Daniel Radcliffe has been doing a very convincing job of acting his way out of the boy wizard of yesteryear, and into respectable adult leading roles, of breadth, depth and intelligence.
Following the record-breaking chiller ‘The Woman in Black’ and the intense claustrophobia of ‘Kill Your Darlings’, he’s turned his hand to supernatural – ‘Horns’ – and now romantic comedy, co-starring with Zoe Kazan in ‘What If’.
It’s the classic tale of boy meets girl, boy befriends girl, boy and girl both begin to wonder… To mark the film’s home release this week, Daniel talks to HuffPostUK about taking on romantic lead duties and that age-old question of whether men and women can ever be… you know the rest…
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan star in romantic comedy ‘What If’
What shape was ‘What If’ in when you joined? Was Michael Dowse on board as director?
Michael was very much on board, and when I got the script it came with a letter from him saying why he wanted me to play the part and why he thought I’d be good for it. And then I read the script and we spoke shortly afterwards. I became attached because I absolutely wanted to do it.
Then it was just a matter of finding the girl to play Chantry. We needed somebody that, as well as being obviously very charming and funny, was also really, really smart, because her character is. And Zoe Kazan is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met – forget just actress or actor, she’s one of the brightest overall. So that made working with her really easy, because she just responds to any and everything you can give her.
Despite what happens between Chantry and Wallace, the film seems very clear that of course men and women can be friends. How do you think it strikes that balance?
That’s the thing about the film, because I think there are two separate issues. Because of this film, people have started asking me whether men and women can be friends. And of course the answer is yes. I’m friends with lots of women who I have no intentions to sleep with. There is also the question of whether men and women who are incredibly sexually attracted to each other can just be friends. That’s a much harder issue, and much more difficult to deal with. That’s the issue that is present in the film. I think it’s a very outmoded thing now – the idea that men and women can’t be friends. I think it’s fallen by the wayside now.
Chantry and Wallace have to discover whether they are destined for romance or friendship
Wallace is a med school dropout, which plays nicely into the film. Rom-com jobs often seem plucked out of the air; was it nice to have that specificity for him?
[laughs] Well, I think, for Wallace you could probably pick a job out of the air for him, to be honest, but with Chantry I actually really love that she’s a woman in a film with a job, and you see her doing her job a lot. She’s not just a girl who turns up and has loads of time to go around worrying about men. She has a job, which she has to go to. It’s not the point of the movie, it’s just a fact of the movie, and I think Elan Mastai is a very good writer who takes those kinds of things into account. Elan, by the way, is the guy who is kissing my ex-girlfriend in the film.
That said, the med-school dropout thing brilliantly comes to the fore a couple of times when people sustain injuries that he is suddenly expected to deal with.
He causes quite a few of them.
Yeah, actually, he does! That’s one of my favourite moments in the film, because it’s generally such a wordy film, and then we treat ourselves to this moment of utter slapstick halfway through.
It’s a real Buster Keaton moment.
Yes, absolutely. And it’s one of those great jokes like Peter Sellers spinning the globe. You know what he’s going to do – you know he’s going to put his hand on it and fall over. It’s a similar joke; just before it happens you know exactly what’s going to happen, and then it does and you still laugh. They’re the best kind. Why else would you have them open the window if someone wasn’t going to fall through it? It’s a great moment.
Daniel Radcliffe says the hardest part was keeping a straight face during his scenes with Adam Driver
Adam Driver is off to ‘Star Wars’ next. Is it hard keeping a straight face during takes with him?
Adam Driver is one of the most hilarious improvisers I’ve ever met. I don’t have extensive comedy experience, but some of the lines he was throwing out take after take after take, it was a real struggle. One of the things I got better at on this film was just learning not to laugh on camera, because he would regularly say stuff that would make me want to go. My favourite one, and I think it’s in the movie, was when he’s watching old people play Bowls and he shouts at one of them, “You couldn’t find that stone if it was in your kidney.” [laughs] He’s amazing, and a really interesting guy, as well. He was in the marines, he runs a charity organisation and he’s just a very interesting, smart dude.
One of the highlights of the film is the Fool’s Gold sandwich. Did you try it?
Fool’s Gold was amazing. For anyone that doesn’t know, it’s a very large sandwich with a lot of peanut butter, jam and bacon inside it, and it is delicious. They obviously made some on set for the montage in which it’s being made in the movie. And I don’t understand why, but me and one other guy were excited to try it and everyone else was being very healthy and, frankly, gutless about it. Everyone should have tried it. It was lovely.
You also went to Dublin with the film?
I got to go across to Dublin, for one of shooting. I just got punched down some stairs and then had to run a bit. It was lovely to be there though – it’s always a pleasure to go to Ireland and Dublin’s a great city. Dublin has a brief cameo, but it really is shown beautifully in the film. This film uses the locations it has really well. That was a lovely shoot, and I got to work with the wonderful Oona Chaplin, who got to step over me and make sure I wasn’t dead. And get punched down stairs by Rafe Spall.
‘What If?’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now, courtesy of Entertainment One. Watch the trailer below…
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