Daniel Radcliffe's killing it
Aside from probes into his private life (and that hefty bank balance, reportedly in excess of $100 million), there's only one question that seems to fluster Daniel Radcliffe.
Ask the former teen star about his post-Potter career choices, which to date have seemed rather extreme, and the affable star is quick to dismiss any notion of a strategy.
"People have been telling me that my choices are risky since I was 17," he counters. "When people say, 'That's a risk', what they often mean is, 'We don't know what that's going to be'. Which is a perfectly fine way to enter into something.
''People are either going to love it or not."
Radcliffe, now a positively wizened 24, admits he'll probably be forever associated with J.K. Rowling's teen wizard franchise to some degree - and believes the 10-year stay at Hogwarts has meant each and every move since has been relentlessly scrutinised, particularly in his homeland of Britain.
"When I did Equus [Peter Shaffer's acclaimed play, in which he played a naked man being aroused by a horse], there was a headline in the newspapers that said, 'Crash! What's that? It's the sound of a career coming to a grinding halt.' And that person had probably not read the play. I played one character for so long, I just get more attention than most actors would, for playing different parts. They said,'You're playing so many different parts'. And I'm thinking, 'Do you say that to Hugh Jackman'? Or anybody else who plays a variety of things?"
The notion that Radcliffe has had to shock to be taken seriously, away from "Potter" (as he refers to his former day job), is absurd, he says.
"I don't view it as going to extremes. Equus is an extreme play, but it's also a modern classic. It's not like I was doing some mad, new art play or something. I think some people think I'm out to shock, after Potter. But those movies were primarily geared towards kids and now I'm doing movies that aren't. So I'm going to be doing material that's more challenging and adult."
Radcliffe, a bookish, diminutive soul who loathed his private schooling in England, happily engages as he talks, which he does so at a rate of knots (he recently admitted he may suffer from ADHD). He looks ordinary in real life: a slight, slim but unremarkable figure away from the big screen, with a likeable geeky smile that suggests he'll talk about anything. Except his private life.
Most recently there were stories of Harry the cougar hunter, after Radcliffe admitted to losing his virginity to a "much older" woman. Erin Darke, a co-star from the movie Kill Your Darlings who's five years his senior, is reportedly his current girlfriend (former rumoured squeezes include Equus co-star, Laura O'Toole, and Harry Potter set painter, Rosie Coker).
He's not about to spill the beans. But he's not about to complain about press intrusion, either.
"I don't feel like I've lost my privacy, I have tonnes of privacy," he says, with an indifferent shrug. "I do all my private things in private [laughs]. There are moments when you're a teenager, when you become aware that the press is interested in your life. But there was never a moment when I thought, 'Oh shit'.
"It's more a gradual realisation through my teen years, 'OK, people are interested, very interested.' It just makes you very firm about what you want to do and keeping your private life private, as much as you can."
Although he has spoken openly about a past struggle with the bottle (he gave up alcohol in 2010), these days Radcliffe - who divides his time between New York and London - would rather focus solely on the work, if you don't mind. Which, as it turns out, is a rather interesting topic in itself.
Following positive notices for his post-Potter turn in The Woman in Black, Kill Your Darlings sees him play gay Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. The film has been causing quite the stir since debuting at Sundance in January (before further key festival stops at Cannes, Venice and Toronto). In a much buzzed-about scene, Ginsberg the teen freshman, fresh out of a troubled home, is seduced by a man in a bar. But those hoping for anything salacious will be sorely disappointed.
"With the sex scene, it was shot so quickly, we didn't have time to get nervous. You just had to dive in and go for it," he says. "It was a battle to stop me from laughing a lot of the time, to be honest, just because it's that sort of nervous laughter.
Playing the 17-year-old Ginsberg, who with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs became known as the Beat poets, required Radcliffe to research the pre-fame figure, pre-Dylan, pre-protest movement, pre-infamy.
Unlike, say, Walter Salles' lacklustre reading of On the Road, Krokidas wanted his film to be simply a snapshot in time, to feel as vivid and vibrant as possible.
"We didn't play these guys as icons," Radcliffe says. "I'm playing Allen [Ginsberg] at 17, which is a period when nobody really knows what he sounded like, where there's no real recording of him and images are few and far between. I don't think we felt a great deal of pressure playing real people.
''You're just playing Allen Ginsberg from New Jersey, who's going to university for the first time, to start his new life. That made the idea less intimidating."
More to the point, perhaps: why on earth do we find these post-war figures still so intriguing, in an age where information is readily and immediately accessible?
"What they stood for is still very important and quite unusual," he says. "The fact that they were a genuine counterculture movement, of the sort that doesn't really exist any more, and couldn't really exist in the same way. At one point, at the genesis of the Beats, it was Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg - they were all just sitting around the West Village writing and editing each other, and sharing their writing with a few friends, maybe 20 people were aware of the existence of it.
"Now, everything's given to exploding online in a way. It's impossible for anything to become counterculture, because in seconds it's absorbed into the culture. I think we're given now to fads more than movements. It's hard for the Beats to exist any more. Maybe that's one reason why we find them so romantic."
Romance certainly lies at the heart of the film. Ginsberg has a largely unrequited infatuation with Lucien Carr (played by Dane DeHaan), a troubled figure whose obsessive lover David Kammerer (played by Dexter star Michael C. Hall) comes to a grisly end.
The film's production was almost as troubled as the story itself. Radcliffe originally auditioned for the part of Ginsberg while performing Equus on Broadway in 2008, but then went on to film the last of the Harry Potter films, the Deathly Hallows (Parts 1 and 2), which all but nixed his chances. Alternate castings were followed by finance problems, following the global financial crisis. When director John Krokidas became attached to the project in 2010, Radcliffe was back in the picture.
So what next for the young man who'd now rather forget the name "Harry"? There are further extreme roles to look forward to - he's due to play former British Olympian Sebastian Coe in Gold and a hunchback lab assistant named Igor in Frankenstein - plus there are those two other Toronto films, due for release in the new year. The first is an Irish-Canadian romantic comedy called The F Word, the other a bizarre fantasy feature called Horns, in which Radcliffe plays an oddball who uses special powers to track down his girlfriend's killer.
"If anyone wants to see the range of what I can do, hopefully this is a good example of that," he says, as if pre-empting a further follow-on question about his post-Harry work agenda.
Does he still get offered Potter-esque roles, I wonder, involving men with magic wands who can save the world from goodness-knows-what?
"Yes, I do still get, 'Hey, play a young fantasy guy who discovers he's got these powers'! And I go, 'Er, maybe not'. Although Horns is kind of a dark version of that.
''I do still get stuff that's reminiscent of Potter. But my agents don't pass them on seriously. It's more, like, 'Do you want to look at this thing you're going to say no to?'
''Maybe people are surprised that I want to play so many different parts. I don't know why that would surprise them. Most actors, who act for the right reasons, because they like their job, like being on set. They like the people they get to work with, tend not to want to repeat themselves and want to shake things up with every job.
Kill Your Darlings is in cinemas now.
Sydney Morning Herald