When the technology is there to have a film suddenly in everybody’s house like that and it’s a film you want people to see, it does seem like a kind of cool thing, particularly for Halloween, it’s a good movie. I’ve never had a movie released in this way before so it’s quite cool and the prospect of a lot of people having the option of seeing it is really awesome.
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard someone tell me that they were only aware of a particular movie because they were flipping through a VOD menu.
RADCLIFFE: I feel like VOD is going to start getting really big in England soon, and has to, really, because people don’t go to the cinema in England anymore. Compared to what it is here, it’s ridiculous. When I saw Gone Girl, that was the first time I have seen a more than half full theater in England for as long as I can remember.
I’m glad it was half full for that movie because there’s one that deserves it!
RADCLIFFE: Oh, I loved that film so much! I was like, ‘That’s such a good film.’ That’s what I liked about Gone Girl as well, the excitement it has created. I remember when I came to New York for the first time, I went to see Burn After Reading in a cinema and there was a queue around the f*cking block for a Coen Brothers movie on a Saturday and I was like, ‘This place is amazing!’ You wouldn’t get that at home. And the fact that there’s so much excitement around the opening of this movie – and I love Burn After Reading as well – but I just remember thinking, ‘That is so cool,’ and it just wouldn’t happen at home the same way. The opening weekend of a movie isn’t as big a deal in England as it is over here, so it’s always very cool to see that.
Can you tell me a little bit about getting cast in this? Did the script change much after you signed on? Was it tailored to you at all?
RADCLIFFE: No, not at all. It was very much like, most of what’s in the film was there when I read the script and that’s what I loved about it. I think if anything, we would slightly change lines and alter lines on the day just to keep it fresh. And also because when you’re talking about stuff that has the potential to go into crazy melodrama because of the nature of the stuff we’re talking about, you want to try and keep it real. The acting challenge in this film is do justice to the insanity of the situation that you’re in, but also make it grounded and real and believable. And no, it didn’t change. I think one of the things that helped us with that is like, if there’s a line and you can say it in a way that just undercuts the melodrama of it a bit more then we would sort of do that. Generally speaking, it was all there. I read the script and I hadn’t read the book at that point. The script was the first thing I read and then I had a meeting with Alex, then I read the book and got the part and it sort of went in that order.
Do you think that having started your career with movies that took place in a fantastical realm helps you ground situations like what we have in Horns now? I imagine starting there versus starting with a more straightforward drama might give you the range to go bigger and bolder.
RADCLIFFE: Maybe. Also possibly because I’ve got immense faith in people who do visual effects and prosthetics and all that, so if you know that you’re doing a moment that involves something that isn’t really there, you know you can fully commit to it because you know it really is gonna be there and it will look really good. On Potter I always had the sense that, rightly or wrongly, despite the fact that it was a very heightened world that, you know, it was about being real and just playing these characters as, how would a real person react in this situation, rather than thinking, ‘I’m a character in a fantasy. How would a character in a fantasy react in this time?’ And so I think maybe if you started off in dramatic roles and came into fantasy, then you might think there would be some sort of adjustment that had to be made, but I think because I’ve always been in this sort of world, you learn that the fantasy stuff takes care of itself. The effects in the story will take care of the fantasy element. What you have to do as someone in the middle of that is be a recognizable person that the audience can relate to and you sort of be their eyes in the world. And that’s what I’ve done a lot of in my career as well, most of my characters. In fact, I’d probably say like 90% of the characters that I play, maybe with Wallace in What If being the only exception to it, they’re all the audience’s eyes in whatever they’re doing and my reactions are sort of the reactions I think the director wants the audience to be having as well. I’m the person they share that with. That was the moment in Potter when he goes through Diagon Alley and it’s like, ‘Whoa! Holy sh*t! This is amazing!’ From that moment to The Woman in Black of discovering the house or in Frankenstein, Igor’s character who is taken from one world and put into another world. I discover lots in my acting. [Laughs] I discover lots of new worlds, it’s been a weird theme in my career.
That is very true and that speaks a lot to your ability. When you have a protagonist that’s required to take someone through a story, you need someone who’s accessible.
RADCLIFFE: Yeah, I guess so. Thank you very much. I think when you do something a lot, you have a tendency to underestimate that it has any value at all, so thank you.
Can you tell me about the horror component of the film? The book isn’t all-out horror, but when you get a director like Alexandre Aja, you expect him to go pretty big with the scares and gore.
RADCLIFFE: I think that Alex’s name being kind of synonymous with horror helps us in a lot of ways with this film because it gives people a certain expectation, which we can then immediately thwart. When Alex and I got together, we talked about how exciting this was as an opportunity for both of us to show people something totally different about our abilities. And I think everyone knows Alex for the horror, and I think the wit as well. He’s very funny in his movies as well, but the romantic side, nobody I think has any idea it exists. He is incredibly romantic and he has what all directors have, which is an incredibly complex and deep understanding of how human beings relate to each other. That just informs everything he does. He’s also the best director I’ve ever seen at getting every last drop of creativity out of his crew because he listens to them. As soon as they realize, ‘Oh, if I have a good [idea] and I tell him, he will put it in the movie and my idea will be in there,’ and so it’s a real team thing.
I feel like you hear that much more so with cast than crew.
RADCLIFFE: Yeah! Well, exactly. That’s the thing. That was what was really lovely about Alex is that some directors come on to set with the sort of principle of, ‘I am the only person on the set with an artistic, creative impulse,’ and like, you’re on a film set, dude. Everyone there, the chances are, the girl who’s second-in-command in the makeup department might be going off to HOD a short film for no money at the weekend. Everyone is a creative person who wants to be working in film who got into the industry. As soon as people realize, ‘Oh, I’m being listened to,’ they become so much more engaged and want to work harder. It’s awesome. The thing I loved about this, about the book, but about the script and about Alex’s version of it is that, I feel a lot of directors would have shied away from making it a number of different things. It would’ve just been like, ‘Okay, let’s concentrate on the horror,’ or ‘Let’s concentrate on the black comedy element.’ And Alex flicks between them, in my opinion, seamlessly and it’s part of the fun of it; you don’t know what the film’s gonna do next. He finds something unexpected in every scene and, to me, yeah, that’s what makes it exciting to watch.
RADCLIFFE: You know what? I’m closer than I ever have been before, not because there’s anything immediately going to happen, but because I have actually finished a screenplay. I’ve written this script that I’m really proud of and it’s a completely f*cking weird movie and I don’t know why I’ve written it, but there must be a reason.
Weird how so?
RADCLIFFE: It’s just a very, very black comedy, very dark. It’s about friendship and about the kind of nebulous nature of some friendships and when you should really move beyond them and not, and things. But it’s just set in a very extreme situation. But I would love to do that and I’ve got another friend who I’m working on an idea with. I’ve finally started to sort of get serious about it I think in the last year, so hopefully in the next couple of years I’ll be starting to do something.