Daniel Radcliffe may not be the most naturally gifted actor in the world, but he is so hard working, has so much charisma to burn and is just so darn likeable that you can’t help but root for him as his varied and eclectic post-Potter career continues to build momentum. Having surprised us all with some astutely chosen and often stellar performances in films such as The Woman in Black (psychological horror), Kill Your Darlings (artsy biopic), and What If (indie rom-com), and on stage with How to Succeed in Business… (musical) and Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan (black comedy), Radcliffe has proven the doubters wrong and made a most successful transition – where many others have failed – from globally famous child star to compelling and potential-filled adult character actor. With Victor Frankenstein out this week, it’s the perfect time to take a look at Radcliffe’s career so far – though merely 26, it feels as if he’s been around forever – and see where it all went so right.
One of the most admirable things about Radcliffe as an actor and a person is the way in which he has successfully left Harry Potter – and his audiences’ perceptions of him as that character – behind, without ever knocking that series, or failing to acknowledge what it has done for his life and career. It’s this obvious gratitude and genuine respect for the YA franchise that made him the star he is today (alongside his clear acting talent) that is likely helping him to consistently pick up roles of the calibre we are quickly growing accustomed to seeing him in. He has spoken before about his anxiety and wariness of being perceived as a stereotypically bratty and demanding former child star, and has gone so far the other way that applying this stereotype to the charming Radcliffe seems laughable. Considering the fact that by all accounts he is a lovely, gracious guy (he recently admitted on The Graham Norton Show that he actually apologises to fans who are rude to him) and it’s suddenly not so hard to see why he has succeeded where others have failed. Where his acting used to occasionally let him down (by his own admission), his sheer force of personality would shine through.
Not that his potential as an actor remained completely latent throughout the Harry Potter series – his general acting chops picked up considerably around the third, Alfonso Cuarón-helmed film (and Potter helped Cuarón with his immigration issues so hey, it was a win-win), and his brilliantly deadpan Felix Felicis – or lucky potion to the layman – scenes in the sixth showed an uncanny and hitherto unseen knack for stoner comedy. During the final few instalments he was going toe-to-toe in several scenes with the Gambons and Fiennes of the world and absolutely holding his own – by the end of Potter, it became clear that Radcliffe had spent his years on the series wisely by learning all he could from his constant exposure to the crème de la crème of British acting (not least in bass guitar, from the great Gary Oldman).
Thanks to his cultural eminence among the Harry Potter generation – and the enormous goodwill it has generated for him – Radcliffe has become a sort of younger, British answer to Bill Murray; an “urban yeti” if you will. He’s carved himself out a Jon Hamm-esque (Hammian?) niche in popping up unexpectedly, often self-deprecatingly and always hilariously with cameos in the likes of Extras, The Simpsons, Netflix’s Bojack Horseman and Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck (“You talk a big game.” “Well, I walk a big dog.”), and his proclivity (and surprising gift) for rapping as well as his (less impressive) reception work have seen him become something of a viral-friendly, meme-ready internet celebrity. Just look at how smoothly (if endearingly awkwardly) he deals with the baffling experience of meeting a stunned mega-fan below, which is the stuff of YouTube gold (gets going ~0:50):
So let us cast an eye into the future for this most eclectic and versatile of actors. Radcliffe’s list of upcoming projects and roles strongly demonstrates his clear desire to challenge himself as an actor, and the sheer variety of these roles means that the list reads like a bizarre, alternate universe version of the Village People. Except there are no traffic cops or cowboys here – Radcliffe will, in the coming years, portray characters as varied as a downed pilot who befriends a dead body, an FBI agent posing as a neo-Nazi skinhead, a civil engineer, and Sebastian Coe. His cultured discernment in project picking also promises much reward as he is attached to some highly interesting upcoming films: not least as the lead in an adaptation of Dave Eggers’ debut novel You Shall Know Our Velocity, and perhaps most excitingly as part of an exceptional cast for Shane Carruth’s rabidly-anticipated and bonkers sounding The Modern Ocean. If there’s an actor in Hollywood today more willing to push themselves and try new things, we’d love to know who it is – all we know is that we cannot wait to see what the brilliant Daniel Radcliffe will try next.