The horror! Harry gets a grown-up movie role

Daniel Radcliffe tells Emma Jones why he chose a chilling, ghost story to mark his Hogwarts graduation

Click to follow
The Independent Online

daniel Radcliffe should be used to ghosts by now. After all, he is constantly living with the spectre of Harry Potter. Britain's most famous child actor is currently launching his first post-Potter film role, as the hero in a remake of the gothic horror The Woman in Black. He is aware that, for millions of fans, his face without spectacles, without scar, on a promotional poster, looks downright strange.

"I'm nervous. It's my first grown-up film part," says Radcliffe. "But I was ecstatic to be asked to play this role. It's one of the easiest decisions I ever made." At 22-years-old, Radcliffe barely looks grown-up at all, never mind old enough, as he confessed in a previous interview, to have once had issues with alcohol. Dressed, appropriately enough, in black, he gives the air of a child in a man's suit. When he speaks, he's earnest and polite, and in real life sounds exactly like Harry Potter. This, for some reason, is still unsettling.

Britain's richest star under 30 (he has an estimated fortune of £25m), he's now taking on another of Britain's best-loved books – The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill, published in 1983, six years before he was born. It's the tale of a young widower and lawyer, Arthur Kipps, called in to settle the estate of a wealthy family. In the process, he discovers that their house, and the surrounding village, is being terrorised by a malevolent ghost. In 1989, the book was made into a successful West End production, which the actor says he never saw.

"I spent most of my childhood on film sets, and there was no way I was going to watch it once I got the part. I'm a terrible copycat actor. And yes, I read the book and met Susan Hill. It's a wonderful story, a complete page-turner."

Like Harry Potter, this is a supernatural tale. That, according to Radcliffe, a "Jewish atheist", is a coincidence. "I don't believe in the paranormal at all. I've never had an experience. I think those two facts are linked. The more you believe, the more likely you are to think you're experiencing it."

It was the story alone, adapted as a screenplay by Kick Ass and Stardust writer Jane Goldman, which convinced the actor he wanted the part. Fortuitously, he received the script on the last day of filming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

"I read the script on a plane, and then I contacted my agent as soon as I got off it and told them I wanted to do it. But first I asked to meet James Watkins, the director. I wanted him to be as convinced as I was that I could play the part of Arthur. I didn't want him to hire me just because of who I am."

Made by the resurrected Hammer horror franchise, The Woman in Black was, according to producer Richard Jackson, the first Hammer film to be made on British soil in three decades.

"I'm not really a horror fan," adds Radcliffe, sheepishly. "There's no way I could sit through something like Saw, it's too gory. I take fright easily. But something like The Shining, I think that's wonderful. And to my mind, this is a classic horror tale. "The film has some genuine jump-out-of-your-seat moments. The look owes much to the Japanese horror genre, whose influence can be seen in the face of the decomposing Woman in Black, and in the dead eyes of the children she steals. Radcliffe says it was "completely natural" to find himself playing someone else on the first day of filming: "The only thing I was apprehensive about was that there were going to be a lot of close-ups of me looking frightened. I was worried I'd have the same expression all the time."

There were no "spooky" moments on set, he adds. He did however go down a storm with the younger cast, and the village children were in awe of Harry Potter. "I could make them do stuff the director couldn't," he says, only half-joking. "I really tried to make sure they had a good time, having grown up myself on a film set."

The Woman in Black is out on 17 February